OPORA: The Elections did not meet democratic standards
The election watchdog OPORA has found that this weekend’s parliamentary elections were a backward step away from democratic standards. It issued its report a day later than planned due to a major DDoS attack on the day of the elections.
The statement goes on to say that “the 2012 parliamentary campaign was marked by competition in the election process being artificially restricted and by flagrant violations of the principle of equal opportunity for political parties and candidates. Given a mixed electoral system, non-lawful techniques for use of administrative resources and bribery of voters had a decisive impact on the campaign which in general did not promote fairness of the outcome. These violations were of a systemic nature and there were no legal consequences for the election players who resorted to them. Bearing in mind the factor of Election Day, the elections may be described as having not met basic democratic standards. This is due to the lack of equal conditions for different candidates and parties to run their campaign; an unprecedentedly large number of “technical” participants in the elections; the lack of balance in the make up of electoral commissions; and bias in the presentation by the media of information about parties and candidates.
Conclusions and trends
Ukraine’s return to a mixed (parallel) electoral system which was used in 1998 and 2002, with a majoritarian component encouraged widespread use by election players of dishonest campaigning methods in single-mandate electoral districts. In countries without established traditions of democracy, and where the public are to a large degree tolerant of day-to-day and political corruption, the majority component also corrupts the election process.
The authorities failed to ensure impartial treatment of all election players. Using the lack of regulation in electoral legislation which does not clearly differentiate between campaigning and the carrying out of official powers, public officials systematically used the public resources and powers available to them for campaigning purposes. The most widespread example of this was in the abuse of publically funded administrative resources. Candidates or parties close to the authorities received considerable indirect investments from the municipal or State budgets for their campaign. This created unequal conditions for election players and misled the voters who did not have the possibility of distinguishing between manipulation and a candidate’s real achievements.
Indirect bribery of voters by candidates and parties through the use of charitable activities proved to be the main technique for influencing the outcome of the elections. Candidates’ charitable funds proved to be an additional instrument for funding the election campaign which directly infringed the norms of the law stipulating that campaigning is only funded from official election funds. This exacerbated the problems with lack of transparency of campaign funding. Another widespread and systematic form of indirect bribery was seen with candidates buying goods, services, works, material benefits which were illegally given to voters for campaigning purposes.
The use of a controversial draw to select members of district and precinct electoral commissions resulted in unbalanced representation of key election players in such commissions with the dominance of “technical parties” (i.e. parties or candidates with no electoral backup and organizational capacity for the commission members’ work who use other election players to artificially increase their quotas). This resulted in the electoral commissions’ work being marred both before and on Election Day by constant conflict and a lack of public confidence in the commissions to administer the election process.
OPORA writes that in 91% of the polling stations no infringements able to influence the outcome were reported.
Of the remaining 9% (OPORA talks of 9% of incidents, but presumably polling stations), the following was seen:
3% infringement of secrecy of the vote;
3% photographing the ballots in the polling booth;
Both of these, OPORA points out, may suggest that voters have been bribed.
2% issue of ballot papers to people who did not show their identity documents;
1% organized transport to polling stations
1% damage of ballot boxes.
There were no problems with the voter list in 55% of the polling stations.
In 42% , up to 50 people could not find themselves on the list for the same district;
In the remaining 3% this was the problem for 50 to100 people.
OPORA says that carousel voting or attempts to take ballot papers out of the polling station may indicate unlawful interference in the election process. It says that the extent of such interference is difficult to assess.
It points, however to other infringements on 28 October which could significantly affect the outcome in certain constituencies.
With tabulation and passing on protocols from the DEC, observers recorded procedural violations which included:
stamps being removed from the polling stations which is against the law;
PEC procrastination in signing the vote count protocols;
frequent return of protocols by DECs to PECs for information to be checked.
Particularly indicative was the level of observer confidence in the results of the vote count at certain polling stations and the lack of transparency of the procedure. If observers and others present are unable to properly witness the content of a ballot to verify whether the mark is in the appropriate box opposite a candidate or party, this influences the overall credibility of the data on the protocol.
OPORA reports abnormal deviations in the sequence of procedure in the following oblasts: Dnipropetrovsk (17% of the polling stations); Chernivtsi (13%); Cherkasy (12%), Kyiv and Uzzhorod (10%), Donetsk and Sumy ( 7%). . At around 11% of the polling stations observers were unable to see the marks on the ballots during the vote count. This lack of transparency was particularly observed in the Cherkasy oblast (30%) of the polling stations, Crimea (27%), Kirovohrad region (17%), Poltava and Kiev oblast (15% each), Donetsk oblast (14%), Dnipropetrovsk and Khmelnytsky oblasts (13% each) and in Kyiv (10%).
Observers also say that consideration of complaints from election players or members of the public has been carried out in a formal manner. At a quarter of the polling stations where complaints and reports were received on Election Day, the members of commissions spent no more than half an hour on considering them.