Opora

RESUME

On 29 October 2017, the first elections in 201 united territorial communities will take place. The election process started on 9 September covering territorial communities in all oblasts of Ukraine. The largest number of united territorial community elections will take place in Dnipropetrovska (19) and Volynska (19) oblasts, while in both Zakarpatska and Mykolaivska oblasts, elections will take place in only one community.

The voting on 29 October 2017 will elect local governance bodies for 25 district level cities, 115 villages and 61 towns. Elections of city council deputies use proportional voting system with candidates assigned for territorial electoral districts by political parties’ local organizations. Village and town council deputies are elected based on relative majority system in single-member electoral districts. There will be one-round voting for electing city, village and town mayors since none of the settlements have over 90 thousand voters.

This report covers the final part of the election campaign of political parties’ local organizations and candidates, interim financial reports of the election process subjects, recorded election commission violations as well as ballot preparation activities of election commissions’.

OPORA observers ensure appropriate and independent observation of the first local elections in united territorial communities, covering all of them. There are 69 long-term observers working in territorial communities, whom short-term observers will join shortly before the voting.

As the voting day is approaching, candidates’ campaigns at the first local elections are significantly intensifying. According to OPORA, AU Batkivschyna’s candidates and local party organizations run the most active campaigns with various degrees of activities in 54% of territorial communities. Petro Poroshenco Bloc Solidarity local organizations show visible campaigning activities in 42% of territorial communities. The Ukrainian Union of Patriots – UKROP, the Agrarian Party of Ukraine, Oleh Liashko’s Radical Party, and the Union Samopomich (Self-help) campaign in a smaller number of territorial communities. Other parties’ campaigns are limited to individual communities and are not nation-wide.

In addition to meetings with voters, parties and candidates increasingly used printed campaigning materials to gain voter support (over 80% of candidates employed such form of campaigning). Using Media for political advertisement is not common at the first local elections on 29 Octobers 2017, yet over 30% of mayoral candidates employed this form of campaigning. Despite growing campaign expenses most candidates used legal opportunity not to open campaign fund accounts. According to OPORA estimate, 45% of local mayoral candidates have not informed TECs about opening campaign fund accounts, which makes use of campaign funds transparency impossible to appropriately control. Poor standards of campaign funding are also confirmed by the statistics on submission of interim financial reports by political parties’ local organizations and candidates. Only 1% of candidates for village and town deputies have submitted interim financial reports to TECs and none of party local organizations has submitted report in 12 out of 25 city UTCs. 16,4% of village, town and city mayoral candidates have complies with the law requirement to submit interim financial report. Necessity to strengthen control over campaign financing is confirmed by the tendency to ignore the legal requirement to submit samples of campaigning materials to TECs. At village and town UTC elections, for instance, it was less than 10% of candidates who submitted respective samples of their advertisement, which does not correspond with real amount of distributed election campaign materials.

As of the time this report was prepared, OPORA observers have recorded over 250 election legislation violations. The most frequent one is distribution of campaigning materials in forbidden places (40%). Prevailing facts of violating campaign regulations are usual for elections in Ukraine. However, on the eve of the voting day OPORA has recorded a growing number of candidates employing the so called campaigning charity strategy. Some attempts of offering voters material incentives were in direct contradiction with the law, others employed so-called “gray strategies”, but all of them are unacceptable with respect to the standards of communities’ free expression of will. There are recorded instances of using state budget programs and subventions to the benefit of certain candidates, which brings up the issue of systemic measures against use of administrative resource. Observers have discovered facts of state officials breaking limitations on campaigning. While they frequently avoided direct legislation violations they still ignored general principles of state official’s political neutrality and equal treatment of all candidates by governmental institutions. For instance, OPORA observers took notice of the Head of Khersonska Oblast State Administration Andrii Hordeev’s involvement in public events supporting certain candidates.

The situation remains unclear in regard to voting arrangements in Ichnivska city community in Chernihivska oblast and in Novopoltavska village community in Mykolaivska oblast. Although the process of creating electoral districts completed on 20 September, in these two communities it is in fact uncompleted. Due to court appeals on TEC decisions on creating electoral districts passed with violations there is still no certainty about electoral district list and no possibility to prepare voting ballots. These circumstances endanger exercising of citizens’ active and passive electoral rights and legal ways to resolve the problem are not clear.

Long-lasting court appeals on a number of TEC decisions have negative impact on their performance including preparation of voting ballots. Resolving of appeals on registration denials and cancellations being uncompleted, there are confusions with final versions of voting ballots. Political parties’ local organizations’ withdrawal from legally provided opportunities to control ballot preparation is a negative factor of the election process. According the Law of Ukraine On Local Elections, parliamentary parties’ organizations had an opportunity to nominate candidates to controlling commission but these commissions have not been created in 118 communities (59%). AU Batkivschyna and Petro Poroshenco Bloc Solidarity local organizations presented the largest number of candidates to commissions for ballot preparation control but even these political parties did not fully use this legal opportunity. Taking into account strong mutual mistrust among election process subjects, refusal to exercise legal mechanisms of control appears inconsistent. OPORA observers note that 131 TECs (65%) received voting ballots from producing companies after legally set deadlines. Monitoring showed that TECs frequently have made secret agreements with law enforcement bodies to protract receiving of ballots in order to reduce the number of days during which the police is involved in guarding election related documents. One has to mention that mistakes made by TECs in draft ballots led to additional Budget expenses for ballot reprinting.

OPORA marks the need to additionally regulate funding of district election commissions who possess a number of responsibilities at the first local elections in united territorial communities.

