You could cut the tension in the atmosphere with a knife, but, Bill Pardy says, everything he witnessed during the recent Ukrainian election was done on the up and up.
© — Submitted photo
Bill Pardy of Corner Brook with fellow international observer Lorena Fernandez-Alvarez of Spain in Ukraine last week monitoring the country’s presidential elections .
The former mayor of Pasadena, who has gone on to forge an extensive career as an international community and economic development specialist, was recently in Ukraine to observe an election for the third time since 2010.
Pardy first applied to be an election observer with Canadem, an Ottawa-based non-profit agency dedicated to advancing international peace and security, for the presidential election that saw Viktor Yanukovych declared the winner in 2010.
He went back for parliamentary elections in 2012. As predicted, that voting was fraught with bribery, ballot stuffing and other suspicious activities that would call the integrity of the results into question.
Pardy was a long-term observer for the 2012 election, meaning he spent about two months prior to the vote helping to get it organized. He said he saw lots of instances of inappropriate activity during the 2012 election.
For last Sunday’s presidential election, easily won by Petro Poroshenko, Pardy was a short-term observer for Canadem under the umbrella of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, which had about 1,000 observers scattered throughout Ukraine.
Pardy was assigned to visit a dozen polling stations in the Cherkasy Oblast region of central Ukraine. That area is far away from eastern Ukraine, where political tensions have been rising in recent months.
In the southeast, the Crimean Peninsula was annexed by Russia earlier this year, while the eastern regions of Donetsk and Lugansk have since become self-proclaimed states that had threatened to disrupt the elections.
Pardy said the voters in Cherkasy were intent on doing their civic duty peacefully.
“This election was much different than the last one I observed, in the context that it was much more business-like,” Pardy said Friday, less than a day after arriving back in western Newfoundland. “In the last election with Yanukovych, the official observations were that it wasn’t free and fair.”
Poroshenko had about 54 per cent of the votes in the early going and maintained a similar majority right on through until all ballots were counted. Pardy felt that was a sign the election had been conducted fairly.
Pardy’s job was to observe, record and report what he saw, gauging how well the election matched up to international standards. He had to be aware of not only what those international election standards are, but also had to know what Ukrainian law allows and does not permit when it comes to running elections.
Perhaps the worst thing Pardy saw was an inexperienced polling station chairperson not following every last detail of the election rules when it came to closing down the station as voting ended.
In another case, there was a man at a polling station dressed in military fatigues, which some voters may have felt a little intimidating.
“It was relatively stable and nothing untoward,” he said.
Still, even seemingly minor infractions and details, if observed, had to be recorded and reported to the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe. With more than 3,600 international observers altogether — the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe wasn’t the only organization with international observers in the country for the election — it was important for all of them to report anything they felt was suspicious or inappropriate, Pardy said.
“We were checking for patterns and if what we observed was happening in just one place or in 25 or 30 other places too,” he said. “What one person saw may seem insignificant, but without so many people doing it you wouldn’t be able to see if there are some collective issues going on.”
After a long flight, Pardy plans to spend the next month or so building a house in Glenburnie. While he resides in Corner Brook when in western Newfoundland, Pardy will return to his work as an economic development adviser in Gambia, on the west coast of Africa, where he has been working for the past year.
The Western Star