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In Jerusalem, Palestinians find democracy comes with a price

ashrawi dispute January 14, 1996
Web posted at: 11:40 p.m. EST (0440 GMT)

From International Correspondent Jerrold Kessel

JERUSALEM (CNN) -- The upcoming Palestinian national elections are raising tensions in Jerusalem, with Israelis and Palestinians at odds over key aspects of the process.

Israel has agreed that Palestinians who live in the city may vote, but has done much to downplay the elections -- scheduled for Saturday.

At a military checkpoint, Hanan Ashrawi, a candidate, was prevented from driving her car into the city unless all campaign posters were removed.

poster "That is what worries them -- my car and my photograph?" the former leading Palestinian spokeswoman said. "Is this really the Israeli army's main battle?" she asked.

The dispute ended with Ashrawi's driver and a colleague under arrest and the car barred from the city. For Palestinians, it was but one example of the difficulties surrounding their elections.

Voters In the converted game room of the Young Men's Muslim Association in a village on the city's outskirts, Palestinians learn the basics of democracy.

There was much to be learned. It isn't just that these are the first national elections for Palestinians. The procedures are complex, with almost 700 candidates vying for 88 seats in 16 separate districts.

"Having a good election in Jerusalem, seeing that everybody has gone the extra mile in order to guarantee the rights of Palestinian voters will help dispel at least some of the distrust that exists right now," said Karina Perelli an election consultant.

But distrust is very much present. Many Palestinains did not register because they feared their participation could cause them to lose their residency status or Israeli social benefits.

"Here, the occupation isn't over, and they can't tolerate seeing us assemble like this in Jerusalem," said Abu Ala, the chief Palestinian peace negotiator with the Israelis who thinks there has been unnecessary harassment of candidates and would-be voters.

Police ordered Ala to move a rally of his Fatah movement indoors instead of the football stadium where it was supposed to occur.

ziad campaigning One candidate who put in some old-fashioned Western style street campaigning said there is a reason some Israelis are not cooperating with the elections.

"They are making these problems because they feel they are losing part of Jerusalem," said Ziad Abu Ziad, a Palestinian candidate.

Provided that they overcome the obstacles, Palestinians look forward to gaining a part of Jerusalem and establishing their sovereignty.


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