Palestinians are voting to pick a successor to Yasser Arafat. It is their first presidential election in nine years and a key step towards renewing peace talks with Israel.

Lines of Palestinians are forming at polling stations across the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and East Jerusalem as some of the 1.8 million eligible voters cast their ballots.

Israeli and Palestinian security forces are on high alert to prevent disturbances and protect access to the voting sites.

Former President Jimmy Carter, here to help monitor the elections, says he is optimistic the vote will be a success.

"We expect there to be an honest and fair, open and transparent election process," he said.

Former Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas is widely expected to win the election. He campaigned on promises to end violence and resume peace talks with Israel.