“Tikhanovskaya had six times more votes than Lukashenka” Members of the Belarusian election commissions told Meduza in detail how the falsifications in the presidential elections were organized

“We sat with the whole commission and understood that we were set up. Someone was crying “

Anton (name changed at his request)

I am an activist in my school. I communicate a lot with the dean’s office, administration, they know me. Therefore, in May, I was offered to be on the election commission for the presidential elections. At first I doubted because of the coronavirus pandemic, but in the end I agreed: I wanted to personally count [the votes] and see how it all goes.

I was on duty for three days in early elections, mainly in the first shifts (from 10 am to 2 pm). Then I did not see a large influx of people, no more than 10-15 people came. I don’t know exactly how many people there were in the second shift. 

As a rule, only one independent observer was present at our site. He sat in front of the office, he was often chased away by an employee of an educational institution. He said that the selection committee is now being held and at this time, supposedly, no one should be there, except for the applicants. Observers told me that there are fewer people on the second shift than on the first. Our figures for the day did not agree with those in the protocols. For example, in one day we got about 20 people, and more than 70 were recorded in the protocol. 

I don’t know how it was arranged. But my friend was faced with the fact that he came to another polling station to vote and saw the signature opposite the name of his father, although he died two years ago. At the station he was told that perhaps it was a mistake, someone signed in the wrong place. But the fact remains.

On the main election day, there were twice as many people as during the early voting. It was clear who the majority voted for: 70% of people came with  white ribbons . There were those who were indignant about why it is impossible to put a date in the document where you sign for the receipt of the bulletin. Many insisted that they were right and indicated the number. Of course, people also checked the authenticity of the ballots – so that there were two signatures [of the chairman or his deputy and one of the commission members] at the end.

On that day, I still went from door to door to old grandmothers who could not vote themselves. Every single one – they did not fold the ballot – voted for the current president. Indeed, there could be many votes for him. We have many elderly people, many of them have no idea who [Svetlana] Tikhanovskaya is. I myself voted for her and wanted her to win. I was sure that the current president would win [following the results of] the early voting. And in the main elections – Tikhanovskaya. 

First, we counted early voting ballots. It was mainly heard that Lukashenka was winning. In the house-to-house vote, all but one were also for the current president. On the day of the main elections, the opposite picture was observed – basically everyone was for Tikhanovskaya, only sometimes Lukashenko’s name flashed across. Many ballots were spoiled (as a rule, those in which they voted for Tikhanovskaya). But this is not about falsification, many people, out of distrust, put additional signs on the forms – for example, they signed, – which is prohibited. When we counted the votes, it was clear from the faces of the commission members that everyone was happy. Even without the final count, it was clear that more than 60% for Tikhanovskaya.

Then the chairman and secretary began to summarize. At first I stood nearby to see the counting, but I was asked “not to stand over my soul,” and I walked away. I trusted the person who counted the votes as much as possible. But I still doubted a little. They counted for a very long time, about 30-40 minutes. As a result, we were told that there are more than 50% of the votes for the current president, while Tikhanovskaya has around 20%. The members of the commission began to look around, like, “what happened now?” After all, Tikhanovskaya clearly won. 

HOW IT WAS ORGANIZED

Before signing the protocol, many thought about it, but they did it anyway. I was the last one. When it came to me, I sat for a long time and thought what to do. I didn’t even take a pen in my hands. I didn’t want to sign, but I didn’t know what the consequences would be. I was scared and ended up signing.

We sat for a long time at the site. When the chairman and secretary left to take away the votes, the Internet started working for us. We saw that there are areas where Tikhanovskaya won. We sat with the whole commission and understood that we were set up. Someone was crying. We signed the protocol without coercion, at our own will, but everyone was afraid of some consequences [for refusal]. Because in our country how? Everything can be seen from the election campaign. Someone said the wrong word, did not want to do as he was told, and at once what do they do with him? Such a person is immediately taken and locked up somewhere. Of course, people have developed fear, it’s more self-hypnosis, even. It is easy to see how our country reacts to freedom of speech. People are really afraid to speak up. This was the case until the last events. 

After [voting], I felt very bad. I probably have never felt so exposed and so rotten. I went there to be honest and to see what is happening in the country. I felt very shitty. I was ashamed in front of myself, and not in front of someone else. I will not say 100%, but I will atone for this guilt, even speaking with you now. I also, along with several people, sent half of the money I received for my work on the commission to the  children’s fund of [arrested candidate Viktor] Babariko, and the other half to help victims of the protests.

I went [to the actions] more than once when it was peaceful. I am insanely good about the actions of the people. But I feel sorry for people who are faced with the state’s reaction. The fact that now women come out in white, with white flowers is just pride for me. I never loved my country as I do now. But in general, I love the country and hate the state. How it will end, I can’t even imagine. Because I don’t believe in the prudence of our state. It seems to me that the core is in our army and state structure. If they take the side of the people, then perhaps we will win. 

