OPORA final monitoring report
The following attempts to highlight the main points from the monitoring report issued by the election watchdog OPORA on Friday 26 October. The report covered the last month of the election campaign.
As reported from the press conference, October saw a massive surge in media and street campaigning and advertising. Dirty forms of campaigning became more frequent in single-mandate electoral districts with candidates battling for each vote. Other infringements which have characterized these elections remain, specifically wide-scale use of administrative resources; various forms of bribing voters; and infringements of campaigning rules.
Place of voting
There was a fairly contentious decision by the CEC at the end of September to change the procedure for a temporary change of voting place without a change in electoral address. According to the CEC resolution, voters who can’t vote at the precinct constituting their electoral district may temporarily change their voting place, but only within the confines of the same single-mandate electoral district.
This requirement does not apply to members of district electoral commissions [DEC] or precinct electoral commissions [PEC].
OPORA acknowledges that this new procedure fights voter migration which had become widespread in September with certain voters being forced to change their address in favour of specific candidates. On the other hand, the norm is discriminatory, it says, since it prevents people who are in other oblasts on Election Day from having a realistic opportunity to vote.
Ballot papers issued without reliable identification
OPORA considers even more incomprehensible the CEC’s explanation according to which members of PEC may issue voters with a ballot paper even if their internal passport does not have a photo. This, it points out, runs counter to Verkhovna Rada Resolution On the Regulations on a Citizen’s Passport which states that such an internal passport is invalid if there is no photo where the person has reached the designated ages (25 and 45).
“The CEC has thus effectively passed an unlawful decision allowing voters to vote on the basis of an invalid internal passport.”
The application period ended on 20 October for official observers from foreign countries and international organizations. There will be an unprecedentedly large number of international observers – 3, 797 (from 28 countries and 35 organizations).
OPORA notes that such a number is undoubtedly due to the difficult political situation, especially the imprisonment and removal from the elections of the leaders of the opposition, as well as to the return to a mixed system which significantly increases the risk of election fraud.
There will also be an unexpectedly large number of observers from within the country (from parties, candidates and civic organizations) – 219, 655 observers.
“It is surprising that 19, 545 observers have been registered by as many as 68 civic organizations, most of which are small or not very active in civic work. It is after all well-known that the milieu of civic organizations systematically observing the electoral process in Ukraine is unfortunately not so well-developed. There are no more than 10 organizations which are public and strictly observe generally recognized principles of electoral observing. There are therefore grounds for assuming that a significant percentage of civic organizations observing on Election Day which be in firstly carrying out a purely technical function – representing the interests of particular parties and candidates in electoral commissions. However even in this case they will indirectly contribute to an increase in the level of public monitoring of the voting. “
Precinct Electoral Commissions
OPORA writes that attention was, as predicted, focused on the formation and start of work of PEC. There were no significant problems with organization of PEC work. “If, of course, you do not consider the problem linked with the dominance in commissions of technical parties which actively influence the work of the PEC, but which due to their “technical” status will not bear political responsibility for their decisions and behaviour. “
Statistics of infringements
Use of administrative resources – 159 cases in 21 oblasts (out of 27), with the most in the Kharkiv; Kherson; Donetsk; Kyiv; Odessa and Luhansk oblasts;
Infringements of campaigning rules - 146 incidents recorded in 24 oblasts with most in the Chernivtsi and Kharkiv oblasts and in Kyiv.
Voter bribing - 124 cases recorded in 21 oblasts, with the most seen in the Odessa, Kherson and Ternopil oblasts.
Obstruction of candidates and parties - 112 cases in 19 oblasts with the most in the Odessa and Sumy oblasts.
There were 6 cases of enforcement bodies being used as a method of exerting influence on the election process and 6 of pressure on the media.
There was no adequate response to systematic abuses either from the law enforcement bodies or the Central Election Commission
1. With the population’s poverty, the use of forms of material encouragement of voters significantly undermines the legitimacy of the entire electoral process. OPORA points out the undoubted link between vote buying and electoral fraud, and says that where there are cases of bribing of voters, one should also expect such types of vote-rigging as carousels, photographing ballot papers etc.
