Clear vodka, blurry procedures
Election day is a holiday, with concerts, nice food and vodka. Belarus Votes visited several polling stations to get an impression of what voting means in Belarus. In the end one thing became clear: Transparency is understood in a different way.
On the heels of Lukashenko
We started the election day with a visit to the polling station #509, where Lukashenko voted.
His appearance was accompanied by a big spectacle in front of the polling station, also the University of Sports. Inside the voters could buy fancy cakes, sausages and fresh fruit, amongst other treats.
Press conference: At the dacha
Every two hours Lydia Ermoshina, Head of the Central Election Committee, and Lilia Ananich, Minister of Information, spoke to journalists about the latest polling figures. Asked about the low turnout at 14:00, Ermoshina replied: "You can't see things that negatively". Another common explanation from many sides was The sun is shining, everybody is at the dacha.
Other people went to vote and enjoy the sunny weather with the food and drinks they could buy at the polling station bufet 'cafe' - or even listen to a free concert.
Election observers at the polling stations
We spoke with an election observer from a veteran's association. The 79-year-old woman has been observing elections for more than 20 years. She considers herself to be neutral and her observation work to be social work. In her eyes, it is important that especially elderly people have a fair chance to vote, by ensuring the conditions are suitable. "I make sure there is enough light or magnifying glasses for those who can't see that well any more", she explained.
At polling station #150 in Minsk the voting procedure was very transparent.
Election observer Masha, also part of the Belarus Votes project, spent the whole day in polling station #323. She listened to Belarusian pop songs all morning while waiting for voters.
At both polling stations #319 and #323 the turnout figures provided by the local election commissions differed substantially from those counted by independent election observers.
Counting the votes
Right before 20:00, reporters entered the polling station to observe the counting of the ballot papers.
How nice, head of PEC put already chairs for observers - 3m away pic.twitter.com/QMQFNpxtZG— Belarus Votes (@BelarusVotes) 11. September 2016
Pavel Stefanovich ran in district #98 for a seat. He watched the counting of the ballot papers with us in polling station #249.
"It's just the beginning"
After the counting process had finished, Pavel Stefanovich gave us a statement on the election result.