Slow polling in Ukraine's rebel-held Donetsk

Threat by pro-Russian separatists discourages voters in rebel-held region from casting ballots in presidential polls.

    Slow polling in Ukraine's rebel-held Donetsk
    Pro-Russian separatists have questioned the legality of Sunday's election [John Wendle/Al Jazeera]

    Voter turnout for the presidential election in Ukraine's restive eastern province of Donetsk has been low, with people staying away fearing violence.

    About 10 percent of voters in three villages in the Krasnoarmiisk region had come in by noon on Sunday.

    "People would like to vote, but are scared and probably can't vote because they can't find a polling station," said a European election observer on condition of anonymity.

    In the village of Novoaleksandrovka on the road to Krasnoarmiisk, about 15 to 20 people had voted by around 10:30am local time this morning.

    "Usually 200-300 people would have voted by this time of day if this were an election during normal times," said an election worker.

    Down a country road through bright yellow fields of blooming rapeseed in the village of Ulyanovka, 56 people had voted out of 498 voters.

    "The people who are coming in here today are voting for the future," said Olga, the director of the school in which the vote was held.

    "The people who are coming here to vote believe in a united and legal Ukraine," said Yevgenie, a 20-year-old miner and head of the election commission.

    "Young people want a future and they know they can't get it through this people's republic. In fact, no one knows what will happen next."

    "I'm not afraid to vote. Its our duty as citizens to vote in a legal elections," said Andrei Semenyuk, as he escorted his pregnant wife out of the polling station in Ulyanovsk, adding that he the instability in the towns around his village did not turn him away.

    Further down the road in the village of Novoekonomicheskoye, three Ukrainian soldiers clad in field fatigues with shiny gold buckles on their belts, walked to a shop with rifles slung nonchalantly over their backs.

    A polling station in the shadow of an old blue and gold Orthodox Christian church stood nearly empty at mid-day.

    "Its very slow today," said an election worker, noting that of 1,548 voters, only 120 people had turned up. Outside an elderly man played the well-loved Katyusha, a famous song from World War II, on his accordion.

    "I have played here at every election day from Soviet times to today," he said. "For me, election days are holidays."

    In light of the current instability, few seem to see it that way on Sunday.

    "This paints a pretty clear picture," said the observer.

    As the day continued, it would be clear whether the separatists in this eastern border province of Ukraine had been successful in disrupting this election, thus helping to bring its legality into question.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera


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