On September 20, a number of national TV channels aired an event held by the Kyiv city cell of the Servant of the People political party, which took place at the Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv, and was presented to the media as a candidate nomination conference. However, one more event with the same name took place on the same day, but some time earlier and at a different address. OPORA is trying to determine which of them involved the nomination of candidates, and what are the grounds for holding one of these conferences on the territory of university.
On Sunday, 20 September, Kyiv city cell of the Servant of the People political party was supposed hold a conference, dedicated to nomination of candidates for members of Kyiv City Council and Kyiv mayor in the 25 October 2020 local elections. Such date, time and place were indicated in the letter sent by the press service of the Servant of the People political party to confirm the accreditation of a journalist at Tochka OPORY. Tochka OPORY's journalist received the letter on 18 September at 3:59 PM. The letter was about changing the time of event to 2:00 PM. It was indicated in the letter, that the event would be held in the courtyard of the Red Building of the Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv ( 60 Volodymyrska Str.).
Letter from the press service of the Servant of the People political party with information about the time and place of the conference of Servant of the People's Kyiv city cell dedicated to the nomination of candidates.
The event had really taken place in the courtyard of the Red Building of the Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv. There was a stage with banners “Ze!local”, “vybory2020.com”, a rostrum holding banner “Ze! Servant of the People” in the colors of the Servant of the People party and a screen “Ze!Servant of the People".
Political advertising of the Servant of the People party on the territory of the Taras Shevchenko KNU on the event of the Kyiv party cell.
President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyi attended the event. He said in his final speech: “As President, I cannot campaign, but you know what to do on 25 October.”. Besides that, Volodymyr Zelenskyi introduced Iryna Vereshchuk as a candidate for Kyiv Mayor. She was invited to the rostrum and given the floor. After the speech of Iryna Vereshchuk, twelve candidates to Kyiv City Council were invited on the stage. They all were introduced as approved candidates. This presentation did not included the corresponding procedure for the nomination and approval of such candidates.
The event was aired on the official Facebook page of the Office of the President of Ukraine, including fragments where the President of Ukraine presents the mayoral candidate Iryna Vereshchuk. Materials and videos posted on the official verified Facebook page of the Office of the President of Ukraine, which contains the presentation of candidates who are not yet registered, but have already been nominated by the political party, may be taken as the use of media administrative resources, as long as other election participants do not have equal access to it.
On the same day, probably at 11:00 AM, another event took place in the Parkovy Kyiv International Convention Center (Kyiv, 16a Parkova doroha). It was a conference of the Kyiv City Cell of the Servant of the People political party, dedicated to the nomination of candidates. This very location the party had mentioned in its notice to the Kyiv City Territorial Election Commission about its conference, in accordance with Article 218(2) of the Election Code of Ukraine.
OPORA has sent official information requests to the Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv and the Kyiv city cell of the Servant of the People party regarding the terms of contractual relations between the political force and the higher education institution, the cost of rent and the party that made the payment.
“We should pay attention to several issues when analyzing the event at Kyiv National University. Firstly, this case may be classified as a campaigning event under the Election Code. As we have learned, the Kyiv City Cell of the Servant of the People party has already had its candidate nomination conference at the moment it was held.
Secondly, state and municipal institutions, including educational institutions, are not prohibited by the law from renting out property for campaign activities. This is a very common phenomenon, especially in small settlements, which do not have other similar premises. According to the legislator, both a village school and one of the most famous universities in the country are educational institutions. Of course, universities are traditionally autonomous and distant from political and religious events, but it is a matter of adherence to academic standards, not legal requirements. Besides that, we also need to determine whether the premises were actually rented or provided on other grounds. If it was rented, we need to learn on what terms the payment was made - from the account of the political party or it will be paid in the future from the election fund.
It should be emphasized that the Law on Education prohibits political activities in educational institutions in a form of university party cells, or ongoing engagement of university professors or students into party activities, but not holding an event in leased premises, regardless of the election process.
If it is confirmed that the university rented out its premises, it will be held hostage to the situation, as it will be forced to provide the same space to any other subject of the election process at the request until the election process ends. Violation of the statutory right of candidates and political parties to use the premises for a public campaign event or campaigning on equal terms is punished with a fine of UAH 1360 to 1700 under Article 212-12 of the Code of Administrative Offenses.
The third issue is the placement of campaign materials. When organizing the event, the local party cell of the Servant of the People has directly violated only the Law on Education, which prohibits to place, distribute advertisements, posters, stands, audio or video materials, other tangible or intangible objects that contain names or symbols of political parties, as long as it doesn't specify where they can't be placed. Article 57 of the Election Code prohibits to place and disseminate campaign materials on events, which are organized by a state institution, and to place campaign materials and political advertisement on buildings and in premises of state authorities. Campaign materials on this event were placed in the courtyard of the university, not inside the building or on its outside walls. Thus, if the premises were leased to a political party, there was no formal violation of the law regarding restrictions on campaigning, although the question of possible violation of campaign financing rules will be open until the financial statements are published.
OPORA also sees a violation of the equal suffrage standards in this case. This conclusion is preliminary and is based on currently available information. For a full legal analysis of the situation, we need answers to the requests of Civil Network OPORA", -Senior Legal Adviser at Civil Network OPORA Olha Kotsiuruba stated.
Article 31(3) of the Law of Ukraine on Education says: It is prohibited to store, place, distribute advertisements, posters, gifts, stands, leaflets, audio or video materials, other tangible or intangible objects (except for textbooks) that contain: names or symbols of political parties (associations), as well as non-governmental or charitable organizations, which name or symbols coincide with names and symbols of political parties (associations).
For comment, please contact:
Maksym Zinchuk, Election Observation Coordinator at Civil Network OPORA in Kyiv
tel.: 063 582 67 07
Reference: OPORA's observation is aimed to provide impartial assessment of election administration and process, facilitate free and fair election, and prevent violations. Civil Network OPORA has been realizing a wide-scale observation of regular local elections, to be held on October 25. We have deployed 188 observers nationwide, and short-term observers will join them on the Election Day. OPORA also monitors the use of budget resources for indirect campaigning, and civic ombudsmen inspect polling premises in terms of accessibility, as well as protect voting rights of citizens.
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