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Students' votes being bought in Narva, says local TÜ college director

Kristina Kallas.
Kristina Kallas. Source: ERR

The director of the University of Tartu's Narva college, Kristina Kallas, wrote on social media on Wednesday that students in the city were being offered money in exchange for their vote in the local election. Students were being carted to polling stations in their teachers’ cars.

Kallas wrote that teachers were driving students to polling stations in their cars in order to avoid attracting too much attention. The chairman of the local voting district had to remind voters that taking pictures of one’s ballot papers was illegal. If a student could prove that they had voted for the right candidate, certain people were paying them €10, Kallas wrote on Facebook.

Asked about the matter by ERR, Kallas said that she knew about what is going on in Narva from a local journalist. According to that journalist, the chairman of the voting district had already been beside himself because people were taking pictures of their ballot papers, Kallas said.

Though she stressed that she wasn’t accusing anyone in particular: “I’m not accusing anyone in particular, but I’m saying there’s a lot of unethical activity in Narva during this election campaign,” Kallas said.

She added that she posted on Facebook after hearing about what was going on from several different people. Students from all the schools were going, there were lots of people doing it, lots of school classes, Kallas insisted.

According to her, the vote-buying from students is camouflaged as a series of class excursions to the local public utility supplying the city with water, Narva Vesi. These excursions were nothing more than a front, Kallas said. “It’s all fixed, and Narva Vesi themselves are saying that it’s happening. What exactly is being said on these excursions nobody knows, but the question is why these excursions are all done on Oct. 10,” she added.

At least one school director had sent a letter through the school’s e-school system asking parents to vote for them. “I have this letter. A letter was sent to the parents using the school’s infrastructure,” Kallas said.

“What bothers me a great deal is that this actually makes it impossible to make sure that the election in Narva is fair.” Kallas commented that in terms of her world view, she didn’t mind the Center Party winning, and neither did she have any other reason to be against them. “I simply want the elections to be fair,” she said.

The local election’s results couldn’t be seen as fair if there was this much manipulating and influencing going on, with people using state resources, their own position—there was simply no way of making sure, Kallas insisted. “In reality we don’t know how great the support for the Center Party is,” she said.

Though she is a member of the Social Democrats, Kallas isn’t a candidate in the current election in Narva. She is an advisor to Katri Raik, the rector of the Estonian Academy of Security Sciences, but neither belongs to Raik’s election coalition nor to her campaign team.

Parents confirm accusations

A parent who wished to remain anonymous told ERR on Wednesday that a senior teacher at their child’s school had called the whole class into the corridor, where they told the students present to vote for the school’s director.

Their kid had told them that they were taken to the polling station by car. Open political agitation had been going on already for two weeks, and to an extent that their kid wanted to stay at home. “They were told at the beginning of every lesson who they had to vote for,” the parent said.

The students, at 16 or older of voting age in these elections, had been divided up into groups and then taken to polling stations. This had been going on all day long, and the kids were made to vote for the school’s director, the parent confirmed.

The main argument brought up was the future of the school, which according to her statement to ERR’s Jüri Nikolajev came as a complete surprise to the deputy director of Narva’s school for adults, Jelena Kavrus. “I have no idea. Strange. It’s no secret that I’m running in the election, but organized [support]? Come on. I don’t have any idea who of the teachers would get them to go and vote for me,” Kavrus said.

There were numerous complaints concerning suspected manipulations in Narva already on Tuesday, involving students as well as adult voters.

To Kallas, what is going on in the local election is similar to elections in Ukraine, where she figured as an observer in 2014. “When I observed the elections in Ukraine in 2014, I was deeply shocked by what I saw. Votes were bought, state resources abused to the maximum of their capacity. This here is exactly the same model, exactly the same attitude, exactly the same political culture that I saw in Ukraine,” Kallas said, adding that she was shocked that this was happening in present-day Estonia.

Editor: Dario Cavegn

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