Human rights activists slam local authority electioneering
Civic organizations are concerned by numerous cases of open and unashamed interference by the local authorities in the elections. Participation of public officials in pre-election campaigning and the violation of candidate parity are most widespread in the regions.
For example, in the first January issue of the newspaper “Voice of the People”, owned by the Chortkiv District Administration and the Ternopil Regional District Council, a “Statement-Appeal to Voters of the District” was published in support of one of the presidential candidates. Those signing it included 25 local authority officials: the Head of the District Administration; of the District and City Councils; their deputies; Heads of Village Councils; other public officials of executive structures and bodies of local self-government; directors of schools and institutes; the heads of medical and cultural establishments.
The statement is teeming with examples of overt campaigning “we declare our unconditional support”; “this is the only candidate offering a substantive programme and strategy for the development of our country”; “he loves people and is a true Christian. Ukraine can win only with him”.
The Law on the Presidential Elections unequivocally prohibits executive structures and bodies of local self-government, and their officials, from interfering in the electoral process, including by campaigning.
The human rights organization “Helsinki Initiative – XXI” which is a member of the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union has lodged a complaint with the District Electoral Commission over the publication of this appeal.
Human rights organizations see such cases as a demonstrative violation of the legitimate restriction on campaigning, as application of means of administrative pressure on their subordinates, in the first instance public sector employees and students.
The Helsinki Initiative – XXI asks the Electoral Commission to warn local officials, candidates’ campaign headquarters and the media against similar infringements of electoral legislation and in so doing, protect the right of citizens to freely use their vote.
Oleksandr Stepanenko, Member of the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union Board (slightly abridged)