Systematic Violations of Election Law in Ukraine – 40 days before voting

Sep 18th, 2012 | By | Category: Election 2012, In Depth, News, Ukraine

“Central Election Committee has a choice – to fail the election or to violate the law”,
Volodymyr Shapoval, the head of Central Election Committee of Ukraine

Ukrainian laws and international treaties adopted by Ukraine guarantee the citizens free elections. According to these legislations the term “free election” is not limited to free voting itself but also presumes the creation of proper conditions to form the voters will, the observance of legal procedures during the election campaign. We will show you how it works in Ukraine in practice.

The objective of our project “Maidan Monitoring: Election-2012” is to collect and analyze the documented evidence of violation of electoral law during the election to Ukrainian Parliament. The official campaign is half way through and time has come for preliminary results.

We present our analysis of most common and serious violations. All facts mentioned are published on our interactive map htttp://maidan.org.ua/vybory2012 and are confirmed by video, photo and official documents. There are 604 reports published on the map as of September 16th. We processed 2015 reports total.

1. Violations of electoral commissions functioning

For the first time in 20 years when drawing of the party representation in county election commissions had been done simultaneously for all 225 country election commissions and not for each one separately as always before. The article 27 of the law “On election of people’s deputies of Ukraine” (hereafter – election law) presumes the drawing of representation of parties for each separate commission and not for all together as Central Election Commission performed.  It had been legally incorrect and most probably by doing this Central Election Commission had already planted a bomb under the electoral process.

This has consequences that may influence the results of election very seriously.

  1. Two parties that have chances to be elected according to sociology were left without any representation in all 225 county election commissions.
  2. All 225 county election commissions have representation of parties that were not really working before and could be called simulacrum. The places assigned to these parties are getting real members of Party of regions.
  3. At least in 10% of county election commissions the heads assigned appeared to be living in other parts of a country, mostly in Crimea and Donbas. They did not appear on commission meetings. 10% is lowest estimate and refers to facts we have registered.
  4. There are reports that some members of county election commissions had no idea they were included and did not agree to that inclusion although the formal agreement is required.
  5. There are reports of serious violations of procedure of county election commissions functioning – decisions were adopted without quorum, meetings were convened and held by unauthorized persons.

To prevent the mass falsification of voting results on the level of county election commissions we recommend the Central Election Commission to re-draw the party representation urgently.

We are surprised of election participants’ neglect of this major problem (with exception of “Svoboda” and “UDAR” parties that were denied representation and filed court appeals).

When this report was prepared we the new decision of Central Election Commission was published which allow for similar drawing for all district election commissions at once. Should that drawing happen the term “free election” in Ukraine in context of European Convention on Human Rights would be obsolete.

2. Unlawful coercion

Forcing employees of state owned institutions to participate in agitation

We have documented incidents when teachers, doctors, librarians and other employees of state or city owned institutions were participating in agitation for candidates from Party of regions. Project participants and volunteers witnessed these themselves.

In Kharkiv teachers forced teenagers to deliver agitation materials and food packages “branded” by candidate names to voters’ homes.

In Teplodar our volunteer videotaped how teachers were gathering kids for propaganda event of Party of regions.

There are reports that teachers were forced to become members of Party of regions. Incidents are reported from Odesa, Ternopol and Lviv regions.

Such unlawful coercion contradicts the article 19 of Constitution of Ukraine which reads “The legal order in Ukraine shall be based on the principles according to which no one shall be forced to do what is not stipulated by law.”

Blackmail of students

We have 4 reports so far when students are threatened by not allowing living in hostel, bad exam results or even expelling for the college. Instead students are required to vote for “correct candidate” and make a photo of a ballot; to change official address temporarily in order to be able to vote in required precincts; to talk the family into changing the address and vote away from home as well. We have such reports from Luhansk, Kyiv and Kyiv region.

That practice contradicts the article 19 of Constitution of Ukraine and could be prosecuted according to the article 157 of Criminal Code.

3. Administrative pressure

“Social workers” aka agitators for party of Regions

At the beginning of August a report from Odesa region was submitted that some social workers financed from state budget are visiting homes and question people about their attitude towards Party of regions, inform about party achievements, etc. We have reports from all regions of Ukraine about the activities of such agitators. Later TVi channel interviewed one social worker in Kyiv region and filmed three other in Odesa region.

12000 of such social workers were hired and paid from state budget as vice premier minister ok Ukraine Sergiy Tigipko announced in May. Some of them said they were hired for 6 months only. This practice contradicts the principles of equal treatment by authorities of all participants of elections (article 11 of election law).

