According to observation findings, it was identified 2,147 cases of non-compliance with the Law of Ukraine “On Election of the People’s Deputies of Ukraine” and with democratic electoral standards. The most widespread violation of the law was the incompliance of electoral subjects with the rules for running the electoral campaign. Another problem is still in applying technologies of financial incentives for voters, and the use of the theme of state subventions for ‘self PR.” The information was shared by representatives of Civil Network OPORA at a press conference in Kyiv on July, 19.

“In terms of statistics, our of the 2,147 violations, there were 202 cases of indirect vote-buying; 93 – violation and abuse by members of election commissions, including also the violation of procedure of compiling polling station commissions and distribution of managerial positions; abuse of administrative resources - 44 facts; criminal interference in electoral process – 17; violating the rights of observers and journalists - 7 facts. Upon the whole, OPORA sent 882 reports to the National Police of Ukraine. According to the National Police official reports submitted as of the day of yesterday, 237 criminal proceedings were initiated during the election campaign, 111 cases of them relate to Article 160 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine, such as direct and indirect vote buying,’ says  Olga Aivazovska, Chair of the Board of the Civil Network OPORA.

According to OPORA analyst Oleksandr Neberykut, as compared to the first month of election campaign, activities of all electoral subjects have become intense and the campaign has grown more competitive within the one-mandate constituencies.

“Out of 22 political parties officially nominating candidates on a national constituency, a noticeable election campaign is run by 13 parties. Campaigning among other parties is selective and rather limited. Instead, three political parties such as the “Independence,” “The Green Party of Ukraine,” and the “Syla Prava” (Power of Law) de facto do not run any systematic campaign. The largest scale and the most diverse formats of campaigning activities covering all regions of Ukraine (24 regions and the city of Kyiv) was unfolded by five political parties: “European Solidarity,” “Servant of the People,” “Ukrainian Strategy of Groysman,” AU “Batkivshchyna,” and the Radical Party of Oleh Liashko. Within the intense interparty rivalry, the major tone of campaign is still set by the majoritarian candidates in one-mandate constituencies. Their campaigning activities are much more dynamic, diverse, and are more often accompanied with conflicts between the candidates. According to OPORA observers, at least 51 one-mandate constituencies can be deemed as potentially problematic, in terms of the nature of rivalry, the status, and the resources of candidates.” - states Neberykut. 

In the closing stage of campaign, the parties and candidates use all available forms of election campaigning. The most widespread forms of campaigning is the use of outdoor advertising, direct work with voters and dissemination of printed campaigning materials (handing out newspapers, posting stickers and posters, handing around the printed campaigning materials through party tents). The media campaigns are dominated by advertising in social media, and the use of online media. Unlike the previous election campaigns, this time, most majoritarian candidates are present and highly active on their Facebook profiles. Active use of social media by the candidates caused, among other things, the increase in the scope of dirty campaigning and fake news related to elections. It indicates to the need to more carefully study the peculiarities and consequences of using internet resources for campaigning, and for legal regulation of modern forms of campaigning based on the use of media technologies.   

According to Robert Lorian, a data analyst, electoral law does not distinguish an internet advertising as a separate form of election campaigning (the campaigning of the kind is defined among other forms of campaigning). Without the directly set bans, it is impossible to bring a person to responsibility for posting election campaigning materials on the Internet and in social media beyond the election fund. On the other hand, the law does prohibit to use own funds of parties, of candidates, or funds from other sources to run the election campaign, including also  as initiated by voters. Therefore, having third persons pay for advertising in social media is not an admissible form of campaigning.

“One of the only sources of information on campaigning on the Internet, such as in the Facebook social media, is a Library of Political  Advertising designed by the company in order to enhance transparency and accountability, and to prevent foreign interference with elections in different countries of the world. During the active stage of election campaign, from 24.05.2019 to 15.07.2019, 40,427 advertising posts of political nature were posted in the Facebook social media. The number of posted advertising posts is getting increasingly higher as election day approaches, while 72% of posts fall onto July. According to the Report of the advertising library over this period, over USD 1.8 mln was spent for political advertising in Ukraine.  The largest number of views of political advertising is attributed to the city of Kyiv – 14.5%, Lviv region – 9.28%, and Dnipropetrovsk region – 7.61%. The lowest number of political advertising in Facebook was viewed by citizens from Luhansk (0.71%) and Kherson regions. It must be stated that the Facebook social media does not share Ukrainian political advertising to citizens of the AR Crimea and the city of Sevastopol,’ – says Lorian. 

During the election campaign, OPORA observers noted the use of technologies of financial incentives for voters. Furthermore, the self-nominated candidates in one-mandate constituencies were key initiators of such violation of the law and the standards of free expression of will by citizens. The candidates nominated by political parties offered financial incentives to voters far less often. Observers noted the facts of having candidates engage charities to campaign for them. The charities handed around to voters the goods and services, and other kinds of free of charge aid.

OPORA representatives have not directly identified any confirmed facts of monetary bribing of citizens, but the official sources claim about the investigation by the National Police of Ukraine of 62 proceedings on such kinds of vote buying.

“The identified cases of “charity” are not new for electoral history of Ukraine. The same technologies were also used during the 2014 parliamentary elections, and especially at the 2012 regular elections. The unchanged negative practices indicated to the need to have crucially new approaches to legislative and practical prevention of vote buying. One of the promising solutions is the draft law no. 8270 on providing for the inescapable nature of punishment for electoral fraud. The draft law has a status of the governmental bill, and was developed by the joint effort of law-enforcement authorities and the public. It has been registered in the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine since April, 2018.  In OPORA’s opinion, the new composition of the Supreme Council of Ukraine must enter the substantial and, most importantly, the productive discussion  on issues related to prevention of vote buying.” shares Oleksandr Kliuzhev, an analyst at OPORA.   