A number of peoples’ deputies of Ukraine from AU Batkivschyna’s parliamentary faction have publically stated their candidates were subject to pressure and threats at the first local elections on 29 October 2017. There was blocking of lawful participation of party representatives in PEC work as well as other unlawful interference in the election process. OPORA notes that public statements give sufficient ground for law enforcement bodies to perform complex and impartial verification of these claims made by parliamentary faction representatives. Facts (if any) of unlawful influence on candidates aimed at making them act in a certain way in the election process make an important part of election standards evaluation. Therefore, investigation of factual circumstances of the claims as well as their legal evaluation should be done without delay.

OPORA calls to all political parties, regardless of their pro-government or opposition status, not to refuse documenting legislation violations with the help of law enforcement bodies. By applying to law enforcement bodies one can ensure appropriate documenting of discovered facts thus prompting the government to prevent, discover and investigate crimes against citizens’ voting rights. At the same time, the Civic Network OPORA requests AU Batkivschyna leadership to promptly submit precise evidence to nonpartisan observers for independent verification of possible pressure on candidates as claimed by this political party.

LOCAL DEPUTY AND MAYORAL CANDIDATES’ CAMPAIGNING ACTIVITIES

Over the last two weeks, election campaign activity has significantly intensified in all united territorial communities, where the first local elections will take place on 29 October 2017. Growing activities of local deputy and mayoral candidates come amid an increasing number of various election-related violations. While these violations do not critically endanger implementation of democratic principles of the electoral law, they still have a negative impact on the election process and its public perception as being lawful and fair. In particular, campaigning rules violations are happening on a regular basis along with the absent practice of informing the public about candidates’ financial expenses. Also, despite overall decrease in abuse of administrative resource, candidates are eager to get support from state and public officials and local governance bodies. Officials, on their part, do not fully restrain themselves from performing those public activities, which one can treat as selective sympathies benefiting certain election process subjects. Observers record instances of campaigning charity strategy bearing signs of indirect voter bribing.

Among the political parties, who are election process subjects, AU Batkivschynas has unfurled the largest scale election campaign. Its activities in various forms are recorded in 54% of the united territorial communities, where elections are to take place. Petro Poroshenco Bloc candidates’ campaign activities are of somewhat lesser scale covering 42% of the UTCs. Similarly visible is public campaign of such extra-parliamentary parties as UKROP (34% of the UTCs) and the Agrarian Party of Uktaine (28% of the UTCs), who – based on this indicator – are on par with Oleh Liashko’s Radical Party (27% of the UTCs) and the Union Samopomich (Self-Help) (24% of the UTCs). Other parties, in fact, do not campaign on the national level and their activities are limited to those of individual candidates in specific UTCs. Overall, even in the last campaigning week none of the most active parties participating in the election process did not campaign in all UTCs involved.

Ranking of parties participating in the election process by the scale of their campaign activities

PartyPercentage of UTCs, where campaigning was recorded
AU Batkivschyna54%
"Petro Poroshenco Bloc42%
UKROP34%
The Agrarian Party of Ukraine28%
Oleh Liashko’s Radical Party27%
The Union Samopomich (Self-Help)24%
Nash Krai (Our Land)16%
AU Svoboda15%
Opposition Bloc7%
The Party Vidrodzhennia (Renaissance)4%

Asforcampaignstrategiesemployedbythecandidates, distribution ofleaflets, postersandotherprintedmaterialswasthemostcommon. This way of campaigning prevails among both city mayor candidates (81% employ such techniques) and deputy candidates (87%). Also popular are citizen gatherings and meetings with voters practiced by 80% of local deputy and mayoral candidates. Political advertisement in the Media is not the most typical way of campaigning for the local elections even though it traditionally prevails for the national level campaigns. The least popular among candidates were public debates, discussionsm round tables, press-conferences as well as public events (meetings, marches, rallies, picketings).

Prevailing forms of campaigning among deputy candidates

Type of campaigningPrecentage of the UTCs, where such way of campaigning is recorded
Campaigningleafletandposterdistribution87%
Citizen gatherings and meetings with voters78%
Politicaladvertisementinprintedandaudio- visualMedia37%
Outdoorpoliticaladvertisement33%
Campaigning booths installation30%
Concerts, shows, sportscompetitions, movieandTVprogramshowsetc.26%
Publicdebates, discussions, roundtables, press-conferences12%
Meetings, marches, rallies, picketing4%

Prevailing forms of campaigning among local mayoral candidates

Типи агітаціїВідсоток ОТГ, де зафіксовано таку агітацію
Campaigningleafletandposterdistribution85%
Citizen gatherings and meetings with voters81%
Politicaladvertisementinprintedandaudio- visualMedia41%
Outdoorpoliticaladvertisement31%
Concerts, shows, sportscompetitions, movieandTVprogramshowsetc.25%
Campaigning booths installation23%
Publicdebates, discussions, roundtables, press-conferences19%
Meetings, marches, rallies, picketing2%

In its previous report, OPORA took notice of the absolutely unacceptable situation with candidates submitting printed samples of their campaigning materials to corresponding territorial election commissions, which should be done at the expense of candidates’ own campaign funds using their own equipment and no later than in two days after the materials are produced. The amount of campaigning materials discovered by OPORA observers is categorically disproportionate with those sporadic samples of campaigning products received by territorial election commissions. Over the last two weeks, the situation improved in cities. In all city UTCs (except for Vylkivska UTC in Odeaks oblast, for which the commission has not provided corresponding information) over one third of the political parties’ local organizations have submitted ready samples of their campaigning materials to TECs. At the same time, in village and town UTCs less than 10% of the candidates followed this legal requirement and presented samples of their campaigning materials to TECs, which only partly can be explained by absence of campaigning activities on the part of a significant number of registered candidates.

