"Our Party - Number One": Witness account of voting instead of voters and threats on election day in Breznitsa village
At the polling station No. 32 in the village of Breznitsa, Gotse Delchev municipality, the chairman of the Section Election Commission toches the voting screen instead of the voters, some of the voting machines are facing the corridor, and the secretary of the commission has received a direct physical threat.
These are some of the striking violations on election day, which are mentioned in the testimony of Krasimira Manashfi, secretary of polling station No. 32 in the village of Breznitsa, Gotse Delchev. The narrative is featured in today’s episode of the Anti-Corruption Fund’s (ACF) series of witness accounts of violations at the recent parliamentary elections on October 2, 2022.
The irregularities at polling station No. 32 became apparent when members of the commission were allowed into the polling station at the start of the election day. It then became clear that the voting machines were positioned close to the room’s door.
“One of the machines was in such a place that the secrecy of the vote could not be guaranteedл It was visible from the corridor how the people were voting. In contrast, the table of Section Election Commission members was so removed that we could not monitor the voting process,” Manashfi says. “People we didn’t know were constantly coming in and out of the room, and to maintain the secrecy of the vote at one point, the deputy chair of the commission and I stood in front of the machines as a cover of a sort.”
The witness also recounted many unacceptable interventions by the commission’s chairman, a representative of the Movement for Rights and Freedoms Political party. He made sure that the voters “inserted the card correctly” when voting, that they “saw the ballot paper,” repeatedly tapping on the screen “involuntary” while their vote was in progress.
Manashfi also describes a scheme with ” attendants” waiting outside the polling place, repeating whenever elderly voters come on election day. “When an elderly person complained that he couldn’t see, the chairman would say, ‘No problem, sit down, wait here,’ and call the gentlemen standing in front, who would fill out attendant declarations on the spot.”
“On the first occasion, the chairman went out and brought a gentleman who certainly did not know the elderly woman. He immediately filled out the attendant’s declaration and then didn’t just help her – he voted instead of her,” Manashfi adds.
Krassimira Manashfi objected that this was unacceptable, and in discussion with the chairman, the other commission members supported her.
“The chairman left the section and returned about five minutes later with a gentleman who asked, ‘Who is the secretary here? I understand you’re causing trouble.”
The stranger, who identified himself with someone else’s ID card and certificate as a member of another Section Electoral Commission, made a direct physical threat to the committee secretary, “I see you are a young lady. I think you don’t want to create any more problems for yourself.”
The police officer who arrived to take testimony in the case knew the person who made the threats and confirmed that he had caused trouble in the past.
In the end, Krasimira Manashfi filed three complaints with the Regional Election Commission – two about the “attendants” scheme of people waiting outside the polling station – and a third about the many violations by the chairman of the commission in which he touched the machine during the voting or verified the voting done by the voters.