United Nations: How to Hold Elections Without Really Voting

To prevent controversial issues from coming to a vote, parliamentarians of the past have invented such devices as the filibuster, the return to committee, the pigeonhole and the quorum call. Last week the U.N. General Assembly achieved an ingenious new direction in creative parliamentarianism: the elective nonvote.

It came about because of the Assembly's current quandary over Russia's nonpayment of dues for U.N. peacekeeping operations in the Congo and the Gaza Strip. To avoid a disastrous showdown over the U.S.'s demand that Russia pay up or be banned from further voting, the General...