There is a much worse situation with following the norm of the Law on candidates submitting their interim financial reports. According to the Article 71(4) of the Law of Ukraine On local Elections, a holder of a political party local organization’s campaign fund accumulation account is required, no later than five days prior to the voting, to submit an interim financial report to the respective territorial election commission for the period starting from the day of opening the accumulation account for the campaign fund till the tenth day before the voting in the form set by the CEC.

At the elections to village and town councils, only 1% of deputy candidates have submitted their interim financial reports to TECs. Also, OPORA has analysed the situation with political parties’ local organizations in all city UTCs. In 12 out of 25 city UTCs, where the elections are to take place on 29 October, none of the political parties have submitted their reports. The best situation is in Ichnivska city united territorial community in Chernihivska oblast, where 70% (7 out of 10) parties have submitted reports as well as in Verhniodniprovska city united territorial community in Dnipropetrovska oblast, where 5 out of 12 parties have followed the norm of the law.  Among the parties, who were the most active in following the norm of the Law there were Samopomich (Self-help) (submitted reports in 7 city UTCs) and Batkivschyna (reported in 6 UTCs). In 5 city UTCs, there were recorded interim financial reports by Petro Poroshenco Bloc, UKROP, the Agrarian Party of Ukraine and Nash Krai (Our Land).

According to OPORA, only 16.4% of candidates for village, town and city mayors have submitted their interim financial reports. The most responsible ones were city mayor candidates, of whom almost on third (29.3%) have submitted interim reports. It was 20.7% and 11% rate for village and town mayor candidates respectively.

Local mayors candidates’ interim financial report submission rates

CandidatesPercentage of those who have submitted reports
For village mayors11,0%
For town mayors20,7%
For city mayors29,3%
Total of local mayoral candidates, who have submitted reports16,4%

 

 

 

 

OPORA has also analyzed the situation with local mayoral candidates opening accounts for their campaign funds and informing commissions about it. Campaign fund of a candidate for village, town, and city mayor has one current account where money is transferred to be used for campaigning purposes. A copy of territorial election commission’s decision on registration of candidate in question is an authorizing reference for opening current account. A bank’s branch, where the account is opened, has to inform territorial election commission about it no later than within the following day providing account details (Article 70 of the Law of Ukraine on Local Elections). According to OPORA, 45% of local mayoral candidates have not informed TECs about opening campaign fund account. In practice, it makes impossible any kind of control over receipt, accounting and use of money of the campaign fund, which, according to the Article 72(9) is a responsibility of both TEC and the branch of the bank, where the campaign fund account is opened.

In the process of further improving of local elections legislation one should thoroughly discuss the issue of political parties’ local organizations’ participation in sponsoring their deputy candidates, competing in single-member electoral districts. The current Law of Ukraine on Local Elections does not allow political parties’ local organizations, whose candidates are nominating in single-member electoral districts, to create their own campaign funds. According to the Article 70(1), it is candidates for deputies in single-member electoral districts (village and town councils), who can open campaign fund accounts as well as political parties local organizations, whose candidates are registered in multi-member district (city councils). Actual evidence demonstrates that individual candidates at village and town council elections are not capable of opening and managing campaign fund accounts on their own.

On the other hand, political parties’ local organizations are motivated to help their nominees to run promotion campaigns. For instance, at the first local elections in 17 out of 19 UTCs local organizations of the political party Ukrainian Union of Patriots – UKROP practiced opening a campaign fund for one candidate nominated in the district through which campaigns were sponsored for all other candidates from this party. A quite popular practice at community elections was distribution of campaign materials produced at the expense of central and oblast level party organizations outside candidate campaign funds (Mykolaivska, Kharkivska oblasts, etc.). Activities of political parties local organizations at elections of local council deputies in single-member electoral districts are also restricted by absence of possibility of official non-material contribution from a political party to candidate’s campaign fund. OPORA notes that the task for the Government is to ensure transparency of financing election campaigns and preventing candidates using shadowed money. This task does not contradict political parties’ local organizations’ propensity to efficiently run promotion campaigns. Therefore, the Legislator should consider an option of improving the corresponding regulation.

At the local level, the debate continues on acceptability of so-called charity involving young people under the legal age. The issue in question is about factual campaigning activities followed by presenting children and youngsters gifts or providing them entertainment services. It is obvious that true consumers of such events are adult citizens with voting right.

VIOLATIONS OF ELECTORAL LEGISLATION

As of 25 October 2017, OPORA observers found over 250 electoral violations of various kinds on the part of the election process subjects. The most common type of electoral legislation violations (40% of the total number) was distributing campaigning materials in places prohibited by the Law. Also frequent, although not as widespread, were instances of distributing campaigning materials without required information (16% of the total number of recorded violations). Contrary to the previous monitoring period, over the last two weeks before the voting day there was an increasing number of instances of administrative resource abuse mostly in the form of employing communal Media for campaigning purposes (slightly over 6.3%), placing campaigning materials inside the premises of State bodies, communal enterprises and public institutions (6.3%) as well as campaigning by state officials at official events (6%).  

