- The Washington Times - Friday, November 7, 2008

TRUST REGAINED

The United States redeemed itself throughout the world with presidential and congressional elections widely seen as free and fair, the leader of a European observer mission said Thursday.

“Frankly, there has been a lack of trust in many parts of the world towards the U.S. election system,” said Joao Soares, president of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. “But [the] elections were a display in democracy, and they regained trust in the American electoral system.”

Mr. Soares led a delegation of 76 members of parliaments from 28 OSCE countries that monitored the elections in Maryland and in eight battleground states - Colorado, Florida, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio and Virginia.

He commented only on the process, not the outcome of the election that prompted worldwide celebrations over the victory of Sen. Barack Obama.

“This has been a fascinating and most worthwhile mission,” said Mr. Soares, a member of the Portuguese Socialist Party.

“The U.S. elections … were a convincing demonstration of the country’s commitment to democracy,” he said. “In a highly competitive environment, the vote clearly reflected the will of the people, and only minor problems were observed by international parliamentarians monitoring the elections in nine key states.”

The observers cited some problems with voting machines, which, they noted, were solved quickly. They saw long lines that caused them to worry that voters would grow impatient and leave before casting their ballots.

However, Mr. Soares said he talked to voters at one Virginia precinct who had to wait for two hours in line and, “Nobody told me that anyone had gone home.”

Mr. Soares added that some observers were confused by the different electoral processes in the 50 states, where each has the constitutional responsibility to set requirements for elections.

The White House invited the OSCE delegation to observe the elections, as it did four years ago during the last presidential election. The United States is one of 56 member-nations of the OSCE, which monitors democracy throughout Europe and Eurasia and promotes human rights.

CHANGING DIAPERS

In the Middle East, Barack Obama’s election is proving to be change that some can believe in.

Ja´afar Rajab, a columnist for the independent newspaper Al-Rai al-Aam in Kuwait, criticized his fellow Arabs for clinging to the past instead of looking to the future. Here is an excerpt from his Thursday column:

“As for us Arabs, we must curse the Americans out of envy because we believe that America is Masonic and that elections are only a hoax managed by Jews and that Obama and McCain are two faces of the same coin and that Obama will not change his policies towards us,” Mr. Rajab wrote, addressing Arab cynicism.

“We have yet to realize that when we start looking at all people as equal, … when we start believing that change is the only constant in life and stop holding on to the past, and when we believe in the humanity of all people, and in the will and freedom of individuals, then and only then will the world change the way it looks at us!”

He recalled a stirring scene of an Obama supporter celebrating his victory Tuesday night.

“The scene that stirred my emotions the most was that of a young American woman who shouted in front of the cameras: ‘We changed the world,’” he wrote.

“She pushed me to wonder: What did we [Arabs] ever change, other than the diapers of our children?”

• Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail James Morrison.