“We were scared, very scared”

Margarita (name changed at her request)

In fact, I initially did not want to go to the election commission. The lists were formed at the end of spring. They just called me [from the school] and said, “You are enrolled.” I did not particularly resist, I said that I would go. I was curious to see what it is. 

Each of us was on duty for two days during early voting for four hours and throughout the main voting day. I was in the last days of early voting – August 7 and 8. There were not many people: in an hour or two, no more than four people came. These were mainly people of pre-retirement and retirement ages. Then I contacted the guys who worked after me to get the total and compare with the protocols. It turned out that the number of people was overestimated every day: on August 7 by 30 people, on August 8 – by 50. Due to the fact that I worked in the morning, I do not understand how this was done. Where did the numbers come from, which then appeared in the protocol. But even if you look at that no more than 10 people came to us in four hours, it is unlikely that there could be 70–100 voters per day.

On the main day, people came actively, with white ribbons. But we expected that there would be even more voters. Some – and there were quite a few – ignored the elections. There were also people who were on the lists, but they said that they did not have Belarusian citizenship, only a residence permit. That is, they could not leave their vote, nevertheless they were on the lists. And it is unclear how they got there.

I voted, of course, for Tikhanovskaya. And before the votes were counted, I was sure that the results would be on her side. At first we counted the early voting ballots – Lukashenka won. In my pile, he won by 40 votes from Tikhanovskaya, if not more. I was very upset. Although this can be believed, because the people who voted for Tikhanovskaya walked on August 9. There is also such a moment: we did not always see the containers in which there were ballots from the preliminary voting. Therefore, falsification is possible. They were, of course, sealed at the end of the shift. But in any case, I don’t know what happened to them. 

In my pile of ballots on the main election day, Tihanovskaya had six times more votes than Lukashenka. I talked a little with people who were counting other piles. It was clear that Tikhanovskaya was ahead of Lukashenka. I don’t know how much, because he won the early game, but, according to our calculations, she was one hundred percent in the lead. 

We submitted our results to the chairman of the election commission. When she counted, there was no one next to her. As a result, we were told that Tikhanovskaya had lost. Many started crying, I was no exception. The entire election commission fell into silence. Many expected the result to be like this, but it was still a shock for us. 

The teachers who were with me in the election commission signed the protocol pretty quickly. When it was the turn of the students, I sat over the protocol every five minutes. We simply could not sign this paper. One guy asked if he could not sign it. He was told: “No, put your signature, and no talk is needed.” Then he put his signature with tears in his eyes. 

The chairman is the dean of our faculty. Our conversation was rather short. They explained to us that if we do not sign, it will not play any role. That is, the absence of our signatures does not mean that the protocol will be invalid. We will simply be removed from the members of the election commission, and the same protocol with the same figures will be sent to the executive committee. At the same time, there will be many questions for our future life at the university. Yes, we were scared, very scared. Personally, my parents pay a lot of money for my studies at the university. I was very afraid. 

Then the feeling of guilt reproached us very much. We felt guilty because we were involved in this. But we did not hide this information and told all our acquaintances what we saw. I’m still awful. After the elections, for three nights I simply could not sleep without valerian. It is hard to experience all this when you see what is happening in your city, in all cities, throughout the country. And you yourself did not want this person [Lukashenko] to stay. But your signature is on paper. I replayed this situation in my head many times, thinking: “Couldn’t you be bolder?” 

But what happened happened. In any case, I think the most important thing is that they are now talking about it all over the world. There are a lot of people who, under oppression, were forced to sign or take part in these elections. For many, conditions were tougher than ours. Many were threatened with deductions, dismissals. They were really forced. There are few people who did this on their own initiative. I think there are practically no such people. Each had something at stake when he signed it. And we have been living with this fear for 26 years. 

I have many friends who went to actions. And I went, but only to peaceful ones. I didn’t go to those that ended in fights and more terrible things. I am a girl, I am small. If I go there, I will not come back – this is one hundred percent. I believe that people, honesty and what is happening now with us are much stronger than a person whose power is no longer legitimate. I really believe in our people. You can see for yourself what is happening with us now. These are great things. It is great that Belarus and the Belarusian nation are now supported by a lot of countries. I believe in people, I believe in our nation and our people. 

“I don’t care if they expel me. But I will not be a criminal “

Constantine (name changed at his request)

I am the commander of a volunteer squad in the hostel, [to participate in the election commission] I was called by the head of educational work. Of course, I agreed, because this is such an experience. The money will also be paid. Before that, I only carried out the protection of law and order at such events and did not work with the electoral code. Later I looked at myself in the list [of the executive committee] and learned that I had been nominated by the Social-Sports Party , although I had never been a member of any party. 

