[JURIST] Palestinan election officials announced Sunday that the vote to choose a successor for late Palestinian president Yasser Arafat would be extended by two hours until 9 PM local time (2 PM ET) to accommodate what they described as a heavy turnout and also to compensate for confusion at the main east Jerusalem polling station where hundreds of voters were turned away after problems with registration lists. AP has more. The announcement came after a deal was worked out with Israeli officials through former US president Jimmy Carter, leading a team of international election observers. There have, however, been conflicting reports on voter turnout in Jerusalem so the exact situation in that respect is still unclear, and several Palestinian sources have claimed harassment by Israelis at checkpoints despite an official Israeli government commitment to facilitate the voting process. It is expected that a winner in the 7-candidate contest - probably former Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas - will be apparent later tonight, although results will only be official Monday. Read official biographies of the candidates here. The Palestine Central Elections Commission provides official background information about the vote here, including a summary of election arrangements in Jerusalem. The Carter Center provides information on its election observer mission here. The Jerusalem Post provides local coverage of the vote so far, indicated that some 30% of eligible voters had cast their ballots by 3 PM local time. The Palestinian Satellite Channel provides continuous televised coverage of the election and the results here in Arabic.
12:59 PM ET - The Central Elections Commission press release on the poll extension, now available online, points a finger at the Israeli military authorities, striking a different tone from the spokesperson comments referred to in media reports this morning:
The CEC has extended opening hours for polling centers in all electoral districts by 2 hours. Polling centers will now remain open until 9PM.Read the full text of the release here. The CEC has also issued this press release on obstacles encountered in Sunday's polling process, citing the "failure of the Israeli authorities to deliver on their promises to facilitate the movement of the voters to allow their participation in the electoral process" and charging that "in the city of Jerusalem, Israeli authorities have been obstructive, particularly at the post offices."
The CEC took this step after determining that limitations on the movement of Palestinians within and between Palestinian towns continue to be imposed by the Israeli Occupation Army. Obstacles such as checkpoints and military closures have remained in place despite previous Israeli statements that they would be lifted during the Palestinian Presidential Elections to allow for free, fair and transparent elections.
International election observers including ex-President Jimmy Carter, who is observing voting in Jerusalem, concurred with CEC statements on freedom of movement.
Earlier in the day President Jimmy Carter urged Israeli Authorities to facilitate voting in Jerusalem after he declared that Israeli actions this morning were hampering the election process.