Palestinians will head to the polls Sunday to decide who will lead the Palestinian Authority after the death of long-time leader Yasser Arafat.

Last election: 1996. Yasser Arafat won 87 percent of the vote. Sunday’s election is the second since Palestine became an autonomous state after signing a treaty with Israel.

Voters: 1.8 million Palestinians are eligible but 1.1 million are registered.

Hot spot: Palestinians in East Jerusalem, an area claimed by Israel but hoped to be the Palestinian capital will be able to cast absentee ballots. However, many of the 230,000 there are expected to boycott the vote, which some say could prevent Abbas from having a mandate from the voters.


Mahmoud Abbas

Age: 69

Party:Fatah (one of few surviving founding members of party).

Experience: Interim PLO leader after the death of Yasser Arafat, who died on Nov. 11, 2004. He also served as prime minister of the PLO but only for five months before he stepped down.

Viewed as: Relative moderate, long-time shadow to Arafat.

Expectations: Polls indicate Abbas will win the election by 60 percent. Goals: To establish a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza, with a capital in east Jerusalem. To give refugee families the right to return to their homes in Israel. To have Palestinian prisoners released.

Dr. Mustafa Barghouti

Age: 50

Party: Independent. Endorsed by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a militant left-wing group.

Experience: A medical doctor and pro-democracy activist who has led peaceful demonstrations during the intifadehs. Helped found the Palestinian National Initiative in 2002 to represent the “silent majority” of reform-minded Palestinians and serves as secretary of PNI.

Viewed as: Peaceful moderate, human-rights activist.

Expectations: Polls indicate Barghouti will secure second place, behind Mahmoud Abbas. Goals: To resolve the conflict with Israel by using popular mass non-violence struggle. Says he will clean up corruption in the Palestinian Authority, of which he has been a consistent critic. Wants to establish an autonomous Palestinian state with a capital in Jerusalem.

Other candidates:

Bassam al-Salhi

Age: 44

Party: Palestine People’s Party, of which he is president. The party has communist roots.

Tayssir Khaled

Age: 65

Party: Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a militant PLO faction.

Abdel Karim Shbier

Age: 44

Party: Independent. Identifies with Islamic causes, but not a member of Hamas or Islamic Jihad.

Saed Barakah

Age: 49

Party: Independent. Deported in 1989 for ties to Islamic Jihad. Member of Palestinian National Council, the PLO’s parliament in exile.

Abdel Halim al-Ashkar

Age: 46

Party: Independent. Resident of the United States, under house arrest under charges of racketeering and obstruction charges. Originally from the West Bank.