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Abbas Dedicates Fatah Electoral Victory to Arafat

Abbas Dedicates Fatah Electoral Victory to Arafat

PLO Chairman Wins Two-thirds of Votes in Sunday’s Presidential Election

PLO chairman Mahmud Abbas had won some two-thirds of the votes cast in January 9 presidential election, according to three exit polls. The Central Election Commission (CEC) said 70-71 percent of the 1.28 million registered voters had cast their ballots on Sunday. Former US President Jimmy Carter said voting in occupied Jerusalem went into “serious problems.” Israel deprived more than 11,000 detainees in its jails from voting as well as more than 15,000 Palestinians stranded at Rafah border crossing since December 13.

Head of the CEC, Dr Hanna Nasir, told media Sunday evening in the West Bank city of Ramallah: “Approximately seventy per cent of registered voters voted today, while approximately only ten per cent of unregistered voters turned out.”

A total of around 700,000 registered voters were joined at the polls by around 70,000 unregistered voters, including 30,000 who registered on arrival at the polling centers on Sunday.

While the CEC acknowledges that the conduct of the poll has been less than ideal, with the addition of unregistered voters causing some confusion and potential for error, it remains convinced that a legitimate result will emerge from the votes cast.

“The CEC will investigate all complaints,” said Dr Nasir, “And the final result will not be declared until those complaints have been investigated.”

The final official result has yet to announced by the Central Election Commission (CEC).

The Chairman of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Abbas had 65 percent of the vote in the presidential election, according to partial results, CEC officials told AP.

The figure is based on results in 10 of 16 voting districts, said a member of the Central Election Commission.

Three exit polls conducted by Birzeit University, Annajah University and the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research showed Sunday night that Abbas won 66 -70 percent of the votes.

According to the three exit polls Mustafa al-Barghouti had 20-24.5 percent of the votes, Taysir Khalid 1.8%-4 percent, Bassam al- Salhi 1.6%-3 percent, Abdul Haleem al-Ashqar 1.7%-2 percent, Sayyed Baraka 0.5%-1 percent, and Abdul Karim Shabair less than 1 percent.

Abbas received 66.3 percent of the popular vote in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem, compared with 19.7 percent for his nearest rival, Mustafa Barghouti, according to the poll by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research.

A second survey, by An Najah University in the West Bank City of Nablus, was based on responses of more than 5,000 voters. In that poll, Abbas won 69.5 per cent, compared to 24.5 per cent for Barghouti.

Announcing his victory in Ramallah late Sunday Abbas said: “We dedicate this victory to the memory of our martyred leader Yaser Arafat, as well as all the other martyrs, those who have been wounded as well the 11,000 prisoners behind bars” in Israeli jails, an ecstatic Abbas told hundreds of his supporters.

Emphasizing national unity Abbas also dedicated the Fatah victory to other Palestinian factions.

“I will work to put an end to the suffering of the Palestinian people for they are a people who deserve our esteem, our respect and our loyalty.”

The ballot booths opened from 7 a.m. till 7 p.m. local time and was extended for two hours to overcome the “Israeli obstacles” according to the CEC.

West Bank was divided into 11 electoral districts and the Gaza Strip into five and voting took place at about 3,000 polling stations.

Some 800 foreign observers representing various countries and non-governmental organizations, including former US President Jimmy Carter and former French Prime Minister Michel Rocard, joined some 20,000 local observers at every election center to monitor the entire process.

The presidential election is the second since the Palestine National Authority (PNA) was established under interim peace agreements with Israel. Arafat was elected in 1996. There are about 1.8 million eligible voters in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem from an estimated population of 3.6 million.

Cabinet minister for negotiations Saeb Erakat said the Palestinian elections can be a model for the Arab world, noting that seven candidates competed. “This is a message to President (George W.) Bush, to the rest of the world, that the problem we have here is not the kind of system we have, it's not reform, it's the Israeli occupation,” Erakat said.

Israel’s Supreme Court rejected Thursday an appeal by the PNA that Palestinian detainees in the jails of the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) be allowed to vote in Sunday’s presidential elections.

More than 15,000 Palestinians stranded at the Gaza Strip-Egypt Rafah crossing since December 13, were also deprived from their right to vote.

Interim Palestinian President Rouhi Fattouh in a “presidential” decree announced Friday a direct legislative election on Sunday, July 17, adding the election law would be modified to expand the number of seats in the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) from 88 to 124.

Mahmud Abbas said Thursday if he wins the presidential election, he will ask incumbent Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmad Qurei to stay on in his post.

At an earlier news conference, Abbas said that after Sunday's election he would welcome peace talks with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

“After the elections, we will start negotiations,” Abbas said. “Ariel Sharon is an elected leader and we will negotiate with him. We will put the (Quartet-drafted and UN-adopted) 'roadmap' on the table and say that we are ready to implement it completely.”

British Prime Minister Tony Blair confirmed on Sunday that his government would host a conference on Palestinian reforms in London from March 1 to March 2, adding that he expected US President Bush to lead final status negotiations on the creation of a Palestinian state.

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