Ranking of electoral violations (as of 26 October 2017)

Violation typeNumberPercentage of the total
Distribution of campaigning materials in places prohibited by the Law10140,1%
Distribution of campaigning materials without required information3915,5%
placing campaigning materials inside the premises of State bodies, communal enterprises and public institutions166,3%
CampaigningviacommunalMediaandofficialpublicationsofstateandlocalgovernmentbodies166,3%
Campaigningbyofficialsatofficialevents156,0%
Absence of election commission member during its work without sensible reason135,2%
Involvementofstateofficialsorrepresentativesofpublicinstitutionsin campaigning events124,8%
Officials publicly supporting candidates during work time124,8%
Depriving journalists and public activists of the right to familiarize with election-related documents as well as to perform photo- and video recording.124,8%
Other violations166,3%

OPORA observers have recorded facts of involving the Head of Khersonska Oblast State Adminstration Andrii Hordeev in actual campaigning activities. He visits public events together with local election candidates while inside communities campaigning materials are distributed with his interview in support of certain competitors for the elected positions. OPORA observers could not find where the official has violated concrete electoral legislation limitations, taking into account specific features of current regulations. However, as OPORA has several times mentioned, state authorities officials at all levels should not only consider specific legal limitations but also follow electoral standards of equal treatment of all candidates and contribute to implementation of the principle of equal opportunities for election participants.  As was previously mentioned, instances of administrative resource abuse, among others, took form of distributing campaigning materials at governmental buildings. For instance, in the premises of the Iaroslavytska village council (Rivnenska oblast) printed campaigning materials were found endorsing the candidate from Petro Poroshenco Bloc Solidarity local organization. The OPORA observer has filed a complaint to the Mlynivskyi Police Department in response to the violation.

In the last few weeks of the campaign, instances of so-called campaigning charity became more frequent. It is a strategy of material voter motivation in order to achieve additional electoral benefits and building up positive image of the election process subject. Such cases usually bear signs of indirect voter bribing.

For instance, in Rivnenska oblast on 24 October, the candidate for village mayor in the Demydivska UTC Yaroslav Pekarskyi together with Oleh Liashko’ Radical Party representatives, namely the people’s deputy of Ukraine Andrii Lozovyi and the deputy of Rivnenska oblast council Volodymyr Kovalchuk visited Demydivska central hospital and presented 30 sets of linens. Also, on 24 October, Andrii Lozovyi visited pre-school education institution #1 Kazka (Fairy Tale), where he presented industrial grade frying pan and electric mincer; Klevanskyi pre-school education institution #2 Sonechko (The Little Sun), to which he presented a MFD (printer/scanner/Xerox) and a notebook; Demydivskyi Cultural Center presenting a notebook and books for the library. Also, together with Oleh Liashko’s Radical Party Rivnenska oblast organization leader Oksana Lozova and the deputy of Rivnenska oblast council Serhii Svystaliuk he visited Rachynska comprehensive school of the I-II level and Rachyn village health center, where they presented a notebook.

In Ivano-Frankivska oblast, an OPORA observer has recorded that a candidate for the Pererislianskyi village mayor Ivan Melnyk, on 20 October in the village of Fyt’kiv of the Nadvirnianskyi district, presented two packs of light fittings at the opening of the artificial turf football playground at Fyt’kivska comprehensive school of I-III levels. The observer has filed a complaint to the police on indirect voter bribing.

In Poltavska oblast, the Nash Krai (Our Land) political party oblast organization has presented football gear, litter bins and equipped a playground for children in the community of Zchepylivka village of the Novosanzharska united territorial community. This activity bears signs of indirect voter bribing,

On 19 October, a piece of news with video footage was published in the printed edition Moia Kyivschyna (My Kyiv Region) and on the Bila Tserkva city web-site  claiming  that AU Batkivschyna representatives performed voter bribing masked as additional pension payment. As stated in publications, this happened at the stadium of the Trushky village after the campaigning event of the candidate for Fursivska united territorial community mayor Nadia Kravchenko (AU Batkivschyna). The footage shows the group of elderly people, who are receiving money and signing in a list. The person handing out the money is holding a notepad with AU Batkivschyna’s logo. This fact was documented by Oleh Liashko’s Radical Party representatives, who complained to the police. According to the Kyivska oblast police Head Department, the police has received a complaint stating that one of the mayoral candidates in Fursivska territorial community in Bilotserkivskyi district has met with voters of the Trushky village to discuss local problems and handed out money – UAH 200 per person – masking this as a single social benefit. A team of investigators responded to the call and went to the scene, finding about 50 citizens at the village stadium. Meeting organizers denied the fact of voter bribing. At the moment, the police investigation is under way. They analyze the activists’ footage and question eyewitnesses. Investigators have opened criminal proceedings based on the Article 160(2) (bribing a voter or a referendum participant) of the Criminal Code of Ukraine. The pre-trial investigation is under way.

One can find signs of hidden administrative resource abuse in the form of introducing local social and economic development programs (Kyivska and Kirovohradska oblasts) as well as opening new sites  sponsored by subventions on social and economic development for certain territories (Chernivetska oblast). In the village of Oboznivka (elections in the Katerynynska united territorial community, Kirovohradska oblast) pensioners were offered an opportunity to open banking account  for receiving UAH 300 under the social program called Veteran scheduled for 2016-2020, which was approved back on 25.12.2015. There is UAH 140 thousand envisaged in the local budget for implementation of this program in 2017. In the village of Trushky (elections in the Fursivska united territorial community) money was handed out as part of the program run by a deputy of Kyivska oblast council.

