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16.10.2008

Committee of Voters predicts dirty campaign

   

Snap elections are typically said to be very expensive and hit the pockets of each Ukrainian. However much poorer will Ukrainians be? What is cheaper – to hold the elections or not? The BBC’s Svitlana Pyrkalo put these questions to Oleksandr Chernenko, Head of the Committee of Voters of Ukraine [CVU]/

Oleksandr Chernenko:  It is of course a myth that the elections are expensive. I didn’t feel the budget for voters on holding the previous elections.  At present the Central Election Commission [CEC] estimate that 417 million UAH will be needed. The last elections cost 370 million, however if one take inflation into account the figures are comparable. So to be frank, the amount of money in terms of the budget as a whole is not so huge. It’s around 7 UAH per voter. I think that the price of democracy should be much higher, and that it’s parliament’s paralysis and the permanent political crisis which cost much more. It’s another question whether the elections will resolve this crisis. The main thing is for the money to be allocated on time so that the elections can be organized.

BBC  There is also suggestion that turnout could be in jeopardy, that people are so disillusioned that they could simply not go to polling stations, that it will be cold and so on. What is your opinion?

Oleksandr Chernenko:  There is an initiative at the moment to remove the turnout threshold. I think this is correct since it’s an anachronism – there isn’t turnout through the whole world, and a lot less than 50% go.

BBC: Well, not a lot, after all more than half go.

Oleksandr Chernenko: I think that more than 50% will undoubtedly come to vote. It will be 60%, or at most 65%, but of course not the 75% who usually come.  However, even if people in Ukraine may be against the elections if their political forces take part in the elections, they will come, or will even vote against them all.  The latest survey found up to 11% ready to vote against all parties but take part.  That’s a very large figure, it will halve, or course, by the elections, but it is still a dangerous trend. We don’t need to doubt that people will come to vote.

BBC:  Before the elections there is often worrying talk about vote-rigging. This time they say that it will be even worse than at the last elections. What do you think?

Oleksandr Chernenko  They do certainly say it before each election, however it all depends on the parties which put their people on commissions. Another problem is that the elections will indeed be very badly organized and will be held amid a certain amount of chaos. And of course we’ll have a lot of unpleasant things during the campaigning. That includes “jeansa” or paid material [supposedly “news” – translator] in the media. After the Kyiv elections we cannot exclude the use of mass bribing of voters by some political forces. If we speak of the opportunity for rigging at polling stations on voting day, then since 2004 there has not been such mass-scale and systematic abuse. It’s very difficult to achieve in practice. The election campaign will be unpleasant, dirty and there will be constant claims in the courts but we will not have particular problems, aside from possible buying of votes, at the polling stations.

www.bbc.co.uk/ukrainian

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