MARWAN AL-BARGHUTHI, 46, top candidate of Mahmoud  Abbas's Fatah party and the most popular leader of the second Palestinian intifada, or uprising, against Israeli occupation. 

Considered a possible successor to President Abbas.

Al-Barghuthi, a legislator in the outgoing parliament, is serving five consecutive life terms in an Israeli prison for involvement in attacks that killed four Israelis and a Greek monk.

A former ally of Israeli peace activists, he backs the establishment of a Palestinian state alongside Israel, but says Palestinians should use force to drive Israel from occupied lands.

A leader of Fatah's young guard, he is pushing for a generational change in the movement.

Israel has said it will not grant him early release, although there is persistent speculation that he would be freed in the right political context.


MUHAMMAD ABU ALI YATTA, 50, second on the Fatah list.

He has been in Israeli prison for 26 years, sentenced to life for killing an Israeli settler. He has not previously occupied any position in Fatah, and is believed to have been put on the list as a gesture to the thousands of Palestinians held by Israel. He is among the longest-serving inmates.


INTISSAR AL-WAZIR, 64, long-time leader of the Palestinian women's movement.

Has been welfare minister since 1996 and is the widow of Khalil al-Wazir, the military chief of the Palestine Liberation Organisation who was killed in an Israeli commando raid in Tunis in 1988. She has been a member of the Palestine National Council since 1974.



ISMAIL HANIYA, 46, the top Hamas candidate.

Born in Gaza's Shati refugee camp, he graduated from Gaza City's Islamic University 1987 with a degree in Arabic literature and became a close associate of Shaikh Ahmad Yassin, the founder of Hamas.

Ismail Haniya (R) has served as
liaison between Hamas and the PA

He was expelled by Israel to south Lebanon in 1992, returned to Gaza a year later and became the dean of the Islamic University.

In 1998, he took charge of Yassin's office.

A pragmatist, he served as a liaison between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority. 

He rose to prominence after Israel's assassinations in 2004 of Yassin and Yassin's successor, Abd al-Aziz al-Rantisi. He has been a member of the political leadership of Hamas since the 1990s.


MUHAMMAD ABU TAIR, 55, second on the Hamas list.

Spent 25 years in Israeli jails. He is from Jerusalem, and is a former member of Fatah and of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command.

With his bright orange beard, dyed with henna in line with Islamic tradition, Abu Tair preaches in local mosques and is a patriarch of the Abu Tair clan in the neighbourhood of Um Tuba on the edge of Jerusalem.


JAMILA SHANTI, 50, the leading woman candidate for Hamas and third on the group's national list.

A holder of a doctorate in English, she taught at the Islamic University in Gaza before resigning to campaign for the elections.

She is a founder of the women's section in Hamas.



MUSTAFA AL-BARGHUTHI, 51, leads the new party on a platform of clean government. 

Mustafa al-Barghuthi ran for
president early last year

The Jerusalem-born physician is known throughout the West Bank and Gaza Strip for running a healthcare think-tank and a pro-democracy lobby group.

He ran against Abbas for the Palestinian Authority presidency early last year, winning about 20% of the vote.

In 1991, al-Barghuthi - a distant relative of Marwan al-Barghuthi - took part in the Madrid peace conference that paved the way for peace accords between Israel and the Palestinians.

Articulate and media-savvy, he has campaigned against Israel's separation wall.


RAWYA aL-SHAWA, second on al-Barghuthi's list and a legislator in the outgoing parliament.

From a prominent family in Gaza, her father and her husband both headed the Gaza City municipality.

She waged an anti-corruption campaign in parliament and was an outspoken critic of the late president, Yasser Arafat.



SALAM FAYYAD, 53, founded the new Third Way party, which favours negotiations with Israel and sweeping reform to root out corruption.

Has been minister of finance since 2002, and is credited with doing much to clean up the Palestinian Authority finances.

Formerly a senior executive at the International Monetary Fund and received postgraduate degrees from the University of Texas.


HANAN ASHRAWI, 59, Christian, emerged as a prominent figure in Palestinian politics during the first intifada, which erupted in 1987.

Ashrawi quit her minister's post
to protest against graft

Eloquent and often feisty, she was official spokeswoman for the Palestinian delegation to the Middle East peace talks from 1991-93, and headed a committee responsible for Jerusalem's citizens rights after the signing of the peace agreement.

She was appointed minister of higher education in 1996, and quit her post in a high-profile rebuke to Arafat over corruption in 1998.

A legislator in the outgoing parliament, she serves on a number of international bodies, including the Council of Foreign Relations.