Thursday, May 05, 2005
Bethlehemites go to the ballots
posted by: salam max at 4:53 PM


The ballot boxes of Bethlehem were already filling up this morning as voters turned out in large numbers for the first local elections here in 30 years. With an almost carnival-like atmosphere, men, women and children bustled at the polling stations.

Workers in the polling stations reported no problems or irregularities so far, and a very high turn out.

Independent election observer, Husam Jubran, in Beit Sahour, told me: "Everybody is here. This is the first local election we've had in 30 years, and everybody is happy because of that. The parties have mobilized highly and a strong campaign has been fought in this area."

He told me that they are expecting "at least" a 90 percent turn out.

"Even kids are here despite the fact they're not eligible to vote, and that's great," Jubran said. "I just witnessed five kids in dialogue with each other over who to vote for and debating the different candidates."

The polling stations in neighboring Bethlehem and Beit Jala were similar, with young children and canvassers surrounding the lightly (and relatively discreetly) guarded polling stations.

No guns or mobile phones were allowed into the polling stations and the only political party involvement inside the polling rooms were as observers, sat at an appropriate distance form the voting booths.

A high number of women seemed to be voting, and all in all a good atmosphere prevailed on this final day of what has proven to be hotly contested local elections for the Bethlehem region. The high number of candidates and a strong turn out in all regions make the results too close to call.

What difference these elections will make to the political decision making in the region, however, remains to be seen.


An election poster shows clearly the voting proceedure in Beit Sahour.
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