Talal Sidr, who was the first candidate to nominate himself as successor to the late Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat, said on Sunday that voter registration will deprive hundreds of thousands of Palestinians of their right to vote.


According to the Palestinian Authority (PA) election committee, up to 72% of eligible voters have registered for the 9 January elections.


"The right thing to do is to allow every Palestinian man and woman bearing an identity card to take part. Insisting on voter registration is inconsistent with fundamental natural rights, " said Sidr during a press conference in the West Bank town of Hebron.


"Yes, there are other nations where voter registration is a prerequisite for actual voting. But in these nations, there is no occupation, no roadblocks, no checkpoints and no daily incursions into population centres by tanks, armoured personnel carriers and death squads."


Former Hamas member

 

Sidr refused to back any specific candidate for the elections, saying the Palestinian masses should vote for whoever they viewed as best representing their political attitudes and hopes.

 

"Insisting on voter registration is inconsistent with fundamental natural rights"

Talal Sidr,
Palestinian politician

A former member of Hamas, Sidr criticised Palestinian opposition groups, saying their agenda was mainly partisan and that they should align themselves with mainstream national discourse.


However, some observers in the occupied Palestinian territories suggest that Sidr's withdrawal was due to his slim chance of success.


With Sidr out, there remain 10 other nominees, including Mahmud Abbas (Abu Mazen), who has the best chance of getting
elected as president of the PA.


Centrist coalition

 

On Saturday, Palestinian political activist Mustafa al-Barghuthi formally announced his nomination at his home village of Bait Rima near Ram Allah.


Mahmud Abbas is favourite to
win the elections

Barghuthi, a distant relative of imprisoned Fatah leader Marwan al-Barghuthi, is known for his centre-left views and enjoys wides respect among Palestinians.


Last week, he told Aljazeera.net that he hoped to build a centrist coalition that would pose a serious challenge to Fatah's nominee Abbas.


"It would be lamentable to leave the Palestinians to one man whose views and history are far from ideal," Mustafa al-Barghuthi said.