Polling Party: Impressions from the Election Day in Minsk
After an exciting week of early voting, the actual election day has finally come. For weeks, some polling stations have prepared for this day, and the result is impressive indeed.
The first station we visit looks like a combination of parent´s day at school, carnival and a red cross´s food supply. The hall of the school where it is located is bursting of voters. One wall is fully covered by shelfs with fruits, dairy products, cans and alcohol. Voters are granted considerable discounts: cakes cost about ¼ of the regular shop price, as well as Vodka. And the demand is enormous. Particularly old couples push to the counter, and carry giant plastic backs out of the polling stations. The bananas and oranges are spotless, and the baked products are said to be of excellent quality. Some shops were short of tropical fruits in the past couple of days, as all the premium quality goods were saved for the big day.
At the other wall there is a little stage, were children perform in front of their parents, grandparents and other voters who simply seek entertainment. They are sitting around tables, cookies and coffee is served, and from time to time plates with mini-cubes of sausage and cheese on toothpicks are passed around. Most performances are play-back. The 11-year-old saxophonist was still on his way to the stage when the saxophone song started.
Everyone seems very excited. The head of the commission is greeting us, the observers, enthusiastically. Hardly even looking at our accreditation she proudly presents her polling station, as if she wanted to sell it to us. Feeling flattered that her field of responsibility attracted the attention of international observers, she is guiding us through the room – the election commission, the observers from several regime-loyal organisations, the ballot box, and the board with the presentation of all candidates. We look around, take pictures, talk to everyone, and the atmosphere could hardly be more happy. Music from the next performance is pouring in and makes it hard to continue talking. In a seemingly unobserved moment, the head of the commission is dancing through the room.
Again in the hall, we have to fight our way through a heap of parents, photographing their boys in football-shirts doing a hip-hop-performance. When I take a picture of the counter full of baked goods the saleswomen – election worker harshly calls me. “Delete that picture you just took.” I am not surprised, still I ask, why. “There is too little cake. We just go a new delivery. You delete the picture now, we restock, and then you take the picture again.”