Ecumenical Accompanier in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI) Dec. 2004 - Feb. 2005

Elections Part 3
On Counting the Votes in the Old City of Nablus

Where Osama bin Laden and Yassir Arafat Get a Vote
Jan. 9, 2005

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It has calmed down the atmosphere in polling station No. 1 of the Khadir Fatima School in the old city of Nablus. Carefully protected by the security people at the entrance the counting of the votes should start. The doors of the class room are closed. Over the whole election day, a sunday, election watchers from all over the world went through this and all the other polling station in the large city of Nablus with about 120.000 inhabitants. Right next to it, according to European standards a little bit too close, the local Fatah group raised a tent (Photo left), flagged with posters of Abu Mazzen, surrounded by cars with similar posters. Did this give their candidate the last push? Right now we are the only election watchers in polling station No. 1. The other internationals are in station 2 and 3 in the same building, while 4 and 5 are not watched internationally. To be correct, we from the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI) of the World Council of Churches (WCC) have no official status. But nevertheless we were welcomed the whole in polling stations in schools or at the An Nadjah University. The election committees are happy about the international interest in one of the few democratic elections in the Arab world so far.
Even a delegation from the Ukraine - "We have very fresh experiences with elections, good one as well as bad one." - gets a full explanation of the whole process (Photo right). Starting with the registration of voters, that already started weeks before Arafat died as a preparation for the local elections and later on for the parliamentary elections. About the ink, that is put on the thumb for a square centimeter, approved by the Europen Union and not washable for 72 hours. Up to the plenty of straps, that seals the boxes of milky plastic.
Actually the election should end at seven. But via radio, television, minarett and mobile phone the electoral committee communicated that the casting of votes is extended to nine o'clock. Since in many places still questions over registration had to be clarified. We did not see people queing anywhere. May be because of lack of participation or because of the many polling stations. That is the answer in polling station 1: 432 of exactly 700 voters cast their ballots. This is a participation of 60 per cent.
The four local election observers sit on behalf of parties or candidates beside us. In the beginnig they stood around the table with the ballot box and discussed the further procedure. However, when the head of the election committee in the Khadir Fatima school emerged she banished all observers to a chair row at the edge.
Now the counting begins. A lady reads out the marked candidates loud, the next one shows with never ending energy each individual note of the row of the election observers, before the third lady assigns the vote to the selected candidate on her list. And all men note the votes at the board and/or on their forms. At first the independent candidate Mustafa Barghouthi, which addressed particularly intellectual people and spoke up against corruption in the autonomy authority, can keep up nearly with the huge favorite and PLO chairman Mahmud Abbas. The other five candidates play no role at all. One of them must wait nearly one hour, until he can gets his first and only voice.
As in polling stations around the world the invalid votes probably create the best entertainment. Many voters marked several candidates or wrote comments on the ballot. One wrote crosswise on all candidates in Arab: "Osama bin Laden". Another one wrote "Abu Amar" alias Yassir Arafat - obviously an invalid ballot. At the end invalid votes and abstentions in this polling station add up to ten per cent of the votes. A lot. At 22.30 h, one and a half hours after the closure of the polling station, Mahmud Abbas is the winner here, too. With 224 voices against 142 for Mustafa Barghouthi. More than half for the PLO chairman, a third for the independent candidate. All documents are solemnly sealed. In front of the building some cars drive celebrating Mahmud Abbas victory. Some shoot in the air. At least this night no one expects the Israeli military to shop up in the city. International election observers remain over night. The citizens still wait for the retaliation for an attack on a military vehicle on Friday, when one soldier died and three others were injured.

Elections Part 6

Postelection Meeting with Jimmy Carter, Heads of Churches and EAPPI in Jerusalem
Jan. 10, 2005

Each voter is marked.

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Disclaimer: I have been active from Dec. 2004 to Feb. 2005 for Evangelisches Missionswerk in Südwestdeutschland (EMS) as an Ecumenical Accompanier serving on the World Council of Churches' (WCC) Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI). The views contained herein are personal and do not necessarily reflect those of my employer EMS or the WCC. If you would like publish the information contained here or disseminate further, please first contact the EAPPI Communications Officer and Managing Director ( for permission. Thank you.