Final Report: IFES Technical Assistance for Municipal Elections in the West Bank and Gaza

Executive Summary

From March 1996 through January 1998, the International Foundation for Election Systems (IFES), funded through a cooperative agreement with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID)/West Bank and Gaza Mission, provided on-site technical assistance to the Palestinian Authority's (PA) Ministry of Local Government (MLG) and the Supreme Elections Committee for Local Elections (SEC) in the planning and organization of municipal council elections in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. These elections will offer Palestinians in more than 325 villages, towns and cities in the West Bank and Gaza their first opportunity to elect local representatives under self-rule. No municipal elections have been held in the West Bank since 1976 (under Israeli occupation), or in Gaza since 1948 (under the British Mandate). The importance of municipal elections makes it essential that they are organized in a credible and professional manner.

A variety of political factors, including the impasse in Palestinian-Israeli negotiations that has delayed anticipated Israeli redeployment from West Bank territory, led the P.A. indefinitely to postpone the elections during the period of the IFES project. The P.A. has stated that, as just fifteen percent of the West Bank towns and villages in which municipal elections are slated to take place are under full Palestinian civilian and security control, it is not possible to schedule elections until further redeployment occurs and self-rule is expanded.

IFES, recognizing the organizational complexity of these elections, and the fact that they are likely to be scheduled on very short notice with little lead time, provided technical assistance to SEC members and to MLG election officials and staff to enhance their capacity to plan and carry out credible elections, whenever they might take place. IFES assistance focused on providing information and recommendations to lay the groundwork for a credible electoral process, upon which election officials could draw when significant election preparations begin and important policy and organizational decisions must be made. Working through its West Bank field office, IFES advised Palestinian election officials and staff on the drafting of a municipal government election law, on the organization of an effective process of registering voters, on election materials procurement and management, on pollworker training, and on the design of a voter education campaign. IFES' recommendations ultimately were synthesized, elaborated upon and compiled in a detailed, Arabic-language manual titled "Guide to the Planning and Organization of Local Elections in the West Bank and Gaza." (The English translation of the manual is included as an appendix to this report). Prior to the conclusion of the project, IFES organized two training workshops on election administration for SEC members and MLG election staff.

This report describes IFES' activities and the project staff and consultants who carried out these activities. It also describes the legal and organizational framework for the elections, and summarizes the outstanding political and administrative issues involved with municipal elections that must be addressed before election preparations can begin in earnest.

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