In constituency No. 197, there is a fairly high level of competition in the by-elections of the People's Deputy. As of the end of September, the campaign has already become intense and expressive. OPORA observers recorded the activity of 8 candidates, some of whom resorted to financial incentives for voters or shared printed campaign materials without the mandatory data.

There are 26 registered candidates in constituency 197. 18 registered candidates have been nominated by political parties, eight candidates are running as self-nominated.

For eight candidates, the first month of the election process was characterized with highly active engagement. They were: Vitaliy Voitsekhivskyi ("Servant of the People"), Vladyslav Holub (self-nominated), Serhiy Vasyliuk ("People's Power"), Andriy Ilyenko ("Svoboda" AU), Roman Sushchenko ("European Solidarity"), Dmytro Kukharchuk ("National Corps"), Yulia Hershun (self-nominated), and Ivan Stepanets (self-nominated). Most of them started their campaigns early, in the summer, including Vitaliy Voitsekhivskyi ("Servant of the People"), Vladyslav Holub, Serhiy Vasyliuk, Andriy Ilyenko, and Roman Sushchenko. In addition, 18 more candidates were registered, but they were not active in campaigning.

These elections were no exception to the use of "twins" technology. At the end of September, constituency 197 had a candidate, Vitaliy Voytsekhivskyi (self-nominated) who changed his name six days before the submission of documents, thus having identical names to the recognizable candidate, Vitaliy Voytsekhivskyi ("Servant of the People"). The CEC also registered two candidates named Holub (self-nominated), while a candidate Vladyslav Holub (self-nominated) had already been registered in Cherkasy Oblast.

In September, candidates rused various forms of public activity. However, direct communication with voters prevails, which is manifested in meetings with voters, organization and participation in public events, opening ceremonies of infrastructure facilities, and election-related charity.

The first month of the election process was characterized by the involvement into the campaigning of people's deputies, political party leaders, and music groups. Thus, a number of events in Cherkasy region involving a candidate Roman Sushchenko were also attended by the People's Deputy, Petro Poroshenko, who repeatedly encouraged to support the candidate. To support Vitaliy Voytsekhivskyi ("Servant of the People"), an MP Roksolana Pidlasa was involved. Along with the candidate, she went to the meeting with entrepreneurs at the market in Kaniv. The leader of the “National Corps,” Andriy Biletsky, spoke outside the Cherkasy Regional State Administration, where a protest was held against the government's persecution of Russian-Ukrainian war veterans, specifically against the imprisonment of Dmytro Kukharchuk, the party's candidate in the constituency 197. Dmytro Kukharchuk was imprisoned in late summer, on suspicion of hooliganism committed near the President's Office on August 14. In Cherkasy region, Andriy Ilyenko, a candidate from the Svoboda All-Ukrainian Union, organized a concert tour of the Romax band in the settlements of the district.

Some of the candidates, namely Vladyslav Holub, Yulia Hershun, and Ivan Stepanets, have been conducting pre-election charities for a long time, in the status of unregistered entities, which made it possible to avoid any liability. However, OPORA observers captured episodes that show signs of voter bribery and should receive an appropriate response from law enforcement. This also applies to the information on the website of the Bobrytsia community, where a gift of a wheelchair to a local family was mentioned by the candidate Vitaliy Voitsekhivskyi ("Servant of the People").

The same candidate is most represented in various segments of the election campaign. Vitaliy Voitsekhivskyi has a lot of outdoor advertising, he actively attends the official holidays at the days of cities and days of villages in the district, where he speaks from the stage and communicates with residents, which is additionally covered by videos on social media. OPORA observers note that the candidate does not miss almost any such events; and wherever he attends, the inflatable green balloons are handed out saying "Servant of the People. Voitsekhivskyi's team." He also exercises public activity as city mayor of Zolotonosha. On September 10, together with the head of the Cherkasy Regional State Administration, Oleksandr Skichko, he opened a sports field with athletics tracks at the Zolotonosha Specialized School. With the support of Vitaliy Voitsekhivskyi, a project is being implemented in the Zolotonosha region to return letters sent by local residents forcibly deported to Germany to families of the addressees. It was covered by paid posts and political ads in local media. OPORA hereby emphasizes that the participation in the electoral race of government officials, who arbitrarily interpret the requirements of the law on the prohibition of campaigning when performing their official duties, poses additional risks in terms of violation of standards.

