First Summary of “Maidan Monitoring: Election 2012” Project Findings
by Natalka Zubar, Viktor Garbar, Olexander Severyn
Parliamentary election campaign in Ukraine officially started on July 30th 2012. Before that date our monitoring map http://maidan.org.ua/vybory2012/ had accumulated 179 citizens’ complaints about violations of the Law “On Elections of People’s Deputies of Ukraine”.
Most violations reported were localized in Kharkiv region (29), Dnipropetrovsk region (19) and Kyiv city (18). Lviv region was the only one we had no complaints from.
BRIBERY OF VOTERS
The most widespread violation is “Bribery of voters” (prohibited by the Article 74-13 of the Law, a criminal offense, which is defined as giving away free or discounted goods or services on behalf of named candidates), the map had 128 reports listed before July 30th. Bribery of voters was implemented in different ways and always was accompanied by dissemination of information about candidates via leaflets and postcards.
1. Free food packages handouts.
Food was given away mostly before some holidays (Easter, Victory Day, and Constitution Day). The first handout was performed mostly personally and food packages were delivered to recipients’ homes. Later these recipients were invited to fetch their further packages from state hospitals, schools or even local administrations. The cost of food packages varied from 20 to 50 hryvnas ($3.5-$6).
In all occasions the food packages were given in return of personal data of electors which is a dubious interaction from the point of view of the Law “On Protection of Personal Data”.
2. Free medicine and medical equipment handouts.
Medications, first aid toolkits, tooth paste, glasses, equipment for measuring blood pressure, gift certificates for medicine were given away for free by the candidates. It’s illegal not only from the point of view of electoral law but also violates the order of distribution of such products.
3. Direct money handouts.
Electors were offered to get “material aid” (starting 50 hryvnas or ~$6 and up) by visiting a certain office, presenting their passport, tax ID and sometimes other documents.
In all occasions the money was given in exchange for surrendering personal data of electors which is a dubious interaction from the point of view of the Law “On Protection of Personal Data”.
4. Gifts for children handouts.
The candidates were giving away the hygienic supplies for toddlers, school bags packed with stationery, sportswear and gear, and even money (calling them stipends). All gifts as usual were supplemented with information about the candidate.
5. Gifts for staff of government institutions
Schools, hospitals, post offices and police precincts were presented with medical equipment and supplies; computers, multimedia centers and similar stuff; cars and bikes; phones and prepaid phone cards. All gifts were either handed out by candidates themselves or by their official representatives.
The bribery is targeted both individually (poor old people, parents) and collectively (workers of government institutions).
There are also reports of bribery of certain territories within the limits of a targeted constituency. Most common type of such bribery is mass construction of playgrounds (for example 31 playgrounds were setup by one candidate in Zhytomyr region), reconstruction of the roads, etc.
Bribery of voters was performed not only by future candidates from ruling party but from opposition politicians as well.
The bribery of voters was mostly funded from the charitable funds set up by candidates.
Second most common violation – 63 reports – is the use of administrative powers or pressure of government.
The local government executives were actively using their administrative powers to assist their party fellows in agitation and to stop the propaganda of opponents.
Quite often the administrative powers were used in free food package handouts. State schools and hospitals were used as distribution centers, and teachers and doctors were forced to hand out the goods both inside their institutions and also were visiting people at home with the gifts. Even older school children were forced to visit people at home to give the gifts. Most cases like this are registered in Kharkiv area.
Administrative powers were used when candidates were giving away free goods to government institutions as described above. All these events were published on official websites of local governments. Government official often were accompanying the campaigning candidates in their working hours.
Administrative powers were used to convert reconstruction works into electoral propaganda. In Kharkiv city in many cases the reconstruction workers were dressed in t-shirts with names of candidates.
Administrative powers were used in other occasions, see “fraud” section below.
Administrative powers were used only by one political party – ruling Party of Regions.
Third most common violation is fraud – 31 cases total.
There were cases of blatant lies in propaganda like in case of MP V.Vechirko in Donetsk region who informed from a bill board about the millions given to a local hospital while the hospital never got such money from anyone.
However, most often the electoral fraud was in form of manipulation.
- In 3 regions (Donetsk, Dnipropetrovsk, Zaporizhzhya) free digital TV tuners bought with the state budget money within a state program of help to poor old people were presented to final recipients by Party of Regions activists along with party leaflets and other propaganda prints. These acts were publicized on official websites of regional party organizations. The recipients of the tuners old people were tricked into believing the gift was provided by Party of Regions.
- In many regions road, streets and square reconstruction works planned long before and funded by city budgets had acquired adjacent signs and boards stating “these works are performed thanks to candidate X”.
- In Dnipropetrovsk region mass construction of new playgrounds funded by regional budget ended with these playground acquiring signs “supported by candidate X” or even “supported by Party of Regions”.
- There were cases when free medical service (evaluation, tests, probes) were provided as “supported by candidate X” and the fact of that support was advertised on bill boards and print media.
For last 3 months local governments in many regions were trying to persuade the citizens that the (totally unclear) support of a certain candidate of ruling party produces a rapid increase in the quality of life. Any usual and planned communal work like reconstruction of a road or of an apartment building hall, garbage cleanup, park improvement, new playground setup acquires signs “supported by candidate X”. Elector has no efficient tools to check up what this “support” means in practice. It is worth mention that this practice started in May 2012 when the candidates from the ruling party were defined.
Most common practice described was documented in Kharkiv city where the major together with “candidate X” were excusing themselves for temporary inconvenience caused by reconstruction on road signs.
In addition to the above we documented 7 cases of campaign propaganda violations, 3 cases of inequality of participants, 3 cases of illegal financing, 2 cases of unlawful coercion, 1 case of violence, 1 case of violation of media rights.
There are different views on the question whether the complaints of violations before the official start of the election campaign could be regarded as administrative or criminal offense. We had prepared a legal analysis, which concludes that these 179 complaints on our map cannot be prosecuted in our courts. However some complaints are long term. For example, playgrounds built with city budget money, labeled “Party of Regions”, will not disappear with the start of electoral campaign.
These 179 cases, while not being confirmed in courtrooms, nevertheless demonstrate how the electorate mood was manipulated fraudulently.
Since July 30th all complaints on our map are supplemented by legal comments and could be used in court by interested parties. So far several people declared the intent to use our materials in court.
Since the election campaign officially started, we expect a small decrease in the most blatant forms of bribery, since it becomes too obviously a violation of the Law.
However we predict the increase of campaign propaganda violations, cases of inequality of participants and illegal financing. The most serious violations will be the increase in the number of cases of unlawful coercion, violence and violation of media rights. The first week of official campaigning confirms this trend.
“Maidan-Monitoring: Election 2012” project is implemented by Civic Information and Methodology Center “Vsesvit”. It is supported by the International Renaissance Foundation. The project is not affiliated with any political party or candidate. We map the violations of electoral law submitted by any party or candidate if it meets the project requirements – video or photo evidence, background check and is evaluated by our lawyers as possible violation. Read more about the project.