Under the rules, the candidate must be at least 35-years old to contest for the presidency of the Palestinian National Authority (PNA).
The candidate must be qualified as an eligible voter, be registered in the final voters’ list, and should submit an application to the Central Elections Commission (CEC) headquarters with a list of 5000 eligible voters supporting him or her.
The elections are being boycotted by Hamas and Islamic Jihad. Candidates wishing to withdraw from the election for the presidency of the Palestinian Authority had until 15 December to do so.
Following a number of withdrawals, the Central Elections Commission announced on 15 December 2004 that seven candidates remained.
Four candidates are running as independents and three are backed by Palestinian political parties.
As stipulated in the presidential regulations, all candidates formally started a two-week campaign period from 25 December 2004.
Mahmud Abbas (Fatah Movement)
Fatah’s candidate, Mahmud Abbas, is said to be a proven leader who understands what it takes to build a government and to line up the various Palestinian factions through diplomacy.
A long-term Palestinian Authority stalwart, Abbas, who is also chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), is the man being tipped to revive the peace process and is favoured by Washington as a potential peacemaker with Israel.
Abbas, also known by as Abu Mazin, is often counted as a moderate who would rescue the peace process.
He became the first Palestinian prime minister in 2003, but resigned five moths later after realising that Arafat would not relinquish his powers.
Despite his repeated calls for the demilitarisation of the Palestinian uprising against the occupation, Abbas is said to qualify his condemnations as a tactical rather than a moral stand.
Abbas is the overwhelming favourite to win the election as nothing is threatening to rock the boat, especially after the pullout of the jailed Marwan al-Barghuthi, one of the most popular candidates.
Mustafa al-Barghuthi (Independent)
Human-rights activist and secretary of the Palestinian National Initiative, Dr Mustafa al-Barghuthi, is said to be the next most popular candidate for the presidency.
The independent candidate al-Barghuthi announced his candidacy for Palestinian Authority president on 27 November 2004, promising total and complete reform, a fight against any form of corruption and mismanagement, and the consolidation of the rule of law.
An active participant in the building of a democratic Palestinian civil society, al-Barghuthi was detained and manhandled by Israeli soldiers at a checkpoint between Jenin and Nablus in the West Bank on 9 December 2004.
He says he represents the “silent majority” of Palestinian reformists, but recent surveys have placed him far behind Abbas, scoring between 6% and 14%.
Bassam al-Salhi (Palestine People’s Party)
Bassam al-Salhi will be running for elections as leader of the Palestine People’s Party, a small PLO faction with communist roots.
Al-Salhi was detained at the al-Ram checkpoint near Jerusalem after being refused permission to enter the holy city during his campaign.
Al-Salhi is the second presidential contender to have been detained by Israeli security forces since the start of the campaign, marring the election of a successor to the late Palestinian president Yasir Arafat.
Born in the Al-Amari refugee camp in 1960, al-Salhi was jailed by Israeli authorities several times in the 1980s and 1990s for his role in the Palestinian resistance.
Taysir Khalid (Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine)
Taysir Khalid joined the Marxist-Leninist group of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP) in 1969, after splitting from the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.
The DFLP’s goals are revolutionary change in the Arab world and solidarity with all national liberation movements that oppose imperialism and racism.
Khalid was elected to the PLO Executive Committee in 1991, but quit two years later to protest against the Oslo Accords negotiated between the PLO and Israel.