Until recently the election process had been marked by widespread voter apathy amid almost daily Israeli incursions and raids, and continued Palestinian lawlessness.

But the most recent figures, released on Sunday by the Central Elections Commission, suggest an increased interest among potential voters. The daily number of registrants in the West Bank and Gaza has reached 30,000, up from 13,000 just a few days ago.

Overall voter registration has increased from 12% to over 18.5%, which translates into more than 300,000 voters, according to the report.

The registration drive, being conducted out throughout the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, is in preparation for possible general and local elections next year.

Date awaited

No fixed date for the elections has been designated, ostensibly because of fear that the Israeli occupation army, which maintains a conspicuous presence in most Palestinian population centres, will not allow the elections to take place. 

A media campaign is under way
encouraging voter registration

However, the Palestinian Authority (PA) is expected to finally announce a date for the elections later this year, pending "guarantees" from the international community.
 
The voter-registration process is to run for eight weeks, extendable by another two weeks.

Percentages are particularly high in the northern West Bank towns of Tulkarim, Qalqiliya and Janin. The village of Salfit tops the list, with 38% of its population having signed up.

Political analysts attribute the high turnout to the active role played by political factions in encouraging registration in these areas, in addition to a voter-registration drive that has reached even the remotest areas in the Palestinian territories.

Gaza turnout

Posters, banners and billboards encouraging people to register can be seen plastered everywhere - be they partially demolished homes in the besieged southern Gaza Strip town of Rafah or buildings in some of Gaza City's upmarket neighbourhoods.

In the Gaza Strip, more than 100,000 people have so far turned up at registration booths, according to Gaza Election Commission Coordinator Majdi Abu Zaid.

"I am not worried because the numbers are on the rise. If they had levelled off, or were decreasing, then I
would be concerned"

Abu Zaid,
Gaza Election Commission Coordinator

The town of Dair al-Balah commands a lead with 28% of its residents having registered.  But voter turnout remains very low in Gaza City, where there are more than 86 mostly empty voter registration centres.

"We are trying to assess why this is the case and change this reality," said Abu Zaid. 

"We are speaking with civil-society organisations, local leaders, imams, and various political factions to see how they can help us. We are also increasing our media campaign." 

Abu Zaid says he is optimistic and believes it is simply a case of procrastination.
 
"I am not worried because the numbers are on the rise. If they had levelled off, or were decreasing, then I would be concerned. As they say, people shop for the Eid holiday only the night before. We are very hopeful."