KHPG: On the Outcome of the Mayoral Elections in Kharkiv (updated)
The Kharkiv Human Rights Group considers the announcement of the results of the elections for Kharkiv Mayor to be hasty and premature. This is in view of how the results of the vote count by territorial electoral commissions [TEC] is taking place in a situation where two candidates – Arsen Avakov and Hennady Kernes – have gained a similar number of votes and where even small mistakes in the counting could influence the final outcome. This is demonstrated by the following facts.
During the examination by the TEC of protocols and other electoral documents from the precinct electoral commissions [PEC] it transpired that at some polling stations there had been delay in stamping as withdrawn the name of a person (A. Denysenko) who had opted out of the mayoral race five days before the elections. At some polling stations the commissions did not even know that Denysenko was not standing and did not stamp him as withdrawn, counted the votes and handed the protocols to the TEC. At some polling stations all ballot papers without the stamp “withdrawn” were declared void. For example, at polling station No. 30054 there were 654 such papers, and at No. 30070 – 418. There were more than 9000 spoiled ballot papers at all polling stations, and one can say with certainty that it was the TEC that were to blame for those votes declared void because they didn’t have the withdrawn stamp on them. Four days was entirely sufficiently to inform all PEC about this. In our opinion the people who came to the polling station and used these ballot papers were quite unfairly and unlawfully deprived of their right to vote, and we are convinced that the TEC was obliged to apply the law in the same way everywhere and examine invalidated ballot papers at all polling stations.
Packets with electoral documentation being transported from some PEC to the TEC were damaged. The fact that some of the packages were not intact aroused suspicion and an application for a recount at 56 polling stations. The TEC did not, however, adopt the necessary decision.
The TEC did not accept protocols from a number of polling stations and returned them for clarification, at some polling stations – for a recount. In general drawing up corrected protocols because of minor errors during the vote count is normal. However in the given instance one is disturbed by the secrecy of the process with the corrected protocols not even being given to members of the TEC. The results from them were not announced, observers from political parties and journalists did not have access to the stage where the commission was seated, and the examination of the final 11 protocols on 4 November took place entirely behind closed doors. The TEC passed a decision to remove everybody from the hall. There were cases where the TEC called the head of a commission who rewrote the protocol right in the TEC premises and put the stamp on it.
In breach of the law, the TEC decided that the results of the election should be counted by technical staff of the city executive committee and members of the TEC were simply not allowed to take part in this process. They were not even permitted to look at the results on the computer. It is unclear what computer programmes were used. The members of the TEC thus approved a protocol on the results of the voting, effectively not knowing how the information they voted for had been formulated. 5 members of the TEC were in any case absent.
The TEC has still not managed to examine 190 complaints alleging electoral infringements, and from 10 PEC where the TEC had previously ordered a recount, only one has provided the results of this recount. Nonetheless, the TEC has turned the page on an as yet incomplete process.
We have presented only some of the cases we are aware of which influence the outcome, and have not touched on numerous violations of the Law on the Local Elections where it is not possible to draw conclusions about their direct influence on the results of the voting. There were a huge number of such violations detected by observers and representatives of political parties in the very process of voting at polling stations; during the vote count at polling stations, the transporting of the ballot papers to the TEC, during the work of the TEC. Superfluous protocols were found, there were cases where members of the PEC signed blank protocols; electoral documents from electoral precincts were packed in the premises of the TEC without the participation of members of the PEC; the mandatory details on the packages with electoral documentation handed to the TEC were missing; the votes were counted and protocols drawn up by members of a PEC from one political party only; there was no substantive examination of fairly numerous complaints regarding violations of the electoral law.
Taking into account these facts, the results of the elections in Kharkiv cannot be recognized. There must, at very least, be a detailed analysis of the spoiled ballot papers at all polling stations and a recount at polling stations where corrected protocols were drawn up. However given the excessive number of infringements, the best solution, in our view, would be to hold a rerun of the Kharkiv Mayor Election.
Yevhen Zakharov, Co-Chair of the Kharkiv Human Rights Group