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Last Updated: Friday, 7 January, 2005, 15:39 GMT
Press focus on Palestinian polls

Palestinian newspapers look forward to Sunday's elections for the Palestinian presidency with a mixture of pride and anticipation.

One paper expresses the hope that the polls will mark a fundamental step on the road to reform.

Israeli commentators predict a win for Mahmoud Abbas.

Here we are a few metres before the end of the race for the Palestinian presidency. The initial assessment is that we face a real electoral process. This is a rare event in an Arab desert that is devoid of pluralism or genuine competition. It is also the first experience of its kind for the Palestinians.

Al-Ayyam - commentary by Talal Awkal

For the election to be really true and democratic, all political factions and forces have to take part so that the new institutions will be representative of the Palestinian people... free elections will strengthen our legitimacy and maintain national unity as well as help us confront international and Arab pressure. They will also be a fundamental step on the road towards internal reform and change.

Al-Quds- - commentary by Asad Abed al-Rahman

Of the seven candidates, Abu Mazen [Mahmoud Abbas] has been the only one to declare clearly and courageously that the intifada's militarisation and Qassam rockets have given Israel the pretext to continue its aggression against us. The militarisation, with its limited capabilities and primitive rockets, has not been able to isolate the occupation and has not liberated us.

Al-Ayyam - commentary by Muhammad Yaghi

Only one day separates us from the elections... turnout is expected to be high because of the Palestinian ambition to break free from the occupation's bondage... Despite the lack of heat in the presidential elections, they have set the tone for the next parliamentary and municipal elections... They embody political pluralism in a democratic atmosphere that has not been marred or disrupted by anything.

Al-Ayyam - commentary by Samih Shbaib

[Accusations of improper behaviour] against other candidates detract from an honest and transparent election campaign... They are probably an attempt to settle personal scores at the expense of national interests.

Al-Hayat al-Jadidah - commentary by Basim Abu-Samiyah

Abu Mazen will be elected president of Palestine on Sunday... His style is what we have known over the years: pragmatic, rounded, not bombastic. Also the opponents of the second Palestinian president admit that he is a charming man. Contrary to his predecessor who is buried at the foot of his office, he lacks theatrical pathos. There is no jihad, no millions of shaheeds, or martyrs, on their way to Jerusalem. There is consistent, clear and categoric opposition to violence and terrorism.

Yediot Aharonot - commentary by Nahum Barnea

Abu Mazen believes that Israel's weak point lies in the political arena and not in military confrontation and therefore the Palestinian focus should be there... If indeed the political process is renewed, on the way to a permanent settlement, Israel is liable to find out that it is facing a partner no less tough than Arafat. His opposition to terrorism does not indicate readiness to compromise on the basic principles of the negotiations.

Ma'ariv - commentary by Amit Cohen

While Israel should certainly do everything possible to enable Palestinians to vote, we must not delude ourselves into thinking that these elections will be democratic... When there is no protection of the right to dissent, when a regime controls the press, when voters and potential opponents are intimidated, what happens in the voting booth matters little. That monitors will probably declare these elections free of fraud should also not earn them a democratic imprimatur.

Ha'aretz - commentary by Minister of Jerusalem and Diaspora Affairs Natan Sharansky

BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.

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