Election monitoring in Luhansk
The Luhansk Regional Branch of the Committee of Voters of Ukraine [CVU] has issued its May report on the results of its long-term monitoring in advance of the October parliamentary elections. The following is a summary of the report which is available in Russian here
1. Infringement of the time restrictions on election campaigning
CVU has reliable information indicating that over the last few months several politicians have significantly increased their presence in external advertising (mainly billboards, sometimes posters); the frequency of their appearances in the media and number of meetings with residents. Such activity, it points out, is analogous to election campaigning.
The parties most active in advertising themselves before the election campaign has officially begun are: the Communist Party, the Party of the Regions; the Radical Party of Oleh Lyashko and Ukraina Vpered [Forward Ukraine!].
The report notes that the sharp increase in activity by these parities and political advertising gives grounds for believing that they plan to take part in the elections, and specifically in the districts where the advertisements, media coverage and / or meetings have been observed. It notes, however, that CVU has no grounds for assessing this as violation of electoral legislation and international documents regarding elections.
On the other hand, election campaigning is not allowed until the day after registration of candidates or candidate lists. The issue is, of course, what should be regarded as election campaigning.
CVU has closely examined the political advertising in the Luhansk region and in the majority of cases has no grounds for speaking of violation of the law. They say however, that there have been a few cases which they deem to be such infringements. These include a speech by Spiridon Kilinharov of the Communist Party on May Day, and an “enclosure” to a local newspaper on behalf of Yulia Ioffe, a likely candidate for a single-mandate electoral district.
2. Bribing voters
The most popular form of material incentives for potential voters are officially registered charities. These can carry the name of a candidate, or be linked with them.
Certain probable candidates are not bothering with such methods and give out goodies from themselves. Or find some pretext, such as awards to the best teacher, etc.
CVU names a number of such apparent beneficence, but says that it does not consider such cases to be violations. From the legal point of view they are of public use and entirely legal. The apparent charity only becomes illegal after those involved formally become candidates.
CVU therefore considers statements from monitoring organizations accusing people of bribing voters to be inappropriate.
It does however point out that Article 74 § 13 of the Law on the Parliamentary Elections does prohibit handing out material goods where the name of the party is mentioned, nor is this ban linked only with the election period.
The largest number of violations of this ban in the Luhansk region are by the Party of the Regions. The report cities several examples and says that in its opinion such cases where goodies are handed out with clear mention of the Party of the Regions are in breach of Article 74 which prohibits bribery of voters.
The most flagrant such violation in this line was, however, the meeting on 30 May between Yulia Ioffe and the Mayors of Bryank, Kirovsk and Pervomaisk in the Luhansk Regional Administration. An agreement was signed during the meeting on building gas pipes to several inhabited areas within the make up of the above-mentioned cities. The gas pipes are to be financed by Naftohaz and will be finished and ready for use just before the elections, in October. Other measures funded by the Ministry of Energy and Fuel to revive specifically those mining towns were also spoken of at the meeting.. Yulia Ioffe, Head of the limited liability company DV Naftohaz Construction Firm is not an official from the Ministry of Energy and Fuel. She is, however, the probable candidate of the 112th electoral district which includes Bryank, Kirovsk and a major part of Pervomaisk. It is the heads of those cities who were called to the meeting with Ms Ioffe and it is their cities which will benefit from the Ministry money. CVU consider such actions by the Ministry of Energy and Fuel to be a form of bribery directed at entire cities and carried out using the administrative powers of a ministry and public funding.
3. Use of mudslinging or “black PR”
CVU provides a few examples which could be so classified, with the top candidate being the town of Rubizhne. Thus far, however, it is citing specific examples, not an epidemic.