There was a quiet end to campaigning ahead of Palestinian elections which could profuoundly change the political landscape in the West Bank and Gaza.
Analysts expect a surge in support for the miliant group Hamas at the expense of President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah mouvement.
It could win enough seats in the Wednesday’s parliamentary vote to earn a place in government. That could have far-reaching implications for the stalled peace process as both Hamas and Israel have vowed not to negotiate with each other.
In what appeared to be a late bid to fend of the challenge of Hamas a senior Fatah leader said his party should apologise for past mistakes. Allegations of corruption within its leadership are among the main reasons Hamas is thought to have gained ground.
An army of some 900 international observers will monitor the ballot which is seen as a key test of democracy particularly in Gaza. The Strip has witnessed an upsurge in disorder and Palestinian in-fighting since Israel’s withdrawal last year.
Not all militant groups have followed the example of Hamas. Islamic Jihad has called for a boycott of the election but says it will not try to disrupt polling.