Friday, October 30

Azerbaijan's long tradition of carousel voting- we know it very well!

When you are from Azerbaijan and have seen a few elections in your life time, you know very well all the various kinds of violations and fraud that take place on the day of the elections. One of these frauds is carousel voting. While the name might remind you of your childhood memories, the act itself is something in some countries people might get arrested for, because it is at the end of the day, a version of fraud. 

So let me tell you briefly how it happens in case you don't know- a group of men and women get dressed and with their ID cards head to the polling station on the day of the election. They walk in, sign up, and fulfill their duty as a citizen. 

But that day, their duty isn't just voting. Their duty is to vote as many times as possible before they get caught (or unless they get caught). But even then, there is no guarantee that the very same people wont' show up at another precinct all set up for yet another "fraud vote". 

I consider myself lucky, because I have actually seen the "heroes" of this act myself. 

Two years ago, I was an independent observer during the Presidential election in Azerbaijan. I was at my precinct observing two polling stations. There were four other independent observers. I was the only one with a camera which startled the head of the polling station at first. He frantically demanded that I show him my press card which I didn't have to have as an officially registered observer. After nagging and questions which seemed to last a lifetime, I finally pulled out my media accreditation as well. Which shut him up, luckily but only briefly. Each time I took my camera out, he jumped up and down (certainly not of the excitement) and tried his best to divert my attention. Long story short, I received several terrible comments from a few teachers employed by the school calling me all sorts of names because I was "obstructing" their job which consisted of rigging votes. And they had no shame, they were doing it in front of my very own eyes, in public. 

But back to carousel voting and what I saw that day. 

So earlier I saw a woman who came wearing big sun glasses that covered most of her face. She had long hair in a ponytail. She was also dressed nicely. She came alone. I took a picture of her, thinking about why people in Azerbaijan like to wear sunglasses in closed spaces. 

Few hours later, as I stood in my spot watching people come in and register I saw the same woman, this time, with no make up and she of course ditched the sun glasses. This time she was with a kid. 

When I asked the jittery head of the polling station about her, he literally told me not to worry and that she wasn't voting again (even though as he was talking to me she took the ballot and went into the booth) and that she was simply "responsible for making sure people in her neighborhood all cast their votes that day". 

I didn't say much. I smiled. Stepped aside and watched the rest of the circus in silence. It was then when I realized there was no point. No matter how many international or independent observers were there that day, no matter how many questions I asked and comments I made, it was all decided a long time ago and there was nothing I could do. 

So I was not surprised at all, when I saw this video shared my Meydan TV with the head of the Lankaran District Executive Office giving orders to the "electorate" as to whom and how they should vote on November 1.

This is how Aliyev rolls folks. Oh and if you still think there will be different results, just make sure you are not betting that day, YAP will win with a bunch of fake "opposition" and "independent" candidates.

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