Monday, November 22, 2004

Dangling chads in the Ukrainian election

I am sure that some people in the US will consider all of this to be the moral equivalent of dangling chads—I know Russians do; they have as much as said so about some of the problems in their own elections—but here are some of the “irregularities” that occurred in the Ukrainian election yesterday. Any person with even a smattering of any judgment will find these to be serious and on so different a level from the problems in US elections as to be from another universe. But don’t ask Jimmy Carter. He seems to operate in that other universe or, at least, as if he’s from another planet. Anyway, here they are:

--a polling station was closed in West Ukraine when a group of men tried to steal the ballot forms at gunpoint. A policeman was shot and killed. They didn’t get the ballots but it looks like the gunmen got their way anyway.

--in Western Ukraine, four ballot boxes were set on fire. There is no report on whether the ballots in the boxes survived. These boxes are large—they come up to the waist—and are capable of holding thousands of ballots.

--reports of roving busses taking Yanukovych supporters from precinct to precinct to vote multiple times. They are doing this with an official document that allows them to vote in precincts other than their own. It was reported that on one of these busses the passengers had voted for Yanukovych 73 times each. If the results of these hard working citizens are duplicated with other busloads, that means at least close to 3500 total Yanukovych votes per bus.

An interesting note about one of these busses was on the news last night. It was stopped by a group of students lying in the road all around it so it couldn’t move. (Shades of the US 1960s.) Since it wasn’t going anywhere, the passengers got out and a couple of them were interviewed by a TV reporter. When asked what they were doing, the man said they were out on a picnic. He might as well have said they were going out for a swim for all the sense a picnic made. There is snow around and it has been in the vicinity of 32 degrees F for a couple of days including yesterday. But this just suggests he has a powerful patron somewhere who can run the necessary interference he might require so there is no need to give a good reason even for the TV cameras. Just any reason will do. Arrogance.

--there are reports of people getting paid for their votes. The amounts I have heard range from 100 hryvna—the local currency—to $100. There are reports that students have been offered the 100 hryvna, or about $19, for their vote. (I guess students are hard up everywhere.) The $100 was offered to a woman who said she would give the man making the offer $100 for him to get away from her.

--there are reports of invisible ink pens being placed in polling booths. This was reported in the first election. The mark on the ballot disappears and the blank ballot is marked for Yanukovych.
--there were reports of beatings of Yuschenko supporters in Western Ukraine. Western Ukraine is a bastion of Yuschenko support and it is overwhelming. To stop people from going to the polls in Western Ukraine would be an effective Yuschenko vote suppression tactic. Not only does it prevent the guy who has been beaten from voting but the word gets out that you risk a beating by going to vote. A little work goes a long way.

In one case it was a man and his mother who were beaten. The mother was told that she was being beaten because of her son’s support for Yuschenko. The son was told that there would be more of that when their “pahon” comes, a word used in prison that my wife couldn’t translate all that well but suggests some sort of thug leader—a mafia don?-- there will be more of this and everything will change.

--threats of firings. Public employees have been threatened with being fired if they do not vote for Yanukovych. This was the same thing that happened in the first election but there are reports of this from all over.

--a threat of a denial of medical services. It has been reported that the head of one hospital threatened that medical services would be withheld from patrons who would not support Yanukovych. It is hard to know how who they voted for could be verified, but those who are sick might not want to take any chances.

--spiking of the ballot boxes. In one precinct, paint was poured into the ballot box to prevent the vote count.

--people on multiple lists. In eastern Ukraine, the center of Yanukovych’s support, the names of some people were included on multiple lists allowing them to vote in different precincts. They must have been miffed at having to use their own transportation.

--dead people on the voter rolls. This is a standard tactic that has happened even in the US. But the names of people who are dead have been found on the voter rolls here. This might be some sort of bureaucratic mistake because for a person to vote on behalf of the dead party they would need a forged internal passport. That would take more work than some of these other tactics, a lot more work. An internal passport would have to be concocted for each dead person. Not likely to happen.

--passing out pre-filled in ballots. This is an interesting one that is hard to understand. Unless they were voting for Yanukovych in the first place, a voter would simply ask for another if he saw that it had already been filled in. But the word is that they are being given to older people, people who might be easily confused about what they might or might not have done. This might work (I know, too many “mights”) but it seems to me that it would not be as effective as some of the others. The pool of potentially confused voters cannot be all that large and a significant number of pensioners are for Yanukovych anyway. The returns on this wouldn’t seem to be all that high. But maybe they figure every little bit counts?

--reports of money paid to bring in results. There are some reports that certain local officials in areas of teh country have been paid sums to bring in a certain result. (One sum reported was $16,000. This is a lot of money here. Multiply it by five and you get the purchasing power.)

This list is not exhaustive. I am posting only the ones that I remember from reports of the past couple of days.


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