The election campaign in constituency No. 179 to host the interim elections of a people’s deputy on March, 15, 2020, is characterized with high competitiveness among candidates represented in different campaigning segments, and the available sufficient resources to run it.
It was communicated during an online briefing on March, 13, by Olha Aivazovska, Chair of the Board of the Civil Network OPORA, and by Oleksandr Kliuzhev, OPORA senior analyst.
According to Oleksandr Kliuzhev, the most active election campaigns were run by 7 out of 37 candidates for people’s deputies of Ukraine, such as: Mykola Muzychenko (self-nominated), Tetiana Yehorova-Lutsenko (self-nominated), Kyrylo Oksen (self-nominated), Viktoria Ptashnyk (“European Solidarity”), Tetiana Lazurenko, Yuliya Svitlychna (self-nominated), and Ihor Shvayka (“Svoboda” AU).
“In the last days of election campaign, the leaflets were massively disseminated to support Dmytro Avakin (self-nominated) and Olha Kovalenko (“Women for the Future”). However, they have not been campaigning previously. It is notable that the intense campaigning was exercised by a self-nominated candidate Kyrylo Oksen who must have failed to open the election fund account,” - said he.
OPORA qualifies this election campaign as rather intense, despite the decision of the candidate from the largest parliamentary faction of the “Servant of the People” party Viktoria Alekseychuk to withdraw from the race.
The most numerous outdoor political advertising was placed by a candidate Yuliya Svitlychna. Viktoria Ptashnyk was the most active among other candidates to disseminate printed campaigning materials within the constituency, and also posted political ads on regional radio stations. According to observers’ estimates, Yuliya Svitlychna was leader in the scope of political advertising on television channels, on the Internet, and in printed mass media within the constituency and the region. It shall be mentioned that the covert political advertising or the “paid journalism” have not been posted in printed mass media on a large scale. The materials detected in printed media with possible elements of covert campaigning most often covered the activities of Yuliya Svitlychna.
In the period under coverage, the largest number of meetings with voters, according to OPORA provisional estimates, were held by Yuliya Svitlychna, Viktoria Ptashnyk, Tetiana Yehorova-Lutsenko, and Ihor Shvayka.
Moreover, OPORA hereby distinguishes an important role of campaigning by candidates for people’s deputies of Ukraine run in social media. For example, during the period from March, 02 to 08, 2020, the most active advertising buyers on Facebook were candidates Viktoria Ptashnyk and Yuliya Svitlychna. In addition, the candidates are also using other social media and local groups therein informing voters in the constituency about their election agendas and political positions.
According to Olha Aivazovska, a growing increase in the role of Internet resources in elections indicates to the need to legally regulate activities of candidates and parties within this campaigning segment. During the second revision of Electoral Code, the Parliament failed to take a comprehensive review of the aspect. That is why OPORA appeals to people’s deputies of Ukraine to resume a dialogue on legislative regulation of campaigning on the Internet, and in social media. Special focus shall be placed on accountability of costs for such kind of campaigning.
According to Oleksandr Kliuzhev, a positive feature of the election process is lack of confirmed facts of voter bribery, or any other forms of material incentivizing of citizens. Despite the rather conflicting interaction between certain rivals, candidates managed to avoid the bribery technologies . The methods affect citizens’ expression of will most severely.
Over the reporting period, OPORA observers have multiple times recorded cases of placing or disseminating campaigning materials without any source data thereon. The cases referred to election campaign of a self-nominated Kyrylo Oksen. On March, 12, the CEC issued a warning to him for breaking the terms for opening election fund accounts. The candidate is de facto the most active participant of the election process, but his costs have not been official and will not be shown in financial statements.
Issues with transparency of costs and financial sources remain to be of high relevance, in the context of compliance with the democratic election standards. Before the completion of the pre-election campaigning stage, the CEC declared a warning for violating the terms to open election fund accounts to 16 candidates: Svitlana Aheyeva, Iryna Bondar, Oleh Holtvianskyi, Vitaliy Horba, Valentyn Zakhariv, Anna Kniazeva, Ihor Leonenko, Ihor Nayda, Dmytro Ohurtsov, Kyrylo Oksen, Oleksiy Prystay, Yana Svitlychna, Larysa Serhiyenko, Olena Skomoroshchenko, Halyna Kharhalis, Denys Sheybut. On the one hand, failure to open the accounts of election funds indicates to the intention of certain candidates to run illegal campaigning. On the other hand, absence of election fund may additionally indicate to “technical” candidates in the election process.
A candidate for people’s deputies of Ukraine Viktoria Ptashnyk made a statement on March, 10, 2020, about the obstruction to access of journalists from the “Priamyi” TV channel to a meeting of voters with her rival Yuliya Svitlychna. She also posted a video about the incident. The candidate Yuliya Svitlychna and her representatives called the incident a political provocation and denied the fact of obstruction to journalists activities. OPORA observers were not attending the scene, but the National Police of Ukraine are examining the underlying circumstances.
OPORA observers received some information about cases of abusing an administrative resource for electoral benefits, and about other breaches of the law also published by electoral rivals in mass media and social media. The organization hereby calls all candidates for referring to the National Police of Ukraine and to publicly present sufficient evidence confirming the violation committed by their opponents.
Therefore, the election day for the interim elections of the people’s deputy of Ukraine in constituency No. 179 is approaching in the context of high competitiveness and with no heavy violations of electoral law. OPORA hereby appeals to election commissions and law-enforcement bodies to resolutely respond to any breach of law in the last two days of election campaign. Candidates for people’s deputies of Ukraine shall secure mutual control, and shall also be responsible to document and confirm any possible violations by competitors.