Committee of Voters reports serious problems before the elections
The Committee of Voters of Ukraine (CVU) states in a report issued on Friday that the amendments to the Law on the Local Elections passed on 30 August only removed a few contentious norms, but did not resolve a number of serious problems.
The Law, it says, does not comply with generally accepted international standards and the tradition for electoral processes in Ukraine.
- The mixed proportional-majority electoral system has limited the possibilities for local leaders and local groups to have an impact on the election campaign. CVU considers this concentration of possibilities with parties in the local elections to be undemocratic since the activities of local self-government at city and district level are not politically coloured. The domination of political parties has left major social and professional groups out of the electoral process which will have an adverse effect on the quality of work of local authorities.
- The Law creates unequal conditions with regard to the formation of electoral commissions. It undermines the principles of proportional representation of candidates and political parties in the electoral commissions, introduces subjective principles of selection of their members and the distribution among them of top positions and infringes the collegiate principle of decision-making by the electoral commissions.
- The Law gives the Central Election Commission [CEC] excessive powers with regard to the carrying out by territorial electoral commissions [TEC] of their powers, this leading to the risk of their work being politicized.
- The Law allows extremely little time for organization of the elections which given the load on the CEC and TEC can hardly have a positive impact on the presentation and running of the elections.
- The Law does not allow for transparency of information about candidates. Candidates for local councils do not have to provide electoral commissions with their election programmes which will adversely affect how well-informed the voters are.
- The Law does not fully make use of the possibilities provided by the State Register of Voters which makes rigging or other infringements of the voter lists possible when amendments are being added. Work with the lists continues to be carried out by a number of bodies with the principles of cooperation between them not clearly defined.
- Closed party lists and the lack of possibility for people to put themselves forward as candidates prevents a real and full selection of candidates.
- Legislation for regulating participation of civic organizations in observing the elections needs serious improvement. Civic organizations are not given the right to draw up acts on violations and receive copies of the vote-count protocols which is not in keeping with the principles of national independent observing. Furthermore, the law envisages restrictions for civic organizations regarding status since only national organizations have the right to carry out such observing.
CVU notes that most parties began campaigning long before the official start. Those which only received the possibility of taking part with the amendments of 30 August basically began a full campaign from then.
The most structure and prepared, CVU reports, is the Party of the Regions (the main party of the ruling coalition). It also notes that during the reporting period there was a large surge of previously non-party mayors joining the Party of the Regions.
The main opposition party, “Batkivshchyna”, CVU reports, is in many areas unready for the elections because of rifts and changes in leadership of a number of regional branches. It points out that this is partly an internal problem, but that there have also been equivocal court rulings and formal obstructions from the regional departments of justice.
Formation of territorial electoral commissions
CVU reiterates that the new Law on the Local Elections makes the work of TEC more subjective. Regional and district TEC are formed by the CEC and their numbers are made up of people proposed by party organizations registered in those regions (districts or cities). Furthermore, 15 members are from parties in the Verkhovna Rada (three candidates per faction). At present in parliament three factions represent blocs with 16 political parties represented in all, meaning that 48 candidates can be put forward for 15 places. The Law provides no mechanism for selection of candidates from parties which are part of a bloc. The CEC decides who to include at its own discretion, governed only by subjective criteria “bearing in mind experience of work in commissions”.
This means that the Party of the Regions and Communist Party will have no problem in approving members of TEC, while the Lytvyn Bloc, Batkivshchyna-BYuT [Yulia Tymoshenko and NUNS [Our Ukraine – People’s Self-Defence] will have difficulties agreeing candidates at local level.
The Law also fails to provide for proportional distribution of leading positions within the TEC. Therefore representatives of one party could occupy the posts of most or even all TEC.
In general this principle of formation of TEC gives an advantage to those parties which have a majority in the CEC.
The new law allows monitoring of the local elections from national civic organizations. However to be registered, as well as other documents, a copy of the organization’s charter certified by the Ministry of Justice, is required. CVU approached the Ministry and was told that the period for carrying out this procedure is not regulated. Therefore it is asking local departments of the Ministry to certify copies of charters as quickly as is feasible.
CVU is also calling on as large a number of foreign and international institutions and diplomatic representations in Ukraine as possible to take part in observing the local elections.
CVU is outraged that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has not sent an official invitation to the Observer Mission from the OSCE / ODIHR to take part in observing the elections.
Abridged from the report at: