The 31 October Elections did not meet international standards
At a press conference on Friday the civic organizations which monitored the October 31 Local Elections gave their overall – and very negative - assessment. Olha Aivazovska, Head of the Civic Network OPORA said that the 2010 local elections could not be considered honest, transparent and democratic. She stressed that OPORA’s conclusions were based on the results of short- and long-term monitoring and that they applied the criteria set out in documents from the Venice Commission, the Copenhagen Conference and the OSCE.
The Secretary of the Civic Assembly of Ukraine, Andriy Kohut stated that “the organization and course of the 2010 Local Elections demonstrated a clear move by the regime backwards, towards disregard for democratic standards and freedoms. Civic Assembly of Ukraine representatives in the regions consider these elections to have been the worst in the last five years. An overall assessment of the elections (from the adoption of the Law which significantly reduced rights, established particular preferences and restricted public control, to the process for determining the outcome) gives grounds for asserting that the 2010 Local Elections did not comply with the standards for free, honest, fair and transparent elections.”
Head of the Laboratory of Legislative Initiatives, Ihor Kohut said that Ukrainian democracy had proven to be limping. While the elections could be called free, there were well-founded doubts as to their honesty and fairness. He also spoke of a movement backwards.
Participants in the press conference reported that key problems in the legislation on the local elections had already become evident or would in the next few days. They said that the electoral system, the quality of electoral commissions, of the procedure for the vote count and appeals by those taking part in the elections needed detailed analysis. This would only take place in the Ukrainian public demonstrated the will for high-quality political change and the intention to learn from mistakes.
According to Natalia Lynnyk from the Committee of Voters of Ukraine [CVU], “many articles of the law on the local elections do not meet universally accepted democratic norms and standards. There is an urgent need for an Electoral Code which standardizes electoral procedure and promotes honest and democratic elections. Stable rules for holding elections would have significantly improved their organization and running since members of the precinct electoral commissions could once and for all master electoral procedure and properly improve their skills from election to election.”
Ms Aivazovska said that OPORA had carried out an analysis of how the local elections complied with international standards. She pointed out that in breach of accepted standards electoral legislation had been changed less than a year before the elections. Unbiased work of electoral commissions had not been ensured via their formation on a professional and politically balanced based. This meant that some political parties received a majority sufficient for them to adopt any decision.
The territorial electoral commissions [TEC] had created obstructions for registration of certain candidates or parties. Most of the potential electoral candidates had managed to appeal against the actions of the TEC in the courts, yet the TEC had selectively implemented the court rulings or dragged out the process.
The authorities and law enforcement bodies were not sufficiently active in responding to reports of the use of administrative resources, threats and pressure on candidates, physical or psychological violence against particular participants in the elections.
The problem of quality preparation and the lack of strict control over the printing of ballot papers had deepened distrust in the elections as a whole. The Copenhagen document clearly stipulates that procedure must ensure reliable protection of ballot papers and other documentation.
On Election Day a number of organizational procedures were violated, with the principle of individual and secret voting not being observed.
The issue of the vote counting is particularly acute in the light of fierce and at times unhealthy competition, the lack of balance in representation of political forces in the commissions at various levels. OPORA was witness to by no means isolated cases where stamps were taken out of the precinct electoral commission premises, this being directly prohibited by law and members of the precinct level commissions themselves correcting protocols in the TEC premises.
Andriy Kohut pointed out that “the public had the possibility of observing but everything was done to prevent fully-fledged public control. It is important to understand that even if Election Day passed reasonably peacefully, the elections began with the passing of a Law which considerably reduced rights, established particular preferences and restricted public control.”
All members of the Civic Assembly pointed to a considerable use of administrative resources which had not been noticeable over the last five years. They stressed also that the election results had still not been fully established, and that there had been noticeable attempts at manipulating the results and officially restricting public control. The Civic Assembly could report numerous cases where observers had been illegitimately removed, even with the words that “they were looking too carefully” (in Odessa), while the Kharkiv Electoral Commission will finish the vote count effectively without any possibility of ensuring that it is observed.