The candidates running for 22 November second round of mayoral elections had a short period for campaigning, what has resulted in a reduction of its scale. Despite the spread of COVID-19, commissions prepare quite well for the election day, with no significant problems. This information was presented by Head of the Board at Civil Network OPORA Olha Aivazovska and OPORA's Senior Analyst Oleksandr Kliuzhev on 20 November press-conference.
The second round of Mayoral election will take place in 11 cities on 22 November. 9 political parties will participate in the campaign. Four candidates represent the For the Future party: Valerii Baranov (Berdiansk), Anatolii Bondarenko (Cherkasy), Oleksandr Saiuk (Nikopol) and Oleksandr Mamai (Poltava); three candidates each are nominated from the Servant of the People (Viktor Shchadei in Uzhhorod, Ruslan Oliinyk in Nikopol and Serhii Ivashchenko in Poltava) and the Opposition Platform - For Life (Pavlo Prydvorov in Sloviansk, Oleksandr Svidlo in Berdiansk and Vladyslav Chaika in Mykolaiv); two candidates each are nominated from the European Solidarity party (Oleksandr Tretiak in Rivne and Oleh Syniutka in Lviv) and the Propozytsia party (Borys Filatov in Dnipro and Oleksandr Senkevych in Mykolaiv). The following parties also have nominated candidates: Samopomich (Andrii Sadovyi in Lviv), Holos (Viktor Yevpak in Cherkasy), Opposition Bloc (Vadym Liakh in Sloviansk), Hromadska Syla (Zahid Krasnov in Dnipro) and Rivne Together (Viktor Shakyrzian in Rivne).
In-between the two rounds, candidates mostly use social networks, as well as regional and all-Ukrainian mass media for campaigning. The role of public debates between candidates is growing. Only in one of 11 cities where a second ballot will be held on 22 November, candidates debated on television, particularly in Lviv. Debates in Mykolaiv were planned for 19 November, but didn't take place because there was a notice that explosives were placed in the premises of TV channel. A debate is also scheduled for 20 November in Cherkasy.
During the short-term campaign of the second round of mayoral elections in 11 communities, OPORA's observers did not notice any recurring and massive incidents of involving material incentives for voters (with features of bribery) that would hazard the fairness and democracy of the vote. However, gift sets were handed to the elderly voters in Poltava, comprising of medical masks, a box of candies and a postcard on behalf of mayoral candidate Oleksandr Mamai, giving thanks for the support in the first round. Candidate Viktor Shakirzian in Rivne have repeatedly presented personal protective equipment for physicians, as well as medical supplies and equipment to local health care facilities. The National Police in Mykolaiv is studying the circumstances of handing sports equipment to a local school and gymnasium by representatives of the local cell of the Propozytsia party (the party has nominated Oleksandr Senkevych for the second ballot). Andrii Veselyi organized a free bus to the cemetery on the Day of the Dead in Drohobych (Lviv Oblast), and initiated a campaign to introduce a discount on inter-raion transportation for retirees, which was supported by some carriers. On the eve of the second ballot, OPORA's observers in Cherkasy, Dnipro, and Sloviansk received information about a probable organization of voter bribery schemes, but it did not have sufficient evidence and need to be investigated by the National Police.
At the same time, abuses of administrative resources in the interests of candidates holding senior positions in local governments were more common on the eve of the second round. For example, current mayor of Uzhhorod Bohdan Andriiv, who was nominated independently, actively informed voters about municipal improvements, financed from the local budget. Mayor of Slovyansk Vadym Lyakh, who is nominated by the Opposition Bloc party, initiated the signing of a document entitled “Social contract with the Mayor” by voters. Municipal budget projects and city participation programs became an important part of the election campaign realized by mayoral candidate and current Mayor of Lviv Andrii Sadovyi. Candidate for the mayor of Dnipro Borys Filatov (Propozition), who currently hold the mayoral office, promised to increase funding for condominiums from the local budget. Abuse of administrative resources was also noticed in campaigning of individual candidates who are not holding offices in local government, but have enjoyed ties with national and local authorities. For example, candidate for Uzhorod Mayor Viktor Shchadei (Servant of the People) participated in a briefing with Chairman of the Verkhovna Rada Committee on Budget Yurii Aristov. Instead, candidate for the Mayor of Dnipro Zahid Krasnov (Hromadska Syla) took part in a meeting of the Minister of Health of Ukraine Maksym Stepanov with staff of the Mechnikov Oblast Hospital.
In 11 cities which hold the second ballot on 22 November, all election participants have been subject to targeted information attacks aimed to mislead the voters and thus influence the election outcomes. These discrediting campaigns had different topics: unconfirmed information about the criminal past of politicians (Dnipro, Rivne), previous statements or political positions of candidates (Lviv, Sloviansk), personal lives of political leaders (Cherkasy, Sloviansk), their religious views (Rivne). etc.
