There were victory ‘V’ signs from the man widely predicted to win Sunday’s Palestinian presidential election during an appearance in the West Bank. But the last minute cancellation of a rally in Jerusalem highlights the tightrope Mahmoud Abbas is walking as he aims to replace Yasser Arafat. The leading candidate in the race called-off a visit to the Holy City because he would have been photographed surrounded by Israeli security. That could leave this moderate looking weak in the eyes of Palestinian militants.
Campaigning is now over, and former US President Jimmy Carter has arrived with a team of election observers to monitor the 220 polling stations. He has expressed hopes a peaceful vote will set the stage for an end to violence. Abbas has promised continuity if he is elected, keeping current prime minister Ahmed Qurie in place. Both are favourites of Western leaders who hope steady hands at the helm can steer Palestinians towards constructive peace talks.