Voting opened across the Gaza Strip and the West Bank at 7 am (0500 GMT) on Wednesday amid massive security in place.
Initial results were expected shortly after the close of polling at 7 pm (1700 GMT).
Around 1.34 million residents of the West Bank, Gaza Strip and annexed east Jerusalem are entitled to cast their ballots in an election whose outcome promises to have a profound impact on the future course of the Middle East.
Members of Hamas could be seen welcoming voters into the polling stations as the doors opened in the Islamists' Gaza Strip stronghold.
In the West Bank, small queues had formed outside schools and other public buildings across the territory where voting was to take place.
Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, has told security forces to react with an iron fist to anyone who attempts to disrupt the vote, while the main armed factions have all pledged to ensure that the vote passes off peacefully.
In an election-eve message to the Palestinian people, Abbas said the vote would serve as a decisive step on the path to statehood and usher in a new era of political pluralism and democracy.
"This great day will be of historic significance, a decisive step on the road to freedom and independence," he said.
The Palestinian leadership is well aware that a successful exercise in democracy will enhance the cause for statehood, with hundreds of international observers on hand to oversee the ballot.
A real threat
Fatah, the movement founded by the late Yasser Arafat more than 40 years ago, faces a real threat of losing its majority in parliament.
Polls show that the Islamists of Hamas are likely to run it a close second.
Nabil Shaath, Fatah's campaign manager and outgoing deputy prime minister expressed confidence this week that the party would win a "large majority".
An election-eve poll by the Ramallah-based Near East Consulting institute, however, forecast Fatah would win only 59 out of the 132 seats, five more than Hamas, with the rest split between minor parties and independents.
Half the deputies will be elected on lists while the remainder will be voted for in 16 constituencies.
Hamas has been seeking to cash in on voter disillusionment with Fatah over the stalled peace process, widespread corruption and by claiming its fighters forced Israel to pull out of Gaza last summer.
The possibility of a Hamas win, or strong enough showing to secure a seat in cabinet, has prompted warnings from Israel that it will not deal with a Palestinian government which includes a "terrorist organisation".
Hamas, which refuses to recognise the Jewish state's right to exist and has been behind the majority of attacks in a five-year uprising, continues to advocate the use of violence while fielding its first parliamentary candidates.
In a speech on Tuesday, Ehud Olmert, the acting prime minister of Israel, also hailed the vote as an historic opportunity for the Palestinians to move towards their goal of independence.
But he said they must decide whether to take their destiny in hand or again let the "extremists" take control.
"Tomorrow's elections are an historic opportunity for the Palestinian people and a step towards their objective of reaching national independence," he said.
Source: AljazeeraLast Mod: 20 Eylül 2018, 18:16