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Interim report: Election in Ukraine, 25 May 2014

Interim report of the short-term monitoring of early presidential elections in Ukraine  and local elections of 25 May, 2014

The short-term monitoring mission covered five cities: Kiev, Odessa, Chernigov, Vinnitsa and Lviv. The mission consisted of citizens of Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Canada and Ukraine.

Analysis of the pre-election situation

The early presidential election in Ukraine and local elections in some regions including Kiev were held at an extremely difficult and crucial moment of Ukraine’s modern history. The election campaign was held, in fact, under the conditions of:

  • instability and a serious socio-political national crisis which followed Viktor Yanukovych’s refusal to sign the Association Agreement with the EU and the violent oppression and dispersal of peaceful protests in Kiev;
  • Russian annexation of the Crimea,
  • the presence of Russian troops on the border with Ukraine who were conducting ‘exercises’,
  • destabilisation of the situation regarding pro-Russian terrorists and separatists in accordance with the ‘Crimean scheme’ in Southern and Eastern Ukraine,
  • the terrorising of the local population, including the taking of hostages and prisoners of war by the pro-Russian terrorists in the eastern regions of Ukraine.

The Russian government has played a key role in disrupting preparations for the election and in preventing a free expression of will by Ukrainian citizens, in particular by means of blatant misinformation and propaganda campaigns conducted through Russian media.

The presidential election campaign lasted two months. The date of early elections was announced on 24 February, 2014; just three days after the flight of former President Viktor Yanukovych to Russia. The election of the Mayor of Kiev and Kiev city council members were scheduled for 2 February, 2014, but the campaign was launched on 5 April, 2014.

Given the above conditions, under which the election campaign was carried out, in general, it should be considered legitimate. Independent analysis of the preparation and holding of early elections will allow avoidance of technical errors committed during the early parliamentary elections in the autumn of 2014.

Despite numerous statements by Russian leaders regarding the withdrawal of troops, for the foreseeable future, according to the Mission of the Threat of Russian Troops Intervention is high: military camps remain on the border with Ukraine, and the pro-Russian terrorists of the so-called ‘DNR’ announced the introduction of ‘martial law’ just a few hours after the closing of polling stations.

Exceptional importance of these elections lies in the legitimisation of power in Ukraine, which prompted the central government to place a major emphasis on safety of the expression of free will of Ukrainians. Particularly acute was the issue of security in the Eastern regions, where documented evidence of threats and physical violence against members of the CAAC, destruction of property by the CAAC and the seizing of election documentation has taken place.

In general, with regard to the electoral process in Ukraine it may be noted that the logistics, the access to voting, the instalment of election commission members was not organised properly. This resulted in huge queues at polling stations primarily in Kiev, where the election of the Mayor and local authorities were still ongoing.

Mission observers noted that election officials could not cope with the performance of work on several electoral lists, as well as with the issuance of 4 simultaneous bulletins. As a result, at the entrance, many hours of the queuing for ballot papers was necessary and bulletins were issued with significant delays, technical difficulties arose in the process of vote counting. Observers from the Open Dialog Foundation documented cases where there was a lack of citizens eligible to vote in the polls, in some areas there was no information available about local election candidates.

Polling Day

A clear distinction should be made betweenour assessmentof extraordinarypresidential elections in Ukraineand thelocalelections in somecities of Ukraine.

Election of the President of Ukraine

The unambiguous results of the vote, with the first-round victory, according to early exit polls, demonstrate the citizens’ desire to have legitimate and legally elected authorities, represented by the president of the state, who is capable of carrying out reform, following the European course of development, fighting against corruption and preserving the integrity of the state.

A significantly high voter turnout illustrated the conscious choice of the highest rated candidate as early as in the first round. Voters made their choice, delegating to the newly elected president, the right to prove his ability with regards to implementation of tasks, as set down by society. One of the main messages of the EuroMaidan was disillusionment regarding the supreme power. Therefore, the President is perceived as a transitional figure, based on the truncation of his powers following the changes to the Constitution of Ukraine in the reading of 2004, and the return to the parliamentary-presidential form of government. Declaration of the most likely winner of the election race to hold early parliamentary election in autumn 2014 should secure fundamental changes in the political map of Ukraine and European orientation of its civilizational choice, providing a resuscitation reform package. The expression of readiness to perform such obligations, apart from the signing of the ‘economic portion’ of the Association Agreement with the European Union, was absent in the manifestos of all presidential candidates.

Despite the substantial voter turnout, the main trend in the election campaign was the extremely low percentage of votes, entered for candidates with conditionally-neutral position who favour the idea of ‘federalisation’ (M. Dobkin, Tigipko). It should be noted that candidates with an open pro-Russian separatist position were either absent or completely withdrew from the election (e.g. O. Tsarev).

Voting results for the most odious and radical candidates from the Russian and European perspective (D. Yarosh and O. Tyagnybok who gained less than 3% of the vote in total) show a weighted and conscious choice of citizens of Ukraine, who considered the most urgent need to elect a politician, capable of combining the ideas of the ​​integrity of the country and its European choice.

