Spent the weekend officially observing the elections in infamous 100th district of Kirovograd home to some of the most intense fraud during last year's presidential elections. It would be unfair to say that things haven't changed there - because they have. And although we were personally:
lied to by phoney press agents,
stalked (by a green striped minibus),
and even though in Kirovograd somewhere between 11 and 17 individuals were detained for:
attempting to steal blank ballots,
blah blah blah
(that was by 3PM when we heard about it)
the electoral commissions were eager to help, doing their damnedest to assure that the vote was free and fair, and mostly happy to see us. In fact, some members of the commissions were so horrified that a pretty 22 year old girl could be unmarried that they took time out of their busy schedules to try and fatten me up and procure me a good Ukrainian husband.
Also! As was reported by many other observers across the country - the fraud wasn't nearly so widespread - as it certainly didn't seem to be sponsored by the national government this time around. (and while maybe the Yushchenko govt hasn't done squat for the past year, you have to thank them for that.)
Most of the corruption in Kirovograd seemed to be stemming from the local canidates for governor, one of which served a prison term because he was convicted for rigging last year's elections.
Apparently a number of the political parties that were expecting to recieve a less than desirable Parliamentary presence were trying to influence politics on a local level, and stonewall the Parliament from there.
Mostly we just encountered CHAOS.
As would be expected when you give the voters 5 ballots (sometimes more outside the cities) with between 20-45 candidates/political parties.
People would fill out their ballots while chatting with their buddies outside the ballot boxes, or turn away when they saw the obscenely long lines. There simply wasn't enough TIME. And fortunately, these were the only real problems that many of the international observers enountered.
For the record: vote count at the dirty old shoe factory where we ended up started at 7:19AM Monday morning (they were locked in there, arguing, sorting, and carefully cutting off the corners of the tens of thousands of extra ballots until then) and didn't finish until aprox 2:40PM. Anticipated voter turnout at that station was aprox 3000, actual turnout was 1599. God knows what they would have done...
It's time for a little more sleep. Check out my flickr account, lots more of the story noted on the photos there.