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13 Dec 10

Videos Highlight Mass Fraud Concern in Kosovo Poll

An election official fraudulently filled in an official voters list for three hours in one of the two disputed municipalities in Kosovo’s parliamentary poll. 

Lawrence Marzouk
Pristina

A video, recorded by BIRN, shows the man signing the book, possibly in a bid to ensure the number of votes cast matched the number of ‘voters’ which had signed the list.

Allegations of massive fraud during Kosovo’s parliamentary elections have emerged today, following the December 12 poll.

Concerns have been raised about the extraordinary high turnouts in two municipalities, Skenderaj/Srbica and Gllogovc/Glogovac, both strongholds of the Democratic Party of Kosovo led by Prime Minister Hashim Thaci, who last night claimed victory.

BIRN monitors in the village of Llaushe, Skenderaj, recorded one election official filling in the final voters’ lists, which records the number of people to have cast their ballot, between 4pm and 7pm.

Another video from the same polling station shows officials changing already cast ballots during the count by ticking the names of the 'preferred candidates'. Kosovo's election law allows voters to select a party as well as their five preferred candidates from the same party.

A complaint has been submitted by BIRN about the results from this polling station.

One senior diplomat, speaking to The Economist, said he witnessed “industrial-scale” fraud in Skenderaj, while another says that in the same area the words “vote count” should be substituted by “vote cook”.

Kosovo’s Central Election Commission recorded a 94 per cent turnout in Skenderaj and 86 per cent in Gllogovc/Glogovac, well above the 47.8 per cent national average and figures from last year’s local poll.

Skenderaj has 49,000 eligible voters, while Gllogovc/Glogovac has 47,000.

Democracy in Action, the 5,000-strong civil society monitoring mission; ENEMO, European Network of Election Monitoring Organizations; a team of MEPs; and party officials have also questioned the results.

In a statement today, the MEPs wrote: “Serious allegations of fraud in two municipalities have been brought to the attention of the delegation. “The delegation encourages the political parties to follow proper legal procedures. 

“Identified perpetrators should be prosecuted promptly in line with the law in order to curtail the culture of impunity."

The EU parliamentarians also noted a ‘well organised election day with a good voter turnout’.

Of the turnout figures, ENEMO said: “These figures represent a significant increase compared to the 2009 elections when figures were already questioned in these municipalities by observers including the ENEMO mission.”

The mission also added that the secrecy of the vote was not respected. “In a stunning 36 per cent of polling stations visited, cases of group or family voting were observed.”

The counting process was assessed as bad or very bad in 12 per cent of the polling stations observed during the closing and counting procedures, it found.

Critics have also pointed out that the voters' list is inaccurate, including many dead people and members of the diaspora, making such high turnouts improbable.

According to exit polls and estimates of the voting released by Democracy in Action, Hashim Thaci’s PDK appears on course to win the election.

But processing of the Skenderaj and Gllogovc results has stopped at the Counting and Results Centre while complaints are investigated.

The US Ambassador to Kosovo, Christopher Dell, was among those to have uncovered fraud in Skenderaj during the vote.

In a statement issued today, the embassy congratulated Kosovo on its first post-independence general elections but called on the country’s institutions to “show the public that they are prepared to defend the integrity of the right to vote”.

Dell, according to the statement, found irregularities at the Hamez Jashari High School in Skenderaj where the number of ballots in the box exceeded the number of signatures in the voters’ book.  

“We understand that there were other instances of irregularities that occurred in Skenderaj and Gllogovc,” the statement added.

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