For Your Information: Canadian Observation Mission
The Canadian Observation Mission was deployed in early December to undertake a long-term observation of the Palestinian Legislative Council elections. The mission was conceived and organized by Canada Corps, part of the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA). As with the recent Haitian elections, where the Canada Corps deployed 106 electoral observers, its raison d'Ítre emanates from the Eurocentric concept whereby the world is divided between the civilized and uncivilized who require the tutelage of the civilized in democracy, good governance and the rule of law. Some 600 election observers were deployed to Palestine under the command of former U.S. President Jimmy Carter.
The Canadian Observation Mission opened on December 5, 2005 with a deputy chief observer, four experts and 12 long-term observers deployed in Ramallah. On election day, 39 short-term observers were also deployed. In its preliminary report on the Palestinian Legislative Council Elections 2006 issued on January 26, the Canadian Observation Mission stated the following:
"Once again yesterday, ordinary Palestinians proved their commitment to shaping their future at the ballot box. Despite the extraordinary circumstances in which these elections were held, and despite the significant obstacles faced by many voters, including real or potential physical danger, hundreds of thousands of Palestinians turned out to vote, often in an atmosphere of exuberance and celebration.
"It is our view that these legislative elections embodied substantial improvements in democratic practices compared with last year's presidential elections. They further promoted the culture and practice of democracy among Palestinians. If the results are fairly counted and tabulated, we expect the new legislative council to be substantially more representative of the current will of Palestinian voters than the one it will replace....
"There were notable democratic achievements associated with these elections:
"Voters were presented with real choices following a vigorous and competitive campaign, with the notable exception of those living in East Jerusalem;
"Despite the novelty of the voting system, voters, officials and faction representatives generally coped well, in part because of the education and training undertaken by the CEC through the media and local non-governmental organizations (NGOs);
"Domestic and international observers as well as candidate and faction agents were, for the most part, able to register easily and perform their important tasks unimpeded;
"Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians cast their ballots in peaceful, orderly and well-administered polling centres on election day.
"However, the election had important shortcomings:
"A pattern of politically-motivated violence, or threats of violence, prior to and during the campaign, created an atmosphere that may have intimidated some voters and candidates;
"Israeli checkpoints and travel restrictions inhibited or prevented the movement of candidates and campaign workers. On election day, IDF activity, notably around Hebron, delayed or prevented some voters from getting to polling centres;
"Particularly at the outset of the campaign, Israeli police in East Jerusalem detained some faction supporters and candidates, and broke up meetings. The ability to erect posters and conduct other common campaign activities was also limited;
"The arrangements for voting in East Jerusalem were concluded hastily in the last days before balloting and resulted in the unequal treatment of voters there contrary to international standards. The balloting in Jerusalem post offices was not secret, contrary to international norms;...
"The legislative elections took place in extraordinary circumstances of occupation and civil disorder. The quality of the elections must be evaluated against that backdrop.
"The Israeli occupation had far-reaching effects on the quality of the elections, some of them dramatic and others more subtle. Most obviously, candidates and campaign workers were unable to travel freely, particularly between the West Bank and Gaza, but also within the West Bank, and into Jerusalem. Voting in East Jerusalem was permitted only by agreement with Israel under conditions that were not in accord with international standards and campaigning was significantly impeded there...."
Majority of Palestinians Held Hostage to Israel
Regarding East Jerusalem, the Canadian Observation Mission stated:
"In this election, Israeli officials insisted until late in the process that they would not permit any voting in the areas they control. They did not agree to voting in East Jerusalem until 15 January. This resulted in a stultified campaign there.
"In particular prior to 15 January, but to a degree even afterward, Israeli authorities placed severe restrictions on the ability of factions and candidates to campaign peacefully in East Jerusalem. On several occasions, Israeli police used force to thwart unsanctioned rallies, detained faction supporters or candidates, and otherwise obstructed campaigning.
"For their part, prior to 15 January, senior Palestinian officials, including President Abbas, threatened to halt the entire electoral process unless Israel agreed to allow voting in East Jerusalem. This held the democratic rights and aspirations of the majority of Palestinians hostage to Israel's agreement to allow Jerusalemites an entirely inadequate access to the ballot...."
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