OPORA unimpressed by CCTV innovation at polling stations
The election watchdog OPORA has commented in more detail about the law passed on 4 July (No. 10681) which will allocate almost 100 million UAH on installing CCTV cameras at polling booths. It considers the move to be an inept attempt to copy western experience on ensuring that the electoral process is transparent and open.
“The proposed model of video surveillance at polling stations cannot be a serious impediment to infringements and avoid rigging during the parliamentary elections. Such conclusions are based both on the lack of specific detail in the law, and the technical parameters of the proposed system of video surveillance.”
The proposed system, OPORA says, does not enable fully-fledged video surveillance, while the model for transmitting and retaining information does not make it possible to achieve the purposes which the law is supposed to be for. A major problem lies also in Internet connections which 4 months before the elections would be pretty difficult to establish at all polling stations, including in rural areas.
OPORA is also concerned by the lack of consistency and clarity in the law which does not state where precisely in the polling station the cameras will be located, and what precisely it is that they’re supposed to record.
Instead of carrying out direct (online) video-transmissions, the law speaks only of passing on images from the polling stations.
No transmission at all is envisaged during the vote count.
Requirements regarding the use of video surveillance do not cover district electoral commissions at all.
There are no legal consequences of the video surveillances, i.e. it is unclear whether the video recording would serve as evidence if there are serious violations.
OPORA concludes that such failings mean that the system of video surveillance will not serve to prevent infringements and falsification. It states that without clearly defined parameters for use of such video surveillance, the “law can be an instrument for manipulating public opinion and the formal grounds for ignoring violations of electoral legislation not recorded by the cameras”
It is also of concern, OPORA notes that such changes to electoral rules have been made through the introduction of a separate law instead of simply making changes to the law on parliamentary elections. Furthermore, the law encourages corruption since tender procedure for procurement of both the goods involved and the services have been cancelled. There is also no economic justification for the spending of almost 1 billion UAH which is not commensurate with the practical need for safeguarding democratic standards.
OPORA also criticizes the fact that the law was passed without widespread consultation with technical specialists and advisers on observing elections.
It points out that confirmation of its position is the fact that the Central Legal Department of the Verkhovna Rada also recommended that the draft bill be rejected.
OPORA therefore recommends that the President returns the bill to parliament for reworking since it does not serve to ensure that the 28 October parliamentary elections will be open, transparent and democratic.