Subventions from the state budget to local budgets for implementing measures for social and economic development of specific territories are distributed through the procedure, approved by the Cabinet of Ministers’s Decision #106 from 6 February 2012. According to the amendments introduced in September 2017, distribution of subventions is done based on people’s deputies’ proposals. One can consider using the effects of social and economic subventions as a means of campaigning, as was recorded in the Kitsmans’kii united territorial community in Chernivetska oblast, as hidden use of state budgetary resources. The people’s deputy of Ukraine Ivan Rybak, together with the current mayor of the city of Kitsman’, who is a nominee from Petro Poroshenco Bloc Solidarity local party organization opened a street in one of the settlements repaired on a subvention. At the ceremony, the MP endorsed the candidate as a community head-to-be. Such activities may lead to noncompetitive advantages to the benefit of certain candidates.

One should treat as an abuse of state budgetary resources, which does not involve direct infringement of the legislation but violates equality of rights and opportunities of candidates, the address of Zaporizka oblast council deputy at the celebration of the Village Day of the village of Volodymyrivka sponsored from the budgetary funds, in which she presented a candidate for mayor of the Iakymivska UTC.  Also, on October 16, during the celebration in the town of Krasnorichens’ke in Kremin’skyi district, the leader of Oleh Liashko’s Radical Party’s Luhansk oblast organization expressed his support for the current head of the town of Krasnorichens’ke in Kremins’kyi district of Luhanska oblast.

In the Burynska UTC in Sumska oblast, a road repairs have started with support from the candidate for mayor in Buryns’ka city united territorial community and, at the same time, current deputy of Sumska oblast council Oleksandr Nepochatov (Petro Poroshenco Bloc Solidarity local party organization).  

In the Radomyshl’ska UTC, the facts are recorded that bear signs of administrative resource abuse. Radomyshl’ska District State Administration has initiated a celebration, which contained an element of campaigning. Presents were handed out by the candidate from the political party Nash Krai (Our Land). Then a children bike-ride took place, where participants were wearing waistcoats with Nash Krai inscription.

ENSURING APPROPRIATE CONDITIONS FOR HOLDING ELECTIONS

One may acknowledge that the work of territorial election commissions is appropriately organized. However, instances of court appeals on commission decisions became more frequent, which may imply either unsatisfactory professional level of TEC members or irresponsible performance of their duties.

Various high-profile cases of court appeals on TEC decisions, activities or inactivity were recorded in 23 UTCs. In most cases, court appeals were filed in response to unlawful denial of candidate registration or unlawful registration of candidates. Also, candidates appealed on commission decisions about excluding candidates from voting lists, making changes to ballots or on TECs inactivity.

On 21 October, Kyiv administrative court of appeal resolved to terminate the powers of the whole Ichnivska city election commission in Chernihivska oblast because of the regular violations of the Constitution of Ukraine and the Law of Ukraine On Local Elections by the commission.

For instance, the commission ignored several court decisions in regard to cancellation of TEC decisions on creating electoral districts. Kyiv administrative court of appeal’s decision includes cancellation of the TEC decision on approving draft ballot in the part of approving draft ballot for the multi-member electoral district for electing deputies to the Ichnivska city council. On 26.10.2017, the district TEC selected the new Ichnivska city election commission, which has to find a legal way to resolve the problem with electoral district creation and preparing voting ballots. Also, the situation remains unclear with creation of electoral districts in Novopoltavska village community in Mykolaivska oblast. The Novobuzkyi district court has cancelled the Novopoltavska village election commision’s decision on creating electoral districts for the first deputiy election to the Novopoltacska village council.

The Odes’kyi court of appeal has refused to examine the election commission’s complaint referring to the missed two-day deadline for the appellation. As of 23.10.2017, OPORA observers are aware of Novopoltavska village TEC filing a complaint to the district court requesting to clarify the mechanisms for implementing the court decision cancelling TEC’s protocol on creating electoral districts. Among other points, the complaint contains refers to the absence of legal procedure for cancelling commission decisions on creating electoral districts after the registration stage is over and campaigning has started within previously created districts.

Overall, TECs follow procedural requirements of the legislation in the part of keeping meetings minutes and records of applications, following the procedure for passing decisions and their posting on the announcement board. At the same time, as was already mentioned by the OPORA observers, almost 20% of TECs do not prepare draft decisions in advance prior to the commission meetings.

TECs following of procedural requirements of the legislation

ProcduresPercentage of TECs that follow them
Keeping meeting minutes99,4%
Preparing decisions in the form of resolutions and placing them on the announcement board97,2%
Keeping the application record96,0%
Preparing draft decisions81,4%

There is a general trend of having communication difficulties between observers and district territorial election commission members, who always refer to the lack of appropriate equipment needed to sustain their work. There should be a legally set procedure for the necessary revision of district council decisions on providing budget funds for operating district territorial election commissions in case of holding the first elections in respective districts. Despite the CEC’s address to oblast state administrations from 13 December 2016 in regard to financing district election commissions during local elections from the local budgets there is no unified practice of such funding. For example, the Head of Vysokopilska District State Administration in Khersonska oblast has refused to bring the issue of budget revision for consideration at the district council session. At the same time, the official addressed political parties’ local organizations with the proposal that they should sponsor the district election commission operations on their own expense, which is unlawful and unacceptable from the general electoral principles standpoint.

Although the problems with logistics in individual TECs (inappropriately equipped premises, lack of office equipment and stationary goods) still are not resolved, observers believe they do not threaten election preparation process including arrangements for vote count. Traditionally though, there is somewhat worse situation with general level of logistics support for precinct election commissions.

There were no confirmed instances of pressure on TECs or their individual members on the part of government bodies or candidate (party) representatives, although there were numerous signals of this sort without appropriate proofs.

