International civil society election observation. Parliamentary Elections – Ukraine 28 October 2012

Dec 18th, 2012 | By | Category: Election 2012, European Union, News, Ukraine

Newsletter No. 6 – 17 December 2012

FINAL REPORT

Warsaw / Berlin, 17 December 2012

Executive Summary

In its Statement of Preliminary Findings and Conclusions, the CSEOM concluded that despite serious and systemic shortcomings and the fact that the fairness of the overall election process was considerably affected by the abuse of the privileged position by those in power, the elections generally allowed the voters to express their political preferences and the freedom of campaign was ensured. Yet, the development of the vote tabulation deteriorated the transparency and integrity of the process, significantly diminishing the credibility of these elections.

The elections were conducted in unfavourable political climate with leading opposition politicians, former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, a main political opponent of the President, as well as former Minister of Internal Affairs Yuriy Lutsenko, imprisoned following controversial trials and therefore unable to stand in the elections.

The elections were conducted according to the new electoral law which introduced mixed electoral system. The voters were choosing 450 members of the Ukrainian Parliament (Verkhovna Rada). 225 members were elected through a proportional system based on political party lists in a single nationwide constituency and another 225 members were elected on the basis of a simple majority system in single-mandate election districts.

The re-introduction of single-mandate districts (SMD) had a rather negative impact on the conduct of the elections, taking into account the political situation and specific experience of the country, even though the new electoral law reflected the consensus among the main political players. It exacerbated political polarisation and magnified such negative practices as vote buying, the use of black PR, intimidation of candidates and use of administrative resources as evidenced by reported incidents that were mainly related to single mandate constituencies.

In principle, the legal framework provides an adequate basis for the conduct of democratic elections. Nevertheless the implementation of election law was inconsistent and revealed a number of shortcomings. The procedure of formation of district and precinct election commissions set up by the election law and specified by the Central Election Commission’s (CEC) resolutions failed to ensure a balanced representation of the political parties in the election commissions. A large-scale replacement of commissioners in the last weeks and even days before the elections further undermined the principle of  election commissions’ impartiality. Despite the fact, that the election law does not provide for the invalidation of results in single-mandate districts the CEC adopted a resolution on the impossibility of determining the results in five single mandate constituencies due to alleged election fraud.

In the pre-election period the election administration managed the technical aspects of the process adequately and accomplished most tasks within the timeframe provided by the election law. However, the tabulation of votes showed that the election administration was not efficient and often lacked transparency. Most of the CSEOM interlocutors expressed lack of confidence in the impartiality of the election administration.

The rules concerning voter register were improved and tightened. While limitations to vote outside of one’s own district, as well as more stringent rules on mobile voting might have deprived some voters of the possibility to vote, they also reduced the risks of  manipulation.

Overall, the registration of candidates was inclusive and transparent. Out of more than 6000 applications over 400 were rejected by the CEC due to technical errors. Some 500 candidates had withdrawn from the race.

The election campaign has been competitive and polarized but in general peaceful; contestants were generally able to campaign freely but not on equal footing particularly in the media. Post-election period was characterized by rapid increase of tension between the government and the opposition.

The use of administrative resources by the ruling party was reported in many instances: it included pressure exerted on public employees as well as workers in state owned enterprises and situations where state’s financed projects were presented as candidates’ achievements.

Lack of effective rules and transparency concerning campaign financing further privileged those in incumbent position.

The election process has been also characterized by use of voter bribing schemes by different political parties and some independent candidates.

The media (except online) were clearly biased in favour of the government and have not provided all the parties and candidates with equal opportunities to present their programs.

The civil society played an active role in the monitoring of numerous aspects of the elections, including observation of the entire election process, setting up hotlines and internet-based violation maps or conducting candidates’ audit. According to some monitoring groups, the observed irregularities of the election process had a mass and systemic character.

While the polling and counting of ballots were conducted in a calm and orderly manner overall, the tabulation of the results at the DEC level was marred by a lack of transparency, extensive and intentional delays of the work of several DECs as well as the CEC’s inability to react and provide an effective remedy to some problematic DECs which undermined the credibility of the election administration and the integrity of the post-election day proceedings.

Overall, the adjudication of election disputes resolution by administrative courts lacked transparency, consistency and sound factual-legal reasoning. The courts did not seek the objective truth and actually concentrated on technicalities and formal irregularities. This approach impaired the opportunity to obtain an effective legal redress, disregarded  the true will of the voters and put into question the impartiality of the judicial system. Some candidates in single-mandate constituencies used courts as a tool to invalidate results favourable to their opponents. The CEC refused to consider the vast majority of complaints due to technical irregularities or forwarded them to relevant law enforcement agencies. Only a very small number of the complaints were at least partially satisfied.

Please find the full report in English here and in Ukrainian (unofficial version) here

The International Civil Society Election Observation Mission (CSEOM) was organized by non-governmental organizations from Poland (Stefan Batory Foundation), Germany (European Exchange) and Lithuania (Eastern Europe Studies Centre) under the auspices of Aleksander Kwaśniewski and Markus Meckel. The mission was operating in Ukraine from 17 September until 7 November. It included 15 long term staff (experts and observers) as well as short term observers deployed throughout the country. Two Interim Reports were published on 5 and 23 October, the Preliminary Statement on Findings and Conclusions was released on 29 October and the Post-Election Press Release on 1 November.

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Quote from the report where Maidan is mentioned

IX. Domestic Observers

The civil society played an active role in the monitoring of numerous aspects of the entire election process.33 Out of almost 40000 officially registered domestic non­partisan observers, the two largest country-wide NGOs, Opora and Committee of Voters of Ukraine (CVU), alone registered more than 10000 observers.34 Additionally to the monitoring activities, Opora conducted the quick count. Other domestic NGOs used crowd sourcing to map violations on interactive internet platforms. The two most popular – Maidan Monitoring and Elect.ua – have together recorded over 3000 violations since the beginning of the electoral process.

The NGOs registered numerous violations of the election law at all stages of the electoral campaign, including irregularities during the establishing of electoral districts’ borders and the formation of the election commissions, use of administrative resources, voter bribery and black PR during the campaign as well as irregularities during and after the election day. According to the statements of Opora and Maidan, the irregularities had a massive and systemic character. In pre-election period, the domestic observers groups were able to conduct their work without major impediments. A series of DDOS-attacks on servers of the above mentioned NGOs made their websites partially inaccessible on the election day. Opora had to delay its presentation on the results of the quick count.

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