The following is an interview with Tom Nolan, director of the Committee for Open Democracy , a U.S.-based non-profit organization that monitors and observes election to evaluate their adherence to international, democratic norms.
KP: What are some violations that you noticed in Odesa?
TN: I noticed that the Georgian part of our delegation faced resistance in a lot of places. It’s been very interesting. We’ve done a report, a member of our monitoring group told me personally that he went to a mental hospital and they had 79 patients and they had been delivered 500 ballots for mayoral election. And when they asked why, ‘do you have any idea why you got so many ballots?’, the members of the local polling station said ‘well that’s how many ballots they sent to us’, while the number of ballots they’ve got for the election to local councils was close to the number of patients they had there. So it raises a question – why?
KP: Are you ready to make an official statement on how fair or unfair the campaign in Odesa was?
TN: No, not yet. We’ll watch the vote count and issue our statement tomorrow.
KP: Is it true that [committee board member and political consultant] Brian Mefford’s accreditation has been canceled?
TN: I’ve not heard it has been canceled. I just know there’ve been some people who said they wanted to try and have it canceled. But to our understanding there is no legal basis that provides for that to happen and we had people (international observers) harassed – they were not allowed to get into the polling stations today. I don’t know how many of them haven’t been allowed to the polling stations, but at about 4 p.m. there were polling stations that were without our observers in. And I myself had been photographed, and at the polling location where I was about an hour ago they told us if there were any foreign observers coming they had to call the police. And the policewoman came and got our names and she then called the police regional HQ and reported our names to the HQ. I am neither attorney at law in the United States nor in Ukraine but my understanding is there is no basis in the Ukrainian law under which they could act like that, so it seems to be another piece of harassment.
KP: You’ve got this accreditation from the Central Election Commission – is that correct?
TN: That is correct.
KP: There was some information in the media that Mefford’s accreditation was cancelled by one of Odesa district election commissions. Do you know anything about it?
TN: The organization is accredited and all our members are accredited through the Central Election Commission. I don’t know if the regional branch has the right to do it.
KP: Do you know anything about the organization who issued the statement that Mefford’s accreditation needs to be cancelled? We’ve been trying to find out who stands behind it and didn’t get any clear information yet. Maybe you know who triggered it?
TN: I don’t know enough about it.
KP: It seems the initial push comes from the organization called For the Fair Elections and its representative’s name is Sergey Mirzoyev – have you heard about it?
TN: I don’t know enough to be able to give you an answer about all of that.
KP: They said Brian Mefford disclosed some information about fake ballots – do you know what exactly Mefford said?
TN: I don’t have any knowledge of that and I think you have to talk to Brian.