Crimean ‘elections’: boycott, spoilt ballot papers and pre-determined result
Any hopes that Russia’s occupation regime in the Crimea had of legitimizing its rule appear to have been in vain with most Crimean Tatars and many other Ukrainians boycotting the elections or writing ‘Glory to Ukraine!’ across the ballot paper
The official results of the first elections, both parliamentary and local, held in the Crimea since its annexation by Russia were not seriously in question. Judging from the first reports issued by the Crimean Committee of Voters, a large number of irregularities and direct infringements were recorded.
As with ‘elections’ in Soviet times, the authorities were particularly concerned to ensure a good turn-out and try in that way to legitimize the regime brought in at gunpoint after Russian forces without insignia seized government buildings on Feb 27 this year. They did not succeed, with even official reports of only just over 45% turnout. In areas with large numbers of Crimean Tatars the figures were considerably lower.
According to Refat Chubarov, exiled head of the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar People, almost all Crimean Tatars heeded the Mejlis’ call to stay away as did many other Ukrainians who oppose the annexation. Chubarov believes that some of those who initially supported joining Russia have now changed their mind.
Not all Crimeans showed their opposition by staying away. Some arrived at the polling stations and indicated on the ballot paper how they view these ‘elections’. Photos posted by Shevket Namatullayev show that one person wrote ‘Glory to Ukraine’ across the entire paper, another ‘The Crimea is Ukraine”.
The Crimean Committee of Voters reports that at two polling stations in Simferopol they have grounds for believing that ballot papers were stuffed into the ballot box. At No. 246 one of the observers saw a person enter the booth without getting his name checked against the voter list, and then put over 4 ballot papers in the box.
At No. 379 observers watched the electoral committee members writing something in the ballot papers, holding them on their knees, and not on the table. There was also a supposedly jump in the number of voters though the observers say that this remained quite low.
According to Andrei Krysko, head of the Committee of Voters, there are a number of factors suggesting ballot papers were added. In the Kievsky district the election committee members went out of their way to conceal the turnout numbers. The observers were prevented from seeing the additional list probably used to allow for wholesale ‘votes”.
The ‘elections’ are to the Crimean parliament, the ‘legislative assembly’ in Sevastopol and to local authorities. Ukraine’s Prosecutor General’s Office has called the elections an attempt to seize power and threatened criminal liability for organizing and running them. The results will also not be recognized as legitimate by the Mejlis and by many Ukrainian civic organizations, including those representing the interests of people forced to flee from the Crimea because of Russia’s annexation.
Sergei Aksyonov, who has headed the occupation government since Feb 27, will remain in power regardless of the outcome of the ‘elections’. His response to the statements from Kyiv was to threaten criminal liability against Crimean Tatars and other Ukrainians in the Crimea who travel to the Kherson oblast to vote in Ukraine’s parliamentary elections at the end of October.