A conflict situation has arised in a TEC in Khmelnitska oblast. The Head of SLobidsko-Kulchievetska village election commission has informed the OPORA observer that the election in the community is on the edge of disruption since the village mayor has not approved the budget in time and, therefore, the TEC could not receive funds from the Treasury for election arrangements. At the same time, the village mayor Ruslan Nesterov, who is also a candidate for UTC mayor from Petro Poroshenco Bloc Solidarity, when asked by OPORA representative, stated that there were no problems on his part. The situation arised, Mr. Ruslan says, due to the fault of the TEC Head, who was still making changes to the budget a day before, on 24 October. We should mention that both village mayor and TEC Head represent the same political party. The biggest threat in story is delay with ballot preparation.

Territorial election commissions allowed procedural violations while creating precinct election commissions. Mostly, this refers to violations of the sortition procedure (arranging sortitions for each commission separately – Fursivska village election commission in Kyivska oblast); taking into account applications from inappropriate subjects (extra-parliamentary parties – Volynska oblast); taking into consideration applications contradicting to the Law (more than one candidate from a single subject – Kyivska oblast); taking into consideration applications proposed by TEC head in a way that the number of commission members was bigger than the minimum allowed (Poltavska oblast). In some cases, when faults in creating commissions were discovered, the relevant changes were made to the decisions so that persons nominated by inappropriate subjects or with violations of the allowed number of candidates were repeatedly excluded/included to the commission on proposals from the commission’s head.

While forming PEC in the Ostrytska territorial community candidates for the PEC head based on one of the candidate applications were included to the PEC, but later instead of making changes by commission members a decision was made to change the initial application for another one (by way of producing the new application by commission members without candidate’s signature).

According to OPORA raw data, a threatening practice of the past to nominate same candidates for PEC membership by various party local organizations or candidates did not present itself at these elections. Sporadic instances of this kind were recorded in 7% of all UTCs, where the first local elections are to take place.

In 82% of the UTCs, local government bodies have designated and equipped places for posting campaigning materials, which is a significant progress over the past week, when in the midst of campaign most UTCs did not have appropriately equipped and designated places for campaigning.

We have to remark that there are no proactive education activities and voter communications done on the part of the State Register bodies and of the law enforcement institutions. Observers have noted that only in 13% of the UTCs departments responsible for keeping the State Register of Voters were actively informing citizens about the need to verify their data in the Register. Also, only in 27% of the UTCs the law enforcement bodies performed prevention and education activities among voters and election process subjects to prevent electoral violations.

BALLOT PREPARATION

Ballot preparation is an important stage of the election process, which directly affects smoothness of voting arrangements and trust of the election process subjects. Preceding cases of disrupted voting in individual communities because of the impossibility to appropriately prepare voting ballots and deliver them to the polling stations in 2015 (Pokrovsk and Mariupol in Donetska oblast, other territorial communities) has again drew observers’, journalists’ and candidate’s attention to this process. Problems with ballot protection, capacities of printing enterprises to ensure ballot production in time and following the legislation requirements as well as guarding the ballots are pressing issues of both current elections and future improvements of the specialized legislation. OPORA observers have ensured a full-scale monitoring of the ballot production process. The results of which are presented in sort below.

In accordance with the current legislation, TECs should have approved ballot templates for electing village, town and city mayors as well as local council deputies no later than seventeen days ahead of the voting day (through 11 October). Subjects of the election process have two days after the TEC’s decision to familiarize with ballot content.

According to OPORA, 186 out of 201 TECs at the first local elections of village, town and city mayors in 2017 have approved ballot templates in time. At the same time, 185 TECs kept within deadlines for approving ballot templates for electing local council deputies. Therefore, 92% of TECs have approved ballot templates in time.

Instances of exceeding the deadlines were caused by unsettled court litigations regarding TEC decisions on candidate registration denials or cancellations. Instructions of the CEC (Decision #391 from 07.10.2015) on specific regulations of the Law of Ukraine On Local Elections state that printing of voting ballots is prohibited until court disputes on candidate registration are finished, court decisions on such cases come into effect and decisions are passed for their implementation except for the cases where further printing delay may cause exceeding the deadlines of ballot production.

For example, in Zborivska city territorial community in Ternopilska oblast it was not until 13 October that the TEC received court decision on cancelling commission’s decision on candidate registration denial and obligation to repeatedly consider the matter of his registration. The Luka-Meleshivska village TEC in Volynska oblast was waiting for the court decision on 11 candidates, to whom it denied registration without approving ballot templates. At the same time in Radomyshl’ska city community in Zhytomirska oblast candidates appealed on the decision to cancel their registration, which made it impossible to keep within the deadline for approving ballot templates. In Verkhniodniprovska city election community (Dnipropetrovska oblast) the TEC did not keep within the deadlines for cancelling candidate registration and, therefore, deadlines for approving ballot templates. The TEC, when passing the corresponding decision, has decided to remove the Union Samopomich’s (Self-Help) local organization from voting ballots in districts, where the party had not assigned its candidates. This unlawful decision was grounded by the fact that the commission had previously cancelled the decision on registration of the number one position in the list of this political party’s local organization. The conflicting situation was resolved after the TEC has implemented the court decision on candidate registration – number one in the list of the Union Samopomich’s (Self-Help) local organization – and adding this political party to the list on the voting ballots in all territorial electoral districts at the elections of city council deputies. Organizational difficulties and, in some cases, low level of election commission members’ professionalism  were the major causes of exceeding deadlines for approving ballot templates.