According to him, misuse of administrative resources during elections is less spread a violation than other kinds of non-compliance with the law and with electoral standards (44). Cases with signs of abuse of administrative resources were mostly related to either direct or concealed engagement of public officials and civil servants from local self-government to campaigning activities. Another common violation is also the dissemination or handing around of campaigning materials at the premises of public authorities. In terms of complying with the principles of political neutrality of public administration, a largely concerning practice is the massive participation of public officials in joint events with the candidates, public statements of officials of different levels in support of certain candidates. The status of people’s deputies of Ukraine enabled a number of candidates to de facto ignore the legal restrictions applicable to electoral participants (using the official meetings for de facto campaigning, participation in implementation of social, charitable, and infrastructural projects, non-competitive presence in local media). 

Another major concern of election campaigns in constituencies is still the abuse of the budget administrative resources. The standing MPs registered as candidates at the early elections are making the active use of activities implementing state and local programs of social economic development for the de facto campaigning in their favour.  Similar practices are also used by leading local candidates for people’s deputies of Ukraine who have an official relation or political access to local budgeted programs.

With the start of electoral process, the National Police of Ukraine initiated 273 criminal proceedings related to electoral process. Out of the proceedings, 202 investigations are connected with the crimes against the citizen voting rights (Articles 157 – 160 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine), 71 proceedings – on other illegal acts during the electoral process.

Out of investigations of electoral fraud, there prevail cases on vote buying under Article 160 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine – 111 cases.  Of them, 62 proceedings are related to the monetary bribing of voters, 49 – indirect vote buying (campaigning by donating goods and services, etc.).  According to official data of police, 88 proceedings were initiated during elections about the obstacles to free exercise of voting rights by citizens (Article 157 of the CCU); 40 proceedings investigate cases of disseminating untruthful information about parties and candidates; 34 cases are about the illegitimate use of party brands (Article 157 of CCU), while 14 cases are about registration of the “clone” candidates. Cases of damage to campaigning materials (39), theft of campaigning materials (11), other criminal acts  (21) are also investigated by the National Police of Ukraine.

As of yesterday, investigating officers completed 18 proceedings, while 6 proceedings were combined. Investigation is still underway on 249 criminal proceedings. According to reports from the National Police of Ukraine to OPORA, 5 proceedings are on the stage of bringing the suspicion.

Over the last month of election campaign, the Central Election Commission accepted more than 800 resolutions related to various aspects of organization of the early parliamentary elections in Ukraine on July, 21, 2019. Thus, the CEC was actively responding to the problem of candidates breaking the deadlines for opening accounts of election funds. The Commission two times adopted resolutions on announcing a warning for breaking the terms for opening election funds accounts to 38 candidates (resolution dated July, 8, 2019), to 684 candidates for peoples’ deputies of Ukraine registered in one-mandated constituencies, as well as to the  political party “Syla Liudey” (Power of the People) (resolution dated July, 18, 2019). 17 CEC resolutions were related to the execution of court decisions, mostly in cases on registration of candidates and update of biographical data in the ballot. 36 CEC resolutions were related to consideration of complaints (in 13 cases, complaints were left without consideration on the merits; 19 cases were dismissed, 4 complaints  were partially satisfied).

On the basis of submitted requests, the CEC registered 117 official observers from 12 foreign countries, and 1,602 observers from 21 international organizations. To compare, during the 2014 early parliamentary elections, the CEC registered 304 observers from 21 countries, and 2,017 observers from 20 international organizations. At the same time, the Commission rejected the registration of official observers from the OSCE/ODIHR to 17 citizens of the Russian Federation. The decisions were justified by provisions of the Law of Ukraine “On Peculiarities of Public Policy in Providing for State Sovereignty of Ukraine at the Temporary Occupied Territories in Donetsk and Luhansk Regions.” 

On July, 15, the procedure closed for temporary change of voting place without changing a voting address. The right was used by 280,922 Ukrainians. Simplifications under the Resolution of the CEC no. 910 dated May, 29, 2019, cancelling the requirement to present the additional documents to confirm the grounds for change of voting place, along with the application therefor, was by all means a positive introduction, in terms of creating due conditions to exercise voting rights of citizens.

As of July, 15, courts published 24 court decisions on cases related to specifying voting lists. Of them, in 14 cases, the lawsuits were satisfied, in 10 cases – they were dismissed. The trend persists for courts to differently treat cases on including a person to a voting list who does not have a registered address. Civil Network OPORA hereby additionally reminds about the need to generalize the practice for considering the cases in courts on entering persons into voting lists.

The court register also has the published decisions on 8 cases on information support for elections, on running the election campaign – in 9 cases on bringing to administrative justice (the Code of Ukraine on Administrative Offense) – on 126 cases, while the number of resolutions keeps growing since the decisions are uploaded to the register on a gradual basis. It is typical that the period under analysis recorded courts adopting decisions also on the materials of administrative proceedings that have been filed still during the presidential election campaign.

Report on the Findings of OPORA Observation at the Early Parliamentary Election in Ukraine on July, 21, 2019: Trends of July and Tentative Conclusions of the Campaign