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Source: European Union (EU)
26 January 2006

Open and well-administered parliamentary elections strengthen Palestinian
commitment to democratic institutions

The Palestinian Legislative Council elections have so far marked another important milestone in the building of democratic institutions. This is the conclusion of the 185-strong European Union Election Observation Mission (EU EOM) and the 27-strong European Parliament delegation. Yesterday, voters came out in impressive numbers to cast their ballot in a peaceful and enthusiastic manner.

“The Palestinian leadership took the risk of going ahead with these elections despite widespread opposition in order to give priority to democracy” said Véronique de Keyser MEP, Chief Observer of the EU EOM. She added: “The people of Palestine responded to this opportunity with great enthusiasm and dignity by coming out in large numbers to cast their ballot in a peaceful manner. I hope that the winners and losers of these elections will accept the results with the same political maturity that their supporters showed on election day.”

“The conduct of these elections has provided a model for the wider Arab region and has clearly demonstrated the commitment of the Palestinian people to democracy,” said Edward McMillan-Scott MEP, Vice-President of the European Parliament and Chairman of the EP delegation, which endorsed the preliminary findings and conclusions of the EU EOM and will report to Parliament in due course. “The parliamentary dimension of the EU’s neighbourhood has thus been further strengthened, which is also important for the Euro-Mediterranean Parliamentary Assembly in which members of the Palestinian Legislative Council and the Knesset uniquely participate together.”

The EU EOM noted the Palestinian people have demonstrated overwhelming commitment to determine their political future via democratic means, in spite of the uncertain conditions in which the elections were held. Campaigning took place in a generally calm and positive atmosphere, with an absence of provocative rhetoric. However, restrictions by Israeli forces on the freedom of movement by candidates and voters reduced the scope for genuinely free elections.

The EU EOM commended the Central Elections Commission for efficiently and professionally administering the election process despite the political pressure it faced, although transparency of decision-making processes needs to be further increased. Public broadcasters provided extensive free airtime to contestants, but did not demonstrate balance in its news coverage. Civil society organisations played an important role in the process through the delivery of voter education and domestic election observation.

A preliminary statement of the EU EOM’s overall assessment of the elections has been issued today. The EU EOM will remain to observe the remaining aspects of the election process including any complaints and appeals that may arise. A final report, containing detailed recommendations to improve the election process, will be published within two months of the completion of the entire process.
JERUSALEM, 26 January 2006

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