OPORA observers note that 196 out of 201 TECs have followed the legislation requirement that election process subjects familiarize with ballot templates within two days after their being approved. 5 instances of breaching the procedure were caused by urgent submission of the relevant materials to producing companies by TECs, which made it impossible for candidates and observers to familiarize with the ballot templates.

In 26 TECs OPORA observers as well as other subjects of the election process have found mistakes and inaccuracies in voting ballot templates (13% of all TECs). Recorded mistakes included inaccuracies in candidate personal data, inaccurately stated candidates’ positions and occupation, mistakes in candidate party affiliation, inaccuracies in legally set names of electoral districts or elections in general. For instance, in Stepankivska village united community in Cherkasska oblast self-nominated candidates have drawn the TEC’s attention to the fact that the ballot template did not indicate their affiliation with the party National Corps.

In some territorial communities, inaccuracies in approved voting ballot templates led to serious consequences and additional financial expenses. For instance, in Malodanylivska community in Kharkivska oblast 10 370 ballots for electing village mayor were destroyed because of the mistake found in specifying the electoral district (the ballots for the town head election were saying ‘unified single-member district for electing village council deputies’).

A situation threatening stability of the election process has appeared in Kuialnitskyi village community in Odeska oblast. When ballots were received from the producing company, the Agrarian Party of Ukraine’s local organization candidates were missing in ballots for five single-member districts. Company representatives insisted that removing the Agrarian Party of Ukraine candidates from the ballot list was done on request of the candidate representatives and of district party organization of Petro Poroshenco Bloc Solidarity. The head of the TEC claimed that they provided appropriate templates to the printing company, containing the Agrarian Party of Ukraine candidates. Prior to this conflicting situation, the TEC had made a decision to deny registration to candidates from this political party, whoch was then cancelled by the court. In Katerynivska and Pervozvanivska village communities in Kirovohradska oblast, when receiving the ballots, PEC members have found a mistake which made it necessary to reprint the whole batch (instead of saying ‘Voting Ballot’ it said ‘Control Ticket’).

There were sporadic cases where after printing the voting ballots inaccuracies in certain candidates’ personal data were discovered. However, TECs do not intend to reprint the ballots.

The legislation on local elections says that TECs define the number of voting ballots within a respective electoral district allowing for ballot reserve in the quantity of 0.5% of the number of voters at every precinct in that electoral district. Such decision should have been adopted by the commissions through October 16.

OPORA observers note that 190 out of 201 TECs have followed the legislation requirement on defining the number of ballots allowing for the reserve in the quantity of 0.5 % of the total voters number at each precinct in respective districts. Sporadic instances of breaking this legislation requirement were those of not envisaging reserve ballots at all. There was a single case, where the TEC has decided to produce reserve ballots in the quantity of 5% from the total number of voters in the community included in the previous voter lists (Komyshanska village community in Sumska oblast).

According to the Article 74(11) of the Law of Ukraine On Local Elections, TECs possess the power to establish the level of ballot protection. At the same time, current regulations do not specify requirements to the level of ballot protection. One has recorded varying TEC practices in this respect. A significant number of TECs did not establish the level of ballot protection and did not specify it in contracts with producing companies. A number of election commissions decided to produce voting ballots with either special signs or colored grid etc.

Taking into account preceding political and expert-level debates on trustiness of companies producing ballots for the local elections, OPORA has collected information about their organizational and legal form. According to observers, individual entrepreneurs produce voting ballots for 40 territorial communities, while in 79 communities the producers are legal entities with communal ownership; in 81 communities – legal entities with private ownership. Therefore, in 20% of communities, the ballots are produced by private entrepreneurs. In this regard one should mention that at the first local election in 2015 the Donetsk district court found the decision for choosing an individual entrepreneur for printing ballots in the city of Pokrovsk (former Krasnoarmiisk) to be unlawful since, according to the court, a company, as envisaged by the Law, should be a legal entity registered as “enterprise”. This court decision was further confirmed on 25.10.2015 by the appellation institution, but the continuing electoral dispute on voting ballots production ended with actual impossibility to arrange voting at the elections of Pokrovsk city mayor and local council.

OPORA observers have checked if there is an actual conflict of interest among owners/managers of the companies producing voting ballots in terms of their participation in the election and political process. The law does not limit production of ballots by companies that are related to candidates or leaders of political parties’ local organizations. However, the experience of local elections in 2015-2016 tells that subjects of the election process involve themselves in debates, manipulations or even heated quarrels over impartiality of ballot producing companies’ employees. For example, there was a political struggle over the owner of the printing company in 2015 at the regular local elections in the city of Mariupol in Donetska oblast.

According to OPORA observers, in 4 out of 201 communities voting ballots are produced by the companies, whose owners are either candidates at the first local elections or public leaders of local organizations. At the same time, in 6 out of 201 communities, printing company leadership is formally subordinate and accountable to candidates or public leaders of local party organizations, who hold official positions. In this regard one has to mention that there is no recorded evidence that could explicitly or implicitly suggest politically motivated violations on the part of voting ballot producing companies. 

Based on proposals from local organizations of the political parties, whose parliamentary factions were created and announced at the first regular session of Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine of the current convocation, TECs should create controlling commissions. These controlling commissions have to ensure control over production of voting ballots by producing companies, meeting the requirements on destroying print forms, technical wastes, defective prints, ballots printed by mistake.

Controlling commissions comprising representatives of parliamentary parties’ local organizations are an important instrument of control over the process of voting ballot production. Moreover, a respective commission is independent from the TEC, which additionally contributes to a balanced control over voting ballot production.

