Sophia's Peace Work

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Still No News ... but the election has started

I've signed up as an election observer for the Iraqi Election here in Jordan. Today was the first day. I have alot of time on my hands because the election is going slowly. Today I was at the secondary school for Girls in Swefieh and in the evening I went to the Police Training Institute where there are 3000 Iraqi Police trainees who will be voting. I have focused on just four of the 10 stations or rooms where they are voting in the girls school. They've cleared out the classrooms of desks and chairs and have left only a few.

One person at the door checks to see if they've voted before (purple fingers), the next checks the IDs. After that they register. Then they move to the table where they get the 4-page ballot, then they go behind the flimsy cardboard barrier set up to provide a bit of privacy and they vote. As you only select one of the 180 or so odd parties on the ballot, you end up throwing three pages of the ballot away and put the remaining page, carefully folded, in the ballot box. Once they ink your finger ... you are done ... Khallis, Hadha Kullshi!

The 10 stations (except for one on the ground floor) are on the 1st floor (what we call the 2nd floor in the U.S.)overlooking a courtyard where the media have set up. There are occasional political arguments down there and once a bit of singing and chanting for the behalf of the TV cameras there ... the translation was roughly ("Yeah, we are voting!" "Yeah, Iraq is great!" ... well something like that). It really brightened up a tedious day as election observing is more boring than playing golf!

My job is to just watch, take down notes and do an evaluation at the end. I can't make any official complaint, but I can talk to the Station Supervisor if I see something that doesn't look right.

So far I haven't seen any real problems. Everyone is very professional and serious. Security is tight though the turnout is small so far. Some of the poll workers say it is less than the January election ... but it is only the first of three days of voting and the final day should be the most active.

And boring as it is, atleast I get to work on my arabic a bit ... especially at the school where the walls are covered with simple pictures and signs in basic arabic. Then when I finish reading all the signs (honestly, I am watching the election process too, I swear!!!), I start doodling ... hmmm, maybe it's something about being back in a school.

Anyway, the Police Station was sort of interesting ... the poll workers are all Iraqis ... most of them educated people who have been living in Jordan for awhile. But the police trainees, according to one poll workers, were primarily from poor backgrounds. Anyway, everyone was very nice and very focused on doing a good job.

I hope the same is true in all of the other polling sites!


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