Opora

Election day passed without massive and systematic violations that would significantly affect the results of the voting of the citizens of Ukraine. However, frequent cases of illegal actions and abuse by various participants in the election process in some districts do not allow considering the voting process in general as fair and democratic. The biggest concerns of the observers of the civil network OPORA were caused by numerous incidents of ballot secrecy violations and disclosure, illegal provision of ballots to voters and cases of centralized transportation of voters to polling stations, which were combined with bribery. Within the framework of the opaque work of election commissions, artificial delays of the counting and tabulation are negatively affecting the level of public confidence in the election process.

The beginning of the voting was marked by the fact that 8% of the polling stations opened before 8:00 a.m., the time defined by the law, while 7% of polling stations began voting with delay – after 8:00 a.m.

Approximately 22% of precinct election commissions (PECs) violated the law by starting their session before 7:15 am. By beginning early, the commissions did not allow all the interested electoral subjects to verify the correctness and legality of the preparatory procedures. Only 1% of the PECs began their morning session after 8 a.m., thus preventing the timely opening the premises for voting and disturbing the procedures conducted prior to the beginning of the voting process.

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Some public [MM1] observers who arrived at PEC preparation sessions were illegally prevented from participating. In particular, such cases were recorded in Lviv (PECs #460063, #460873), Rivne (PEC #560700), and Khmelnytsky (PEC #681110) oblasts. As a result of these actions by the commissions, observers were deprived of the legitimate opportunity to personally verify the integrity of the sealed safe deposits with election documentation, sealing of ballot boxes and to sign the checklists. Throughout the election day, cases of obstruction of official observers by the PEC occurred repeatedly – in Dnipropetrovsk, Donetsk, Zakarpattia, Odessa, Poltava, Lviv, Kharkiv, Volyn, Rivne, and Khmelnitsky oblasts. For example, PEC #120653 in Dnipropetrovsk oblast, located in the village Shesternya of Shyrokivs'kiy District, the commission denied observers their right to obtain the protocol of voting results on the grounds that there were no blank protocols. In Lviv oblast (PEC #61867), OPORA observers were ordered not to be closer than 3 meters from the table where the commissioners were counting votes. In Poltava oblast (PEC #531251), OPORA observers were illegally refused to accept the act of detecting violations [MM2] of election law.

One of the most common issues recorded by observers on election day was the violation of the secrecy of voting. Such cases were recorded in Kyiv, Cherkasy, Dnipropetrovsk, Kirovohrad, Volyn, Vinnitsa, Poltava, Luhansk, and Mykolaiv oblasts. Precinct election commissions failed to provide proper discipline at the polling station and thereby allowed the secrecy to be violated. Particularly typical were the presence of two people in the voting booth, photographing ballots or voting outside the booths. Outsiders often contributed to the photo and video recording of the ballot. Thus, at three constituencies of Vladimir-Volyn oblast (#070978, #070986, #070983) there were recorded attempts by unidentified persons to control the will of voters by taking photographs of voting results. Unidentified persons in automobiles (two of them were taxi "Daewoo Lanos" AC8197AE and "Volkswagen Golf" AC0681AT) at these polling stations distributed cameras and camera phones to people going to vote. After the citizens voted, they returned to the cars and showed the unidentified persons the photographed bulletin and returned the device. This is a gross violation of the law, because voting is secret and no one can control the will of voters[1]. In addition, the violation of ballot secrecy is a crime[2].

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In some oblasts (Donetsk, Dnepropetrovsk, Volyn, and Kirovohrad oblasts[MM1] ) observers recorded instances of centralized transportation of voters to the polls. For example, this was observed in PECs #41 and #45 in Donetsk oblast . In particular, the following facts were recorded at polling stations #141731 (election district #45, Yasynuvata town) and #141626 (district #41, Budennovsky district of Donetsk). According to drivers, vans were organized by the local authorities. Organizers of the centralized transportation of voters usually motivated them to vote for a particular candidate (party) using bribery. For example, in Torchin village (Volyn region) approximately 70 voters were transported to the polling stations on two buses and the car ‘Daewoo Lanos’[MM2] . Near the station, there were two unidentified men who had a list of people. The voters received money from the men before entering the station. Such activity is illegal and has obvious signs of being a criminal offense: impeding the free implementation of the citizen’s right to suffrage combined with bribery, fraud or violation[1].