The local elections

Kiev The most intense and eventful in terms of technical violations was the voting in the local elections in the capital city. According to our observers and volunteers, the most common problems in terms of organisation of the election were:

  • Unavailability of commission members to cope with the influx of those wishing to vote;
  • The lack of information (in some voting stations) regarding first-past-the-post candidates and parties in the election to the city council (informational posters);
  • Cases of issuing ballots by observers (commissioners could not cope with the influx of voters, and so observers actually began to perform their duties);
  • Cases of lack of protocols for counting the results of the election of the city council members and mayor of Kiev. Observers had to fill in all documents by hand (e.g. at the voting station No. 800491). On the other hand, protocols for counting the votes in the presidential elections were present.
  • cases involving a lack of voters’ names in the lists or issuance of incomplete ballots, prescribed by law (only ballots for the presidential election were issued – e.g. at voting station No. 800 487);

The election to the city council must be deemed the most unsuccessful in terms of organisation. At the same time, technical problems have no significant impact on the results of the vote due to the nature of these elections:

  • An almost complete absence of ‘dirty technologies’ in the form of black propaganda, mass bribery, music concerts, etc.
  • High turnout overshadowed the technical problems of the electoral process (according to employees of the commissions and surveyed voters – the turnout was the highest since 1991).

Based on the official reports of representatives of the Central Election Commission, the improper work of the commissions at voting stations can be explained by an apparent attitude sabotage of some of the presidential candidates to the formation of the commissions and multiple substitutions of their representatives within them. The deputy head of the CEC, Andrey Magera reported that queues at voting stations were caused by the simultaneous holding of presidential and local elections, and this practice must cease in future.

Odessa

According to the reports of international observers of the Open Dialog Foundation, since the tragedy of 2 May, the Ukrainian authorities in the city were able to stabilise the situation, also due to a complete change of the composition of the governing defence and law enforcement agencies. At the same time, the turnout in the city was low, as there were few representatives of the older generation among voters, and those mainly noticeable at voting stations were patriotically minded, young people. The main focus of the election in Odessa has shifted from the presidential election to the election of the Mayor of the city. Also, our observers noted one case of application of such electoral technology as ‘carousel voting’, but they couldn’t determine, in favour of which candidate it was undertaken. According to preliminary data of the exit polls, the race for the seat of Mayor is headed by E. Hurvitz. 

Lvov Representatives of the Open Dialog in Lvov recorded examples of the expression of will of residents of Lugansk and Donetsk Provinces who were granted the right to vote outside their place of residence, provided they had the necessary documents. The voting took place peacefully, significant violations were not observed.

Vinnitsa The main observations of our observers in Vinnitsa boil down to a lack of equipment at voting stations, which does not meet the standards laid down in the law on elections in Ukraine: voting booths could be viewed with the naked eye, there was no real ‘secrecy’ element of the vote. Also, the counting of ballot papers was held in the corridors (but in the absence of unauthorised persons and with doors of all rooms locked). Observers were present at registration of protocols of the voting station No. 051 499 – more than ¾ of voters supported P. Poroshenko, voter turnout exceeded 70%.

The stance of the Crimean Tatars

According to media monitoring, carried out by analysts of the Foundation, more than a hundred Crimean Tatars, who had registered in advance, according to the timeframe established by law, were able to vote in the Kherson and Vinnitsa Provinces, as well as in Lviv and Kiev, where their families resided in the temporary evacuation accommodation. It should be noted that on the eve of the election, in Kherson, unknown people threw Molotov cocktails at one of the voting stations in the city. However, the incident did not affect the work of the commission on voting day.

Conclusions and recommendations

The early presidential election and local elections in some cities of Ukraine can clearly be recognised as valid. The electoral process took place under conditions of annexation of a part of the country’s territory and destabilisation of the entirety of its regions. The voter turnout throughout Ukraine was high, given these conditions, as in most regions it reached very high levels (over 60%). Due to the actions of pro-Russian terrorists, an overwhelming majority of residents of Lugansk and Donetsk Provinces could not vote, but in several districts and areas in these regions the expression of will could still be observed. The situation was aggravated in these constituencies by means of outright sabotage and the aiding pro-Russian terrorists by local law enforcement agencies.

The main attention of the international community was focused on the early presidential elections in Ukraine. Given the reports of our observers and media monitoring, these elections can be considered legitimate and transparent.

According to analysts of the Foundation, the simultaneous holding of presidential elections and local elections excessively shifted the focus towards the former. The election of the city council members and election of the mayor of Kiev in some other cities (for example, in Odessa) are a clear indication of how parliamentary elections and nationwide local elections may look.

The Open Dialog Foundation hereby calls for consideration of the mistakes made in the recent elections and prevention of such mistakes and miscalculations during the early parliamentary elections in the autumn of 2014 by means of:

  • introducing an electronic voting system, the optimisation of the procedures of recording and counting votes, based on international experience
  • raising the issue of improving levels ofprofessionalism of,andtraining members ofthe commissions.
  • currently, the division of election of the presidential candidate and candidates for local councils entails a high probability of a low voter turnout at local elections. Carrying out reform of local government and decentralisation of power will encourage more conscious participation and voter turnout in local elections.
  • scheduling the date of elections whilst taking into account not only the political aspects, but also the time required to manufacture all informational materials, as required under law; ensuring equal opportunities through an awareness campaign, for all of subjects of the election process.

The full report will be published after the official announcement of the election results.