In September, the most intensive election campaign in constituency No. 184 (Nova Kakhovka, Kherson Oblast) was conducted by 5 registered candidates. 4 of them were active at the unofficial stage of the elections. The first month of the election process was characterized by cases of pre-election charity by potential and registered candidates and by abuse of administrative resources.
As of the beginning of October, the single-member constituency No. 184 had 19 registered candidates. Most candidates were nominated by political parties. Their registration took place mainly in the second half of September, which allowed the candidates to actually conduct campaigning contrary to the requirements of the election law. The most popular forms of campaigning for candidates were direct meetings with voters and advertising on billboards.
The most active election campaign in the district was conducted by five registered candidates, four of whom were active at the unofficial stage of the election – Hennadiy Lahuta (Ihor Kolykhaev's party "We are here to live!"), Kateryna Odarchenko ("National Platform"), Ihor Yosypenko ( "European Solidarity"), and Ihor Tokovenko ("People's Power"). In the second half of September, Serhiy Kozyr, a nominee of the Servant of the People party, who is the current head of the Kherson Regional State Administration, joined the campaign.
In addition, the CEC registered 14 candidates in the constituency, but did not conduct any significant campaigning. The following persons became candidates: Serhiy Matviychuk (Symchyshyn Team), Oleh Barkarenko (Svoboda AU), Tetyana Lazareva (Mykolayivtsi), Andriy Pomazan (New Faces), Volodymyr Beryslavsky (self-nominated), Mykhailo Melnyk (Local Self-Government Party), Maksym Nehrov (European Party of Ukraine), Hanna Zhyvtsova (Anton Yatsenko's Party), Dmytro Vasyliyev (self-nominated), Serhiy Kozyr (self-nominated), Yuriy Kolykhayev (self-nominated), Hennadiy Lahuta b. 1968 (self-nominated), Hennadiy Lahuta b. 1972 (self-nominated), Oleksandr Ponomariov ("Bloc of Opposition Forces").
The most active candidate in September was the nominee of Ihor Kolikhaev's party "We are here to live!" - Hennadiy Lahuta. Much of his campaigning is connected with the party of the same name with the Ihor Kolykhayev's Charitable Foundation "We are here to live." The candidate actively conducted pre-election charity on behalf of the foundation. For example, in the city of Tavriysk, during the opening of the first phase of the city hospital complex construction, an air conditioner was presented to the institution. During the opening of the Lokomotiv Stadium, a football goal and balls were presented as a gift. Representatives of the Charitable Foundation in the district hold events in favor of Hennadiy Lahuta, which are covered on the foundation's Facebook page with positive comments from the candidate.
In September, the foundation organized a free medical examination for residents of the villages of Kaluha and Dudchany, purchased a sandbox for the educational complex of the village of Nova Kaluha, donated a helmet and bulletproof vest to the State Fire Department of the SES of Ukraine in Kherson region, and installed a playground in the city of Nova Kakhovka. The candidate has also actively held meetings with voters in the settlements of the district, in particular in the village of Velyka Lepetykha he met with representatives of the staff of the village council in the premises of the local government. In addition, campaigning on billboards was placed in favor of the candidate, and a party newspaper was distributed in the district from campaigning tents. In the center of the district of Nova Kakhovka, there is an election headquarters of Ihor Kolykhayev's political party "We are here to live!".
In September, Kateryna Odarchenko (National Platform) focused on outdoor advertising and street campaigning through party tents. The candidate often raises the issue of health care and job creation in the Kherson region. With the help of social media and party tents, signatures are being collected against the closure of the district's hub hospitals. Kateryna Odarchenko often participates in TV programs on national channels, where she highlights the issues of constituency 184. The candidate also holds meetings with voters in the communities of the district, which she actively covers on her Facebook page. She has been using local media and advertising tools on social media to promote campaign materials.
In September, Ihor Yosypenko (European Solidarity) focused on direct communication with voters, participating in public events and meetings with voters. The candidate visited the Boykivska Vatra festival in the village of Zmiyivka, where he addressed the audience from the stage, personally congratulated the Beryslav rescuers on their professional holiday, and gave sets of balls to the district schools on September 1. There is political advertising of the candidate on billboards in the district, cars branded with the candidate's name run around in the settlements. He has actively used advertising on social media.
