On the election campaign in Kharkov and the Kharkov oblast
The Kharkov group for human rights protection, jointly with the Institute of mass information and the international center against censorship “Article 19”, realizes the monitoring of mass media and election campaign. Here we present the review of the results of monitoring of the beginning of the election campaign.
The first stage of the election campaign has finished: nomination and registration of candidates to the Presidents post, forming of electoral districts and district election commissions. Now the lists of voters are compiled; the pre-election agitation and collection of signatures in the support of candidates have begun.
Summing up the events during the first six weeks of the election campaign in Kharkov, one can predict that the election-2004 would break records by many characteristics: expenditures for the election campaign, use of power for various kinds of pressure on voters in order to force them to support Prime-Minister Viktor Yanukovich, the “only candidate from power”, use of “dirty” election technologies against his main rivals and unequal access of candidates to mass media. The scale of the activities directed to the victory of the “only candidate from power” is astonishing. The city and the oblast are flooded with the big-boards and posters with the slogans “The Kharkov oblast – for Yanukovich”; placards with the same slogan are placed on public transport, cars, shops, etc. It seems that entire districts endorse Yanukovich, that some referendum was conducted. Numerous actions are organized with signing of the collective appeals in the support of Yanukovich: “Sportsmen for Yanukovich”, “Teachers for Yanukovich”, “Scientists for Yanukovich”, etc. All this resembles the time, when comrade Stalin was called “the best friend” of all categories of population. The visits to flats of citizens also have the mass character: there is the impression that the order was given to visit all dwellings of Kharkov, to learn whether Kharkovites are going to vote for V. Yanukovich and to collect the maximal number of signatures in this support. We have fixed the following facts.
1. Conduction of “sociological polls” – the interviewers ask, for which candidate the respondents are going to vote. Such “polls” are conducted allegedly on behalf of district executive committees, and the women, who collect these data, also ask to communicate the name and surname of the respondent, saying that they would be dismissed, if they would not present the corresponding lists to district executive committees.
2. Collection of signatures in the support of V. Yanukovich by persons, who are coming to flats of Kharkovites. The lists contain no data about the person collecting signatures. Sometimes the data about the electoral centers are written in the lists; for instance, we have seen the list with the hand-written headline “Electoral center No. 1B, the Academy of municipal economy”. Most often the signatures are collected by teachers and the workers of communal enterprises.
3. Collection of signatures at enterprises, establishments and organizations, in particular, budget ones. Heads of departments and workshops demand signatures from their subordinates, doctors – from their patients, etc.
Evidently, the organization of such “polls” and collection of signatures are impossible without the use of power, although it is prohibited by the Law of Ukraine “On election of the President of Ukraine”. This is demonstrated most vividly by public actions, such as the meeting-concert in the support of Yanukovich, which was organized in Kharkov on 14 July; from 50 to 10 thousand persons, by different estimations, took part in this action. The participants even did not conceal that they were made to come there by their direct bosses. Similar meetings were held in some district centers of the oblast.
At the same time, mass actions were observed aimed at discrediting of main rivals of the “only candidate from power”, most of all, Viktor Yushchenko. We have fixed the following facts.
1. Mass distribution through mailboxes of leaflets without dateline containing the insulting data about Yushchenko and his team: accusations of corruption, Nazi views, Russophobia, anti-Semitism, etc., as well as the falsified agitation materials with dateline, for instance, Oleksandr Morozs letter to voters, which reads that Yushchenko is allegedly selling Ukraine to Russia.
2. Provocative invitations to the non-existent meetings with Yushchenko – such invitations were found in district centers Dergachi and Valki. It is significant that, by the information of the press-service of the Kharkov regional headquarters of “Our Ukraine”, none of local newspaper or TV channel agreed to publish the information about these provocations, referring to the oral order; our monitoring of local mass media also did not reveal any information about these facts, except the party press of “Our Ukraine”.
3. Agitators of “Our Ukraine” are regularly threatened, they are detained during distribution of agitation materials. Some of them have turned to prosecutors offices and courts with the complaints against the illegal actions.
Analyzing local mass media, one can draw the conclusion that the press endorse the “only candidate from power” elucidating his activities only positively, or do not want to mention the election campaign at all. For example, the TV channel “Simon”, after the frank reportage about the meeting of 14 July, showed no materials about election for more than three weeks. At the same time, any criticism of V. Yanukovichs team is very venturesome. So, after the publication in the newspaper “Novosti Chugueva” (No. 32 of 7 August) of the article of Viktoria Tokar, a deputy of the town council, about the agitation for V. Yanukovich carried out by the officials of the executive committee in labor hours, editor of the newspaper Yuri Chumak was dismissed from his post, and later he got the proposition to leave the job “on his own initiative”.
Thus, all promises of the power to conduct the honest and transparent election are not, as always, kept. The beginning of the election campaign evidences about brutal violations. Unfortunately, almost nobody resists these violations; single complaints to law-enforcing organs instead of mass ones, absence of attention of mass media to these violations cause the impunity. If the situation would not change, then one can expect for the further intensification of administrative pressure on voters and the teams of opposition candidates.