Agitation in state and municipal institutions

That is a really widespread violation in Odesa and Kharkiv regions and Crimea, however it is documented in other regions as well. Agitation materials are displayed inside and outside the buildings of local (mostly village) councils, schools, hospitals, libraries, post offices; state institutions that register wedding and death, real estate property rights; provide the communal services. That practice is directly forbidden by the article 74 of electoral law.

In schools pupils were presented with souvenirs with Party of regions logos including bags and raincoats thus converting them to live advertising carriers. These attempts to use kids to gain advantage in election seem to us most outrageous violations that were happening on September 1st the day school year began and later on. We have 25+ incidents documented from all over the country.

The most outstanding is the report from Kyiv region when on September 1st in many schools of county #94 the audiotaped speech of a candidate Tetyana Zasuha was presented to kids as a greeting. The speech had elements of political agitation. It would be impossible to make all these school to run the audiotape without the use of administrative pressure.

In Odesa region the flags of Party of regions were raised over the buildings of lots of village councils. Based on our crowdsourced reports Ukrainian ombudsman Valeria Lutkovska reacted, after her intervention the flags were removed but not too far, they were hung on electric poles right near these buildings. Now is cannot be considered the formal violation but in terms of psychology is the “act of symbolic violence”.

Direct agitation for candidates by government executives

There are numerous reports of agitation by government executives during their work hours, mostly heads of regional or county administrations. Such agitation often included blackmail like “in case you do not vote for candidate there would be no gas supplies to your village” (Mykola Papiev, head of Chernivtsi region administration).

Government executives participated in propaganda events like opening of playgrounds, meetings with voters, shows, etc.

This practice contradicts the abovementioned principle of equal treatment by authorities of all participants of elections and is directly forbidden by article 74 of the election law.

Preferences to selected candidates in state and communal media 

Despite the direct provisions of the election law that require media to grant equal and unbiased treatment of all candidates and parties there are numerous reports of unmarked advertising of some candidates on state owned TV stations and local municipal newspapers. There are also numerous reports when same media refuse the other candidates in placement of their advertising materials. This violation is country wide.

Most outrageous violation of a kind is the live broadcast of a parade under flags of Party of regions in Kharkiv on August 23rd on country wide state TV channel UT-1 not marked by a required sign “political advertising”.

Refusals of produce propaganda materials for candidates

The widespread are the reports by candidates about the refusals of businesses to produce agitation materials – prints, banners, billboards, etc. Business managers when refusing to accept an order are referring to “recommendation of local authorities” and “unwillingness to have problems”. We got reports that in Kyiv the department of local police that deals with organized crime was visiting printshops and instructed them to “harmonize” all political orders with them.

There are reports of unmotivated removal of already placed political advertisements by municipal workers. The electoral law directly prohibits the interference with election campaigning of candidates.

Obstacles to public meetings of candidates

In all regions of Ukraine except the West the candidates are complaining about the administrative obstacles during their campaign. There are documents of court orders prohibiting their public meetings that equate the public meetings during campaign to implementation of the right to peaceful assembly which is a very dubious connection from a legal point of view. Schools and municipal clubs are refusing candidates referring to the orders and “desires” of local authorities.

The local government authorities are organizing and involve employees into the “counter meetings” during the public meetings of candidates. These are loud and hooligan actions that interfere either by sound or even direct force with meetings of candidates and they are conducted using the same scenario all over the country.

Municipal reconstruction used for agitation

It is wide spread practice to use the signs about the municipal reconstruction words for advertising of candidates from Party of region and the party itself. The road signs, warning boards, billboards provide the information not only about the works themselves but directly connect these works to a certain candidate and/or party as someone who “has to be given thanks for that” (direct quote from one).  All these reconstruction works are paid from state or municipal budget, by all taxpayers and not by a candidate or a party. This is a very widespread violation in Kharkiv, Dnipropetrovsk, Odesa, Zaporizhzhya regions; reports from other regions are present too. In Kharkiv in addition the municipal workers performing that reconstruction were wearing t-shirts with candidate name (Valery Pysarenko).

That advertising on municipal construction sets is a direct fraud, manipulation, interference with free forming of an electoral choice and it impossible to place without the use of an administrative pressure.

Use of budget program for agitation

There is a budget program which foresees the free delivery of free digital TV tuners to old people. These tuners were sent to regional post offices and then somehow got into hands of offices of Party of regions who started to deliver them to homes of old people wrapped into party advertising. Of course old people who had mostly never heard of a state program could easily decide they should thank the Party of regions for the gift. This violation is wide spread in Dnipropetrovsk, Donetsk and Zaporizhzhya regions. Regional party offices websites proudly write about that achievement.

To get tuners from the government owned post offices without the use of administrative resource is not possible.

