Despite corruption and disillusionment, Ukrainian turnout surpassed Canada’s [Article]

From Gerard Kennedy, MP for Parkdale-High Park in the Toronto Star:
Add in a razor’s edge margin between shifting coalitions within a few points of one another over the last several elections, which makes every single vote consequential.

That was Sunday’s presidential election runoff in Ukraine.

That was also the challenge for an estimated 3,700 international observers, including at least 280 Canadians, trying to cover 35,000 polls in 26 oblasts (provinces) in this country of 46 million.

Yet the grim context was belied by the mobilization of half a million dutiful citizens to stage the election themselves through national, regional and poll level committees and by a voter turnout higher than during Canada’s last federal election.

The worn schools, factories and volleyball stadiums that housed some of the polling sites often were freezing cold, yet polling station teams of 16 women and men sat for 15-hour shifts, and then sat again in the hallways of municipal buildings waiting for hours more through the night to turn in their bulging bags of ballots and meticulous count protocols to the regional committee.

The Orange Revolution lives, it seems, underground.

Their humble ambition has already infected hundreds of individual Canadians, many of Ukrainian heritage, who have grown from previous short-term election observers into admirable long-term investors of their personal time, trouble and hope through repeated impressive weeks-long deployments to help regulate the country’s do-it-yourself election efforts.

Canadian governments, institutions, private companies and NGOs (not only Ukrainian Canadian ones) need to be linked in a strategy to make us a helpful presence that will assist a turnaround for a country that is connected to 1 million Canadians, on the way to forging a mutually beneficial, special social and economic relationship.

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