Franklin County veterans services coordinator Mike Pate recently returned from Ukraine where he assisted with the election of the country’s new president.
He called the trip a “great adventure.”
“It’s been one of the possibly most awe-inspiring and humbling experiences I’ve had in my life,” Pate said.
Pate served as an international election observer for the election last month in which Petro Porshenko was elected. Pate noted that Porshenko is also known as the “candy man” because he made money selling chocolate.
“He had a clear cut majority by 55 percent,” Pate said, adding that voter turnout for the election was more than 60 percent.
Pate’s job as international election observer was to make sure voters were not intimidated and that ballots were processed according to proper standards.
“There was intimidation in a lot of places throughout the country where we had observers at,” Pate said. “But the people (voters) came out.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin had about one million agents in the country trying to disrupt the election, Pate said, adding about 40 people were killed leading up to the election.
The people had to vote on paper ballots, Pate said. Some were so proud that they kissed the ballots. Families showed up to vote together, and the Ukrainians repeatedly thanked Pate and the other election observers for their help.
Pate spoke highly of Ukraine, saying the country makes the biggest airplane in the world and that its rockets put the Soviet space station in orbit. Ukraine also has more farmland than the United States and has a 94 percent literacy rate, he said.
“The country’s got a dynamic about it that makes you proud to be part of what was going on,” Pate said.
But the Ukrainians need help with everything, he said, adding that the country has potential and is a good partner for the United States, especially when it comes to trading.
Pate made a report on his trip during this week’s Franklin County Commission meeting. Presiding County Commissioner John Griesheimer said it was a “great honor” for a Franklin County resident to help with the Ukraine election, and meeting attendees applauded Pate.
There has been much unrest in Ukraine in recent months as the country has clashed with pro-Russian separatists, who have seized Ukranian government buildings. Some have died in the fighting, and Russia annexed the former Ukraine territory of the Crimea Peninsula.
Ukraine’s former President Viktor Yanukovich went to Russia after people protested his decision to favor closer relations with Russia instead of the European Union.