Ramallah – The Coalition for Accountability and Integrity (AMAN) submitted its observation report on the second phase of local elections to the Central Elections Commission (CEC). Starting on 8 January and ending on 26 March 2022, local elections were held throughout 50 local government units (LGUs) in the West Bank. Local elections did not take place in 29 LGUs because no electoral lists were nominated or lists were incomplete. Running for the election in 23 LGUs, single electoral lists were elected by acclamation.
Some 54 percent of voters managed to exercise their right to vote. From the perspective of AMAN, this is a positive indicator of a free and smooth electoral process. Some violations were observed during the second phase of local elections. However, these infractions did not substantially affect the election results or smooth running of the electoral process. In this specific aspect of political participation, measures taken to enable citizens to exercise their right to stand for election and vote were reasonable.
The report reflects AMAN’s concern to promote the integrity in government as elections provide one tool of access to power and ensure equitable opportunities for candidate lists in the second phase of local elections. It comes in the context of AMAN’s role in the oversight of realising the right to political participation by standing for election and voting. To guarantee the integrity of various stages of the electoral process, AMAN monitored media outlets and social media platforms, received citizens’ complaints, and observed polling centres on the election day.
Violations reported by complainants and monitored by official and community media
In its report, AMAN unveiled the nature of irregularities reported by complainants. These included abuse of public office for personal interests and use of polling centres for COVID-19 vaccination. Some candidates used their workplaces for election campaigning. Other infractions were also monitored and documented by official and community media outlets. For example, some electoral lists were impeded from receiving clearance certificates. Religious discourse was used in election campaigning. Some security personnel put pressure on some candidates of electoral lists. Before they registered for local elections, some lists were subject to pressures and threats, forcing them to withdraw from the electoral process. The registration of other lists was banned.
Monitored infractions relating to election campaigns
According to AMAN monitoring, schools were used for election campaigning. Electoral lists failed to meet the requirements of election campaigning, leaving election campaign materials posted at the entrances to polling centres. Electoral banners of some lists were torn apart. Following the announcement of preliminary election results, fire was opened on the banners of competing electoral lists. Relatives of some candidates were also assaulted.
Observations recorded on the polling day
Overall, local elections proceeded smoothly. During the polling process, no substantial events were noted so as to affect the results of the poll. Election supervisors and staff complied with the Law on Local Elections No. 10 of 2005 as amended as well as with the CEC instructions, particularly in terms of management of the electoral process within polling centres and stations. The average time for a voter to cast their vote ranged from one to three minutes, indicating effective and efficient supervision of the electoral process.
On the other hand, information signs were not in place in some polling centres. On the polling day, electoral lists continued to conduct electoral campaigning in most polling centres. Competing lists erected tents at the gates to some polling centres and carried out electoral campaigning. Electoral lists and supporters attempted to exert influence on votes and continued to campaign for their election outside polling centres. Candidate lists distributed posters and cards to voters at the doors to polling centres. Maintaining electoral campaigning, motorcades hoisted flags and banners of competing lists. Some polling centres were not aligned to the needs of persons with disabilities, senior citizens, and sick people
AMAN: Local elections are necessary to restore balance within the political system and avoid political corruption
In its report, AMAN made a set of recommendations. First and foremost, national elections should be held to rehabilitate the Legislative Authority. A new date will be set for presidential and legislative elections in the very near future. Allowing broad public participation, these elections are needed to restore balance within the political system, realise the principle of balanced separation of powers, promote parliamentary oversight of government functions, and avoid a slide into political corruption. While the rule of law is respected, the provisions of the Palestinian Basic Law and Elections Law will be observed. In particular, local elections will be held simultaneously throughout Palestinian governorates. The Law on the Election of Local Government Units will be amended so as to constrain discretionary the Council of Ministers’ power to postpone or phase out elections in some LGUs. This will be conditioned to a technical recommendation of the CEC, indicating that election cannot be held in certain LGUs or a particular geographical locality.
Importance of periodic local elections in Gaza under the law... suspended since 2005
AMAN further recommended that the de facto authority in the Gaza Strip allow the holding of local elections so that citizens can elect their representatives at LGUs. In both the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, authorities will refrain from taking any unilateral steps which may discriminate against or encroach on the rights of citizens to exercise their right to participation either by running for office or by voting in local elections.
Of note, Hamas has refused to organise elections in the Gaza Strip, violating citizens’ right to select their representatives at LGUs and undermining community accountability and oversight of public administration and management of public finances. In Gaza, local elections were held for the last time in 2005.
AMAN recommendations to fulfil requirements for fair elections
To fulfil requirements for integrity of the electoral process, AMAN recommended that LGUs apply specific controls and a clearly defined mechanism to issue clearance certificates to candidates running for local elections. The law will provide that properties and buildings of civil society organisations will be dealt with just like state institutions to prevent some officials from abusing office for the purpose of electoral campaigning. Security agencies will cease interference with the electoral process. They should neither place pressure on citizens to discourage them running as candidates on electoral lists nor support particular lists. Electoral lists will be held liable for violence and attacks committed by relevant supporters, particularly after preliminary results are announced. Information signs will be posted throughout polling centres to assist, guide, and facilitate voting by citizens inside. Polling centres will be aligned to the needs of persons with disabilities, the elderly, and all vulnerable groups, strengthening the right to participation in the electoral process. Entrances to polling centres will be organised. Coordination will be in place with the police to prevent gatherings, disorder, and erection of tents by electoral lists at the gates to polling centres.
To read the report, click here.