Outside Minsk. Following a mobile ballot box.
The very election day we decided to spend outside Minsk, wandering around Belarusian villages. Though we can’t call the journey itself an "exciting" one, we gathered some stories and thoughts to share.
We started our day in the furthest Minsk quarter where you can still get to by metro. Together with our Belarusian friend and her sisters, Sasha and Sveta, we went 'for a vote'.
The polling stations in Minsk looked impressive – banners, shows, concerts, posters and impressive markets. But the core of so-called election celebrations are buffets.
Right outside the city we meet the first eye-catching person.
The story of this former physical education teacher, wearing a sport t-shirt in Belarusian colours, includes a long list of jobs he lost due to – probably – his openly voiced political views. He doesn’t like "the bald guy with moustache" and therefore he voted for Karatkevich. Still, he seemed genuinely sympathetic towards Kola, the young son of Lukashenko.
“Nobody knows who his mother is. Usually there is a question about a father... I am really sorry for him. Lukashenko creates a non-existing word for him. What will happen after he dies? Poor Kolya...”
At last we left the city. Our first destination: Rakav. Outside the local polling station is only one woman roaming around the building. A festive mood is still in the air, with very loud celebration music heard outside. Musicians were already packing their staff – we are late for a concert – but we found something more interesting: the commission had a problem with summing up the ballots.
“Whom you voted for?"" “It's a secret".
Strange, no buffet...
From Rakav we travelled further, planning to find stations located in villages. No such luck at first. Nobody, even the commission members from Rakav, knew anything.
Fed some delicious fresh apples offered by some real nice people met on the way, we nevertheless kicked the road.
”Why don’t you vote?” “I will not vote for that kind of people...”
“I already voted, for Karatkievich". “Why?” “I like her program, I saw it on TV”. “There is no sense to vote, Luka already fixed everything".
While eating apples we spotted election commission members with a mobile ballot box.
They were asking, or so we thought, a resident of the village, if he would like to vote. He explained he had already cast his vote in Minsk...
Thinking about the rules of mobile voting we were told about by the election commission members, to be allowed to use a mobile box you should first call the commission and inform them about your plans. The situation was pretty strange.
“Whom the people from this village vote for?"" “It's obvious, for the current leadership.”
We reached Valozhyn. They do like pink colour. We went to say hello to the members of regional election commission. They spoke to us in Belarusian and really liked my t-shirt with "vyshyvanka".
We visited another polling station. Turnout: 50%. Few people within sight. As everywhere, where we went.
We were told that we missed the morning live performances and a huge crowd. And OSCE observers.
In the last village we visited, Vishnyeva, maybe 2 people voted. A guard and a seller already voted in Volozhyn. And it was 5pm.
The road back. “Did you vote?” ”Yes, for Lukashenko”.
Basing on data delivered by our Belarusian friend, around 85% of citizens work in governmental companies. In little towns and villages, where everyone knows everyone, you just have to vote. People watch you and you should support your "employer". If not, you lose your job or your pension.
On our way back we met another mobile ballot box team. As before, they tried to run from us but we were not discouraged.
We asked about the rules of mobile ballot box voting to confirm that we had been right and understand the rules properly – you have to call the commission to get the possibility to vote by a mobile ballot box.
Right after that, the "guards" of the mobile ballot box asked a trespassing woman if she was about to vote. She already had. She didn't know that it wass possible to call for a ballot box...
Tired but inspired by colourful Belarusian villages, we came back to Minsk. Our afterthoughts? There was definitely something wrong with the voting…