Elections in Homieĺ region: “CEC figures are simply ridiculous when compared with reality”
“We can only thank them for the honest work of the commission”
Iryna Kuptsevich, a resident of Rahačoŭ, observed the elections within the framework of the civil initiative “Election Observation: Theory and Practice”. “Most of those who came to the polling station were elderly people, there were very few young people there. The commission acted quite correctly all the time, and during the vote count the observers could even see the counted piles of ballots for different candidates. The only suspicious thing is the high percentage of votes for Lukashenka in the early voting as compared to the main voting day, but this can be explained by natural causes (such as the motivation from superiors and so on). We can only thank them for the honest work of the commission,” said the observer.
There were 2,093 registered voters at the polling stations, 1,415 voted (67.6% turnout). 924 votes (65.3%) for Aliaksandr Lukashenka, 354 votes (25%) for Tatsiana Karatkevich, 74 votes (5%) against all, 35 votes (2.47%) for Siarhei Haidukevich, 9 votes (0.63%) for Mikalai Ulakhovich. 19 ballots were spoiled (1.3%).
“The turnout at early voting is fully in line with our estimates. I examined the ballot box carefully every time. When the box was opened and the ballots counted, the number corresponded to the previous count. There seemed to be no fraud with mobile voting either, and the main day voting passed without violations,” said Iryna Kuptsevich.
When counting the ballots, the table was a meter away from the observers, commission members allowed to come closer. “I saw that all the ballots were put into piles and counted. We were even allowed to see the ballots later. It was all right,” she stressed.
And at the same time, the neighboring polling station had a completely different situation: there the observers could not see the vote count, and the ballots were silently put into piles.
“At the neighboring polling station, the ballots cast for Karatkevich and Lukashenka were comparable in thickness (for Lukashenka was more, but not much). But after that, no figures were voiced and the ballots were simply taken away to another table and immediately packed in paper. And then they just wrote some numbers in the protocol. Even so, for Tatsiana Karatkevich there were about 11%,” said the observer.
The CEC website posted details on voting results by districts. It says that n the entire Rahačoŭ district there were 916 votes for Tatsiana Karatkevich. “At my polling station alone, there were 354 votes for her. That is, the numbers provided by the CEC are simply ridiculous when we compare them with reality,” says Ms. Kuptsevich.
“The order was to hold the elections smoothly by any means possible”
Viktar Adzinochanka, a member of the Belarusian Helsinki Committee, who has observed many elections, says that the 2015 political campaign was a “naught”. He says the term can be used to describe both the period of collecting signatures and campaigning. “Homieĺ, the second largest city of Belarus, did not look like there were any elections. One can say there was no campaigning at all. As far as I know, one of the candidates, Siarhei Haidukevich, did not come to Homieĺ at all. The only meeting of Mikalai Ulakhovich with the students also did not play a big role. And with no campaigning, the turnout was relatively high: people actually went to the polling stations both during early voting and on the election day,” said the observer.
The turnout, according to him, was due to the influence of television on people in a special way: Russian TV news about the events in Ukraine, which sometimes impose a state of panic on the viewers. “Others went by inertia, others – because of the cheap food. On the eve of the elections, local media announced that the shops in the polling stations would sell goods at reduced prices, thus appealing to people’s poverty,” said Viktar Adzinochanka.
The early voting turnout was mainly ensured by college and university students. “They were, so to speak, actively invited to vote early. And when in the last elections they were threatened with problems in receiving a room in the dormitory or used other levers of pressure, such facts are not known to me this time,” said he.
According to him, election commissions were rather “mild” to the observers, provoking no conflicts, giving the necessary information. There were, however, traditional violations: overstating the turnout in some polling stations.
“The peculiarity of this campaign is that there were many pro-government observers: from the Belarusian Republican Youth Union, Belaya Rus, the veterans and trade unions. The order was to hold the elections smoothly by any means possible, and therefore they used large resources for this election,” said Viktar Adzinochanka.
“The elections were not different from the ones five years ago”
According to Leanid Sudalenka, the 2015 elections were no different from the presidential campaign of 2010. The campaign, in his opinion, was very weak. “During the presidential election, everything should be boiling and we did not see much of the activity by candidates or their proxies in Homieĺ,” said the human rights defender.
“Members of election commissions and observers are loyal people”
“The elections were held predictably: the observers saw only the backs of the commission members, and it is unknown if the votes were actually counted. At polling station No. 25, 2,500 votes were counted in twenty minutes: the speed that deserves mentioning in the Guinness Book of Records,” said observer Ales Yauseyenka.
At polling station No. 25, according to him, the commission consisted of the employees of a local enterprise Torgmash, chairman of the commission was the chief manager of the enterprise. “And it is clear that observers were also loyal people,” said the observer.
Observer Yury Klimovich also tells about “loyal people”. He worked polling station No. 39, which was located in the Syalmash Palace of Culture. “Both the members of the election commission and the observers, except for those from the democratic forces, are all employees of Gomselmash. What kind of fair observation can we talk about, when the chairman of the commission calls an observer by his first name and asks him to come at 7 a.m. on the voting day “to move the tables”, says Yury Klimovich.
At polling station No. 39, there were two mobile ballot boxes. “I went along with the members of the commission. There were 64 requests, and 22 ballots were actually collected. Members of the commission from the other mobile box went from door to door without an observer. And the result was 180 ballots! How can this happen?” says the observer.