News

Winner-take-all overrepresents Hamas in Palestinian elections

From FairVote: The Center for Voting and Democracy

The important elections that took place this week on the West Bank and Gaza show the how the the proportional voting system provided more balanced results than the winner-take-all elections (mostly in multi-seat districts. See these articles on the system and results.

The latest unofficial results show that Hamas has won 75 out of the 132 seats. They won 44 of 66 in the winner-take-all seats and 31 of 62 in the propotional seats.

http://www.cnn.com/2006/WORLD/meast/01/25/palestinian.election.facts/

Quick facts about the PLC elections

Wednesday, January 25, 2006; Posted: 1:48 a.m. EST (06:48 GMT)
What are Palestinians voting for?

Palestinians in the West Bank -- including East Jerusalem -- and the Gaza Strip are casting ballots for the 132-seat Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC). The last legislative elections were in 1996.

How many people are eligible to vote?

As of 10 August 2005, the number of eligible voters registered on the voters list stood at around 1.35 million. Elections are limited to those Palestinians living in the occupied territories - only, i.e. those living in the areas occupied by Israel in June 1967. This includes the Gaza Stripwhich Israel pulled out of in August 2005. There are 123,000 eligible voters in Jerusalem.

Almost 80% of the estimated total eligible voters are now registered on the voters' list.

Anyone who is registered on the voters' list is eligible to vote. To register you have to prove the following: your age, identity, Palestinian citizenship and place of residence.

Palestinians with Israeli citizenship are not eligible to vote nor are Palestinian refugees and their descendants who live as refugees in other countries.

Parties include:

Fatah

Hamas

The Alternative Third Way

Independent Palestine

National Coalition for Justice and Democracy

Polling and Counting:

A polling staff of more than 17,000 is recruited through the Ministry of Education and trained by CEC officials. The day before the election kits with ballot papers, ballot boxes, and other electoral materials are delivered to the more than 1,000 polling and counting centers.

Polling and counting centers are usually located in the same place as the registration centers. They have up to five polling stations depending on the population distribution in the surrounding district.

The polls are open from 7 am to 7pm on Election Day.

When the last voter has voted, the ballot box will be sealed and the counting procedure will begin. Ballot counting takes place in front of local and international observers, party and candidate agents, and the media.

Electoral system

On 18 June 2005, the PLC ratified a new elections law (Elections Law No. 9 of 2005), which adopts the mixed electoral system for PLC elections, in contrast to the 1996 general elections, which were held in accordance with the system of simple majority.

The mixed electoral system combines the majority system (districts) and the system of proportional representation (lists). The law divides the 132 seats of the PLC equally between the majority system (66 seats) and the system of proportional representation (66 seats).

Based on the majority system, Palestine is divided into 16 electoral districts (11 in the West Bank and 5 in the Gaza Strip). Each district is allocated a number of seats in the parliament according to population numbers. In the system of proportional representation, Palestine is considered as one electoral district.

In accordance with the law, each electoral list must include a minimum of 7 candidates and a maximum of 66 candidates. Each list must include at least one woman in the first three names, at least one woman in the next four names and at least one woman in each of the five names that follow in the list.

Each voter receives two ballot papers. The first paper contains the names of candidates competing for the seats of the electoral district from which the voter selects a number of candidates not exceeding the number of seats assigned for each district. The second paper contains the competing lists from which the voter must choose only one list.

In the majority system (districts), the seats allocated to each electoral district are won by candidates who obtain the highest number of valid votes in that district. Six out of the 66 seats allocated to the majority system are reserved for Christians. Seats are won by Christians who obtain the highest number of votes in the district.

Source: Central Election Commission and CEC media contact Rola Sirhan.
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http://news.monstersandcritics.com/middleeast/printer_1089314.php

Middle East News
US, Israel, EU warn as Hamas sweeps to victory (Roundup)
By DPA
Jan 26, 2006, 19:00 GMT

The radical Islamic Hamas movement party has won a sweeping victory in the Palestinian legislative elections, obtaining as many as 76 out of 132 seats in the new parliament, preliminary official results released Thursday evening confirmed.

The US, Israel and the European Union were quick to warn Hamas must renounce violence and its declared aim of destroying Israel before there could be any dealings with it - while many Moslem states insisted the West accept Hamas as a legitimate political force.

The mainstream Fatah party suffered an electoral meltdown, winning only 43 seats and tumbling from its previous almost three-quarter majority in the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) to a new representation of just under one third.

Hours before the near-final results were announced, Fatah was already conceding defeat. "We lost," former negotiations minister Saeb Erekat told reporters at the Palestinian Authority (PA) headquarters in Ramallah Thursday morning.

