Odessa: corruption and the 2006 elections
An analysis of infringements during this years election campaign shows that it did not differ much from previous ones in spite of favourable reports from OSCE representatives (of whom, by the way, there were considerably less this time). One of the reasons for these infringements is corruption which reaches all branches of power in our state and naturally did not bypass the elections. It has, moreover, become the basis for achieving the results needed by certain forces… It is not, therefore, strange that the Presidents Decree No. 62/2006 from 23 January 2006 “On ensuring democratic, honest and transparent elections in 2006” remained empty and unheeded words,, and the elections again became an opportunity for many people to earn on the peoples expression of will.
Without mentioning names, let us generalize from the “experience” of district electoral commissions in the 133rd district, although similar cases can be observed everywhere. In this district the local authorities staked their chances on the housing services with employees of the latter, supposedly from different parties,, forming the core of a number of commissions. These communal “activists” did not especially hide their wish to earn money.
The following are examples of some corruption mechanisms used at the election.
1. The law allows for 1 - 3 workers on electoral commissions to have time off their normal job, and they happily make use of this, fabricating the relevant protocols. As a rule this took place outside sessions of the commissions, with the latter (which, according to Article 33 § 1 of the Law of Ukraine “On the election of State Deputies of Ukraine”, function as a collective body) were presented with a fait accompli. The protocols did not contain any justification for releasing the members of commissions. The fabricated protocols were accompanied by documents claiming an average housing office salary of 600-1800 UH (for comparison – an average teachers salary is half this). It was especially simple to “be released” at special electoral stations created in penal institutions, there being four of these in the district), since according to the law, prisoners could vote for State Deputies, but not in mayoral and local council elections. Moreover the penal administrations prepared the polling stations, so the amount of job was about four times less than at usual stations. Nobody checked whether they really had been “released” from their normal jobs and whether the figures given really corresponded to their salary.
2. As mentioned, an election commission is a collective body. Yet, heads of the commissions frequently fabricated, without discussion at a sitting, decisions to employ necessary staff (often fictitious) as clerks or cleaners in March (earning 375 and 350 UH respectively plus possible remuneration of the same size depending on the results of work).
3. Another interesting protocol was created after the elections without agreement with members of commissions – the protocol on distribution of remuneration after the results of the election, when heads of the commissions decided, very frequently being guided only by personal motives, who should receive the remuneration. Some got this money, and some didnt although everybody worked under equal conditions (the heads often “forgot” about collective decisions, falsifications were observed, because, as a rule, the sittings were not gathered after the election). Along with the fee for the day of voting, the members of election commissions could earn more if they had saved (to the extent of the savings). For instance, three members of an election commission at special voting station No. 167 in this district were “released” for the month of the elections. By supposedly having a salary of 1600-1800 UH, they got this money and deprived other members of the commission of additional remuneration.
Without doubt, these questions must be regulated at the legislative level, but not on the level of normative acts of the Central Election Commission, which are not known even to members of electoral commissions, let alone ordinary citizens (one wonders whether such CEC acts are registered with the Ministry of Justice?). All district commissions work under more or less equal conditions, so the chances for obtaining remuneration for this hard work should be equal too. However, now it directly depends on the number of released members of the commission and their salaries. So, in some commissions the additional remuneration will be paid (with the amount very different which is also not normal), while in others not. Article 50 § 2 of the Law of “On the election of State Deputies of Ukraine” stipulates a minimum salary for members of election commissions released from their usual duties at their main place of work, but there is no upper limit. This resulted in mass corruption and violation of rights of other members of election commissions who did not obtain additional remuneration.
4. As a rule, district commissions have no information as to whether the cost estimate of the commission for preparing and running the elections has been met (and sometimes even about the estimate itself). So, 542 UH were allotted for purchase of materials and implements, 802 UH – for transport services and maintenance of vehicles, 787 UH – for communication services and 963 UH – for other services and other expenditures (totally 3094 UH). Such expenditure is envisaged for large polling stations, for medium-size stations the amounts are mush less – 260 UH. Besides, there is a paradox that communication services are not paid in case, and only for installation and use of phone, and, for example, payment for mobile telephones is not planned at all. The money is allegedly allocated to a polling station, but the latter does not see this money and knows nothing about it.
The information about the size of expenditure and savings was zealously protected like state secrets by the head and chief accountant of district commission No. 133 (and, probably, of other commissions too).
Having several sources of easy “earning”, heads of district commissions must guarantee the needed result (in order to make the work of “inexperienced” housing services employees “easier”, the Odessa city district commission distributed “examples” of protocols for counting votes, in which the names of real candidates, for instance, to the mayors post and approximate number of votes, were written; so, operating mayor E. Gurvits had to occupy the convincing first place, the “technical” candidate that had to “shove back” the real rivals – the second place, etc.). It is obvious that the local authorities could not cover all commissions with this “cobweb”, but even one half was sufficient to achieve the desired result.Naturally, these examples are only fragments of a complicated mosaic of various election machinations. One must not think that such methods of “organization” of election are typical only for Odessa. Maybe in other places such facts were not noticed and made public. We have a long way to go to honest and transparent elections, as well as to the creation of a democratic and law-based state