European observers: Ukraine needs an electoral code
The local elections were on the whole fairly organized and passed without significant violations which could seriously affect the outcome. At the same time, as a result of the hasty adoption of a new electoral law, there were infringements of democratic norms regarding preparation for the elections and the process of voting. One of the main tasks before the Ukrainian authorities must therefore be to prepare an electoral code. These were the conclusions of election observers from the Council of Europe, OSCE and the European Parliament, as well as the Committee of Voters of Ukraine [CVU].
According to representatives from the Council of Europe’s Congress of Local and Regional Authorities, observing preparation and voting in regional centres, the new law on the elections passed a few weeks before the local elections led to electoral chaos in some places.
With respect to the most serious violations of democratic norms, the Head of the Mission Gudrun Mosper- Törnström stated: “This is firstly the adoption of a new electoral law on the eve of the elections. Secondly, we came upon infringements in registering candidates, not entering candidates from the opposition on the candidate lists, disproportionate makeup and poor work of the precinct electoral commissions. Electoral violations also included the impossibility of keeping ones vote secret due to the queues at polling stations and the so-called “voting in the family”.
Furthermore, in several polling stations which had only just been opened, the European observers saw filled in ballot papers in the ballot box. And the dozens of names of candidates on the ballot papers made it difficult for voters to read, disorientated many elderly people.
Another representative of the Council of Europe, Nigel Mermagen who observed the elections in Cherkasy pointed out that none of the polling stations they had visited were adapted for voters with special needs.
He believes that due to failings in the new electoral law the vote count is complicated and takes a long time.
However the observers felt that on the whole the local elections had passed smoothly.
“Ukrainian question” in Europe
According to Special Representative for the current Head of the OSCE on electoral issues, Marat Sarsembayev, parties were represented on the electoral commissions in a fairly proportional manner. “I didn’t see factors which could work in factor of the ruling party”.
At the same time, the OSCE observers also had some small comments regarding the voting process: not all members of the electoral commissions understood their duties this causing queues, people crowding around the voting booths, and not all ballot boxes had the proper seals. However Mr Sarsembayev says that his report will be of a positive nature.
On the other hand, the Special Representative of the President of the European Parliament on the Local Elections, Pavel Kowal stressed that although the elections had on the whole passed smoothly, they forced one to reflect on the future of Ukraine’s democracy and the prospects for the development of the country in a European direction. The violations observed in the Kyiv region and Chernihiv suggest that present electoral legislation needs changes and the system for the functioning of bodies of local self-government require serious reforms in keeping with European democratic standards.
He does not rule out the possibility that the results of the local elections and the political situation in Ukraine will be discussed at a special session of the European Parliament. He says that he will be in favour of this since the refusal to register candidates from the opposition, as well as the disproportionate makeup of the electoral commissions, reflect problems with democracy in Ukraine.
The European observers plan to formulate and make public their conclusions on the “Ukrainian question” in the near future.