I do not know about other observers, but I was mainly pressured by other observers at my polling station on Sunday. I was pressured like a white crow. The moment I would approach the chairman of the polling station to ask something, they would suppress my voice with their louder voices. They would say things like “why are you asking this, you have no right to ask that”. As soon as I would come closer to the chairman of the polling station, they would come as well and answer the question in his stead.
Obviously, I was not paying attention to them. I considered this as a provocation to create a conflict. I knew that their goal was to incite a conflict and have me removed from the polling station under the pretext of disrupting the order. I wanted to wait until the protocol was given and stay put at the polling station no matter what. I endured this pressure patiently and quietly. I learned a lot of patience on that day. I learned to remain silent and smile in the face of a person who tries to provoke you. But I was also doing my job under stress.
Sometimes it was just too much. Psychological pressure was doing its job.
I had already prepared a number of acts about the violations I observed. I was confident that no one else would sign this act, but suddenly an international observer arrived at the polling station. This lady came in the morning as well, when we met. She was a representative of PACE. She stayed for a few minutes and then left. She did not have a translator this time. After a while, I told her that I had prepared a number of acts recording violations and would be very happy if she signed them.
The lady warily requested the translation of the reports. I quietly translated all of them. Suddenly I noticed all of the observers surround me. “What are you doing? Are you speaking English? Are you passing information to a foreigner in English here?” they asked.
One of them, a short guy wearing a scar and a black jacket, shouted: “People, a state secret is being passed to a foreigner here!” He looked at me and pointed his finger at me: “You! You are passing a state secret to a foreigner now!”
Another one, a large man, went even further and shouted to the chairman of the polling station: “This observer is violating my rights as an observer, I demand his removal him from the polling station immediately.” Women teachers sitting in back rows joined the chorus: “Yes, she should be removed from the polling station!”
After this latest slander, I decided to stay quiet. On the one hand, I feared that these arguments would lead to my expulsion from the polling station. On the other hand, it would just take my time. The observer lady left 10-15 minutes later like she did in the morning.
The attackers erected a wall separating me from the ballot box, which prevented me from observing.
Still, I just kept quiet and said to the large guy, “OK, I accept your remark. I will keep quiet and not talk to the international observer on condition that you will sit down and not talk to me anymore. Let us just continue observing. We are arguing, but the voting process goes on there.” I turned to the lady and said the following: “Sorry, they do not let me talk to you.” The lady wanted to ask why, but “the observers” stood up again and came towards us.
I turned to the lady and simply said, “I’m so sorry.” I made a gesture suggesting that I was not allowed to speak.
She remained silent as well and sat near me. For a while, a group of men wearing suits were standing nearby, and we just remained silent under their watchful eyes. As soon as we would turn our heads towards each other, they would stare at us. For few minutes, we just sat like this. Suddenly I felt a hand in my jacket. The lady slid a piece of paper somewhere between my trousers and jacket. I carefully took the paper. It was a business card. I put it into my bag surreptitiously. She whispered me not to be afraid and that she would stay at that polling station until the end of the vote counting. She did not speak Azerbaijani, but I think she understood that I was under pressure.
One hour remained until the vote count. We were sitting quietly and motionlessly. They counted the votes. In the short period of time between completion of the vote counting process and preparation of protocols, she read my acts, which I translated into English, and she signed them. When I was saying bye to her, I hugged her and told her thanks not for the things she did, but for her moral support.
“Before you entered this room, I was alone in the polling station. Imagine, everyone – members of the commission, observers, even voters – were on one side, and I was on the other side on my own. You were a moral support for me.”
Our eyes welled up. We hugged. Such a romantic ending. I will hold on to this business card as a memory…