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First Time as an Observer

October 31, 2013
Keti Labadze’s Blog-Post from Adjara

I woke up before alarm clock rang; it was my first time as an observer at the elections and could not sleep well; it was huge responsibility for me and was afraid I would fail though I had attended the training led by expert Nina Khatiskatsi. As soon as I got dressed, I took election booklet and looked through the election procedures again. Before 6:45 am I was holding the booklet in one hand and tea-cup in the second; I got in the car and went to observe the elections. The day would be hard. 

I was going to the Precinct # 52 of the Batumi DEC # 79; as an observer of the mobile group I decided first visit the nearest precinct and wait for the first voters there. I arrived at the precinct at 6:55 am; the election precinct was opened in the assembly hall of the Public School # 2. I found about 20 people at the door of the hall; they were waiting for the opening of the door; soon I guessed which of them was commission members because they were particularly anxious. “Why is he so late?” “Do not worry, he will come!” I heard their conversation and guessed that a commission member was late. The door was opened at exactly 7:00 am; soon the late commission member also arrived.

The commission chairperson started implementation of all necessary procedures, he often asked observers whether they needed something or have observed any problems. I was surprised only with one fact – the number of ballot papers was less than registered voters; later we found out that insufficient ballot papers were delivered to every precinct though considering the low activity of the voters, they did not need more.
At 8:00 am the first voter entered the precinct; the polling process was going on peacefully; at 8:40 am I was going to another precinct and the driver was waiting for me outside; at that moment four voters came in but could not find their names on the list; all of them lived in one residential block and it is under reconstruction; for that reason these people were deprived of right to vote. Based on the letter of the Batumi City Hall, the Ministry of Justice deprived them right to vote, together with the residents of 55 more residential blocks – total 2000 people. I think it was the biggest violation in this election; people used to come and could not vote; there was a very low activity and commission members had to send people back from the precinct for this reason. I saw people who trusted in the power of a paper and believed that their vote was important and did not want to lose it; they said they expected more and complained: “If they do not care about our choice, let them directly appoint Margvelashvili to the position of the president.” To tell the truth I was glad to see so many citizens full of civil responsibility in my native city; they were fully aware of their duties and importance to vote. They went to the City Hall to file a complaint but were sorry that despite that, they could not vote in this election.

Having witnessed this fact, I forgot my fears and understood that I had more responsibility and as an observer had to protect more votes than they, who had to protect only their vote; I had to discover violations and restore all details Nina Khatiskatsi suggested us to pay particular attention; I got in the car and decided to observe polling process in many election precincts.

The precincts were very different; they resembled commission members; I found joy environment in precincts; somewhere situation was serious, tense, aggressive and even hysterical. In some precincts, commission chairpersons were shouting at me; in other places they laughed at me; in the third precinct they told jokes. The stories about previous elections told by the commission chairperson were the most interesting; he told me how the elections were fabricated in front of him. Personally I could not feel that he was conscious-smitten about all this.

Main violations observed in precincts were related with the mobile ballot boxes; more ballot papers were taken to the families than voters were on the special list. The commission members claimed they were warned by trainers to take more than necessary ballot papers because papers could be spoilt and they should have had spare ones. The commission members protested to make a note in the log book; in some precincts I almost quarreled; often commission members could not differentiate notes from complaints and did not know that I had right to make note in the log book. Although I was afraid for being non-experienced in the field, I observed totally different fact – the people, who had taken responsibility to hold elections, were not qualified at all. In one precinct, where I finally managed to write a notice about the commission chairperson in the log (after a long controversy), because there were two representatives of one presidential candidates in the precinct, she replied to me. “I am in my ninth month of pregnancy and cannot walk and check everything several times.” I cannot understand why people take such a huge responsibility, if he cannot control the situation properly. I think commission members are not aware of their responsibilities.

For the next elections, I wish the commission members were more qualified and more voters were convinced in the importance of their votes.