2. The use of administrative resource strips the election campaign of competiveness. While some candidates get an advantage in campaigning, others experience pressure and obstruction from officials. It is the monopoly on public posts, OPORA says, which has made administrative resource one of the key methods of influence at these elections.
3. Low levels of competitive ability are meaning that politicians use various means of fighting opponents. Shameful methods such as artificial obstruction of a candidate’s activities; restriction of their ability to speak with voters; pressure and threats; use of force are all used in Ukrainian politics. Nor are such methods out of the question on Election Day itself.
4. Even the most fundamental norms of the law are ignored with restrictions on campaigning not adhered to and the liberal norms on liability for infringements not in any way stopping offenders. Thus on 27 – 28 October when campaigning is prohibited, there could be a wave of black PF in certain districts.
5. The law enforcement agencies have not become a shield protecting the rights of candidates and voters. There is no response to daily infringements of rules on campaigning, abuse of office, etc.
6. It is difficult to determine the role played by the media during the election period. Preventing journalists from gathering information, and threatening them are demonstrations of pressure and should be punished.
7. Fears that PEC would not be able to fully carry out their role are proving justified. This is seen in the lack of proper training for their members and therefore their low level of professional competence.
“However the main reason for the chaotic and ineffective work of a huge number of PEC is the constant process of mass replacements of their members. These are mainly due to the fact that electoral players registered members of the PEC on the basis of fictitious applications, without informing the people put forward or getting their consent. As a result members of the PEC who did not give their consent are refusing to be on them. This is typical of all parts of the country. Most often it is so-called “technical parties” whose election campaign is confined to the participation of their representatives on electoral commissions which resort to such changes. Widespread changes have taken place in the last week of the election campaign and the greatest danger is therefore that on Election Day the members of the PEC will simply not be able to cooperate among themselves and carry out their obligations professionally.
OPORA provides a number of recommendations to all parties involved in the election procession and those who should be, like the law enforcement agencies.
Bribing of voters and candidate beneficence
These, OPORA writes, were characteristic of this election campaign. Legislative restrictions on bribing in practice demonstrated their ineffectiveness. Such forms of vote buying risk distorting the elections results. It gives just a few examples, and says that while there are few cases where it has been possible to get legal proof, the cases arouse serious concern.
One positive feature in October was that the law enforcement agencies did investigate some cases but for the moment those efforts seem selective.
In October there were several highly publicized investigations by the police of alleged cases of bribing of voters. The Luhansk Regional Prosecutor carried out searches of residents of Stakhanov and initiated criminal proceedings over bribery in favour of a candidate in No. 106 Yury Furman. Similar action was taken against candidate in No. 109 Oleksandr Makarov. These are two politicians from the Shakhov team named after local politician and businessman Serhiy Shakhov who is standing in single-mandate electoral districts No. 107. Shakhov himself is on the wanted list over several criminal investigations.
Candidate’s “charitable” funds
This is the same material encouragement only under a different guise. OPORA had predicted that the role of such funds would diminish with the start of the official campaign. In fact, this phenomenon has become widespread at all stages.
OPORA explains that a considerable number of single-mandate electoral district candidates have concentrated on resolving economic needs in the district. Some candidates have put their own money into the infrastructure of the districts, or relied on public resources.
It comments that the use of various forms of material encouragement has shown up the problems in domestic legislation. Lack of clarity in the law and uniformity in its application have protected candidates from being held to answer. Those candidates, for example, who are presently MPs, have position their “beneficence” in terms of their day-to-day activities.
Other infringements discussed (due to the hideously late hour, only listed …)
Abuse of official position, use of administrative resource
Obstruction of parties / candidates and their representatives – OPORA points out that its monitoring has shown that in many districts the elections have been in conditions which are not competitive. This makes it difficult to speak of a fair battle, however only the results will show how much this has influenced the vote.
Infringements of legislation on campaigning
Influence of enforcement bodies on parties, candidates and their representatives
Pressure on the media