Palestinian soldiers vote in legislative poll
Hamas, which is running for seats in the 132-member parliament for the first time, is also expected to garner a strong showing.india Updated: Jan 21, 2006 12:31 IST
Palestinian security forces cast the first ballots on Saturday in the Palestinian Legislative Council election, voting early before the main national poll next week, the first contested by the militant group Hamas.
The security forces are voting from Saturday to Monday to free them for duty on January 25, when Palestinian civilians will cast ballots in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and Arab East Jerusalem, which Israel captured in the 1967 Middle East war and which Palestinians want as capital of a future state.
"This is a very important day for our people because all the parties are participating," said Hisham Saqala, a police officer. "There are many issues that need to be resolved and they will not be resolved except by this election."
At one polling station in a Gaza school, several members from all groups running in the election, including Hamas and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah, monitored voting as officers cast their ballots.
One officer, Nayef Khweitar, said security men would not vote for groups which "opened fire at (police), fired rockets at our police stations and killed officers", referring to lawlessness that has raged in the West Bank and Gaza ahead of the vote.
Saqala and Khweitar said they would vote for Fatah, which is expected to make the strongest gains. Hamas, which is running for seats in the 132-member parliament for the first time, is also expected to garner a strong showing.
Policemen said Hamas had sent campaign leaflets to homes of officers, urging them to vote for the group.