In June, OPORA observers stated a rather high scale of activities of potential and registered candidates with signs of indirect vote buying. Participants of the election campaign or the charitable organizations related to them offered to voters either free or preferential goods and services, an also implemented infrastructure or social projects in their constituencies. Focus of candidates on financial incentives to voters can jeopardize the environment for free expression of the will of citizens. The information was shared by OPORA representatives at a press conference on July, 1, in Kyiv.
According to Olga Aivazovska, Chair of the Board of the Civil Network OPORA, the fast pace of election campaign and duration of the registration period for candidates partially impacted the violations recorded by OPORA observers. In particular, there are still problematic areas related to funding of election campaign other than from the election fund, breaking the rules of campaigning, or funding the elections as such. “Besides, unfortunately, another impact factor is the illegal campaigning in the form of “charity” and possible vote buying. Upon the whole, we believe the “electoral charity” cannot, unfortunately, be finished before the stage of revising the electoral system applied in Ukraine, since the majoritarian component is corruptogenic. As a matter of fact, before the candidate as an electoral subject registers a person running in the constituency, his/her activities de facto do not fall under the legal provisions. Before the electoral system is revised, due to this ongoing practice over the entire period of independence of Ukraine, especially after the 2000s, we would hardly manage to eliminate this impact factor on the expression of the will of voters. In particular, it goes about the “charity” as well as about the problems of distinguishing activities of the current people’s deputies and their activities as electoral subjects during the election campaign. Currently, 307 people’s deputies are running for MPs. It is obvious that they are partially trying to imitate deputy reports for the voters in their constituencies, and also to implement activities related to the Law of Ukraine “On the Status of a People’s Deputy.” Nevertheless, during the election process, we keep taking record of such acts as abuse of administrative resource and the pre-electoral “charity” which goes against the rules of campaigning,” – she states.
As of June, 28, the CEC registered 5,853 candidates for deputies, of whom 3,179 (or 54%) are running in 199 one-mandate constituencies, while 2,674 (46%) – run on a single national constituency. In addition, 21 political parties were registered that nominated election lists of candidates within a national constituency. On June, 29, to enforce the decision of the Supreme Court, the CEC issued a resolution to also register candidates for people’s deputies of Ukraine (88 persons) included into the election list of the Political Party "Movement of New Forces of Mykhail Saakashvili." Also, 9 candidates were registered as nominated by the political party in one-mandate constituencies.
During this election, 25% non-affiliated candidates are running on a single multi-mandate constituency. In addition, 307 candidates running for the early parliamentary election are current MPs.
“In fact, two thirds of the current Supreme Council are repeatedly running for the early 2019 election. Some of them, actually one third of them, are running on the lists of almost two dozens of parties. Most of them are running for the one-mandate constituencies, mostly as self-nominated candidates. It is a sort of typical practice for Ukraine when some politicians who used to be affiliated with certain political forces in the parliament avoid positioning themselves on behalf of these political forces during the election campaign, thus running as self-nominated candidates,” – says Oleksandr Neberykut, an analyst at the Civil Network OPORA.
49% of candidates in one-mandate majoritarian constituencies are registered by the CEC in the last two days allocated by the Law to complete this stage. That is why from the start of election process, a much more intense activity was shown by potential participants of elections (parties and candidates), not by the officially registered electoral subjects. Campaigning activities of potential electoral subjects were mostly concentrated in region centers and in big cities, while for some small settlements observers only recorded sporadic activities of candidates in the first weeks of June. The most dynamic pace of the early campaigning of potential candidates is observed in Kyiv and Lviv regions. On the other hand, the campaign intensity is low in Donetsk and Luhansk regions.
The highest intensity and the largest scale of early campaigning was that of the “European Solidarity” party. OPORA observers recorded multiple signs of party campaigning in all regions of Ukraine (including also outside the region centers). The same large coverage in May and in June 2019 was characteristic of campaigning of the party “Ukrainian Strategy of Groysman.” Other leaders in campaigning activities might also include the party “Oppositional Platform – For Life.” Their political advertising was recorded in most regions of Ukraine. The early campaigning of the parties of “Holos” and the AU “Svoboda” was recorded in half of the regions of Ukraine. Other political forces were less active in terms of different forms of early campaigning. At the same time, political advertising of the parties AU “Batkivshchyna”, Agrarian Party, Radical Party, and the “Samopomich” Union was sufficiently notable only in one third of Ukrainian regions.
In June, 2019, outdoor and media advertising were the most typical forms of campaigning activities among the potential candidates and the actual actors of electoral process. Campaigning on the outdoor advertising media (billboards, city-lights, posters) was most intensely used by political parties, unlike the individual candidates. According to observers, the largest scale outdoor advertising in terms of territory coverage and numerical indicators was that of the party “European Solidarity” that unfolded an advertising campaign immediately after rebranding (billboards and city-lights with the mottos “Choose NATO and EU! Join in!”, “The most important thing – is not to lose the country”). A slightly less visible was the outdoor campaigning of the parties “Ukrainian Strategy of Groysman”, “Holos” and the “Opposition Platform – For Life.” It must be noted that some parties (such as “Holos”, “Servant of the People”) started to widely post printed campaigning materials only in the end of June, after the completion of the registration stage.
