OPORA: Chances for competitive elections
During their presentation of their fourth monitoring report, OPORA stressed that the coming parliamentary elections can be competitive if misuse of administrative resources and bribery of voters have legal consequences, and if candidates are equal before the law.
Olha Aivazovska, Coordinator of OPORA electoral programmes pointed to two important events over the last month which could influence the election campaign.
The first already reported here was Law No. 10681 which “parliament hurriedly and without full technical justification passed in full” on 6 July. This allocates 993 million UAH for total video surveillance at polling stations. Law
Then on 16 July the Cabinet of Ministers initiated the creation of a special interdepartmental working group “aimed at supporting coordination of actions by executive bodies in ensuring that the elections are held in public and open manner”,
With regard to the inter-departmental group, Ms Aivazovska says:
“The powers of the group are disproportionately broad given the declared aims of work and its status as a “temporary consultative body of the Cabinet of Ministers”. It is not clear what information additional to that which the CEC [Central Election Commission] has that the Cabinet of Ministers is hoping to receive from local authorities and bodies of local self-government, enterprises, institutions and organizations, and with what aim and how representatives of these structures will be involved in the group.”
In the absence of clearly set out tasks and powers of this Working Group, there is a danger of it being a form of covert administrative interference in the electoral process by the central authorities. OPORA draws attention to the clear lack of correspondence between the official powers of some members of the Working Group and the formal tasks vested with it.
Olha Aivazovska calls the Law of 6 July and the establishment of video surveillance at polling stations “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.”
1. Bribery, “presents” etc
According to a survey carried out by the Democratic Initiatives Foundation 10% of Ukrainians are ready to sell their right to free choice for between 50 and 500 UAH [very roughly 5 to 50 EUR), while 17.5% see this as a widespread form of campaigning permitted by legislation. OPORA observers say that direct bribery and pre-election charitable actions by candidates have turned into the campaign’s trend.
OPORA stresses that bribery is a form of falsification of the election results which, if the negative practice continues will have an impact on the outcome.
The most widespread forms include gifts to medical institutions; the creation of children’s playgrounds; gifts to schools, religious communities.
2. Due to electoral legislation being unregulated, political parties have over the last 4 months actively carried out election campaigning with unlimited gray-area election funds. Money spent before the official start of the campaign does not have to be accounted for. Lack of transparency regarding election expenses is one of the main problems of this year’s election campaign.
3. The process of putting forward candidates was not public
4. Cases where “black PR is being used are becoming more widespread.
OPORA warns that the return to a majority electoral component to the election process has created extremely broad opportunities for systemic use by potential candidates mainly of material incentives.
The lack of harsh punishment in election legislation and limited practice in applying criminal legislation for those who bribe voters do not create the proper preventive measures against the mass use of such practice during the election campaign.