Wednesday, January 25, 2006

# Posted 4:35 PM by Patrick Belton  

REFLECTIONS AFER A DAY OF POLLING: In Nablus today I expected to see street brawling; on election day at least, there was none. Similarly on the day of polls I expected armed attacks by rejectionists; of these there were none, either.

From Nablus I went on to talk to voters in a refugee camp in Ramallah, from there on to Beituniya, and from there a touchingly warm and outgoing mixed Muslim-Christian village I stumbled upon named ’Ein ’Arik, population 613, of whom 538 voted, and nearly as many congregated in the night in the square outside the village school. Someone pressed coffee and a spam sandwich into my hand as I spoke to a mixed crowd of Christians and Muslims. They mostly supported Fateh: electing it would show that the Palestinians, or at least they, wanted the peace process. They worried that a strong Hamas showing might lead to less international support. But rival supporters joked, talked, caught up, chided each other pleasantly on their foolishly miscast ballots; and this was the mood everywhere I went.

It was in ’Ein ’Arik I chose to be during the ritual close of balloting and the counting of votes, as at 6:58 the opening of the boxes as a volunteer drew, redrew, and further redrew a chalk grid on the classroom chalkboard to tally the votes. The cardboard voting booths were broken down, the tables rearranged as a volunteer adjusted her glasses under her headscarf and a glass of something vaguely pink was kindly pressed into my hand.

I will return to ’Ein ’Arik. With the unique exception of Iraq, if you want a taste of Arab democracy, get it here. And for those of us who believe that participation in democratic processes is the key to the moderation of extreme elements and the ending of terrorism, this is roundabouts where we put our money where we've been putting our mouths.
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With the unique exception of Iraq, if you want a taste of Arab democracy, get it here.

Ahem. Lebanon.
I hope everything continues to go well with this democracy.
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