Other incidents were recorded (mostly in Zaporizhia, Kherson, Lugansk, Mykolaiv, and Dnipropetrovsk oblasts) when unknown persons near the voting stations were giving money, presents, and valuable objects. For example, in Lugansk oblast near PEC #44116 the voters were bribed in favor of the candidate and member of Parliament Yuriy Furman. The money was given by unidentified persons in a ‘Zhiguli’ car. In Kirovograd oblast, on election day voters were able to buy potatoes in Bohdan Khmelnitsky Square for a reduced price of 50 kopiyok per kilogram after showing a social card with the name of candidate Oleksandr Sharov. Such incidents are gross violations of the law and are ultimately classified as voters’ bribery,[2] which should result in criminal prosecution.

On election day, the manipulation of ballots was frequent, especially the illegal provision of ballots to ineligible persons. Such incidents were recorded particularly in Dnipropetrovsk, Poltava, Rivne, Zhitomir, and Vinnitsya oblasts. For example, in Poltava oblast (PEC #531058) commission chairman Natalia Bogomol allowed commissioners to provide ballots to people showing international passports. In Dnipropetrovsk oblast (PEC #120143) observers recorded that commissioners were providing ballots without checking for passports or pensioner’s cards. Such incidents are direct violations of Part 3 of Article 85 of the Law “On the Elections of Peoples’ Deputies” and have signs of criminal offence.[3] They also may indicate attempts to falsify the voting results in a given polling station.

There were also cases of ballots being taken out of polling stations and attempts of transferring them to other persons. Such actions indicated the “carousel” technique (a voter’s exchange of a blank ballot for a pre-filled one) with the purpose of falsifying the result of the election. Reports of such violations during the voting day were reported from Kyivska, Odesska, Luganska, Khersonska and Zaporizzhska [MM3] oblasts. It is strictly forbidden [MM4] to take ballots out of the polling station since ballots are given to a voter for voting inside the polling station only. A voter has no right to transfer his ballots to another person. Prompting or persuading voters to transfer their voting ballots to other persons by bribing or threatening them is forbidden.[4]

During the voting day, the OPORA observers noted various instances of violations related to voter lists. Despite the fact that the current legislation prescribes strict procedures for working with voter lists, many PECs acted on their own will, thus violating the law. Article 42 of the Law of Ukraine “On the election of the People’s Deputies” explicitly defines the procedure for making corrections to the amended voter list at a regular PEC. Therefore, corrections to amended voter lists during the voting day can be made only as a result of a court decision.

 

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However, observers found violations such as the unlawful addition of voters to amended voter lists and to the excerpts of the voter lists. For instance, at special polling station #462034 in Lvivska oblast the PEC, for unknown reasons, decided to add doctors working at the hospital hosting [MM1] this special polling station to the voter list on election day. Also, at polling station #461853 the head of the PEC added two voters to the amended voter list allegedly based on a decision by the department of voter list management, although no appropriate documents were presented.

At PEC #710930 in the town of Smila, Cherkaska oblast, a number of persons were included into the excerpt of the voter list and voted despite having no right to do so. After scrutinizing the documents, observers found that half of the applications for voting at the place of their current location were submitted without appropriate medical certificates. The head of the PEC explained that these were elderly people who had difficulties reaching their polling stations. Besides, those applications were written in the same handwriting. The other applications, which had medical certificates attached, where printed from a computer and had only the signatures of the applicants. At the same time, in the village of Urveni, Zdolbunivsky District, the opposition forces appealed to the court because nearly one hundred mentally ill persons were included into the excerpt of the voter list. The issue of adding those persons to the excerpt was discussed by the PEC on Saturday. At first, the commission members decided not to include them to the list. However, at 8 pm they changed their decision. According to the provided documents, the majority of those included suffered from paranoiac schizophrenia.[MM2] 