A candidate for People's Deputies, Ihor Tokovenko ("People's Power") used public events to increase his visibility, where he highlighted local issues. Thus, in the city of Nova Kakhovka, together with supporters, he destroyed a part of the equipped fence around a construction site in the park territory. Tokovenko accused the local city authorities of illegally allocating land for construction near the city park, and in line with combating illegal construction, the candidate planted trees in this area. He also took part in public hearings to increase travel on public transport in the city of Nova Kakhovka. The candidate holds meetings with voters, sets up campaign tents in the constituency, and uses outdoor advertising. The candidate uses advertising on social media less actively, in particular, he published accusations of the head of the Kherson Regional State Administration and the registered candidate Serhiy Kozyr claiming they had used administrative resources. The accusations concerned the transformation of the Tavriya Fair on the territory of the city of Nova Kakhovka into a campaigning event of the head of the regional administration.
At the end of September, the head of the Kherson Regional State Administration, Serhiy Kozyr ("Servant of the People"), officially joined the election race. OPORA observers note that the candidate's activity is often carried out in a role of the official, but it is territorially concentrated within the constituency. The candidate in Beryslav visited the International Women's Forum "Consolidation of Women for Large-Scale Projects". In the city of Tavriysk, he opened the first stage of the reconstructed hospital and sports complex. He also opened the Tavriya Fair and the Chumak Fest Cossack Courage Festival in Nova Kakhovka. In the constituency center, a city of Nova Kakhovka, he joined the round table "Ways of Community Economy Development", opened the Center for Administrative Services, and went to a football game to present the footballs on behalf of the regional football association. In his public activity, the candidate relied on the President's programs, in particular "Big Construction" and "Government in a Smartphone." At meetings with voters or during the opening of infrastructure facilities in the district, he emphasizesd the positive changes due to the President's course. At the same time, he does not ignore questions about his own position as a future parliamentarian. Also, reporting on the achievements of the "Big Construction," he mentioned the work on the construction of the Center for Olympic Sports "H2O Nova Kakhovka."
The typical violations at the initial stage of the election process included the campaigning on billboards without the source data about the customer of these materials, the printing institution, or an indication that the printing was done using party-owned equipment, their circulation, or information about persons in charge of the issue. Illegal campaigning was shared in favor of Hennadiy Lahuta ("We are here to live!"), Ihor Yosypenko ("European Solidarity"), Kateryna Odarchenko ("National Platform"), and Ihor Tokovenko ("Popular Power"). However, these abuses were not systematic, as most of the billboards were placed at the stage of the early campaign and were not removed after the registration of candidates.
Another example of a possible violation in the Kherson region was the situation with holding a campaigning event for representatives of the village council. Thus, Hennadiy Lahuta ("We are here to live!") publicly reported on a Facebook page about the meeting with voters. It was attended by the staff of the village council of Velyka Lepetykha, and hosted in the premises of the local government. It should be noted that Part 3 of Article 74 of the Law of Ukraine "On Elections of People's Deputies of Ukraine" prohibits the use of premises of state authorities and local governments to host the campaigning. In addition, according to the Law, participation in election campaigns during working hours shall be prohibited for local government officials.
The election process in September was not conflicting and was not accompanied by violent confrontations, while electoral subject did not use any black PR. However, there have been some cases with elements of conflict. On September 30, in the city of Nova Kakhovka (constituency No. 184), at a session of the city council in the session hall, Ihor Tokovenko organized a rally against the construction project in a city park. As a result, the candidate and his supporters were forcibly removed from the session hall by the municipal guards, after which some participants sought medical help.
