Media Statement on the South African Observer Mission to Palestine (Visit to Gaza)

The South African Delegation to Palestine, participating in observing the Presidential elections, travelled to Gaza on 8 January 2005, a day ahead of the elections.

Meetings were held with senior Palestinian Authority leaders, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Palestinian Central Elections Commission (CEC) and representatives of various political parties, including Fatah, PFLP, DFLP and FIDA. Consultations were also held with the Palestinian Human Rights Commission and the Palestinian Council on Foreign Relations.

The delegation was briefed on the election preparations undertaken by the CEC, particularly for the poll in Gaza, but also for the poll in the West Bank.

The delegation met with a number of the political parties, who highlighted serious concerns regarding the restrictions of movement imposed on the Palestinians by Israel and the impact this would have on voter turn-out and access to voting stations. Of particular concern to these parties is the closure of the Rafah border (between Egypt and Gaza), which, they say, will result in 8000 (eight thousand) Palestinians not having access to voting stations. In Gaza, whilst there are strong influential parties who promote non-participation in the Presidential elections, there are no indications that this will result in violent protests. We affirm the strides taken by these parties in participating in the municipal elections held in December 2004.

It has been indicated that Jerusalem is expected to be the most challenging region for the elections, as there have been reports of intimidation of Palestinians by Israel and there appears to be a limited number of polling stations, allowing approximately 6000 (six thousand) of more than 200 000 (two hundred thousand) Palestinians to vote. Most political parties have said that they will accept the outcome of the results.

The elections in Palestine are regarded as unique in that it is hoped to be an application of democracy in a non-sovereign, occupied State. South Africa reiterates its support for the realization of an independent Palestinian State and views these elections as a positive step in the direction towards peaceful negotiations with Israel. We further call on Israel to facilitate Palestinian access to voting stations.

Issued by the South African Observer Mission to the Palestinian Presidential Elections

9 January 2005


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