Budgetary administrative resources – boon for the voters or a con?
The Committee of Voters of Ukraine [CVU] warns that in the Donetsk oblast candidates from the ruling party are flaunting beneficence paid for from the public coffers. This is an infringement of electoral legislation, but legally it’s very difficult to provide that voters have been conned.
The standard food parcels for pensioners from candidates are these days viewed as low-grade PR. What is in fashion these days is on a different scale: success is measured by striking social initiatives or swift resolution of longstanding communal services issues. CVU however points out that such beneficence is often at the expense of public funding or the candidates present State programmes as being their own personal contribution.
According to Oleksandr Klyuzhev from the Donetsk Regional Branch of CVU, “candidates from the party in power are actively using their influence on distribution of budgetary resources to fulfil election promises. There are a very large number of such examples.”
One recent example involved the beginning of the election campaign of the son of the Prime Minister, Oleksy Azarov in Slovyansk where he is standing for election (in a single-mandate electoral district). He is accompanying his campaign with promises to get public funding allocated for local needs.
Thus representatives of the pro-government camp are using budgetary programmes for their own benefit, to win the elections. This, Mr Klyuzhev says, is a classic example of budgetary administrative resource, since opposition candidates have no such opportunities.
Hard to prove
Another example he cites was when candidate Valery Omelchenko, son-in-law of the now deceased Mayor of Makiyivka (and then Prime Minister of the Crimea) Vasyl Dzharty, informed voters about a project initiated by him to improve the roads. The road really did begin being repaired with the support of the local authorities. Effectively, thanks to his being part of the party in power, the candidate is attaching public resources to his election campaign.
Other Party of the Regions candidates are also using State-funded programmes for improving infrastructure, etc, as though they had some personal input into this. .
“In fact the local budget programme is being used for the electoral benefit of a specific candidate”.
Proving that budgeting funding is being use for election programmes is extremely difficult. “Obviously the Mayor or Head of the District Administration don’t openly state that they are allocating so many million UAH for repairs to the sewerage system to help their candidates. Such funding input is extremely disguised and legally extremely difficult to prove. That’s why candidates use them so actively”.
Too little benefit for the voters
The main issue is what is more important for the voter – democratic principles with equal opportunities for all candidates or specific benefit during the election campaign. “At the level of declarations, our voters value honest, transparent elections, decency of candidates and totally reject bribery. However practice shows that they very often take what they’d like for what actually is the case”, Klyuzhev says.
According to Olha Aivazovska, Coordinator of the OPORA Electoral Programmes, for most voters democratic principles are some kind of theory, removed from real life. The problem with such forms of bribery is that roads need to be repaired, and children’s playgrounds built more than once every five years. And candidates who use administrative resources to buy votes are never going to work in the interests of the voters. “And the road, three kilometres of which was laid before the elections, will remain unfinished”.