IYC monitors gathered again for the 3rd time to observe Ukrainian elections. This time the group was not so big if compared with the previous 2 missions, when the group consisted of more than 100 people. Only 30 people were chosen for the mission.
A little information about the agenda we had, which was very heavy if pleasure. We started off on March 24 at 7pm from the airport Zvartnots. The flight Yerevan-Zaparojiye lasted 3 hours. Then on a bus we were transferred to
Dnepropetrovsk. When we settled down at the hotel “
Dnepropetrovsk” it was already 2am. On March 25 we had a briefing which lasted from two to six. Two long-term observes, one from
Armenia, the other from
Kirgizia, have been observing the pre-election process more than a month ago. They informed us about the political situation, the amendments brought about the electoral codex and many other things. Later we had a meeting with the taxi drivers who would be our personal drivers the whole election day. After the election day, March 26, we had a meeting to hand in the minutes and to have a discussion about finding ways to carry out more effective and progressive observation. On march 28 we left for
Yerevan early in the morning and at 8pm the airplane landed at Zvartnots airport.
IYC as well as ENEMO are going to give their reports on Ukrainian Parliamentary Elections soon. This is why I would like to describe mainly the situation and the election process in the polling stations I have personally carried observation.
15 groups were to observe different regions of
Dnepropetrovsk. Each group consisted of 2 people. IYC started it’s work early in the morning as far as some groups had to pass 2-3 hours to reach their region for observation. My partner and me started off at 4:30am. Our region Sinelnikovo was 60km away.It was a huge region and the whole constituency N38 was our area for observation. We had to carry observation at least at 12 polling stations. We were at the first polling station at 6am to observe the opening process. Though our observers later told us that they had registered several cases when at 6:15am, the time appointed for the session to begin, the polling stations were still closed. They explained it as if they had forgotten to transfer the time, which had to be done on March 25 at 12pm. Elections started 7am and lasted to 10pm. The purpose for lengthening the duration was that this turned out not to be only Parliamentary , but local governing institutions’, city mayor’s and governor’s elections as well. This was one of the facts which made elections technically difficult. Thus 5 elections held with one shot. The voters received 5 ballot papers the length of two of them was about a meter, the others were a little bit shorter. Parliamentary election’s ballot paper contained 45 parties. Now imagine how difficult it was for the voters, mainly olders, to find in that long list the party they wanted to vote for, that is why in the booths they spent about 30 minutes or more. And long queues were made technically at the entrance to the polling booths and not wanting to wait more the electors were signing the polling papers just on the spot, on the walls, in some corner or in the centre of the polling station, thus giving way to some people to note their open voting.
Nearly all the electorates were crowded with voters. This was a phenomenon not preserving during Constitutional Amendments in
Armenia. Unlike Armenians, Ukrainians don’t display a widespread apathy for elections and they really care for who they cast their vote. A thing that amazes me not for the first time is the Ukrainians ability to make queues and wait without pushing and shoving. This is another phenomenon absent in Armenian society in general.
Many of the polling booths had two entrances, one enter and one exit. But that depends on what side you enter. Usually in such cases it’s very easy to take the polling papers out of the station and play carousel, or to let another person enter the booth from the other side. The Ukrainian electoral codex doesn’t set any principles for the location of booths, but in my opinion as well as IYC’s, it should, because this is one of the opportunities for breaking the law.
We registered several cases of violations, such as cases of obvious partiality, attempts to persuade and influence on the expression of voter’s free will by authorized people, inaccuracy of voter’s list, which was not much if compared with the previous elections, etc.
For example in one of the electorates my partner told me that while I was filling the minute he noticed one of the candidates of local governing institution come in and place one of the parties’ agitation booklets on the commission president’s table and leave. Incidentally , later we noticed the same candidate in other polling stations, but this time on recognizing us he was just leaving without doing anything. As if not knowing what it was I took a booklet and with a stupid smile inquired what it was. The vice-president, who was an old man, not understanding my trick, advised me to take one and to read about that party and it’s plans for the future. I surely took it, but not to read but to attach it to the minute. Then with it in my hand I came up the head of commission and demanded explanation. Instead of taking the booklets away and saying that he hadn’t noticed them so on and so forth, he started explaining me that that person has graduated from 8 higher educational institutions. “What does it mean, is he a good or bad man”?-my question was followed. Again he wanted to justify himself telling that that was a very clever man. “So what”?- I asked again. This time understanding that I am up to that sniff he said: “You know people don’t even treat this person seriously”. “Even so, why to place on your table booklets of a person who people do not even treat seriously, take them away”- I said. This time he had no way but to take them away, though he did it in a keen way hiding the booklets under the same table, predictably with the intention to replace them back as soon as we leave. Incidentally later when a voter lodged a complaint that one of the parties’ poster was not attached on the wall, after some stupid explanations the commission president “found” it under the same table. What a mysterious table, huh?
This time cases with absentee voting certificates were less and there were markedly fewer problems in comparison. Though numbers of voters with mobile voting ( when a mobile ballot box is taken to the voters’ houses on demand whenever they happen to be ill or not capable to visit polling stations by themselves) were high, from 5 to 8%.Polling stations were closed at 10pm, after which the counting process began. In the polling station where my partner and I were observing the commission president was carried out the counting process too slowly. From each commission member she was asking the number of the not used ballot papers, then she was conversing in whispers with secretary. After some calculations the latest was giving her a distinct number, after which the president again was asking the results of the not used ballots and declaring quite another number, the number the secretary was giving to her. This way the numbers were being falsificated. Thus counting and ballot invalidating processes lasted so long that the first ballot box was opened only 4 hours later, at 2am. The same lingering occurred in counting the voted ballots and the results were again ragged. We took the report (protocol) only when it was 5:30am. After 25 hours of work, barely trying to keep our eyes open in order not to sleep we got the hotel at 6am, handed the minute and the report, and slept like the deads.
But in general in the shade of local elections, parliamentary elections were secondary, and falsifications occurred mainly regarding local elections. Elections, at least where I have observed, were carried out in peaceful atmosphere. Everything was well organized and even the voters were ready for elections, demonstrating a great will to vote. Again I want to say my subjunctive stand point, Armenians are never ready for elections. The public displays great apathy and doesn’t attend polling stations. They do not care who will win and they reiterate that their voices do not change anything, as the results are predicted beforehand. And yes, don’t get surprised when the number of voters is extremely exaggerated, because with their apathy and not attendance they give pleasure opportunity to those people who are eager to vote instead of them. The attitude they hold is used by the others, who, instead of challenging people to vote, brake all their hope, and later, they use their voices to their heart content. This is another way of will and self expression. Then why not to use it? Even when you are sure that it’s going to be a fraud, why do you let the others poll instead of you. No one gives them that right, and it’s you who must vote, it’s your choice.
Again this timeless question: how long will it take until we have transparent, open and democratic elections ????