Advance poll, 42nd Canadian general election

Advance poll, 42nd Canadian general electionI voted today. The general election for Canada is on October 19, but the advance poll was just along the street from me, it’s a beautiful sunny day in Ottawa, I had some time … so why not? I am an out-and-out militant when it comes to voting, and that comes from my experience as an election observer. Having seen how seriously most Ukrainians take the conduct of free and fair elections, and how they have had to fight for the franchise, I can’t imagine shirking my duty as a citizen and failing to vote.

While I was in the queue with other voters waiting to cast my ballot, an election worker distributed lollipops. I chose cherry. Now that’s something I never saw in Ukraine!

The new face of Ukraine

Michael MacKay and Artur Pereverziev in KyivArtur Pereverziev acted as my interpreter for my time in Ukraine as a Long-Term Observer for the election. Here we are, standing in front of St. Andrew’s Church in Kyiv — he’s wearing an antique “vyshyvanka sorochka” (embroidered shirt) made from course muslin. It turns out that Artur is much more than a helpful fellow who happens to know Ukrainian, Russian, and English fluently. He and his wife were active on Maidan from its earliest days, and he became a commander of a “sotnya”, which is a company of self-defence forces. His sotnya subscribed to principles of non-violence, and Artur told me that he never threw a stone or a Molotov cocktail at the hated Berkut, only because they were his fellow Ukrainians. His sotnya provided cover and evacuated the peaceful civilians when the march on the Verkhovna Rada was violently broken up by the titushky and Berkut, ultimately leading to the mass shootings on Institytska Street. His belief in non-violence does not extend to the Russians who have invaded Ukraine in Crimea and Donbas, though. There is a war going on, and Ukraine is on the front line, and Artur and all Ukrainians know it. As his work for the Canadian election observation mission wound down, he became more involved with the National Guard, especially with their urgent need for recruitment of able-bodied men to fight in the Anti-Terrorist Operation. As we parted in Kyiv, Artur showed me his newly-granted credentials as a special advisor to the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine. He only just turned 25, and this is his historic moment.

When I worked with similar young people at the Kiev-Mohyla Academy 20 years ago, I hoped that they would seize the moment of liberation and national unity then. They did not: they turned their backs on Ukraine, or they became part of the corrupt oligarchy which despoiled it. Remarkably, Ukraine has a chance now to redeem past failures, and activists like Artur are the ones to do it. I admire his sense of purpose and most of all his good will for the Ukrainian people and their brighter future.

The will of the people of Ukraine

The will of the people of Ukraine

Notwithstanding the troubling violence in Luhansk and Donetsk regions and the illegal occupation of sovereign Ukrainian territory in Crimea, our conclusion is that this election is a genuine reflection of the will of the people.

This is the conclusion of the Canada Election Observation Mission to the early presidential election in Ukraine, 2014. I have been a Long-Term Observer on the CANEOM team, and my work in Ukraine contributed to this preliminary report.

Petro Poroshenko won in the first round of voting, and received a plurality of the votes cast in every region of Ukraine. This is an unprecedented display of the will and unity of the Ukrainian people for their democratic future.

The moment of triumph for Ukrainian democracy

A district commissioner presenting protocols at the CECA good election is one which is free and fair, and which is seen to be free and fair. When the actual results of voting are presented publicly and formally, this is the moment when the “will of the people” is truly known. The scene here was enacted in the Central Election Commission of Ukraine in Kyiv today. The head of a district electoral commission is presenting “the protocols”: the tabulation of all the votes received by each candidate for president, and all other numbers and details concerning the ballots. The electronic results had been known previously, but this physical presentation of the paper protocols from every precinct within the district is proof positive.

It may sound like reading out numbers is a dull exercise, but everyone in the room knew that we were witnessing the culminating moment of weeks of tireless work, tremendous stress, and fear of failure. When a commissioner on the central committee thanked each district head, that election worker thanked the committee back, with heartfelt gratitude. Yesterday, a heroic district commission head from Donetsk received a standing ovation for completing her work properly and correctly while being almost under siege conditions. Where they were not actively prevented from doing so by pro-Russia insurgents, Ukrainians in Donbas (Donetsk and Luhansk regions) voted for the democratic future of their country with the same enthusiasm as their compatriots. I have bourne witness to a moment of triumph for democracy in Ukraine.

A bear-pit session at CHASOPYS :: ЧАСОПИС in Kyiv

Talk in "Bathroom" at CHASOPYS :: ЧАСОПИС, KyivYes, you’re looking at a shower room, converted into a lounge for talks, meetings, and bear-pit sessions. Kyiv has gone all hipster cool. Chasopys is a techie-haven, co-working space, and hangout in the centre of Kyiv. I gave a wide-ranging talk on politics, elections, Ukraine, and cyberspace, but ended up listening as much as speaking. The spirit of Maidan lives on, and Ukrainians talk about politics in everyday conversation the way that people in most of the rest of the world natter on about sports and celebrity gossip. I left feeling the future is bright for Ukraine, where I see an engagement with real politics on so many levels.

Giving a talk tonight at CHASOPYS in Kyiv at 7 p.m.

CHASOPYS :: ЧАСОПИС“How ought we to live together?” This is the essential political question, and it is one which Ukraine has been asking since it liberated itself from a particular form of tyranny, over 20 years ago.

