Saturday, November 27, 2004
How people voted in Donbas
by Aleksandr Kynev
Posted on the Russian APN website:
Reprinted in obrozevatel.ru.
[Translated by Lisa Koriouchkina for UKL]
Amici vitia si feras, facias tua
(if one ignores a friend's mistake, it�ll become his own)
Like voting in Florida in 2000 and voting in Ohio in 2004 during the US elections, voting in the Donetsk region during the second round of the presidential elections in Ukraine proved crucial. According to the official results of the Central Electoral Commission of Ukraine, 15,093,691 (49.46%) votes were cast for Viktor Yanukovych, while 14,222,289 (46.61%) voted for Viktor Yushchenko. The difference in votes cast for two candidates was 871,000.
Voting turnout was roughly similar in all regions ofn Ukraine during both rounds of elections. Only in Donbas did the real miracle happen. Instead of 78%, in the first round, 96.65% of the electorate voted during the second round, an 18% increase. A comparable "miracle" happened in Luhansk (89.5% instead of 75.6%). Out of 3,711,000 voters in Donetsk, 3,570,000 (96.2%) voted for Yanukovych and only 75,000 (2%) for Yushchenko. During the first round in Donbas, out of 2,868,000 cast ballots, 2,496,000 (86.74%) voted for Yanukovych and 84,000 (2.94%) for Yushchenko. In absolute numbers, given the 18% increase in turnout, in Donbas Yushchenko received 9,000 votes less in the second round than in the first round while Yanukovych gathered 1,074,000 votes more (NB: the general difference in votes between the two candidates in Ukraine as a whole was only 812,000 votes). Voting attendance in Donbas increased by 843,000 during the second round. It means that such radical change in voting behavior in Donbas defined the outcome of the second round of elections.
What did happen in Donbass? Where did such super high turnout come from? The turnout must have been even higher than 96.7%, for we have to add those who voted with absentee ballots. There could be no plausible explanation for it and all the factors speak against it. Given migration flows (gasterarbeiter rates are high - large numbers of people from Eastern Ukraine work in Russia and did not return to Ukraine for the elections - who would agree to pay their "blood and sweat" earned money?), inconsistencies in de-jure and de-facto places of residence, etc. - no region could account for such high numbers of the de facto present population eligible to vote at one time. Such figures (97% turnout with 96% support of the "correct" candidate) only existed during the Soviet period or in countries with authoritarian regimes where elections are just a fiction and there is no actual control during the elections.
I will try to explain this "Donetsk miracle" on the basis of my own observations in Donbas where I was present as an international observer on the day of elections, November 21, 2004. I observed the elections in the city of Gorlovka (the third largest in Donbas in terms of eligible voters - 300,000) that hosts the electoral constituency #48.
Frankly speaking, I was stunned by what I saw. I had observed many elections throughout Russia, from Taymyr and Koryakia to Kaliningrad and I had witnessed various types of manipulations. But the elections in Donetsk truly shocked me. Not because there were some sophisticated fraudulent schemes employed, but quite to the contrary, because of how brazenly the law was skirted and how openly the falsifications were done. I was astounded at how shamelessly the results of the elections were falsified in plain view of the observers. Usually the election trick is a covert operation, so that no one can see it. Here, the election fraud was done openly, shamelessly, unceremoniously, as if to convey to us, the observers, the following message: get out of the way, we will stop at nothing, we will call white black and black white and crush anyone who dares to interfere.
I began my day in the Gorlovka's voting station No. 39 that has a special status due to the fact that the city mayor, Viktor Alexandrovich Rogach, votes there. The head of the Electoral Commission, Viktor Ivanovich Nevstruyev (a deputy in the city council and a member of the Party of Regions to which Yanukovych also belongs) opened the station without announcing the overall number of voters eligible to vote there. To my question regarding this number, he answered: "Perhaps, you just did not hear it". Then, he opened a safe and took out a portion of ballots, passed them to the members of the commission and left the rest of ballots in the safe. Given that none of the other commission members protested, I asked whether the law stipulated to remove all the ballots from the safe. Mr. Nevstruyev rudely remarked that I was interfering with the commission's work. However, he removed the rest of the ballots from the safe.
A picture of Yanukovich followed by a picture of Yushenko graced the entrance to the station (despite the fact that the information about candidates should be displayed in the alphabetical order - but as I was to see later, elsewhere in the city data on the candidates was presented in this way).
