CVU: What to expect at the elections
According to the Head of the Committee of Voters of Ukraine [CVU] Oleksandr Chernenko, most problems during the 2012 parliamentary elections will be connected with the majority-based single-mandate element (50%; the 50% of seats will be filled on the basis of party lists – translator). He notes that in the formation of electoral districts there have been surprises and not where the government is competing with the opposition, but where the interests of different candidates all loyal to the present regime are competing among themselves. Mr Chernenko also comments that it will be harder to force MPs elected under the majority scheme to vote when they snap their fingers than with MPs who hold their seats in connection with party lists. He believes that as a result, the new parliament will be less predictable.
On the Central Election Commission’s formation of electoral districts
Chernenko said that there were no legal issues with the 28 April CEC Resolution which had been issued on time and within the framework of the current law on the elections. On the other hand, the law does not give clear criteria for the forming the electoral districts. As a result, CVU considers that in some cases the CEC created several totally illogical electoral districts with enclaves not adjacent to each other.
“For example, a district is made up of several parts which are not adjacent. These are isolated cases but there are such. Very often districts, instead of all fitting into the new districts are split up between several districts. This was clearly done in order to destroy the electoral base of certain popular candidates. When a candidate has worked there and is known in the area, that area instead of being placed in one electoral district is divided up between three. Other areas are accordingly joined to that district where the candidate doesn’t have such support. We have recorded such cases.”
Most such issues, as reported here, concern the Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts. Chernenko points out that the electoral districts in question do not involve competition between pro-government and opposition candidates, but between rival pro-government candidates. He stresses that this is their preliminary assessment since there are formally no candidates as yet. However they believe that one pro-government candidate may have worked on the CEC or particular members of it to persuade them to adjust the district to make the situation more favourable for them than for their – also pro-government – rival. “There are virtually no opposition candidates in such cases”.
He says that there is conflict in the Transcarpathian oblast between candidates from “Single Centre” and potential candidates from the ruling Party of the Regions. The districts, he says, were clearly carved up to make more problems for Single Centre candidates although the latter are officially pro-government since their leader, Viktor Baloha, holds a ministerial post at present.
The same can be seen in the Vinnytsa oblast with problems created for candidates linked with Petro Poroshenko who recently accepted a ministerial post in Azarov’s government.
He points out that in the Lviv region, for example, where opposition candidates are likely to win, none of these issues arose, and the CVU has no criticism.
The situation, he adds, shows what the campaign will be like and is the first indicator of how the elections under the majority scheme will go.
With very few exceptions, he says, the people competing in single-mandate electoral districts will be investigating millions of dollars in their battle.
“If on the eve of the elections they see that there are problems with their rating, they’ll of course apply all possible mechanisms, and not always lawful ones, in order to change the situation. That was also expected. We remember 2002 and I think that the same thing will be repeated, only on a larger scale.
Asking about a possible referendum on whether to have the majority system, Mr Chernenko said that in fact surveys show that a majority support this system. They’re accustomed to seeing deputies not as people who write laws, but as a person who brings them something, puts asphalt down, fixes things.
The interviewer points to the present Verkhovna Rada elected under only party lists, suggesting that this does not necessarily give a better result.
The majority system spells corruption during the elections, with bribes, etc.
He believes the solution is open lists which CVU have always advocated. There are no ideal systems however the mixed system has shown itself to be ineffective. With open candidate lists, a person is being elected from a party but the voters vote for a specific person in that party.
The interviewer points out that pro-government candidates are already actively giving goodies to voters, etc. At present, Mr Chernenko says, they are not seeing such activity from the opposition. This is because in many cases there are a few candidates and behind the scene negotiations are underway with them competing to be shown as the opposition candidate. Also, the opposition does not always have the resources. CVU is however seeing opposition candidates on street advertising, greetings on public holidays, meetings with voters, etc.
Oleksandr Chernenko thinks that the majority system will in fact make the next parliament less predictable. Majority system candidates are vulnerable to pressure from the authorities since they have business interests. They will probably enter the ruling majority even if they’re elected as independent candidates. He says that the possibility of some opposition candidates becoming turncoats cannot be excluded. However that majority will not be so stable, and majority candidates, as soon as they feel that the government’s position is weakening will change their position.
Mr Chernenko says that if there is more vote-rigging this will be via the majority system component. Even if parties put forward their choice for the electoral commissions, those individuals will be paid by single-mandate electoral district candidates, and will therefore, when counting votes, be working for them, rather than thinking about the party.
He predicts that bribing voters will be the biggest problem in the single-mandate electoral districts.
Previously majority mandate candidates were registered by district and territorial commissions, now by the CEC. While not idealizing the current make-up of the Central Election Commission, Mr Chernenko says, bribing them is harder, and more expensive. And all attention will be on them.
The load, however, on the CEC will be huge.
Asked whether it’s possible for a majority mandate candidate without money to win, Chernenko replied that everything is possible, but it will be hard, and some kind of resource is needed.
Abridged from an interview on the Radio Svoboda Ukrainian Service