OPORA highly critical of October 31 Elections
The civic network OPORA has published its Interim Report on the October 31 Local Elections. It is considerably more damning than the report from the Committee of Voters of Ukraine and than the fairly cautious remarks made by European observers.
OPORA: Infringements made elections ’undemocratic’ (translation by Kyiv Post)
Editor’s Note:The following is a preliminary report on the October 31 local election produced by OPORA, a US-funded observer mission. OPORA came out on Nov. 1 with the sharpest criticism of Ukraine’s Oct. 31 regional election calling it "nondemocratic, nontransparent and not open." With nearly 1,500 of several thousand observers following the election, OPORA, together with the Committee of Voters of Ukraine, was the largest group monitoring the election, before and after. Its assessment of the election differs greatly from that of Russian observers, who praised the election as democratic, and a small group of European observers, who were cautious in their preliminary judgment. Supported by the United States Agency for International Development and the National Democratic Institute, OPORA is a civic network, a nonpartisan nongovernmental organization. It had 177 long-term observers during pre-election environment beginning Sept. 11 across 24 oblasts and the Autonomous Region Crimea. On October 31, OPORA deployed 1428 short-term observers to join the LTOs. Among the STOs, 1,003 were deployed to precinct election commissions (PECs) and 425 to territorial election commissions (TECs). OPORA will conclude its election observation after the official results are publicized.
In general, the Ukrainian local elections were held in an atmosphere of mistrust. The reasons for this mistrust are:
• Many cases which an excessive number of extra ballots were printed right before election day;
• Imbalanced political party representation on electoral commissions at different levels; and
• Fear among candidates of being deregistered right before election day.
Civic Network OPORA states that election day took place with numerous procedural violations and organizational problems. The election day of October 31 is an integral part of the electoral process. However, the honesty, transparency and democratic nature of the electoral process should be assessed based on the conclusions of the long-term observation.
Below are the main election day findings:
1. Many problems reported by OPORA observers during the election may form the basis for appealing the voting results in some precincts:
• Incorrect ballots for single-mandate constituency races were delivered to wrong polling stations, which resulted in no voting at all on those races in polling stations in two constituencies. Because of this, political parties and candidates have grounds to appeal the results in these polling stations.
• PECs stamped out certain political parties and candidates on the ballots that were in reality not deregistered. Political parties and candidates that were stamped out may appeal the voting results in court and demand the nullification of results in these precincts.
• The number of ballots received by PECs from TECs was incorrect in many cases. Ballots were received by PECs during the night from the 30th to the 31st of October, so commission members did not have sufficient time to count the ballots. Some PECs could not explain why they had either too many or two few ballots.
• Ivano-Frankivsk city TEC deregistered candidates and did not notify the PECs on time about the need to stamp out those candidates on the ballots.
• Ballots were printed with mistakes on candidates’ and parties’ names or parties, and candidates were printed in different font sizes.
2. A lack of capacity and knowledge among commission members resulted in violations of the law and poor organization of conduct on election day. Commission members were not well prepared.
• 13% of PECs started their morning meeting before 7am. Thus, candidates, observers, and journalists could not ensure that the safe was locked and sealed before PEC members began the meeting, and that election documentation was properly secured.
• Not all citizens in hospitals were included on the voters’ lists, because employees of medical hospitals and commission members did not fulfill their responsibility to check whether these citizens were on the voters’ lists.
• An insufficient number of voting booths combined with the large number of ballots for each voter led to violations of the secrecy of voting, because voters voted in the presence of third parties. This also led to the formation of long lines. This also caused voters to decide not to vote in some cases.
• Observers and journalists were prevented from observing because of groundless refusals to allow observers into polling stations.
3. There were violations on election day that were intentional offenses. These included taking ballots from polling stations, bribing voters, illegally transporting voters to polling stations, third parties instructing voters who to vote for, taking pictures of ballots, etc.
4. As of 10am, November 1, the vote counting is continuing because of the following reasons:
Zaporizhzhia city TECs have made a decision to take a break until 2pm on Monday, which has prevented from PECs from continuing their work.
PEC members of Obukhiv rayon of Kyiv oblast lack knowledge about the procedures for voting. For example, during the day, some threw away the tear-off vouchers from the ballots that were issued to voters, and they are still trying to find them.
The large number of ballots and many names of the candidates and parties does not allow for a quick ballot counting process.
The full translation can be found here
The original report can be found in Ukrainian at: http://www.opora.org.ua/news.php?id=843&