I was categorically forbidden to approach the tables and to see the lists of voters. I was also forbidden to approach the tables at the time when a voter received a ballot. After receiving a ballot, a voter went to another room (!) where a ballot was cast. At 9am, an unexpected crowd of voters entered the room. As I realized later, it was delivered by a bus cruising between voting stations and transporting voters. When I visited other stations, I found out that the same happened there as well. Crowds of voters moved from one voting station to another in a surprisingly organized fashion. Some people voted and then would say to the commission members: "I'll be back in an hour" - classic signs of the widely spread electoral "merry-go-round" (karusel) in Russia.
Almost nowhere could one obtain information on the rules of casting a vote. Nearly everywhere there were a lot of unauthorized outsiders present at the stations, from police to firefighters (Imagine how many firefighters are there in the city to make sure they were present at all the stations!) to telephone repairmen
At almost all voting stations, 10-20% (!) of voters showed remarkable responsibility and initiative and requested to cast votes at home. Even more surprising was the speed with which commission members visited those voters. Several hours after they left the station, the portable voting station was back with 70 votes cast (i.e., 1.5-2 minutes per family!) despite the fact that it might take 10-15 minutes to get from one apartment to another (or even longer depending on the time it would take an old grandma to get to the door, to put on her glasses, to get all the instructions down, to sign�). It seems that voters in Donbas are unbelievably quick! There was nobody to check whether these grandmas existed in Donbas and whether they voted or not. Out of 10 voting stations that I visited, there was only one observer who followed up on the portable voting station (and guess, what party that observer belonged to? - correct, the Party of Regions to which Yanukovych also belongs).
It seemed insufficient that all requests about voting at home were filled out with the same handwriting, as happened at the voting station #38, Pavlov st. 31 - however, there was the smallest percentage of people voting from home. To my surprise I also found several ballots to one person's name filled out with different handwritings.
# of voters # of registered voters # casting ballots at home
#38 1,362 79 (5.8%)
#39 1,859 174 (9.3%)
#40 1,907 199 (10.4%)
#41 1,407 200 (14.2%)
#42 1,854 192 (10.4%)
#43 2,915 256 (8.8%)
#44 2,282 278 (12.2%)
#45 2,390 263 (11.0%)
#51 1,191 137 (11.5%)
#52 4,51 76 (16.9%)
At voting station #40 (Pobeda st, 61), when I approached a table with the displayed lists of voters, I noticed that on ballots there were signatures of the electoral commission members in front of voters' names (upon handing out a ballot to a voter, a commission member signs his/her name in the designated graph in front of that voter's name). However, voters' signatures were conspicuously absent. It is important to point out that there was a special graph about handing out ballots (information about a voter participating in the elections from home is recorded differently and takes several graphs in the list). It would be interesting to know where these voters are now, whether they are earning money in Russia or have changed their place of residency. Also, it would be interesting to know why it was recorded that these voters have received the voting materials and why/who would sign in for these voters.
Most striking was the fact that hardly any observers paid any attention to the work of the electoral commissions. Under pressure between the first and the second rounds of elections many observers from the Yushchenko camp refused to work. Some were threatened to be fired, others had a serious talk with a university chancellor or a public prosecutor. However, besides the Yanukovych observers there were also observers from his Party of Regions and representatives of the administration-controlled TV channel "35 Kanal" and the newspaper "Vechernaya Gorlovka". Judging by the numbers of voting stations, the newspaper must have dozens of reporters.
That is how the miraculous intervention (buses, voting at home, strange markings in the lists of voters, etc.) ensured that by the evening of November 21, at some voting stations the voting rates approached 100%, and at some stations, rates were even higher than 100% (if one accounts for absentee ballots).
To observe ballot counting, I went to the voting station where I was present in the morning (voting station #39). Once the station was officially closed, the turnout was announced right away - 97.2%! This means that 1,821 out of 1,871 cast their vote. Importantly, in the morning there were only 1,859 voters listed and a part of these 1,859 could not vote at this station given their previous request to vote from home. Counting these absentee ballots in, voting attendance would be 99%. The counting of ballots began right away as all commission members crowded around the table. Nevstruyev's massive frame covered half a table, thus preventing observers from seeing what he was doing with the ballots. The head of the commission ceremoniously announced that there are 1,821 ballots in the urns (albeit every person who ever had any experience with elections knows that when there are large numbers of ballots cast, there are always a few missing-some voters take them back home). Also, all voters who requested to vote from home cast their ballots.