In September, the"Together we are a powerful force" NGO continued to operate in favor Vladyslav Holub (self-nominated), as well as two cultural and educational centers that were established in the summer. The centers organize retro parties and hold various training courses. Vladyslav Holub's own Facebook page and the NGO's page also report on the initiative to install video surveillance cameras in schools in the district's settlements, which was also covered in the story by the local TV channel "Vikka". The candidate's campaign involves campaigners who distribute branded inflatable balloons at mass events. The candidate posts videos on Facebook and YouTube about his work during his term as the People's Deputy of the previous convocation, in particular, they focus on projects implemented through subventions allocated to the district.

A notable campaign has been also administered by a nominee from the “European Solidarity” party, Roman Sushchenko. He has actively met with voters in the district, which is always comprehensively reported on his Facebook page. The candidate is represented by outdoor advertising in the district, he appeared on the national TV channel "Priamyi" owned by Petro Poroshenko.

Andriy Ilyenko ("Svoboda" AU) has actively held meetings with voters and distributed campaign leaflets from tents in crowded places of the district. The candidate organized a tour of the Romax band in the settlements of the district, and they performed almost every day.

The campaign by a candidate for People's Deputies Serhiy Vasyliuk ("People's Power") is less active. Vasyliuk pays more attention to his concert activities as the frontman of the group "Shadow of the Sun". He campaigns personally from party tents in crowded places in the district or the representatives of the candidate's party do the campaigning, in particular the party leader, former People's Deputy, Yuriy Levchenko.

Ihor Zaychuk, a member of the Cherkasy party cell, was to become a candidate for the “National Corps” political party. However, after the arrest of Oleh Dovbysh and Dmytro Kukharchuk, on suspicion of hooliganism near the President's Office on August 14, the party nominated  Dmytro Kukharchuk as a candidate. In September, several protests took place in Cherkasy, one of which hosted a leader of the “National Corps,” Andriy Biletskyi who had a public speech .

Until October 1, a public figure, Ivan Stepanets, has been in a status of a potential candidate. During September, he actively attended public events, reported on social media on the provision of personal protective equipment for various institutions in the settlements of the district from the "Army Assistance Center" NGO. According to public data, the charity organization with this name has existed since 2014, and ceased its operations in 2017, but in 2019, in Cherkasy, an NGO was registered called "ASSISTANCE CENTER FOR THE ARMY, VETERANS AND THEIR FAMILIES."

Similarly, until October 1, Julia Hershun has been running her activities in a status of a potential candidate. As the head of the "Yulia Hershun Charitable Foundation "Development of Gifted Children", she provided a certificate for UAH 25,000 to the winner of the VI Kaniv International Film Festival. She congratulated the communities of Hryhorivka, Keleberda, Heronymivka, and Yabluniv on their village days, where she organized a free trampoline activity for children.

The common violation at the initial stage of the official election process was the placement of printed campaign materials on outdoor advertising media without the mandatory information about the customer of these materials, the printing institution, or with no indication that the printing was done using party-owned equipment, on their circulation, or information about persons in charge of the issue. Illegal campaigning was shared in favor of Vladyslav Holub (self-nominated) and Roman Sushchenko ("European Solidarity").

In general, the election campaign in September was not accompanied by high-profile or systematic conflicts, violent confrontations or black PR, and the cases of such abuses were isolated occurrences. In particular, the billboards of candidates Vladyslav Holub (self-nominated) and Vitaliy Voitsekhivskyi ("Servant of the People") were damaged. But the episodes have not become systemic.

According to OPORA, the financial and organizational support of the election administration process has been at the proper level. The election administration bodies complied with all the requirements of the election law and have not committed any critical violations. The local self-government bodies provided the district commissions with sufficient materials and equipment to perform the current work.

For comments, please, contact:
Zakhar Kolisnichenko, coordinator of election observation of the Civil Network OPORA in Cherkasy region
tel .: 0972303533
email: cherkasy@opora.org.ua