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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Palestinians Gird for Elections

JERUSALEM -- Candidates for a Palestinian parliament ended a campaign Thursday in which ambitions for an independent and prosperous state clashed with the reality of Israeli domination and economic recession.

Campaigners trudged through snow and mud to final rallies to win over voters in Saturday's polls.

"Everything is in place for the elections. Palestinian police will guard polling stations. They begin deploying today," said Ihab Barghothi, elections coordinator in the West Bank.

Israel barred its citizens Thursday from entering Palestinian self-rule areas and said it would deploy thousands of policemen in East Jerusalem to prevent right-wing Jews from disrupting voting.

Right-wing Israelis, who believe that the participation of East Jerusalem Arabs in the poll would weaken their claim to the Arab half of the city, plan to hold protests Saturday.

In Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem, 676 candidates are standing for 88 seats in a council that will run the interim self-rule areas during talks with Israel on a final settlement.

PLO chairman Yasser Arafat is running in parallel elections for the presidency of the executive Palestinian Authority. His only challenger is a little-known leftist, Samiha Khalil.

The campaign has been short and lackluster, but Arafat and his Western backers see the election as a vital endorsement of his authority and the whole self-rule agreement.

Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter is among hundreds of international observers ensuring the poll is free and fair.

The Moslem fundamentalist movements in Gaza, Hamas and Islamic Jihad, are boycotting the elections, on the grounds that they legitimize unacceptable agreements with Israel.

Election officials expect at least 70 percent of the more than 1 million registered voters to turn out.