On August 3 – before the start of early voting – we had a meeting of the commission. We were then told that we needed to sign a protocol. I didn’t know the electoral code very well then and didn’t understand what the protocol was. But one woman from the commission said that it should be signed on the last day, after the final vote count. The chairman began to defend herself with aggression, that it was necessary so that later there would be no hassle and so on. As a result, no one signed the protocol. But the woman who opposed was removed from duty by early voting. We called up with her, and she told me that someone called her and said that she was a first-level contact on coronavirus, asked not to come.

On August 8, I had an evening shift. When I arrived, the chairperson invited me to her office. There was a woman from the district administration. The chairman said: “Now we will sign the protocol that everything is fine,” and so unobtrusively pushed him towards me. I read it carefully and realized that it was the protocol of the final results of the voting. I was a little shocked, began to ask how this is so. They say to me: “You just need to sign.” They caught one person at a time: the protocol, when I saw him, had at least three signatures. But I refused anyway. The chairperson said after me: “You probably don’t trust me.”

Siarhei Leskiec / AFP / Scanpix / LETA

After the polling station closed, the chairman, her secretary, a woman from the district administration, me and another member of the election commission sat down to count the number of early voting participants. There were observers present – they all work in our dormitory and were accredited for elections from the [republican public association] Belaya Rus. The chairperson calculated everything herself, without checking the list of voters. It turned out that 222 people allegedly voted at the polling station. Every day we counted ourselves in fact, how many people came. For example, on the last day of early voting there were about 35 of them, and in the protocol – about 70. That is, it was almost doubled. I then did not become indignant, because I decided that I would still be in the voting on August 9, and signed this protocol.

There were violations on the main voting day. We had 5-6 “dependent” observers at the same time, which is prohibited by the CEC. At some point, they wanted to go to lunch, and they called my volunteer vigilante, who was on duty on watch, and asked to sit in their place. And he was sitting there, although he is not an accredited observer. We also had people voting at our polling station – about 50 – not by registration, but, for example, by an apartment lease agreement or a temporary registration. This is allowed, but the chairman and secretary did not check whether a person voted in their area or not before giving him the ballot. This was checked only later. But I don’t know if they called other sites or not. I myself could not vote, because I was registered in another city. I had a dormitory lease for our site. 

On August 9, more than half of the people came with white ribbons and red and white clothes. 80% of the ballots were folded like an accordion – this is what the “Honest People” community urged to do in order to clearly show that you are not voting for Lukashenka. Our trash can was, you have no idea, it was really all so full. Some indicatively took a leaf, put a jackdaw in front of Tikhanovskaya and, without folding, so that the commission could see, threw it into the trash can. 

By the fact that a greater number of participants wrote in the early voting, I understood that they would do something. But I was very encouraged by the people who came to the site. There was a moment when a child asked his father who he voted for. He replied: “I voted for your future.” Another girl – she is pregnant and came to the site with her husband and little daughter – turned to the commission: “For the sake of our children, I hope that you will count honestly.” She had tears in her eyes. All this incredibly raised my morale. I realized that I didn’t care if I was expelled. But I will not be a criminal, I will not be the one who tarnished my conscience. And I will defend such honest people as myself. 

Before the vote was counted, the chairperson told us: “Don’t worry, everything will be fine. The main thing is to obey me. ” Then she, together with the secretary and a woman from the district administration, began to do something with pieces of paper on a separate table. In the end, they brought us a stack: “There are 187 unused ballots.” I immediately began to say that according to the Electoral Code of the Republic of Belarus we are obliged to do everything publicly. That is, I personally do not know how many ballots there are, and observers did not see this [count]. The chairperson told me with offense that in this case we will do everything for a long time and will stay at the precinct until four in the morning. She also asked to trust her and other members of the commission, but the unused ballots were then defiantly counted. 

Then there was the most flagrant violation – they [the chairman and secretary] took the voter lists and began to seal them. Although they did not count how many people participated in the voting, and did not compare this number with the list. I began to explain that in the same early voting they could have thrown ballots and we would not be able to reveal an error or falsification. But they answered me: “We counted all the time in the voting process.” While I was writing a dissenting opinion [to the protocol on the election results], they brought the ballot box and began to open it. I again stated that I did not agree with what was happening and we still do not know the number of voters who came. All the rest – observers and members of the commission – were silent. They were afraid.

The chairman asked me not to interfere. When I added my dissenting opinion and gave it to her, she thanked me and said: “We are unanimously excluding you [from the commission].” Everyone is silent. She turns to the others: “You also agree?” Absolutely everyone is silent. Then two stood up for me. The chairwoman gave the back, conveyed my dissenting opinion to the secretary for registration. And here the most interesting thing begins, I even have a recording ( Konstantin handed the recording over to Meduza). A woman from the administration says: “I do not agree that he stay here.” The chairman proposes to vote. Five, including the chairman, raise their hands for my expulsion. The other five people abstain. As a result, the last word belongs to the chairman, and I was expelled. My dissenting opinion was never recorded. The protocol says that I was allegedly not present at the counting of votes.