I shouldered my way through the crowd and found a spot to observe how the ballots were counted. I saw with my own eyes how a ballot with a vote for Yushchenko was placed into a pile of votes for Yanukovych. The first ballot was followed by a second, to be followed by a third. Upon seeing the fourth ballot for Yushchenko to be misplaced into the Yanukovych pile, I forgot about Nevstruyev's warning to expel me from the station should I make any unfavorable remarks and could not contain myself any longer: "Stop. Please, put a couple of ballots back". A ballot for Yushchenko was taken out of the Yanukovych pile and placed into the correct pile. It was followed by several more "misplaced" ballots. When I uncovered a fifth incorrectly placed ballot, Nevstruyev exploded: "What, you want another ballot for Yushchenko?" The rest of the commission hissed at me:
-Who are you working for? What do you want?
-We are counting ballots, and I would like this count to be correct.
-You are from Russia, Putin is for Yanukovych. Why are you stopping us?
-What does Putin have to do with this?
Really, what does he have to do with this?
Among those hissing at me was a girl who seemed to be an observer from Yushchenko's side (after closing of a voting station, this girl left together with Nevstruyev). She was among those more determined to learn for whom I was working and why I needed to know about the ballots.
Once I turned away from the table (my attention was distracted by other members of the commission), the pile of ballots in favor of Yushchenko immediately decreased. I did not demand to recount and to find out where ballots for Yushchenko were placed ("against everybody" or "for Yanukovych" piles). Instead, I decided that I would go to the territorial commission center and demand to recount ballots form the voting station No. 39. I was hoping that a member of the territorial voting commission who is authorized to push for such a recount would notice my demands. I refused to sign the protocol of the station commission and headed to the meeting of the territorial commission of constituency No. 48. At first, they did not want to let me in. They said that I did not have the necessary documents ready. So, give me the documents, - I suggested. Upon some deliberation, they let me in. The territorial elections commission (TEC) was stamping protocols of the station commissions without even checking them. Usually, protocols are checked to see whether everything is in order, to control for the balance of the control figures - but it seemed that in this case nobody was going to do that. TEC was trying to do everything as fast as possible without paying much attention to details - all the protocols were approved without giving anyone a chance to argue them. I was given an opportunity to speak up only after a protocol of the voting station #39 had been approved. After listening to me, the head of TEC said that he would not put my proposition about recounting ballots to vote given that I do not have the right to demand it (indeed, I did not have the right to demand recount - however, nobody of those who had such a right invoked it). Nevstruyev yelled that I was a provocateur (few observers at the meeting responded to him: "And you are a falsificator"). The numbers for all voting stations were very similar.
The next day, I heard the same stories from colleagues who observed the elections in other towns in Donbas - voting "merry-go-round", strange voting at home, bold violations during counting (in some places, there was no counting altogether - the "necessary" figures were simply written down; in others, the situation was similar to the one I observed at voting station No. 39 - ballots cast for Yushchenko were placed into the Yanukovych pile). The situation was even worse in some places - in Donetsk, international observers were not allowed at the voting stations; there were places where voters used photocopies of their passports as their IDs for voting.
By the way, it was very amusing to watch the Russian "Perviy Kanal" (TV First Channel) that announced that the elections took place honestly and openly at the same time as it was showing how several people were simultaneously counting several piles of ballots (i.e, in direct violation of the law - by law, ballots should be counted by one person who shows each and every ballot to the rest). On November 22, on "Perviy Kanal" the mayor of Donetzk, Alexandr Lukyanenko, announced, "To say that there were falsifications is to dishonor the workers of Donbas, the workers of Donetsk". In other words, one can falsify, however if one speaks about it - it means dishonor; and the international observers are the enemies of the Donbas workers.
It is important to point out that between the first and the second rounds of elections, the electoral pool in Ukraine increased by 2.09% - by almost 800,000 total (in Donetsk it increased by 20,985 voters). Why and how that happened -inquiries by the representatives of the opposition did not produce any answers. Perhaps, that's a government secret.
On November 22, we -citizens of Russia, Belarus, Azerbaijan, Poland, i.e., all those who served as international observers in Donbas - signed a joined petition to demand ballot recount in the regions and examination of lists of voters who cast ballots (it was clear that among them there were "dead souls" and those permanently absent from the region).
There are no doubts that Yanukovych was supposed to have won in Donbass (this is his "native" region, he worked here as a governor prior to his appointment as a Prime minister). However, it is also clear that the 97% turnout, as well as the figure for those who voted for Yanukovych, has been falsified. In my expert opinion, the real attendance rate could not be more than 70%, with 75-85% of the votes cast for Yanukovych. Violations of the voting and counting procedures affected all the figures. Given my personal observations, I claim that there is a basis to conclude that a deliberate falsification of the presidential elections results was committed by the members of the territorial electoral commission and the local voting stations in the electoral constituency No. 48.
Thus, if the results of elections in Donbas are confirmed, this would mean that from the outset, the presidency of Yanukovych's presidency is based on lies and falsifications.