First woman enters Palestinian poll

A Jerusalem-based journalist has become the first woman to announce her intention to run for the post of Palestinian Authority president in the wake of Yasir Arafat's death.

    Fatah's Mahmud Abbas is the favourite to succeed Yasir Arafat

    Majida al-Batsh said she wanted the Palestinian government to pay more attention to the needs of the 220,000 residents of Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem rather than just sounding off "slogans". 

    "I am announcing my intention today to be a candidate in the Palestinian presidential election. I do this as a Palestinian from Jerusalem and as a woman in order to exercise my democratic rights," she said in east Jerusalem on Sunday. 

    She said she had so far garnered two-thirds of the 5000 signatures needed to ensure her candidacy in the 9 January  poll. 

    "The signatures come from Jerusalem, Gaza, [the West Bank towns of] Nablus, Jenin, and Tulkarim where the people that support me are doing very efficient work," she added. 

    The Jerusalem issue

    Israel has said it will allow residents of east Jerusalem to take part but voting is likely to be conducted via postal ballots and not in electoral districts, a repeat of the compromise seen in the previous election in 1996. 

    "Jerusalem has become a slogan used by politicians, often without meaning," al-Batsh said. "Palestinian negotiators have also neglected this vital issue which has made Jerusalem worried." 

    PLO chairman Mahmud Abbas is the overwhelming favourite to win the election as the official candidate of the dominant Fatah faction. In the Palestinians' first ever elections, Arafat beat woman social activist Samira Khalil in 1996. 

    SOURCE: AFP


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