Then I spoke with those who counted the votes further. The stack for Tikhanovskaya was five times more than for Lukashenka. At the same time, from the ballot box for early voting, the majority was for Lukashenka. They wrote in the protocol that there were more than 500 people for Lukashenka, and more than 100 for Tikhanovskaya. These numbers were invented out of thin air. And then everyone was forced to sign the protocol. 

Two days later, the chairman called me and said that there would be no “sanctions” against me at the university. And she burst into tears. She is a person worthy enough, I don’t know what happened to her, what she was told.

Now I am participating in peaceful actions. I don’t even know how it will end. I believe that all enterprises should go on strike. There is a mill in my hometown, but it doesn’t work because people are afraid of losing their jobs. They also do not believe that they will be supported. And therefore they are ready to walk in shackles all their lives. It seems to me that people should understand that they really falsified the elections, violated the law, and stole our votes. All my family, relatives and friends, except for one person, voted for Tikhanovskaya. [Lukashenka] cannot have 80%. This is already a miscalculation, there must be a trial.

Egor (name changed at his request)

[In the election commission] I ended up as a simple Chukchi guy. The deputy director of the enterprise where I work summoned me and said that I needed to help, to participate. “They ask you to help, you can’t refuse.” Time passed, and I found on the website of the executive committee that I had been selected from the party. Nobody told me about it. We are all peaceful people, no one wants to conflict. Swallowed, let’s move on. 

On early voting, I was on duty only on the last day, in the afternoon. 23 people came. But [with an early vote] it was not clear what. The number that was in the protocol … One could argue what it means. I noticed that the total amount [of people who came] was less than the number of minutes issued. She also did not agree with the number of votes. It’s easy to blame me for misunderstanding something. But I saw three different numbers, I don’t know why. 

On the main day, a large flow of people began in the morning. Even seriously ill people came, grandmothers – I do not know who they voted for, but it was important for them that their vote was taken into account. Many were in the mood to deceive, they were very nervous. Some asked: “First, give me the ballot, and then I’ll sign.” But mostly everything was calm. They voted, as they said on the Internet, and folded the ballot in a tube – there were a lot of them. I myself voted early at the site to which I am attached. I voted for Tikhanovskaya. 

As for the counting of votes, as it is written in the legislation, we did so. At the preliminary vote, there were more than 300 for Lukashenko, about 70 for Tikhanovskaya. On the main voting day, the overwhelming majority was for Tikhanovskaya: more than 1000 votes against 150 for Lukashenko. I then counted for interest – for Tikhanovskaya it turned out more than 60 percent. The protocol was drawn up properly. All signed. And then some incomprehensible tricks began. 

We sat and waited for the protocol to be posted on the doors [of the polling station]. The protocol is posted by the chairman of the commission, he left, he was gone for a long time. Then the chairman came and took all the packed bundles [with ballots]. People began to emotionally tell him to post the protocol. He: “Yes, yes, yes.” We leave the room where the elections were held in the school foyer. OMON is already waiting for us there. OMON says: “Let’s get on the bus faster.” You won’t argue there. We quickly got out on the bus and took us away. There was no heroism. When you sit on the bus, your windows are closed with curtains, you are being taken to no one knows where, there are a lot of riot police, anything goes into your head. Maybe they’ll bring it in now and press it. But in the end, no one pressed anyone. We were brought to the regional executive committee. The chairman and the secretary went inside, we got into our car, we were taken home. As a result, the protocol was not posted, and people stood at the school and waited for the protocol. The results were not announced. Then the CEC wrote that no, they are posted everywhere. But I heard that this situation was not only with us. 

I do not participate in promotions, this is my choice. I still go to work. I signed a letter from industry workers and signed a complaint that the minutes were not posted. My wife is coming out [for shares]. You see, now they start: “Let’s talk,” “Let’s live together,” but the fact that people’s votes were actually stolen, the right to choose was stolen … How to deal with this? People’s choice was turned into a game of candy wrappers. This question is carefully bypassed. Nobody wants war, nobody wants riots. But the CEC says that there were no violations, all complaints were rejected, everything was correct. They say: “Let’s leave it behind the scenes, who are you? You have to talk. “

People went to vote on purpose. There has never been such a turnout. Since he [Alexander Lukashenko] became president, I have never gone to vote, because I thought it was useless. And now people believed. I’m afraid to make predictions how it will end. I can’t predict, but it doesn’t seem like it just won’t go away. And the worst thing, it seems to me, is that if everything remains as it is, the youth will simply leave. The borders are not closed, we do not have an iron curtain.

(C)MEDUZA 2020

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