Sunday, 10 July 2005

Albania revisited / the elections (2)

So part 2 of the elections. We started again at 7.00 taking over from B team to observe the counting of the ballots. That is for sure the most dreadful job I have ever done and experienced. It was just sitting at a table, look from a distance to what the counters are doing and have a chat with one's neighbor. Happily there were lot's of complaints from the (ruling) Socialist Party (SP) and the small parties. The SP at one moment even called it's counters (there were counters from all parties in every Counting Team (CT)) to leave the gym. The ZEC posted a policeman at the door so the SP members couldn't leave and then they just simply refused to count anymore which also delayed the counting process. The SP figured it was going to loose (so far that seems true) and tried some delay-tactics to make alliances. The small parties on the other hand accused the CTs of stacking or stealing of votes. To take the unrest in the gym away, we suggested to move from behind the bar to the counting tables itself. As we were OSCE the ZEC allowed us to do that, although the observers of the Albanian Youth Council, ENEMO and party observers were not. This move, calmed down the small parties, but gave me the shock of my life. You have to know, that it is now allowed to change anything or interfere with anything as an observer, as you are simply there to OBSERVE. Well, when you see the votes of 5 small parties (all with 1 to 10 votes) being put on one pile and counted for one party, you really have to blink with your eyes to really understand what just happened. At 16.00 our shift was over and B team relieved us till 00.00.

Our zone had 57 VCs and when we returned at 00.00 only 3 more VCs had to be counted. It took them till bloody 5.30 to do that. What happened was that all the CT members got tired and went home to get some sleep after they finished their last box. Unfortunately also the CT of the very last box did that. So only the chair of the CT was still counting and when he wanted to hand it all in, it was refused by the ZEC, as the other members didn't sign. So they had to get them back, but when they finally got back, they didn't want to just accept what the chair had done and started to count all over again. I was so bloody tired at that point as it was so utterly boring...

After getting some 2 hrs sleep, we paid our driver and interpreter and got on the bus back to Tirana. At the end of the day there was a "thank you" and "farewell"-party at the Sheraton, which I survived. After that we went to the (new) Living Room (one of the hottest clubs in town) to party a little bit more, but after a little dancing I crashed at 23.00. I just sat down and stared into nothing till 00.00 when I decided to go to bed. I got a cold from the open window on the way back (still have it), had a headache and could hardly walk anymore due to lack of sleep.

After a terrible night, of hardly any sleep, I had a coffee with a very good friend first, went to the embassy to say goodbye and (finally) get my recommendation, packed and left for the airport. I was happy that Cas' driver brought me, as the bus that picked up the other delegation at their respective hotels was late and when we were already in the plane we feared that they wouldn't going to make it. They did and we had a safe flight back (else I wouldn't be writing this, ain't I?).

It was a great experience and for sure for a next time as well (although I'm not excepted in our ministries pool of STOs), but it was hard. But hey, no reward without a battle. :) Till next time, my lovely Albania. Falemenderit for everything.

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