Election day in Ukraina, October 28, 2012.
Photo: Madeleine Hägg-Liljeström/Sida
Observing democracy in the making
On 28 October parliamentary elections were held in Ukraine. Sweden financed three interventions to help in making the elections free and fair. One was directed to OSCE/ODIHRs election monitors. Madeleine Hägg–Liljeström shares her views as one of the election monitors.
When we pull up in front of the polling station, a small communal office, at 7.15 on election day it is already buzzing with activity. Locals bring out loudspeakers and set up tents in the small square outside. The small office is packed with people and at exactly 7.30 the two doors are closed and locked and the 22 members of the precinct election commission (PEC) plus me, my German colleague Wolfgang and our interpreter Julia remain inside. Preparations start - everybody is counted in and registered and the safe is checked. At 8.00 sharp the polling station opens and the small crowd of voters come in. The first voter is a man and the officials cheer as this means good luck! Election day has started.
The day continues with observations in polling stations around the district where we are posted. It is quite vast and comprises four rayons (regions) to the west of Kiev. We drive between polling stations on the beautiful countryside and observe in schools, cultural halls, gyms, etc. The organisation of the election is a huge undertaking. All the 33 000 plus polling stations have a safe, plexi-glass ballot-boxes and are equipped with a laptop in a locked metal box attached to two web-cameras broadcasting live from the polling station the whole day.
Our final observation is in a small village with less than 200 voters. They painstakingly follow all the very detailed instructions. After two hours they are done and ready to finalise the protocols. However, the law prescribes that the protocols have to be made out in copies for all the members of the PEC and official observers requesting so. This means 25 copies to be made of the two protocols – by hand. After four hours we can finally leave the locked polling station to accompany the chairperson to the District Election Commission (DEC). When we reach the DEC at 02.30 there are rumours that the ballot bags have to be sealed in a specific way that is not written in the law, and that the DEC does not accept almost any of the PECs into the building. PECs assembled outside are tired and irritated. We meet up with the OSCE observer team in the DEC to exchange information, and as there is no need for two teams we head back to the hotel to catch some sleep.
Coming back the next morning, the situation is the same. Only about 30 of the 167 PECs in this district have been allowed to present their ballots to the DEC and just a handful of them have been “accepted”. The DEC follow the election law down to the comma and demand corrections of protocols where the stamp is not perfect, a 0 has been replaced by a -, or spelling mistakes. PEC members, having been up from early morning Sunday, are getting desperate from exhaustion and humiliation. They are now allowed to enter the DEC building but armed police and military are preventing them from accessing the second floor and the meeting room.
In the afternoon the DEC start to process PECs faster – but still dismissing almost all of them for formalistic errors. For the PECs however, this is an important change as formally handing over the bag means they can go home and sleep. A doctor comes to take care of some exhausted persons among the PECs and a few are even brought by ambulance to the hospital. At 5 pm the polling station from Sunday morning finally get to submit their votes. They are exhausted, having waited in the DEC for 12 hours on top of the 24 hours of preparations, voting and counting. The DEC finds that there is a formal error in their protocol. They are sent home to correct it.
Facts about the Swedish support to the Ukrainan election
The Chesno movement. SEK 1,900 000 to the 2012 Parliamentary Elections Information Campaign Project imlemented by NGO Internews Ukraine. A brief and targeted intervention to contribute through information campaign to informed votes of the Ukrainian citizens. The intervention is one component of the Chesno movement that unites over 50 civil society actors. Chesno means honest but it is also the word for garlic. Just like garlic is used to heal illness, the movement wants to make the election process healthier by screening the candidates against six criteria and publishing the results nationwide.
The 6 criteria:
|The Council of Europe. Within the agreement with Council of Europe we assist the authorities in implementing the new electoral law and raise voters awareness by providing first time voters with information on the voting process and the functioning of democratic institutions in general. This is mainly done through radio campaigns. SEK 2,700 000.|
|OSCE/ODIHRs election monitors. SEK 750 000 to finance the Swedish quota of OSCE/ODIHRs election monitors which includes both long-term and short-term monitors.|