BRAMA, Oct 11, 2004, 9:00 am ET|
Polling station coordinator works to simplify constitutional obstacles for voters abroad
Taras Chaban, co-ordinator of Polling Stations Abroad (UK) stands by a statue of St Volodymyr, outside the Ukrainian Catholic University in London.
Where people will come and vote - the Ukrainian Embassy in London.
Entrance to the Embassy in London.
Inside the Embassy of Ukraine in London, where votes will be counted.
Taras Chaban has a job on his hands. He has to convince the estimated 30,000
Ukrainians eligible to vote in Britain, to have their say in the up-coming
Co-ordinator of Polling Stations Abroad (UK branch) Taras will also be
monitoring the event to ensure it will be a good, clean, election fight - at
least from this end.
His trusted team of independent, unpaid volunteers, will be inside and
outside of London's only polling station in Holland Park.
"Of the 21 people counting the votes in the Ukrainian Embassy will be eight
from our group," says the 32-year-old City banker, who harks back to Sokal,
"We will not be just relying on Embassy officials employed by the
Government," he says, though he concedes that none of his people will be at
the Consulate in Edinburgh, the only other polling station available in
Although Polling Stations Abroad (PSA) or Zakordonnyj Vyborchyj Okruh has
activists in Coventry, Birmingham and Manchester, it pains him that there
are not more polling stations.
"People living in the northern city of Derby might find it difficult to
travel all the way to London," he says earnestly. "And the way the election
rules are written you have to come twice.
"First you have to make sure you are on the list of voters, so in effect you
have to register yourself in person, then you have to come again and vote."
Although Taras admits the PSA does not have any regulatory powers, among its
members are lawyers who can tell potential voters their rights.
"One misconception is that if you are an illegal immigrant - you came here
legally but overstayed your visa - that stops you from voting. That is not
true," he says. "It's just a question of getting registered."
That message has gone out to clubs and churches and into newspapers -
wherever Ukrainians can be found. The Association of Ukrainians in Great
Britain, produced for them 5,000 leaflets with helplines and website
Once the votes are counted here they will go to Kyiv to be counted again,
before the Central Commission which collects all the votes from the
country's polling stations has the final count.
Each presidential candidate has a representative who will be present - and
the votes cast in Britain will be published here as required by law.
In the first round one candidate from the 25 running has to get 50%+1 vote
in order to win. If this does not happen, another vote is held three weeks
later on November 21, where the top two take part, and the one with the most
Taras believes that every vote will count - so the new-found 5-7 million
world-wide diaspora has a role to play.
From people he has been speaking to Taras is convinced that 95% of the
voters in Britain will vote for Yushchenko.
When he was approached recently by a BBC journalist complaining that for the
sake of balance in his story he needed to find a Yanukovych voter, he
advised him to call the Ukrainian Embassy.
Was there any evidence that people here might be pressurised into voting for
the current regime? I ask. He seriously doubted such a scenario, but if it
did happen "I'd create hell", was his steely response.
Taras says that politics is a slow game unless you have a revolution -
though he did help events unfold a bit quicker as a student in 1990 when he
joined a two-week hunger strike.
The tent city hunger strikers who camped at the front of Lenin monument on
October Revolution Square called on the Government to reject the union
treaty with Russia and sack prime minister Vitaliy Masol. On both counts
Taras went to Lviv Polytechnic to do a degree in Computer Science. He then
completed an MPhil at Liverpool University in the same subject. He was
privately financed to come here.
Working and living in London's fashionable Kensington, he is often seen
taking his four-year-old daughter to Ukrainian Saturday School.
Regarding election predictions, Taras takes a deep breath and says that if
the election is fair Yushchenko can win.
As he puts it: "If Ukrainians have the strength in them to vote and stand
for their votes, if the Government tries to change them, they will change
* * * * *
Tony Leliw is a London-based journalist whose articles have appeared in respected publications such as the London Evening Standard and The Times, as well as news services in Ukraine and the U.S.
Feature stories by Mr. Leliw that have been published on Brama include :
Oct 13 05 - From War to Westminster by Stefan Terlezki CBE. Book review by Tony Leliw
Dec 1 04 - Ukrainians color London blue, yellow - and orange
Nov 24 04 - Villanous Viktor un-Vanted in UK
Nov 2 04 - Britain votes for Yushchenko
Oct 11 04 - Polling station coordinator works to simplify constitutional obstacles for voters abroad
Jul 16 04 - 'Madam Hooch' rides her broomstick in from Odesa: Actress Zoë Wanamaker offers a glimpse into her family history
Jun 7 04 - British 'heavyweight' weighs in on Ukraine elections
Mar 22 04 - If you were an oligarch ...
Mar 7 04 - Why you'll never find all the eggs in one basket
Dec 3 03 - On His Majesty's Secret Service
Oct 1 03 - Vilified, slandered and abused for telling the truth about Communism
Jul 30 03 - Malcolm Muggeridge Centenary: the journalist who reported that more than 7 million starved to death in Ukraine
Mar 24 03 - Christian fundamentalism and corruption: a member of the British House of Lords offers her views on the Iraq war and Ukraine
May 27 03 - Voting, for a song
Jan 1 03 - The road from Ukraine to Westminster and back
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