The first month of the election process was characterized by cases of pre-election charity by potential and registered candidates, and by abuse of administrative resources. It often did not contain a formal violation of the law, but negatively affected the competitiveness of the electoral process. In constituency No 184, the Ihor Kolykhayev's Charitable Foundation "We are here to live!", had the same name as candidate's nominating entity, Ihor Kolykhayev's political party "We are here to live!" The charity fund is active within the constituency: they purchase goods for district voters, organize official celebrations, build playgrounds, provide free legal aid, etc. The activity is carried out both by representatives of the fund, with subsequent reporting on social media, with positive comments of the candidate, and personally by Hennadiy Lahuta. In the case of personal transfer of goods, the candidate calls himself a representative of the fund and a benefactor. Since the Law of Ukraine "On Elections of People's Deputies of Ukraine" does not have any provisions to classify the activities of charitable foundations as voter bribery (unlike the Electoral Code of Ukraine), the fund's activities and personal participation of Hennadiy Lahuta does not actually violate the election law. This fact is an unacceptable way to avoid responsibility and has negative consequences for ensuring the principle of equal rights and opportunities for all participants in the election process. As we know, the Law of Ukraine "On Charity and Charitable Organizations" prohibits charitable organizations to provide charitable assistance to political parties or on behalf of political parties, as well as to participate in election campaigning. However, all publications of the fund on social media emphasize that the fund has the same name as the party. Nevertheless, OPORA observers recorded signs of indirect bribery by the candidate. Thus, on September 24, in the village of Novovorontsovka, at a pre-announced campaign of the candidate, residents were presented with a power bank, a smart watch, and a TV. Along with prizes, participants were presented with packages saying "Hennadiy Lahuta". In addition, on the stage, there were symbols of the party that nominating the candidate and contained a banner with his image; the event was announced by the party and the candidate himself spoke at the event.
Another unacceptable situation is with the official use of funds of the nominating party for the organization of the event of the local self-government body. The celebration of the City Day took place in Nova Kakhovka on September 25, sponsored by Ihor Kolykhayev's party "We are here to live!" and the deputy chairman of the regional council Hennadiy Lahuta (registered candidate from the party "We are here to live!"). This information was also confirmed in the reply from the executive committee of the City Council to a written inquiry from OPORA. According to the election legislation, political advertising includes notification of support for public events by the party that is a subject of the election process. However, support can be provided only from the election fund. On the contrary, as mentioned above, campaigning and dissemination of election campaign materials during events organized by local governments is prohibited, and such bodies and their officials are generally prohibited from participating in campaigning.
We should also highlight the public activity of the recently registered candidate in constituency No. 184, the head of the Kherson Regional State Administration, Serhiy Kozyr ("Servant of the People"). The candidate intensified his visits to the settlements of the constituency on the eve of registration. They involved participation in public events, the opening of infrastructure facilities, meetings with residents of communities, etc. However, the monitoring shows that the candidate positions himself exclusively as the head of the regional administration, which can give him additional benefits to increase visibility, and promote himself as a participant in the election. In this case, the key criterion for ensuring the equality of subjects is a clear distinction between the performance of official duties and campaigning activities. Also, the candidate's public activity often focuses on the President's initiatives and programs, and the opening of the CAS in Nova Kakhovka by Serhiy Kozyr took place within the framework of the Big Construction program. Although there are no formal irregularities in the candidate's activities. OPORA has repeatedly emphasized the conclusions of international missions and on current election standards, according to which candidates should refrain from using state-funded projects to gain electoral advantage during the election process.
The by-elections of people's deputies on October 31, 2021 were not exceptional about applying the twin candidates technology.
Two candidates with the surname Lahuta and one with the surname Kozyr were registered in constituency No. 184. Although Hennadiy Lahuta has been already actively campaigning in the constituency ("We are here to live!") as well as Serhiy Kozyr ("Servant of the People").
The technology of "twins" is a manipulative, but also an effective mechanism for reducing the level of support for the candidate. In some cases, this may affect the establishment of the results of the vote. For example, in the by-elections of people's deputies on March 28, 2021, in Ivano-Frankivsk region, the twin candidates of Oleksandr Shevchenko ("For the Future") withdrew 473 votes, which was 1% of the total number of voters who took part in the voting.
OPORA hereby appeals to the Ministry of Interior and the National Police to ensure prompt verification and proper investigation of the implementation of technologies with elements of illegal influence on the will of citizens (in particular, registration and participation in elections of so-called "twins"; organization of public events accompanied by material assistance and services to voters), and to further inform the public about the circumstances of the identified offenses, the initiators and motives of their actions.