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Candid Camera: Azerbaijani Election Workers Appear To Switch Ballot Box


Apparent Vote Fraud In Azerbaijan's Presidential Vote
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WATCH: Apparent Vote Fraud In Azerbaijan's Presidential Vote

Azerbaijan's Central Election Commission (MSK) installed web cameras at more than 1,000 polling stations across the country for the April 11 presidential vote, saying they would make "the activity of the commission...transparent to voters."

And footage from several stations does just that.

One video even shows how CEC members may have carried out electoral fraud when a team of poll workers appeared to switch a ballot box while briefly blocking the view of an "online observation" camera.

Other videos have also emerged depicting what looks like multiple voting in a number of locations, with the same woman apparently voting at two different polling stations in one case.

The clumsily coordinated ballot-box switch took place in Kurdamir, a town of 19,000 people about 210 kilometers west of Baku.

It involved at least four of the six MSK workers at Kurdamir's Polling Station 2, in voting district No. 57 -- including the polling-station chief, who told RFE/RL there were no irregularities.

Although the other two MSK members at the polling station do not appear to play an active part, the footage shows them in the room at the time.

According to the date stamp on the video, the swap took place at 12:07 p.m. when, according to the MSK in Baku, voter turnout across the country had reached 39 percent.

First, an election worker with a sheet of paper in his hand is seen walking from a table behind two ballot boxes to a place beneath the camera where he cannot be seen.

The translucent sides of the ballot boxes facing the camera do not contain the MSK's official logo. One is about half-full. The other, which is partially blocked from the camera's view by an Azerbaijani flag, is about 20 percent full.

As soon as the man with the paper is out of the camera's view, a woman poll worker is ushered out of an office by the MSK's polling-station chairman, Elmusa Novruzov, who can be seen giving her directions.

He also appears to give directions to a fourth person who is in the office but cannot be seen.

Novruzov points to the ballot box that, later in the video, appears to have been swapped out. He gestures with his hand back toward the office. The woman in a vest stands beside the ballot box and waits.

Meanwhile, a man who appears to be keeping lookout glances furtively around the corner.

He speaks to someone out of view beneath the camera moments before a blank sheet of paper is held in front of the camera for eight seconds.

After the paper is removed, the election worker can be seen walking back to his table, paper still in hand, and a different ballot box is sitting next to the flag.

It is identifiable by a MSK logo that faces the camera, the fact that it is nearly half-full, and because it was placed on the table so hastily that the edge of its upper lid rests on top of the other ballot box.

The woman in the vest, seeing the new ballot box doesn't sit flat on the table, attempts to rearrange it.

About two minutes later, noticing that the MSK logo is facing the camera, she turns it around.

When asked by RFE/RL about the MSK's webcam footage from his Kurdamir polling station, Novruzov denied there was a ballot-box switch or any vote tampering. He also said nobody walked beneath the camera with a paper in his hand and insisted that nobody covered the camera.

"All of that information is untrue. Nothing was replaced here," Novruzov said. "No one even touched the camera or was near it. It might be that there was a technical glitch with the camera for a few seconds."

"I haven't seen any footage," Novruzov told RFE/RL on April 11. "I have heard there was footage, but it's a lie. There was just a technical glitch with the camera. Nothing like this ever happened. It's a lie."

Other than Novruzov, it was not immediately possible to identify the individuals in the video.

But according to the MSK's website, the commission's other workers at district No. 57's Polling Station 2 were secretaries Ata Balayev and Kamil Haciyev, and MSK members Samira Babarahimova, Bayram Ceferov, and Qanira Xalilova.

Novruzov confirmed that they were all present at his polling station for the April 11 election.

Natig Mamadov, the deputy head of the MSK, rejected numerous allegations voters have made about poll workers committing fraud and other irregularities. Mamadov told the Turan news agency that all reports of violations were "lies."

In a different video published by RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service, the same woman can be seen voting at two different polling stations -- numbers 14 and 18 -- in the Yasamal neighborhood of the capital, Baku. She is wearing the same shawl with a floral motif on her shoulders in both stations but no glasses in the second station.

In another station in Yasamal -- number 15 -- CCTV footage shows a woman putting what appears to be two ballots in the same box.

Also in Station 15 in Yasamal, cellphone footage posted on Twitter appears to show at least two women huddled in the same voting booth before one of them exits it.

However, the CEC said in a statement that reports and videos of apparent voting violations were fake.

"Unreliable news...has been spread on social networks. We would like to point out that the CEChas not yet received official complaints about violations during the election," the statement said.

"The CEC believes that those fake news stories, photographs, and videos are meant to discredit the electoral process and deceive observers," the statement added.

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