Mark Brown, an ELCA pastor who observed the Palestinian elections in January, said he was impressed both with the turnout and the spirit of the voters.
"As an official international observer of the election in Gaza, I came away with a sense of the purpose and the commitment of the Palestinian people to the election of democratically accountable representatives," said Brown, assistant director of the Lutheran Office for Governmental Affairs, Washington, D.C. He was one of 19 officially accredited ecumenical observers.
In a telephone interview with The Lutheran, Brown said that Gaza--where economic conditions are the worst and where Israeli occupation was most oppressive--had a 90 percent voter turnout. Some had feared militant Palestinian factions might try to derail the elections.
After the election, the observers warned, the newly elected Palestinian leaders "will need to be vigilant in safeguarding an independent judiciary and the freedoms of opinion, expression and information, assembly and association."
Brown added, "The election was an important preparatory step, though not seen as an end by anyone."
In addition to the ELCA, ecumenical observers included representatives of the [Lutheran] Church of Sweden Mission, the Church of South India, the Episcopal Peace Fellowship, the Church of the Brethren, the United Church of Christ, the Roman Catholic Church and the Seventh Day Adventists.
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