Ukrainians Rally in Protest Over Vote-Rigging

It's been nine days since the Oct. 28 parliamentary elections in Ukraine – and attempts to finish the vote count still continue, quite turbulently, in a number of electoral districts.

The opposition is accusing election officials of re-writing the vote's results in favor of pro-government candidates. On Nov. 5, hundreds of people gathered in Kyiv for a protest rally against vote-rigging – and some of the protesters seem determined to stay in front of the Central Election Commission indefinitely, despite heavy riot police presence at the site and a recent court decision banning rallies in Kyiv.

Hundreds of people rally in central Kyiv to protest against what the Ukrainian opposition says was vote-rigging, by President Viktor Yanukovych's ruling party in the Oct. 28 parliamentary election. Photo by Sergii Kharchenko, copyright © Demotix (5/11/12).

Oleksandra Kuzhel, a Ukrainian politician running for parliament on the United Opposition/Batkivshchyna Party‘s list, wrote this [ru] about the protest and the protesters:

[…] Today the area of the protest isn't just near the [Central Election Commission] – it's much larger. Today it extends to the Internet – to Twitter [hashtag #вибори2012/elections2012] and Facebook – and to every polling station where confrontations are taking place between the authorities and the Ukrainians – with the latter defending, no, not the politicians, but their own votes, their dignity and the right to be heard. […]

Online reports that have been coming in from disputed districts over the past week offer a good insight into the Ukrainian election routine and also help explain the frustration of ordinary voters.

For example, Andriy Parubiy shared [uk] this incident:

In [Zhytomyr], the head of [a local election commission] represents [the ruling Party of Regions]. And he delivered the signed protocols [with official voting results] not to the district election commission, but to the headquarters of the Party of Regions! We are on our way to get them back now!

Denis Kazanskiy posted this report [ru] from the polling station #141686 in Donetsk, the stronghold of the Party of Regions – and included [ru] it, as well as a related video, on its map of violations (more on the crowdsourced monitoring of the elections – in this GV text):

18 Tsusimskaya St. [the polling station's address, but also an allusion to the Battle of Tsushima], the frontline. The place is surrounded by [thugs] and cops, people are blocked inside, a woman is crying and asking for help. An ambulance arrives, but doctors aren't allowed inside. Journalists, representatives of the opposition parties and MP Nalivaichenko come over. The thugs are acting provocatively, aren't letting anyone enter the polling station. An observer's son attempted getting through, but was stopped. Cops ignore calls for help from the inside. It's impossible to get to the truth, there's an absolute chaos, lawlessness, law enforcement officials [are refusing to act].

Artem Shevchenko posted this update [ru] from Kyiv:

The Kyiv Battle. Frontline dispatches: the enemy has been completely defeated and is desperately counterattacking on the front's sections #216 and #211 [voting districts] – the re-count of votes in accordance with court decisions there. District #223 – one more pocket of resistance: fierce fighting is taking place for the fourth day in a row there, both sides are suffering huge losses of [personnel and arsenal]. Today, our troops have captured the Dnieper [bridgehead, strategically important for Kyiv – altitude #214 [another voting district], where the enemy [Oles Dovhyi, former Kyiv's deputy mayor] announced a complete and unconditional capitulation to avoid further bloodshed.

Yaroslav Bondarenko also mentioned [uk] Kyiv's voting district #214 in his Facebook update:

Had a good laugh because of a member of the commission and the observers from [Oles Dovhyi], who insisted that one of the ballots had to be counted in favor of Oles – it had this written in neatly next to his name: “A rare [bastard].” They were dead serious when they insisted that this ballot could not be considered invalid: “It is clearly visible which of the candidates the voter has selected.”

Just a few hours ago, reports [uk] started coming in of the violations during the re-count of votes at Kyiv's disputed district commission #223, mentioned in one of the “frontline reports” above. (RFE/RL) has been doing an unprecedented non-stop live broadcast [uk, ru] for much of the past week from this place, which many compare to a ‘Big Brother’-style reality show. (Twitter hashtag #ОВК223; Mustafa Nayyem's photos are here; screenshots of the live broadcast are here.)

A police officer is guarding the room with boxes of ballots at Kyiv's disputed district election commission #223. A screenshot of's non-stop live broadcast – 11:20 PM, Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2012.

LJ user frankensstein posted this account [ru] and video from Donetsk:

The farce at Donetsk [local polling stations] was so obvious that I do not understand how these elections can be deemed legitimate: [election commission members] for [the Party of Regions] were posing as registered representatives of all sorts of pseudo-parties, such as the Anarchists’ Union, the Brotherhood, the Pensioners’ Party, etc. The Donetsk “anarchists” could not say what anarchy was or name at least one classic of anarchism, a “member of the Brotherhood” couldn't name the address of the Donestk office of this party (not surprising, as [there is none there]) and didn't know who Dmitry Korchinsky [the Brotherhood's leader] was. But I recorded the most glaring example at the polling station #141677 in the 42nd district. There, none of the commission members knew which party they represented.

After the commotion that our visit caused at this polling station, the police and some [thugs] showed up. The polling station was blocked for the whole night, [Vitaly Klitschko‘s Udar Party] representative Galina Khilinskaya, who was trying to prevent falsifications, was being insulted and kept inside forcefully. In the morning, she was hospitalized with a heart attack.

I continue to insist: there were no elections in Donetsk. The Donetsk results should not be recognized.

In a comment, LJ user bolshoi explained the shortcomings of the Ukrainian system of setting up local election commissions:

[Election commission members] are just earning money and following instructions. They may not know who they are representing – it's an idiotic legal norm that has few analogs in the world. In civilized countries, local officials and law enforcement officials work at polling stations, and the Interior Ministry is responsible for the elections. And here they are appointing unprofessional people on the commissions, people who may be ignorant of the basic legal norms – and they are paying salaries to them for two months, too.

In a follow-up comment, LJ user bolshoi concluded, however, that even if a more advanced voting system were adopted in Ukraine, it would still end up being violation-prone:

[…] In European practice, voting by mail and by proxy are a norm. And early voting is usually allowed. It's obvious what proxy voting would turn into in Ukraine. But still, some professionalization of the work of electoral commissions is necessary. There's another way of looking at it, of course: the level of falsifications reflects the level of development of a society. The Ukrainian election law gives more formal defenses against falsifications than anywhere else in Europe. To cheat in, say, Holland, or […] to check who people voted for in England, is a lot easier [than in Ukraine]. But it doesn't even occur to anyone to do it [there]. [In Ukraine] the procedure is a lot more complex. But they are doing it. Because they want to.

The most violent voting district so far has been the town of Pervomaysk in Mykolayiv region, where the pinnacle of vote-rigging achievement was reached with the active support from riot police, which stormed the district election commission #132, beating a number of protesters gathered outside in the process.

Vakhtang Kipiani re-posted a YouTube video of the storming and wrote [uk]:

The police aren't with the people, they are with [the ugly ones]. If the opposition ever comes to power, it has to [get everyone fired] in the Ministry of Internal Affairs and re-create the police from scratch following [the example of the Republic of Georgia]. If, that is, they indeed have the political will to change the country – instead of just embellishing the stinking corpse of [the Soviet past].


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