Pictures of candidates are pasted on walls, billboards and doors all over town. Banners, their campaign slogans spray painted on, are hanging between streetlight posts. And the gold Fatah and green Hamas flags are flying from the tops of homes and aerials of cars.
But most importantly on the day before 529,931 residents of the Gaza Strip can cast their ballots for the Palestinian Legislative Council, quiet reigns on the streets, the result of an agreement among all the factions participating in the ballot.
"We pledge to stop anyone who attempts to disrupt the PLC elections or who creates any chaos on Election Day," representatives of Fatah, Hamas, the Popular Resistance Committees, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, the Ahmed Abu Ar-Rish Brigades and the Nationalist Resistance Brigades said in a statement at a joint press conference here Tuesday. "We will treat him as disloyal and as a traitor to the PA."
The current calm is a sharp contrast to the atmosphere around the turn of the year when gang warfare raged here with daily shootings, and the kidnapping of foreigners was a regular event. But how long it lasts may depend on the vote itself.
"If the shooting happens, it will likely come after the elections," said Eugen Bird, an election monitor with the American group Council for the National Interest, who is observing his third Palestinian election. "That's the way it happened in Baghdad once the results started coming out."
The primary fear, Bird said, was not of Hamas, but of Fatah and its Aksa Martyrs Brigades. If Fatah were fairing poorly in the elections, some of the intrafactional violence which has abated in the last few weeks could return.
Aays Thabet contributed to this report