Voting underway for successor to Yasser Arafat

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Sunday, January 9, 2005

Israel — Palestinians are going to the polls in order to elect a new leader after the death of Yasser Arafat last year. Hundreds of international monitors are over-seeing the elections.

There are six candidates:

  • Mahmoud Abbas (Fatah)
  • Mustafa Barghouti
  • Tayser Khalid (DFLP)
  • Bassam al-Salhi (leftist)
  • Sayyed Baraka Abdul Karim Shubayr
  • Abdul Halim Ashqar

Mahmoud Abbas, who was the interim leader, is expected by many to win. He is a moderate and many hope he will be able to establish peace with Israel, who refused to deal with Yassar Arafat because of his support for anti-Israel militants who target civilians. Abbas doesn't support armed conflict, and is calling for peace talks.

Polls opened at 5 a.m. local, and were scheduled to close at 5 p.m., but a two hour extension was made due to the large turnout.

Voting is said to be going well in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank but there have been reports of difficulties in Jerusalem (where ex-US President Jimmy Carter is observing). Over 500 Palestinians have been turned away by the Israelis running the polling station. Carter is said to be 'unhappy'.

Israel eased some travel restrictions in Gaza and the West Bank, but some of the 500 international election observers reported new checkpoints in some areas. The entry points to Egypt, which have been closed for several months by Israel, remain closed with up to 21,000 Palestinians trapped on the other side, unable to vote in today's election.

The final results of the 2005 Palestinian presidential election are expected on Monday, January 10, 2005.