05.07.2007 | Myroslava Svystovych

An illegitimate mayor “chosen” in bandit style


On 18 June 2007 the territorial electoral commission (TEC) totally under the control of Oleh Bondar and headed by Olha Oliynych (Bondar’s authorized representative at the last elections, who registered in Irpin two days prior to becoming head of the TEC) flagrantly rigged the outcome of the elections in Irpin. Nor did members of Bondar’s team conceal before the day of the voting that they knew who would “win”.

I’ve seen many forms of vote-rigging however it is possible Ukraine has not yet experienced such sophisticated and cynical lawlessness. According to the exit polls taken, I was well in the lead in the majority of polling stations. In the afternoon worried observers began ringing and saying that there was a wide discrepancy between the number of voters who had voted at a certain time according to their calculations and according to the figures from the district electoral commission (DEC).

What is interesting is that there were virtually no observers from Bondar’s side. He didn’t need them since most of the members of all the electoral commissions were working for him.

The voter lists were rigged. Some found strangers registered in their flats, while many simply didn’t find their names of the lists and so could not vote, these even including people who had been brought invitations to the voting. This particularly applied to people who had given their signatures in support of my candidacy for mayor (I submitted over 700 signatures to the TEC)., who were known to favour other popular candidates, or those who during the so called “survey” which the Bondar carried out before the elections, going around flats, had said that they would not be voting for Bondar.

The territorial electoral commission passed a resolution unprecedented for Ukraine in its cynicism, that observers should not be closer than two metres away from members of the commission during both the voting and the vote count. I filed a civil suit and the court prohibited implementation of this resolution however it was scarcely heeded. Young people of rather suspect appearance began turning up at the polling stations. The members of the commission, looking around, gave them ballot papers however from two metres away it was impossible to see whether they really were “voters”, on the lists and whether they were actually registered in Irpin or neighbouring settlements at all.

A lot of people were paid 50 UAH (around 10 USD) for showing a ballot paper photographed in the polling booth with a mobile phone proving that the person had voted for Bondar. This was particularly the case in the Tax Academy where students in groups with mobile telephones went to vote and then charged off to the Tax Police Faculty.

The deputies from the Irpin City Council who had voted for my dismissal were permitted by the TEC to be present at the polling booths, and they divided them among themselves so as to make sure that the candidate they wanted won. According to the Law, the deputies had no right to be there, and this was confirmed by the court ruling. Yet most deputies remained at the stations as “Cerberus-style” - supervisors (the majority of the DEC members are State sector workers dependent on the council or students).

Near some polling stations in Kotsubinsky, some young thugs were openly telling young people they knew to vote for Bondar. Nikolai Chernyavsky, Bondar’s chief assistant, accompanied by these young people, threatened representatives of the press. One bandit brigade was sitting in "Zaire", the other was in Vorzel. They had a car with a Verkhovna Rada registration number.

There were a lot of ballot papers among those the commission deemed invalid where it was clear that the people had voted for me. However, the same papers for Oleh Bondar were not placed in question. This was also recorded by a journalist from the newspaper "Vechernie Vesti”. If there were at least 12 such ballot papers on average at each of the 26 stations, then that comes to more than 293 votes, the number which, according to the TEC, separated my result from Bondar’s.

Yet, that is nothing compared to what happened at station No. 5. Obviously, because of vigilant observers and journalists the commission members were unable to fulfil their task, so they simply refused (!) to take the ballots out of the boxes and register the votes.

The figures given by the commission and by observers as to the number of ballot papers cast differ radically.  And I am sure they couldn’t have simply thrown into the ballot boxes the ballot papers that had been signed off on the voter lists.

For two hours 14 members of the commission couldn’t perform the simple school task: of counting with a calculator the total number of voters registered on the lists, and those who had signed for their ballot papers. When observers tried to come up and check the process, the DEC members leaned over the voters’ lists so that they couldn’t be seen. Usual comments and references to the norms of the Law were interpreted by the commission members as meddling in their work, although, as one of the journalists present there noted, he couldn’t see any work at all, with the commission members just sitting around and waiting for something, occasionally threatening to eject observers and journalists. And those, who came closer than two metres received official warnings (after two such warnings they would be removed from the polling station).

Late at night members of the territorial electoral commission arrived together with Oleh Bondar’s team who were more reminiscent a gangster film characters. We followed them in and asked the TEC members to try to get the counting finally started. But it was like talking to a deaf person and no one did anything.

