The extraordinary elections of the Kharkiv mayor on October, 31 took place in a competitive environment, but they were accompanied by serious violations of the requirements of Ukrainian law and international standards for democratic elections. The most common violations on election day were the issuance of ballots without a passport, the demonstration by voters of the results of their vote, and attempts to photograph completed ballots. The election campaign was accompanied by a massive use of budgetary and administrative resources in the interests of the candidate for mayor of Kharkiv, Ihor Terekhov, and the de facto combination of his campaigning and official activity.
Based on a statistically sound sample, OPORA conducted observations during the voting day at 220 polling stations in the city of Kharkiv. According to OPORA observers, the turnout in the early elections of the Kharkiv mayor as of 20:00 was 28.6% (error – 1.1%). In the 2015 local elections, the turnout at the same time was 45.5%. Following the observation and data from 99% of these polling stations, the results of parallel vote tabulation were obtained: Ihor Terekhov – 50.06% (error 1.1%), Mykhaylo Dobkin – 28.21% (error 0.8%), Oleksandr Skoryk – 5.6% (error 0.3%). Other candidates received less than 5% of the vote.
During the extraordinary elections of the Kharkiv mayor, OPORA observers found incidents with signs of organized control over the expression of will of citizens. These incidents could be related to the illegal influence on voters at their place of work, as well as to the implementation of technologies of voter bribery. All identified facts, some of which may have significantly affected the election results, must be promptly investigated.
A serious problem of the final stage of the election process was the attempts of Kharkiv PEC members to restrict the organization's observers in controlling the process of vote count, and to make its photo and video recording. The intensity of such abuses against observers, combined with fairly widespread violations of the vote count at Kharkiv PECs, demonstrates the need for a detailed study of all circumstances and proper legal verification of voting results in the city.
The stage of holding the preparatory meetings of the precinct election commissions took place in a calm atmosphere, but had a number of procedural shortcomings. At 21.46% of polling stations (error 5.5%), commissioners did not keep the minutes of the preparatory meetings. Compared to the 2015 local elections, the situation deteriorated significantly, as only 5.7% of PECs ignored this legal requirement at that time.
72.6% of PECs (error 5.5%) started preparatory meetings within the timeframe provided by law, within 45 minutes before the start of voting. Instead, 24.66% of PECs started working between 07:00 am and 07:15 am, and 2.74% of PECs performed procedures before 07:00 am. Compared to the 2015 local elections in Kharkiv, the statistics deteriorated, since at that time, 81.6% of PECs complied with the law.
Attempts to obstruct the organization's observers' access to PEC preparatory meetings were recorded in 2.5% (error 5.5%) of the city's polling stations. During such incidents, PEC members demanded from OPORA observers to follow the anti-epidemiological requirements, although they are not provided by the current election law. Following clarifications from OPORA and appeals to the TECs and the National Police, observers were able to begin their duties, albeit with some delay. In 2015, during the local elections, OPORA faced obstacles to the activities of observers in 3% of polling stations. According to observers, in 11% of polling stations in the city (error 5.5%), voting started before 08:00 am, and in 0.5% of PECs, voters were given the opportunity to vote behind end time.
The most frequent violations on election day at polling stations in Kharkiv were the issuance of ballots without a passport, the demonstration by voters of the results of the expression of their will, and attempts by voters to take photographs of completed ballots. Abuse related to the illegal issuance of ballots was detected by observers in 8% of the city's polling stations. The same data was found about the share of polling stations where voters violated the secrecy of the ballot by showing the ballot out. Compared to the recent regular local elections, the scale of recorded cases of photographing ballot papers has slightly increased – violations occurred in 7% of PECs versus the 3.2% of polling stations in 2015. There were no attempts of ballot stuffing in polling stations.
OPORA observers assessed the queues of voters who were in the polling station at the time of closing and, in accordance with the law, they were still entitled to receive the ballots. There were no such queues in 100% of the polling stations covered by the observation.
The closing of polling stations and the counting process turned out to be the most problematic stage in the implementation of election procedures on election day in Kharkiv. According to OPORA observers, the counting procedure required by the law was not followed in 13.82% of polling stations (error 4.6%). In 2015, such cases were recorded at 1.22% of PECs. Also, in 3.23% of polling stations, observers encountered obstacles to counting (in 2015, there were 1% of such PECs). The meeting started with delay in the same number of PECs. The presence or interference of outsiders with the work of the commissions at the final stage was not a major issue.
The election campaign in Kharkiv was accompanied by large-scale abuses of budgetary administrative resources in the interests of the candidate for the seat of Kharkiv mayor, Ihor Terekhov, and his de facto combining of campaigning and official duties. Large-scale expenditures of unregistered candidates before the official start of the election process, the low discipline of election subjects in opening election fund accounts, and uncontrolled expenditures on social media demonstrate the importance of reforming the system of control over electoral and political finances.