OPORA's observers also state that a number of local and national media showed a distinct commitment to some candidates and disproportionately covered the activities and positions of other candidates during the election campaign, what contradicts the statutory requirements for the coverage of election campaign. For example, the candidate for the Mayor of Mykolaiv Viktor Chaika had unique access to ZIK, NewsOne, and 112 TV channels.
In-between the two rounds of mayoral election, almost each candidate campaigned on the Internet and social networks. Thus, from 26 October to 16 November, 8,764 political advertising posts worth about USD 227 thousand (almost UAH 6.4 million) were posted on Facebook. The most active Facebook campaigns took place in Lviv, Dnipro, Uzhhorod and Cherkasy. In particular, anonymous pages that discredit candidates have also become significantly more active in these cities. Some political parties also continued campaigning for their second-round candidates, and some expressed support for candidates from other political forces. According to OPORA's analysis, 8 Facebook pages of parties Holos, European Solidarity, Opposition Platform - For Life, Svoboda, Udovychenko's team - Ridne Misto, For the Future, which spent almost 7,600 dollars (over 213,000 hryvnias) on political advertising.
The second round of mayoral election in 11 communities will be held on 22 November by territorial and precinct election commissions formed before the official start of election process in August 2020. When establishing the results of 25 October election, commissions faced procedural issues and demonstrated a poor performance of their functions. In preparation for 22 November second round, not all commissions met deadlines for the production and delivery of ballots to lower-level election commissions. Such situations occurred in Mykolaiv, Poltava, and Cherkasy. Some TECs (for example, in Drohobych) report delays in allocation of funds from local budgets for ballot printing.
TECs adhere to the requirements of transparency and openness, in particular in terms of disclosure and access to public documentation, information on current activities and decision-making. However, some important data like interim and final financial reports of candidates and parties, as well as the results of their analysis were not promptly published or were not available in full text.
OPORA's observers did not report any pressure on election commissions or serious conflicts related to election administration. However, high-profile lawsuits that challenge decisions, actions or inaction of TECs, related to the determination of voting results in Lviv, Rivne, Cherkasy, and Sloviansk, have a direct impact on the work of the commissions and to some extent complicate preparations for the second round on 22 November.
OPORA's observers emphasize that TEC members sometimes do not follow anti-epidemic measures during their current work - they ignore the mask regime, as well as regular disinfection of premises and contact surfaces. Although there are some commission members diagnosed with COVID-19, does not have a critical impact on commissions, as long as most of the TECs are formed with the maximum membership and have enough people to organize the work and ensure a quorum.
There were mass rotations in PECs after the first round, however, they did not have any features of distorted representation balance or monopolized influence on commissions by individual candidates (parties), according to observers.
From 26 October to 19 November, OPORA's observers submitted 18 appeals to the National Police regarding election offenses - the biggest number in Zaporizhia oblast (6). Since the beginning of the election process, 911 rulings in cases involving administrative responsibility for election violations have been published in the Unified State Court Register: in 31% of cases, case materials were sent for revision, in 50% - found guilty, the rest proceedings are closed. Most cases as usual concerned the production or distribution of printed campaign materials that do not contain information requested by the law (Article 212-13 of the Code of Administrative Offenses - 475 cases), violation of the campaign materials placement rules (Article 212-14 of the Code of Administrative Offenses - 271 cases) and violation of campaigning restrictions (Article 212-10 of the Code of Administrative Offenses - 119 cases). There are also ongoing criminal proceedings which concern violation of citizen voting rights in local elections.
In addition, OPORA's experts presented a preliminary analysis of the results of 25 October 2020 local elections*. Thus, subjects that won the largest number of seats in councils of all levels, as well as positions of mayors, were as follows: independent candidates - 18.1%, Servant of the People party - 14,6%, AUU Batkivshchyna - 10.2%, For the Future - 9.5%, Opposition Platform - For Life - 9.4%, European Solidarity - 8.7%, Nash Krai - 4.2%, AUU Svoboda - 2.2%, “Ukrainian Strategy of Hroisman” - 1.5% and Propozytsiia - 1.4%. 58.5% of councilors were elected via party lists, and 41.5% in territorial constituencies. 52.6% of all candidates have gained the required percentage of the electoral quota for promotion in the electoral lists (over 25%) among all elected councilors. There are also candidates that have been elected and did not receive a single vote (41).
64% of all the candidates elected in the local elections are men and almost 36% are women. City, town and village mayors have the lowest percentage of women elected (16.8%). Most women are elected to local community councils with up to 10,000 voters (41.6%). Almost the same percentage of women are elected to local councils via lists and in territorial districts. The highest percentage of elected women candidates can be seen in the lists of the Nash Krai party - 40.3% and Servant of the People - 39.1%, and the lowest - in AUU Svoboda - 26%.
* As of 19 November, website of the CEC lacks information about nearly 4,000 elected councilors, and this could affect the accuracy of the statistics