Jerusalem has unique political and religious characteristics setting it apart from the other districts. The attention of Palestinians focused on organizing elections in Jerusalem from the first moment elections were declared and Palestinian officials refused to conduct any elections that failed to include Jerusalem.
The Jerusalem electoral district is divided into two zones: East Jerusalem and the suburbs. East Jerusalem was annexed by Israeli occupation forces in 1967 and is the area behind the checkpoints submitted to Jerusalem municipality administration by the Israeli authorities. 250 000 Palestinians, holding Israeli ID cards, reside in East Jerusalem. Any election arrangements in this zone must be conducted in agreement with the Israeli authorities. Secondly, there is the area outside the annexed region, which is known as the suburbs in which there are 27 Palestinian residential localities. Israel considers it as part of the West Bank and, as such, it is subject to the same elections arrangements as the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
In theory, the 2005 elections in Jerusalem took place within the framework of the transitional phase treaty and the measures agreed upon by the Palestinian and Israeli sides in 1996. However, in practice, the Israeli authorities extensively hindered the participation of Jerusalemite citizens in the elections, especially at the post offices. An inadequate number of workers were supplied to facilitate the balloting process for voters. Likewise, the workers present prevented the checking of the names of voters in the voters list.
Israeli authorities also intimidated Jerusalemite voters by storming registration centers and recording the ID card numbers that were listed in the register. Registration staff members were detained with the aim of preventing Jerusalemites from participating in the elections.
As for the counting of votes, the polling was supervised by (Arab) employees of the Israeli postal authority who were not trained by the CEC. In contrast to the counting procedures adopted by other Palestinian regions, the ballot boxes were not counted at the polling centers themselves but, rather, were transported to the Jerusalem electoral constituency office in Dahiyat Al-Barid, where counting was subsequently carried out.
Elections arrangements in Jerusalem, based on which the 2005 presidential elections were held, did not rise to the required standards for free, fair and transparent elections.
Jerusalem and the Legislative elections
The CEC conducted a supplementary registration drive for the legislative elections which were scheduled for July 17, 2005. During that period, Israeli authorities closed two registration centres in Jerusalem after detaining their staff. Later on, the Israeli Security Minister issued an order that prohibited CEC staff from working inside the city of Jerusalem. Registration centres remained closed during the supplementary period and the period of exhibition and challenge.
The CEC does not consider the above arrangements to be in accordance with the standards for free, fair and transparent elections. After the revised Elections Law was passed, the CEC chairman, Dr. Hanna Nasir, sent a letter to the head of the Negotiations Affairs Department in the PLO in which he requested to follow up the elections issue in Jerusalem as well as the participation of prisoners in Israeli jails in the legislative elections.
In its letter, the CEC requested, that voter registration be conducted in Jerusalem knowing that the Israeli authorities prohibits both the registration of voters in the city and the activities of the CEC itself inside the city.
The CEC also demanded to establish new polling procedures in the Israeli postal offices, and suggested that polling should be conducted in the schools under the supervision of the CEC, or, at Jerusalem's UN offices.
The CEC stressed the importance of having this issue settled with the Israeli side as quickly as possible and demanded that it not be left to the last moment as was the case in the presidential elections. Israel agreed on polling arrangements only ten days before the elections were held.