President Mahmoud Abbas would ask Hamas to form the new government, he said, adding Fatah would not join the coalition but sit in the opposition.

Palestinian Premier Ahmed Qureia handed in his resignation already in the morning to enable the president to nominate a new prime minister.

Fatah's acknowledgement of defeat immediately prompted concerned reactions from many states and warnings from the United States, Israel and the European Union that Hamas must renounce violence for any dealings to go ahead.

But while in Israel there were expressions of dismay that an organization responsible for suicide attacks should now officially be in power, many Moslem states in the region insisted the West accept Hamas as a legitimate political force.

In Washington, US President George W. Bush warned that Hamas cannot be a Mideast peace partner unless it recognizes Israel's right to exist. Washington will not deal with Hamas until it does, he said.

"If your platform is the destruction of Israel, you're not a partner in peace," Bush said at the White House. "I have made it clear that a party whose platform advocates the destruction of Israel is one with which we will not deal," he told a news conference.

At the same time, Bush broadly welcomed the election and called it a "wakeup call" for the "old guard" - a reference to Fatah, which had dominated Palestinian politics since it took control of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) in the late 1960s, and ruled the Palestinian autonomous areas since their inception more than a decade ago.

Bush added he hoped Abbas, who won last year's presidential election on behalf of Fatah, would remain in office.

In initial reactions, unnamed Israeli government officials told Israel Radio that Israel would not negotiate with Hamas, unless it dismantled its armed wing Izzadin al-Qassam and changed its charter to recognize Israel's right to exist.

Acting Israeli Premier Ehud Olmert said Wednesday night that Israel could not accept a situation in which Hamas, "in its current format as a terrorist organization that calls for the destruction of Israel" was part of the Palestinian government.

As an EU election observer team in the West Bank and Gaza described the polls as "open" and "fair," policymakers in Brussels said they were watching closely to see how Hamas moved from the streets of the Palestinian territories to the corridors of power.

Key details of an EU stance are expected to be set out by the bloc's foreign ministers on January 30. But in preliminary comments, EU diplomats said the vote had strengthened Palestinian commitment to democracy.

"The Palestinian people have voted democratically and peacefully," said EU foreign and security policy chief Javier Solana.

But EU diplomats also made clear that future Palestinian cooperation with the EU would require a complete switch by Hamas from armed struggle to diplomacy.

"We are happy to work with any government ... that is prepared to work by peaceful means," said European External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner.

Setting out three key conditions for doing business with the EU, a senior EU diplomat told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa that "Hamas must renounce violence, recognize Israel's right to exist and commit itself to work for peace in the region."

"If Hamas makes these very important changes, we will have to reconsider the EU decision to classify Hamas as a terrorist organization," said the diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity.

However, failure to make such pledges would result in a cut-off of vitally needed EU aid to the PA. "We cannot use taxpayers' money for a government not committed to peaceful dialogue," the diplomat cautioned.

Although formal contacts between the EU and Hamas have been banned since 2003 when the group was put on the EU's blacklist of terrorist organization, Hamas says diplomats from the bloc have met some of its newly elected mayors.

EU aid to the cash-starved PA is estimated at about 280 million euros (343 million dollars) a year, making the bloc the Palestinians' largest source of foreign assistance.

Many governments in the Middle East accused the West of hypocrisy and called on Western governments to accept Hamas as a legitimate political force.

Mohamed Habib, a leader of Egypt's largest Islamist bloc the Muslim Brotherhood, said the West and Israel's objection to dealing with a Hamas-led Palestinian government represents "unacceptable double standards," stressing the legitimacy of the choice of the Palestinian people.

Hamas leader Isma'eel Haneya told a news conference in Gaza that Hamas "will work with everyone, with the regional and international communities in a balanced and accurate way that protects the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people."

But he slammed the US and Israel "who wanted the Palestinian people to vote against Hamas."

"The world and the international community now should respect the choice and will of the Palestinian people," Haneya said.

On Wednesday, Haneya vowed Hamas would not dismantle its armed wing, but continue on "parallel tracks: politics in parliament and armed struggle against the (Israeli) occupation."

Hamas' triumph was especially marked in the 16 half of the parliament elected by district rather than proportional voting, winning 46 of the 66 seats at stake, against only 16 for Fatah, which succeeded in capturing only three districts.

The results came as a shock after exit polls published after voting late Wednesday had given Fatah a victory over Hamas, allbeit by the narrow margin of only five seats.

Fatah had enjoyed an almost three-quarter majority in the PLC for the past decade, with 62 out of 88 seats.

© 2006 dpa - Deutsche Presse-Agentur

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