Michael MacKay is a Canadian who has been a lecturer in politics at the Kiev-Mohyla Academy, the director of an Internet access project there, and an international observer of elections in Ukraine – including this presidential election. He would like to speak to you from his experiences, and explore your questions about how people live in communities in Ukraine, in Canada, and in cyberspace.

CHASOPYS :: ЧАСОПИС

‘Як нам слід жити разом?’ Це важливе політичне питання для України, яка визволилась від певної форми тиранії більше 20 років тому.

Майкл МакКай – канадець, який читав лекції з політики в Києво-Могилянській Академії, директор Інтернет-проекту в цьому закладі та міжнародний спостерігач на виборах в Україні, включаючи президентські вибори. Він хотів би поділитись своїм досвідом і обговорити ваші питання стосовно того, як люди живуть в громадах в Україні, Канаді та кіберпросторі.

Майкл буде вести промову англійською і модератор забезпечить переклад.

Following the vote on election day in Ukraine

The safe containing the ballots is openedA big part of election observation is carefully following the chain of custody of ballot papers from the beginning to the end of the voting procedure. Our election observation mission saw the ballot papers for the presidential election in Ukraine from the moment they were printed in Kyiv, through delivery to the district commissions and to the precinct commissions where voting took place. On election day, May 25, we watched every step of the movement of these vitally important papers — except when each voter made his or her own choice in the privacy of the voting booth. This first photograph is from just before the polls opened, when the safe containing the ballot papers was opened, and its contents confirmed by all the precinct commission members and accredited observers present.

21 candidates for President of UkraineThis is what we’re talking about: a ballot for the early presidential election in Ukraine, held on May 25. 21 citizens of Ukraine stood for president. Voters were presented with the names of these candidates in alphabetical order, along with a one-line biography. A stamped and signed counterfoil at the top is to guarantee the legitimacy of each ballot paper, while ensuring the privacy of the vote.

The ballots have been counted and sortedAt the close of voting at 8 o’clock in the evening, the polling place is closed, and a meeting of the precinct commission is held to count the ballots and then sign protocols confirming the count. Every ballot result was read aloud by one member, freely examined by any and all, and sorted into piles. The precinct I observed reflected the results common throughout Ukraine, and the biggest pile of ballots you see here are the votes cast for what turned out to be the victorious candidate, Petro Poroshenko.

The ballots and vote protocol are presented at the districtPhysical transfer of paper ballots and protocols is essential to official results of voting in Ukraine. Here you see the precinct commission I observed presenting all elections materials and documents to the district commission, where they were officially accepted by a vote of the district commission members. The event you see here transpired at 7 o’clock in the morning, 11 hours after the polls had closed and 7 hours after the precinct commission had determined their result. Hundreds of election workers from all the towns and villages around waited patiently throughout the night and into the next day to present the results in the proper manner.

Ballots securely stored for shipment to KyivAfter the district commission accepts and approves the results from a precinct, the vote count for each candidate is sent electronically to the central election commission in Kyiv, and is then considered to be a part of the official, national result. The physical ballots are stored securely, for eventual transfer to Kyiv — all under armed guard.

The procedure followed in Ukraine is labourious, detailed, and time-consuming, but it is designed to anticipate and to defeat the many ways in which a free and fair election can be subverted. When I saw a personal and at times emotional commitment to bureaucratic detail, I did not see mere officiousness. I saw instead a real desire to see that the right to vote was respected for all Ukrainian citizens.

Election observer, Ukraine

Michael MacKay, Long-Term Observer, UkraineOn May 25, Ukraine held an Early Election for President. I have been a Long-Term Observer with Canada’s CANEOM mission for the past month, and on election day I acted as an international observer of the conduct of the vote itself, out in the towns and villages. Here I am, going over a checklist by some ballot boxes. I like that in this school auditorium, the national poet Taras Shevchenko watches over all of us.

Protecting the right to vote in Ukraine

Safe containing ballots in UkraineTomorrow, Ukrainians vote to elect their president. The election is being held in extraordinary circumstances, both because of its impetus in the EuroMaidan democratic revolution and because of internecine warfare by Russia to subvert the vote in Crimea and Donbas within Ukraine. Here you see a safe used to store ballots in a voting precinct in Ukraine. It is sealed with documents that are stamped and signed by usually a dozen commission members. Nearby, there is an armed police officer or two, who are watching this safe around the clock until voting commences tomorrow.

The right to vote is precious to all free people. Ukrainians are holding it dear, and defending us all by their courageous exercise of this fundamental principle of our open society.

Extraordinary election for president of Ukraine

Hand-made sign for the electionUkraine goes to the polls on Sunday, to elect a president. This election is extraordinary in several respects. It is “out of sequence” and in advance of what was to have been the election date in 2015. It takes place after the democratic revolution of EuroMaidan and the flight of the previous president. The election also will have little participation by Ukrainians who live in the illegally occupied territory of Crimea or in the conflict zones of Donetsk and Luhansk.

Hope springs eternal, as in this village in Ukraine. At the school where voting will take place, they put up this hand-made sign alongside the official state sign. It says, literally: “25 May / out of turn / election / of the president / of Ukraine”