4. Bribery of voters

Article 74-13 of electoral law the bribery of voters is labeled “indirect” and defined as giving away free or discounted services or goods.

Gifts for kids

Pens, pencils, stationery and other school stuff, school uniforms, sportswear, sport gear and even pampers for toddlers were given away by candidates during the campaign. The gifts were complemented by agitation leaflets, branded packets, etc. That was happening in addition to the abovementioned mass giveaway of party propaganda on September 1st.

The really systemic were the construction of playgrounds branded by names of candidates of Party of regions. Some were setup before the official start of campaign but they still are the signposts for their “creators”. There is official information that some of such playgrounds in Dnipropetrovsk proudly presented by the official site of local organization Party of regions as their achievements were in fact paid from local budget, e.g. by taxpayers.

Food packages

Food packages with worth 30-70 hryvnas  ($4-9) in a package branded with a candidate name with agitation materials included had become a distinctive feature of this election campaign. Mass and repeated giveaway had been documented in Kyiv city and region, in Kharkiv city, In Vinnnytsya, Chernigiv, Donetsk regions, practically everywhere except Lviv region. The giveaway started at the beginning of the year and lasts so far.

Equipment for schools and hospitals

All over the country the candidates were making PR events with giving away presents to schools, hospitals and kindergartens. They were advertising these charitable gestures on their websites and in media. It’s very dubious those people could afford such charity adoring to their tax statements.

At least in Odesa and Khmelnitsky region and in Lisichansk city computers party of regions had presented the schools appeared to be from China state aid to the Ukraine.

Transportation for postmen, policemen and doctors

There are reports of candidates giving away free bicycles to postal workers, cars to police precincts and ambulances. They proudly report about it on their websites. That charity does not fit their tax statements.

Investigations found that in Dnipropetrovsk region ambulances were bought within a budget program several months before they were “presented”.

Money

There are cases of direct bribery reported. Candidates were giving away money (50-150 hryvnas or $8-19). One candidate in Luhansk was doing it more than once, it was filmed and reported in media. Authorities did not react to these reports.

5. Campaign agitation violations

Political advertising in public transportation

Political advertising in public transportation is widespread despite the fact it is directly prohibited by the election law (article 74-8). Most reports about this violation submitted from Kyiv, Crimea, Donetsk, Sumy and Odesa regions.

Advertising is placed both in outer surfaced of a vehicle and inside on glass panes which is also prohibited by another law “On advertising”. The drivers are usually unresponsive to citizens’ objections and say “we were all given these ads”.

In Kyiv most violations like this are mostly related to Communist party advertising, in other localities to individual candidates and Party of regions. In Kyiv the attempts to involve the police into removing that violation were not successful.

Courts closing down newspapers

We have documented two cases when courts postponed state licenses for newspapers accusing them of violation of election law. Practically it means shutting down the newspaper until election campaign ends. The newspapers are “Zmiyivsky kurier” in Zmiyv, Kharkiv region and “Osobysty pohlyad” in Irpin, Kyiv region.

It’s not enough data to say about the systemic violation but we can attract attention to a serious and evident flaw of a law that allows shutting down media in very ambiguous circumstances. We refer to a term “single brutal violation” used in an election law and not defined either in this law or elsewhere.

Agitation order details not provided

The most widespread violation of this campaign is the absence of required details on agitation materials (e.g. who ordered it, where it was printed or produced, circulation, etc.). This violation cannot seriously affect the forming of voters’ choice; however it does not ensure the proper information of citizens and limits the possibilities of control of campaign financing.

 

That is our first summary of project findings. Election campaign is under way and violations are becoming more and more sophisticated. More to follow…

 

by Viktor Garbar, Natalka, Zubar, Olexander Severyn (doctor of law) and Liudmyla Yamshchikova,
Maidan-Monitoring Project

With the kind help of dozens of volunteers who made it possible to collect and process such a huge amount of information. We are truly thankful to all of you!

 


The “Maidan-Monitoring: Election 2012” is the logical continuation of our project “Monitoring of observance of constitutional rights and freedoms in Ukraine” which collected, verified and published more than 180 cases of violation of fundamental rights and freedoms such as freedom of expression, freedom of information, freedom of speech, freedom of conscience, freedom to peaceful assembly. The projects are implemented by the Maidan web site http://maidan.org.ua  team – the cradle of civic journalism in Ukraine.

Both projects are supported by the International Renaissance Foundation http://irf.ua/

 

One of motivators we made for encouraging reporting. Caption says: ” GIfts of candidates to kids is bribery of voters”

5 Comments to “Systematic Violations of Election Law in Ukraine – 40 days before voting”

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