At the same time, the OPORA observers analyzed the quality of the amended voter lists and recorded instances of missing voters in the amended lists at their precincts. It is worth noting that the State Voter List proved very effective, as precinct voter lists generally proved to be of good quality. However, there were instances of inaccuracies and mistakes in the voter lists, such as individual voters or entire apartment blocks not being included, or entire apartment blocks or individual voters that had not been included in the lists being added to the amended lists.[MM3]  These should be considered as deficiencies of the Department of the State Voter List Management. For instance, in the city of Kyiv, at PEC 800471, one non-existent apartment in the apartment block at 46 Mate Zalki St. was found in the voter list. On the list, following apartment #126 there was apartment #219. Residents in that block confirmed that there is no apartment with such number. The resident of the Dniprovsky district (ED #214) reported that she had found her deceased husband in the voter list at precinct #800381, even though the woman submitted his death certificate and an application to exclude her husband from the list far in advance. The woman reported that during her stay at the polling station she met several more people with similar complaints. She guessed that there might have been seven to nine dead persons on the lists. So-called “dead souls” were discovered also at precinct #800450.

During election day, any campaigning, both for and against parties and candidates is forbidden. The so-called “days of silence” are defined by the Law so that voters can freely decide on their preference without any pressure or influence. The most common form of violation of this norm was leaving campaign materials where they were before October 27. According the legislation, local governments are responsible for removing all campaign materials no later than a day before the election. Also, advertisement operators are obliged to change political advertisements for others, so that they meet the legal requirements. However, in practice local governments have failed to fulfill their obligations in all recent elections, including the one conducted on October 28, 2012. Observers reported many instances of remaining political advertisements. For instance, in the town of Nizhyn, Chernigivska oblast (District 209) there were some remaining promotional materials for the Communist Party candidate. In the central square of the city of Kirovograd, there are many message boards with Svoboda posters.

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A typical example of this year election campaign is the active use of smear. Since authors and commissioners of smear materials hadn't complied with legal requirements in the period of allowed campaigning, even in the last days before the voting, there were more than enough similar incidents. Indeed, in Dnipropetrovsk Oblast, at station No.121237, numerous cases of the use of smear were reported against a self-nominated candidate in district No.24 Yakiv Bezbakh.  In district 154, which is in Rivne Oblast, the night of 27 October, persons unknown distributed leaflets campaigning against a FPTP candidate Valentyn Koroliuk. In the leaflets issued with a logo of Chesno Civic Initiative, he was accused of being a “party-switcher”, and supposedly received five million U.S. dollars for his election campaign in exchange of membership in the faction of the Party of Regions. The night of 27 October, persons unknown massively pasted campaign materials without any imprint in Chernivtsi, designed using the colours of the United Opposition, encouraging to vote for a self-nominated candidate Volodymyr Ked. The night before voting,  persons unknown distributed a fake newspaper of the All-Ukrainian Union Svoboda in towns and villages of the electoral district 87 (with the centre in Nadvirna, Ivano-Frankivsk Oblast), which informed as if a candidate for People's Deputy, nominated by the All-Ukrainian Union Svoboda Manolii Pitsuriak was expelled from the party “for political corruption and connections with oligarchs.” The candidate's headquarters assures that Manolii Pitsuriak hasn't been expelled from the party.

Another trend which had been observed during the whole election campaign and was seen on the election day is improper management, or violations by election commission. Indeed, in Sumy Oblast, an observer noticed that members of the PEC (No.590991) took out some lists and were checking information against the voter lists, according to which they issued  ballots. When the observer asked what they were doing, Head of the Commission answered that commission members, on request of the candidate of the Party of Regions in district No.157 Oleksii Movchan, were checking who of his supporters had or hadn't come. There were lists for each of the 7 tables that issues the ballots.  In Izium in Kharkiv Oblast (PEC No.630960), the PEC took a decision to divide ballot boxes for ballots for national and FPTP voting. Various cases of violations committed by PECs were reported in most oblasts of Ukraine.

More detailed and comprehensive description of incidents and violations on the election day reported by observers of the Civil Network OPORA can be found on the interactive Election 2012 Map of Violations online at http://map.oporaua.org/.

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[1] Section 1, Article 7 of the Law of Ukraine On Election of People's Deputies of Ukraine of 17 November No.4061-VI.
[2] Article 159 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine

[3] Article 157 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine

[4] Section 13, Article 74 of the Law of Ukraine On Election of People's Deputies of Ukraine of 17 November No.4061-VI.
[5] Section 8, Article 158 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine

[6] Section 13, Article 80, Section 7, Article 85 of the Law of Ukraine On Election of People's Deputies of Ukraine of 17 November No.4061-VI. Section 4, Article 158 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine.

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