Instead, Oleh Bondar burst in and the head of the district commission Alla Babenko delivered to the TEC via him, for some reasons, rather than the TEC members a statement alleging that the observers were obstructing the vote count. And at 8:00 a.m. the fruitful cooperation of district election commission No. 5, O. Bondar and the TEK resulted in the illegal resolution by the TEC to declare the voting at district polling station No. 5 invalid.  This resolution was also delivered, not by a member of TEC, but by an assistant of Bondar, resident of Boyarki Nikolay Chernyavsky, who with foul language pushed his way through the people standing near the entrance.

The territorial electoral commission was so eager to declare Bondar Mayor that on the night of 18 June they announced the outcome of the election without counting the votes cast at polling station No. 5 of 840 Irpin residents. In so doing the TEC flagrantly violated the right to express their electoral will. And not just violated! The gap in votes even according to the Bondar-linked TEC was only 293 votes. This difference could be covered at polling station No. 5 which could fully change the result of the election. So as to decide what to do and which polling stations guaranteed Bondar’s victory, an exit poll was carried out.

Maybe out of these very considerations, they made a farce of your time, your opinions, your choice. Including those voters, who voted for Bondar. "Don’t you understand? All this is scrap paper!”, was how TEC member Oleksandr Karpenko described the ballot papers you filled in.

The Committee of Voters of Ukraine has publicly spoken of a number of violations committed during the Irpin Mayoral elections. Its conclusion states:   "Bearing in mind the insignificant difference in the number of votes received by the two leading candidates (less than 300), the Committee of Voters of Ukraine believes that these violations could affect the outcome of the elections for Mayor of Irpin.  We therefore demand a thorough investigation into all reported violations. ….In addition, the early elections for Mayor should be questioned since the decision to hold this election was approved by the Verkhovna Rada on 5 April after the Presidential Decree had dissolved parliament. While the laws adopted during this period have since been voted on again, this is not the case with the Verkhovna Rada Resolutions which can also invalidate this election.”

Volodymyr Stretovich, prominent lawyer and longstanding National Deputy gave the following assessment:  "The election was dirty, illegitimate and brazen.  This is also confirmed in the way the TEC hastily declared the winner the next morning, before the votes had all been counted. People, who had openly expressed their support for Myroslava Svystovych, were deleted from the voter lists - they arrived but found their names not on the list. Paradoxical situations were observed: a wife was on the list, but her husband wasn’t since he had openly expressed his support for one of the candidates".

Stretovych is adamant: "In this situation, it is impossible to recognize the outcome announced by the TEC, nor can it be called a democratic election. Not when 840 voters have been openly told that they are nobody, and that their voices don’t count.  Who needs this sort of democracy?”

However, despite the 840 votes from station No. 5 not counted, regardless of the fact that I appealed against the election results in court, on 18 June the TEC declared Bondar Mayor. In the early morning on 19 June a special issue of the newspaper "Irpin Vistnyk” was printed and circulated free of charge, in which this decision of the TEC was published. On that same morning, deputies gathered at a special session where Bondar took the oath of office.

The gangster style of Mr. Bondar and his team was demonstrated at the very beginning of the election when the head of the TEC Olha Oliynych, together with a computer assistant, decided to eject my authorized representative, a quiet civilized woman simply because she put questions and photographed the process of work of the commission. While the assistant held the woman’s arm, Oliynych grabbed the camera in order to take out and destroy the film in it. My representative ended up with got numerous bodily injuries and a broken finger.

One can only imagine what awaits Irpin with such a Mayor and mayoral team. Indeed, at the elections which were at least under some external scrutiny, they kept to some bounds of decency (in their opinion, of course!). And what will they do when they gain total power?  What methods will they choose, and what will be the upshot for Irpin?

I know both Oleh Bondar and those behind him well. The coming to power in Irpin of this pack would be a tragedy for the city and surrounding villages. Even the time under Skarzhinskiy who supported Bondar at these elections would seem a dream in comparison.

I therefore appeal not only to those, who voted for me, but to everybody, independently of whom you would like to see as Mayor, not to recognize the illegal power of Bondar and Co.

I will fight to the last and not hand our Irpin over into the hands of bandits. And I look forward to your support. Who except us should clean up our common home?

Yours sincerely,

 Myroslava Svystovych

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