Unfortunately, OPORA observers have to remark that in 59% (118) of territorial communities controlling commissions were not created, while in 83 communities they were created. Parliamentary political parties’ local organizations, as a rule, have not use their right to nominate candidates to the controlling commission. On the other hand, quite often TECs were not sufficiently aware of the need to create such commissions.

Among the 6 parliamentary parties, local organizations of AU Batkivschyna and Petro Poroshenco Bloc Solidarity were the most active in nominating candidates to commissions controlling voting ballot production.

Activity of political parties’ local organizations in nominating candidates to commissions controlling voting ballot production

Party The number of nominees in all communities
AU Batkivschyna local party organizations59
Petro Poroshenco Bloc local party organizations57
Oleh Liashko’s Radical Party local party organizations40
The Union Samopomich (Self-Help) local party organizations20
The Opposition Bloc local party organizations19
People’s Front local party organizations18

OPORA observers have found out that over 70% of controlling commissions were actually controlling ballot production. As for the rest of the commissions, there was no solid evidence of their performing control functions.

OPORA has evaluated actual observer capabilities to obtain information from TECs about voting ballots production.  75% or TECs presented agreements with ballot production contractors to observers on their request. However, according to observers, information on destroying print forms, technical wastes, defective prints, ballots printed by mistake including quantitative data was not fully available (63% of the UTCs)

At the first local elections on 29 October 2017, many TECs exceeded the deadline for receiving voting ballots from producing companies. According to OPORA observers’ data, 131 TECs (65%) received voting ballots after the legally set deadline.  In accordance with the Law of Ukraine On Local Elections, contracting companies were required to produce voting ballots through 23.10.2017 and deliver them to TECs no later than on the following day, on 24.10.2017. TECs can start delivering ballots to PECs no sooner than on 26.20.2017 ensuring their safe keeping after receiving them from the producing company. The legislation charges the police with responsibility to guard ballots during their transportation and keeping within TEC and PEC premises.  The Security Service of Ukraine officers can be involved in guarding voting ballots on request from the CEC. The reasons for exceeding deadlines for voting ballots production vary ranging from difficulties with money transfers to the printing companies’ accounts and the need to reprint part of the batch to insufficient producer capacities to cope with the order. However, according to OPORA observers’ reports, it was the problem with the police involvement for guarding ballots during their transportation and keeping in TECs’ premises that frequently caused protractions. Observers have repeatedly noted the facts of non-public agreements between TECs and the police on protracting reception of ballots in order to reduce the number of days when police is involved in guarding ballots. This led to the situation where voting ballots are kept inside producing company premises for a longer time than is envisaged by the Law. Therefore, TECs have frequently avoided the need to store voting ballots in their premises and transferred them form producing companies directly to PECs. This practice is not merely a formal violation of the legally set deadlines but also limits a possibility of finding mistakes in ballots in due time for urgent production of the new batch of documents. Besides, there is no reason to believe that keeping ballots at producing company’s premises is safer than keeping them by TECs with the help of police officers. OPORA calls to the law enforcement bodies as well as TECs to ensure appropriate keeping and guarding of the voting ballots without avoiding responsibilities envisaged by the Law of Ukraine On Local Elections.

OPORA observers have paid their attention to the fact that some TECs had difficulties with ordering ballots for special precincts. In particular, voting ballots were not ordered for the special precinct #590095 of the Burinska city community in Sumska oblast. In accordance with the CEC Resolution #197 from 28.08.2015, voting ballots for special precincts are produced based on the data provided by the special precinct election commissions including the data on number of beds in a respective health center estimated according to the data provided by the administration of the inpatient facilities as well as to the maximum number of PEC members. The corresponding regulation should find its place in the Law of Ukraine On Local Elections, which would contribute to ensuring an appropriate voting arrangements at special precincts. Since no changes were made to the CEC Resolution #181 from 25 August 2015 on adopting voting ballot shape and color, TECs indicated the name of the election in the ballots differently. 

RECOMMENDATIONS

To the Central Election Commission

  • To control equal application of the electoral legislation by territorial election commissions taking into account legal uncertainties on the number of important procedures.
  • To assist in resolving the problem with creating electoral districts in Ichnivska city community in Chernihivska oblast and Novopoltavska village community in Mykolaivska oblast.
  • Taking into account previous local election experience, to introduce efficient channels of communication with territorial election commissions assisting in resolution of their operation problems.

ToVerhovnaRadaofUkraine and itsCommittees

  • To make changes to the legislation ensuring legal clarity of the election process at the first local elections in united territorial communities; this will help to avoid problems at the following elections of the appropriate level.
  • To get back to implementation of previously taken obligations on performing a full-scale electoral reform and improving election procedures.

To law enforcement bodies

  • To ensure efficient monitoring and filing of legislation violations at the elections with special emphasis on instances of material voter incentives preventing attempts of voter bribing on the eve and on the voting day.
  • To perform impartial investigation in response to the complaints by people’s deputies of the parliamentary faction of AU Batkivschyna about the pressure on candidates representing their party.
  • To arrange a focused training for the law enforcement officers who are directly involved in investigation of crimes at the first local elections in united territorial communities.
  • To strengthen education, awareness and prevention activities aimed at prevention of election-related crimes.

To Government and public officials: 

  • On the eve of and on the voting day as well as while counting the results to keep neutral to evaluations publicly made by the election process subjects, following the standards of political impartiality of a state official.
  • To perform internal investigation of instances of unlawful involvement of state officials in election campaigns
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