Fri, Dec 31, 2004 - Page 6 News List

Palestinian votes culled in Jerusalem

THE GUARDIAN , JERUSALEM

Israel was accused on Wednesday of undermining the election of a Palestinian Authority president by allowing only a few thousand Palestinians to vote in East Jerusalem. More than 100,000 will have to leave the city if they want to vote.

The government has told the Palestinian Election Commission that it will not allow privacy screens in the voting booths in East Jerusalem post offices, nor will election officials be allowed to mark voters with indelible ink to prevent fraud.

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has admitted that the arrangements are designed to show that Israel has sole sovereignty in East Jerusalem.

Palestinians say it could make the election meaningless and reduce the credibility of the winner. Amar Dweib, the chief electoral officer, said that the commission had been told that 5,367 people could vote at five post offices in East Jerusalem.

"We asked the Israelis to increase the number of polling stations, but they refused," he said.

"I do not know the precise number of eligible voters in East Jerusalem, because the Israelis would not allow us to register them but we think it is around 120,000.

"The rest ... will have to undertake long journeys around the separation wall in order to vote," he said.

Qais Abu Leila, leader of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, whose candidate, Tayseer Khaled, is third in the opinion polls, said the Israeli obstruction would call the result into question.

"If we agree to go along with this we will be capitulating to the diktat of the Israelis and helping them deceive the world that they allowed free and fair elections," he said.

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