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Last Updated: Tuesday, 24 January 2006, 17:23 GMT
Guide to Palestinian parliamentary vote
Palestinian men and election posters in the West Bank village of Hizme
Nearly 1.4m Palestinians are eligible to vote

Palestinians go to the polls on 25 January to elect a new parliament, the Palestinian Legislative Council or PLC, which will sit for four years.

The Palestinian Central Elections Commission, CEC, is tasked with running and supervising the elections.

The electoral system

There are 132 seats in the new PLC. Sixty-six are contested by lists under a system of proportional representation. Only lists polling more than 2% of valid votes cast will win representation.

The remaining 66 seats are contested by individual candidates in the 16 constituencies under a "first past the post" system.

Voters

The official number of eligible voters is 1.34m in the Gaza Strip and West Bank. The CEC says there are a further 40,000 voters in Jerusalem.

Age and sex of Palestinian voters

On polling day a voter may choose one list. He or she may also vote for as many individual candidates as there are seats in the constituency.

The question of Palestinians in occupied East Jerusalem voting has only recently been settled.

On 15 January the Israeli cabinet ruled that Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem may vote, but Israel is still refusing to allow the militant group Hamas to campaign or let its candidates stand for election there.

Candidates

Eleven lists comprising 304 named persons have registered. There are also 414 individual candidates in the 16 constituencies.

Candidates must hold Palestinian nationality, be more than 28 years old, and reside permanently in the Palestinian territories.

All candidates must pay a $1,000 deposit; lists are required to pay a deposit of $6,000. The winners get their deposits back, while the sums paid by the losers are transferred to the CEC.

Quotas

The election law stipulates that at least one woman should be among the first three names on any list. Furthermore, at least one woman should be among the next four names, and at least one woman among each group of five names to follow.

The law also provides that six seats be allocated to Christian candidates, who also have the right to contest other seats.

Campaign

Campaigning ends on 23 January. All candidates are allowed equal air time on state-owned media. Palestinian local and satellite channels are broadcasting a series of talk shows with candidates, as well as one talk show with representatives of the CEC.

Rallies should not be held in mosques, churches, or near hospitals or government offices. The law also bans any publicity that incites against or defames another candidate, or that may trigger tribal or sectarian conflicts.

Candidates are banned from getting any direct or indirect foreign funding. They are required to present a detailed statement of their funding sources and expenditure. Spending should not exceed $1m for lists and $60,000 for individual candidates.

Election day

Election day is a national holiday. Voting starts at 0700 local (0500 gmt) and ends at 1900 (1700 gmt). More than 20,000 specially recruited and trained staff will work at more than 1,000 polling and counting centres.

When the last vote has been cast, ballot boxes will be sealed. The count will take place in the presence of local and international observers, party and candidate agents, and the media.

Security

The run-up to the election has been marked by violence at various levels. Gunmen reportedly affiliated to Fatah's military wing, al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, have repeatedly stormed Fatah and CEC offices to protest at the way Fatah lists were drawn up, saying some of those nominated are corrupt.

Palestinian security forces will be voting early from 22 to 24 January in order that they may be deployed to maintain order on polling day.

Election monitoring

The CEC considers local and international monitoring of the elections will provide the best guarantee of fairness and transparency. Local observers, party and candidates' agents will work alongside monitors from the EU. The Japanese government has also decided to send monitors.

BBC Monitoring selects and translates news from radio, television, press, news agencies and the internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages. It is based in Caversham, UK, and has several bureaus abroad.





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