Among the parties, political advertising in regional media was most often used by the “European Solidarity,” “Ukrainian Strategy of Groysman,” “Servant of the People,” “Holos,” Radical Party of Oleh Liashko, AU “Svoboda”, AU “Batkivshchyna” and the “Samopomich” Union. At the same time, media advertising on the regional level was more intensely used by the majoritarian candidates, particularly, the current MPs. As to social media for electoral campaigning, according to OPORA observers, it was most widely used by the political parties “Servant of the People” and the “Holos.”
Among the voters, most active work with the voters in a format of mass events was conducted by the “Holos” party. In particular, they opened the “Coworkings of Changes” – platforms for communication of activists. There, they ran numerous regional public events as part of the “Tour of Changes.” On the other hand, “European Solidarity” promotes the format of open offices to conduct regular meetings with voters. Outdoor methods of campaigning were often used by political parties “Civic Position,” AU “Batkivshchyna,” and AU “Svoboda” that traditionally share their own printed materials through the street tents (newspapers and flyers).
During the first month of the election campaign, OPORA observers stated the lack of any clear distinctions of campaigning activities and events run within the official deputies’ duties performed by the candidates with the current MP mandate. In other words, the candidates, members of parliament, de facto used the process of performing their deputy duties for campaigning purposes, which collides with democratic standards of equal rights and opportunities of election participants.
The problem is especially keenly manifested with regard to not preventing the execution of direct or indirect vote buying by candidates who are current deputies, under the disguise of performing their deputy functions in the area of social protection of population, implementation of infrastructure or charity projects. Deputies of different levels, especially people’s deputies of Ukraine, have access to national and local programs. That is why some forms of financial incentives to voters are often implemented at the expense of state budget funds or territorial hromadas.
The observers of the organization encourage candidates to peoples’ deputies of Ukraine to avoid any forms of either direct or indirect vote buying and focus on the discussion of their election programs and their political advantages.
The focus of activities of a number of candidates on financial incentives to voters, according to OPORA, could jeopardize the conditions for free expression of the will of citizens. Law-enforcement bodies of Ukraine have due legal tools to combat direct and indirect vote buying, and observers of the organization do actively engage with them to prevent the spread of negative signs in the electoral process.
“According to our observers, key challenges in compliance with the democratic electoral standards in one-mandate constituencies are signs of indirect vote buying. Unfortunately, candidates for people’s deputies of Ukraine quite actively accompany their campaigning with offers of goods and services. In fact, we have a tendency to repeat the experience of previous parliamentary elections when candidates created certain centers for providing services to citizens, such as health care, or services to institutions or organizations, or when candidates donated presents to voters or their children. Talking about the quantitative trends, our observers submitted 4 reports under Article 160 of the CCU on the signs of vote buying. I am talking about the cases that have already been fully processed and the due requests have already been sent to the National Police. We hope the police will provide answers on the results of consideration of the information. However, we would also like to emphasize that the number of cases with signs of indirect vote buying is much higher. But, there are grounds to believe that the National Police and electoral subjects have the capacity to interrupt the negative trend that has been continuously reinforced in June. Besides, the experience of our observers shows that some candidates are ready to stop such indecent campaigning after they received claims from the observers, and after the reports to the National Police,” - states Oleksandr Kliuzhev, an analyst at the Civil Network OPORA.
He also stated that according to OPORA observers, abuse of administrative resources was not systematic or centralized. “In fact, we are currently in a situation when there is no single party or a limited list of parties that dominate in the power vertical or use the authority in their own electoral interests. However, at the same time, we are aware of the fact that on local level, officials from local authorities and self-government are still not ready to join the election campaigns of political parties of candidates for MPs,” – the analyst emphasized.
OPORA observers submitted to the National Police of Ukraine 455 statements and reports about administrative offenses and crime. 66 % of all reports (301) were about campaigning without the source data, 23% (106 reports) - about breaking campaigning rules (Art. 212-10 Code of Ukraine on Administrative Offense), including also funding other than from the election fund, 5 reports – about posting campaigning messages in unauthorized places (Art. 212-14 of the CUoAO), 1 report about posting campaigning advertisements in breach of the rules of public landscaping (ARt. 152 of the CUoAO). Also, observers submitted 28 reports on committing crime: 22 repots on violating the rules on funding election campaign (Art. 159-1 of the CC), 4 reports on vote buying (Art. 160 of the CC), 2 reports on instigating animosity (Art. 161 of the CC).
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