available languages: english February 9, 2006

The elections to the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) were highly significant for a variety of reasons: Firstly, it was the first truly competitive contest at national level in an election under the Palestinian Authority (PA), since its creation following the Oslo Accords. In the 1996 post-Oslo elections Hamas and other groups had boycotted the elections, leaving no popular competitor to Arafat and his Fatah party.

In last year’s Presidential elections Hamas did not participate and the outcome of the election was a foregone conclusion. The 2006 elections were therefore a crucial test whether electoral competition could work in a context of occupation and open rivalry between PA security forces and numerous armed groups.

Secondly, the elections provided a test of Hamas’ popularity at a national level. The good results in local elections in 2005 were a precursor to the outcome of the PLC elections. Finally, the outcome of the elections is obviously of key importance for the future direction of the PA and the peace process.

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