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What will really happen in Donetsk on November 2? 

What will really happen in Donetsk on November 2? 
Article by: Ilya Trebor
Translated by: Mariya Shcherbinina
The news that deal with the elections of the ‘head’ of the group ‘DNR’ and the so-called ‘members of the People’s Council’ of the ‘republic’ are immediately caught on by the Ukrainian public and spread with extraordinary speed and intensity. However, what really stands behind the ‘elections,’ which are going unacknowledged by Ukraine and the international community? 

The news about voting through the Internet, announced by the ‘CEC’ were spread massively around Ukraine, the same happened with the propaganda video clip in which a Donetsk Drama Theater across in a Russian kokoshnik (a type of headdress) proposes to vote for the current ‘Prime Minister’ Alexandr Zakharchenko.

The very fact that there is so much interest is logical and natural – not only Ukraine, but the entire world are paying an abnormal amount of attention to the situation in so-called ‘Novorossiya.’ Another thing is interesting: both the kokoshnik girl and the Internet voting is just the tiny tip of the iceberg. It does not even demonstrate a fraction of what is happening around the November 2 elections.

“Entrust power to the smart, the strong, the courageous and the worthy”

As such, besides the Drama Theater actress, propaganda materials included numerous people: leaders of civil organization, youth representatives and even fighters of the illegal armed formations. And these electoral clips, about a minute each, are being actively broadcast on ‘republican’ channels. Most of them are general in nature – the somewhat disappointed citizens of Donbas are being called not to ignore the elections and “entrust power to the smart, the strong, the courageous and the worthy.”

However, there are personal instances in propaganda which mostly advertise the current head of the ‘DNR’ Zakharchenko. These may include not only the actress from Donetsk in Russian national dress or billboards with his face in the streets of Donetsk, but the numerous statements the ‘Prime Minister’ had recently made himself. He does not shy away from promising pensions in the beginning of December, and salaries for miners within ten days or even a week.

His main point is that Ukraine has to be jealous of the independence and the future of the ‘republic.’ This is probably why, according to surveys which were held by the Donetsk State University of Management (the ‘DNR education minister’s’ alma mater), he now has 51,3% support.

If we investigate thoroughly, the start of the propaganda campaign of the ‘minister’ started with a big interview to a Russian publication: in it, Zakharchenko was depicted as a courageous warrior and an amateur politician who calmly speaks about “cutting the entire delegation” in Minsk. He supports his loud statement with slightly odious appearances before the elections. For example, on ‘Flag Day,’ which was celebrated on October 19 in the ‘republic,’ numerous cars with his portrait circulated around the main street of Donetsk, and a bit later he sang from the booth together with Josif Kobzon himself, which, naturally, will be reflected on the electorate’s attitude towards the former electrical mechanic. Especially if we take into account that his main competitors at the elections are Oleg Tsariov’s trustee and a hand-combat trainer.

War against all

In general, when we look at any events on the territory which is being controlled by mercenaries through the prism of elections, we can reach the conclusion that there is a real political process behind the scenes of the ‘DNR,’ with three candidates to the post of the ‘head’ of the republic, two parties, with their own opposition and lobbyists. There is even ‘black PR’: some representatives of the groups try to take over, calling for the citizens to remain at home on November 2, and head of ‘Vostok’ battalion Alexandr Khodakovsky even openly accuses one of the leaders of the ‘public’ formations Pavel Gubarev of looting, thus destroying his already weakened political weight (the ‘Central Electoral Committee’ refused to register the movement of the ‘people’s governor’).

However, this is a somewhat erroneous conclusion. First, the leaders of the ‘republic’ are having difficulties influencing the will of the Donetsk citizens to participate in the vote. The minority have long been disappointed by the ‘DNR’ and only waits when economic problems will take their toll on the ‘youthful state’… The majority thinks that such a luxury as election in wartime is a criminally out-of-place and everyone should have long consolidated and ‘advanced at Kyiv.’ Second, there can be no ‘free expression of will’ in the ‘DNR.’

“A purely symbolic idea”

The events that will take place on November 2 are definitely doomed to be compared with the March 11 ‘referendum’: these are singular points on the internal political continuum which the organizers of the ‘people’s republics’ managed to achieve as of today. However, the ‘plebiscite’ in May with its Xeroxed ballots which were counted in less than 12 hours had two concrete goals. The first is to provide the illusion of legitimacy to the so-called ‘DNR,’ to enable the speakers at pro-Russian meetings to talk about the determination of the people of Donbas. The second was to use psychological needs for consequentialism for the people who have put the unfortunate check mark next to ‘yes.’

The effect is known to technologists and it is what makes it impossible to just renounce the ‘republic’ a certain person had given their vote to. And it is even unessential what was written on the ballot (even the Mayor of Donetsk Oleksandr Lukyanenko emphasized: he was “not too sure that most people understood what they voted for”): the psychological anchors will not allow them to renounce the mercenaries. The ‘elections’ to the ‘People’s Council’ have a different goal: they are simply a decoration.

This is evidenced by the intercepted calls between the leaders of pro-Russian groups. The recording was made public by the Ukrainian NSDC and in it, Russian citizen Alexandr Boroday, who had officially been fired from all ‘DNR’ posts, explains to the ‘first speaker of the republic’ Boris Litvinov who took up some initiative and “demonstrated an inflexible position” as to what to do and how to behave. Throughout the conversation, in become clear the everything is controlled 100%, and they also mention “famous comrades from the Center,” who authored the entire plot.

“These ‘elections,’ ideally, have to provide more legitimacy to the current leadership of the Donetsk and Luhansk ‘republics.’ However, those who did not acknowledge the referenda in these formations will not acknowledge the elections either. In general, holding any kind of election in wartime is a purely symbolic idea and frequently has little to do with democracy,” says director of the Center of Eurasian Studies Volodymyr Kornilov, nothing that the republican vote is a copy of the Ukrainian October 26 elections.

How will they vote?

The aspects of the voting process are also interesting. As such, on May 11, according to Mayor Lukyanchenko, for a full-fledged procedure in Donetsk, it was necessary to open 426 polling stations, which would cost about 8 million UAH. The fact that only a fraction of the polls opened at the ‘referendum’ and that there was no official committee is already eloquent enough.

Numbers are numbers. The territory of the ‘DNR’ is now somewhat bigger than Donetsk and if we are to trust the ‘head of the CEC’ Roman Liagin and the first issue of the ‘DNR CEC Tribune,’ about 700 polls will be opened for voting. Naturally, once more they will use the technology of creating queues at the polls – only a fraction of them will open (some districts already have lists of polling stations and their number is far from what is necessary). But even to do this, they need money which the ‘republic’ now clearly lacks. Therefore, they will once more have to print electoral documentation on home printers, or the ‘Mayor’ of Donetsk who was appointed by the leaders of pro-Russian Donbas Igor Martinov will stage a miracle and hold the elections free of charge. And it seems that this task is under the competence of the former amusement park director.

This is probably why they invented Internet voting for the ‘republic.’ The official reason for this is to give an opportunity to vote for those citizens who are outside of the ‘youthful state.’ However, despite Liagin’s claims that the verification procedure and security system with unique protocol numbers had already been developed, only the statements that “the voter will be able to either vote online or print out the ballot, vote and send it by post mail” negates all doubts regarding the vote.

As such, it remains a mystery what exactly will happen on November 2 and what the real goal will be, and the broader public will not be privy to this information any time soon. The only thing left to do is to watch the pseudoelectoral confusion and await the already obvious results.

Translated by: Mariya Shcherbinina
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