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28.12.2009

CVU: electoral shenanigans on the rise but no flagrant pressure on voters

   

In its monitoring report on the presidential election campaign for 1-25 December 2009, the Committee of Voters of Ukraine [CVU] follows the campaign, the work of the Central and district electoral commissions and formation and beginning of work of the precinct electoral commissions.

It reports that in December most candidates intensified their campaigning. In some cases the campaigning was accompanied by the use of official position, non-pecuniary bribing of voters and circulation of “black PR [public relations]”. CVU did not, however, record any flagrant cases of pressure on voters or violation of their rights.

As of the end of December 2009, CVU considers the most serious threat to democratic elections in Ukraine to be the lack of funding for the elections in 2009, as well as the failure to pass a budget for 2010. CVU stresses that any other means of financing the elections, other than those envisaged by legislation, place in question the legitimacy of the electoral process.

 CVU is concerned by a number of contradictory decisions issued by the Central Election Commission [CEC], some of which were revoked by the courts. CVU deems that in some cases CEC overstepped their powers, while in others it was biased with regard to some presidential candidates.  The decisions pertained to the following: non-observance of the principle of proportional representation during changes of leadership on district electoral commissions; free interpretation by the CEC of the norms of the Law on the Presidential Elections concerning voting according to where the voter is abiding; the inclusion of voters on Election Day onto the voter list by the precinct electoral commission; approval of the form of the voting paper.  Nor does CVU consider the warning issued by the CEC to candidate Yulia Tymoshenko to be sufficiently well-founded.

CVU states that all these decisions show that most members of the Central Election Commission remain politically engaged and in some cases act with bias regarding certain candidates. CVU does not consider such politicization of the CEC to be unacceptable.

While finding that district electoral commissions [DEC] in the main coped with their duties, the CVU notes that these commissions’ work is hampered by constant rotation in leadership and inadequate material and technical provisions. Weather conditions also caused problems in some regions. As of the end of December certain district commissions had not yet opened accounts, arguing that there was no funding for the elections anyway.

The changes in DEC leadership were linked with the low professional level of representatives of candidates and parties, lack of experience and skills and the inability to work in a team.

CVU notes having received unofficial information that in some cases there had been refusals to work in the management of the DEC due to bribery from the election headquarters of other candidates. A lot of DEC members have said that they will refuse to carry out their work if the elections are not properly funded in the near future.

There were problems in December with the formation of precinct electoral commissions since the candidates were irresponsible as regards putting forward their representatives to these commissions. There were cases where people were put on the commission without their consent, with statements indicating agreement being forged, hence refusals to participate were quite common.  In some electoral districts 20-30% of the total number of members of precinct electoral commissions have stepped down.

The CVU also mentions the widespread practice of submitting so-called “doubles”, where people are put forward for the commission from different candidates. This problem, CVU says, is of an overall nature, with as many as 200 “doubles” being put forward for one electoral district.

Just over half the precinct electoral commissions began their work according to the timeframe stipulated by legislation.  A separate issue is the low level of qualification of the commission members.

CVU continued to record cases which could be viewed as preparation for bribing voters. This was most widespread in rural areas.

As a result of its monitoring the CVU recommends:

-  that the Verkhovna Rada and Cabinet of Ministers resolve as soon as possible the issue of financing for the electoral process in 2009 and 2010;

-  that the CEC in future decisions is guided solely by the Law on the Presidential Elections and international standards for democratic elections;

-  that presidential candidates reject unlawful methods of competition and organize training for members of electoral commissions;

-  that the law enforcement agencies thoroughly investigate all offences linked with the electoral process, including bribery of voters.

Use of official position and administrative resource

In December cases became more frequent of the use by officials of administrative resources. There was, however, little change in how this was done. Candidates holding public office use their work trips and other events for campaigning. Campaigning is also carried out by public officials during working hours and with the use of official premises and other material resources, as well as involving their subordinates. In all regions the campaign continued for providing individuals with acts enabling them to receive land plots free of charge, this being accompanied by campaigning for Yulia Tymoshenko. Cases were recorded where heads at various levels ordered their subordinates to work on electoral commissions.

Black PR

The use of such techniques became more common in December. The most widespread and systematic cases of such “black PR” involved the circulation throughout the country of the books “Well-known Jews of Ukraine” and “The adventures of brave soldier at the front Arseny” aimed at discrediting Arseny Yatsenyuk. Many radio stations are also broadcasting a clip prepared by Yulia Tymoshenko’s election team aimed at discrediting Viktor Yanukovych.

Pecuniary bribing of voters

CVU is receiving information about the organization of methods for direct (pecuniary) bribing of voters. For example, according to the Press Service of the Zaporizhya Regional Prosecutor’s Office, a criminal investigation has been initiated over a case involving such bribery.

CVU information suggests that such preparation for bribing voters is underway in other regions also, mainly in district centres and rural areas. Village heads, employees of self-organization bodies (street committees) are engaged in organizing these networks. The amounts promised for votes range from 50 to 100 UAH.

Abridged from the monitoring report here: doc1261744138LTO_3_final.doc (67Kb)

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