The election process was quite competitive on the first elections in territorial united communities. The voters had a wide choice of candidates, nominated by local cells or independently. The certain peculiarities of the election process and the voting day showed it's necessary to amend the current legislation, in order to prevent such problems in the upcoming elections in territorial communities in December 2017. Violation of campaigning rules, nontransparent campaign financing, intervention in the electoral process by civil servants, problems with formation of electoral districts and production of ballot papers, and manifestations of voter bribery are all persuasive arguments in favor of a complex improvement of electoral legislation. Based on the observation findings, OPORA informs that violation of the principle of legal certainty and a number of important electoral procedures have negatively influenced the election administration and people's confidence in the institution of elections as a whole.
The major violations during election day on October 29 were attempts to get ballots without having the legal right (passport verification). However, observers have noticed that the scale of such violations and number of electoral violations on the voting day have decreased compared to previous local elections. At the same time, the incident at polling station #120505 (Dnipropetrovsk oblast) involving an attack at PEC members and damages to electoral premises leaves no doubt that safety measures should be strengthened on the elections. OPORA would like to draw attention of law-enforcement bodies that efficient investigation of the crime should demonstrate the voters that the state is able to guarantee them free and safe voting.
Although the scale and statistics of electoral violations has decreased in comparison to the previous elections, unprecedented incidents criminal interference in the election process (like at polling station #120505, Dnipropetrovsk oblast) are inadmissible because they directly hinder the realization of voting rights by the citizens.
OPORA will publish its final summary of the first local elections in united territorial communities, held on 29 October 2017, when all the stages of the electoral process are finished and each fact, reported by observers, is verified.
OBSERVATION FINDINGS OF THE ORGANIZATION AND CONDUCT OF ELECTIONS
- The first local elections in united territorial communities proved that the law on local elections needs a complex improvement to guarantee the legal certainty of electoral procedures. Unequal application of the legislation by election commissions and other subjects of the election process did occur during the electoral process, regardless of the fundamental electoral standards. New regulations allowing to unite territorial communities belonging to adjacent raions were not harmonized with other Laws of Ukraine and, causing a number of contradictory regulations, inadmissible for a high-quality electoral process. The lack of coherence between Law of Ukraine on Local Elections and other legislation, as well as some obsolete electoral procedures, became a basis for manipulations with regulations and contradictory decisions of election commissions. Thus, a comprehensive electoral reform, which would not only concern politically resonant topics like an electoral system, but also would solve the problem with harmonization and legal certainty of procedures, still remains a key goal.
- The election administration, for the most part, provided different electoral subjects with an opportunity to control the process of organization and conduct of the voting process. Procedural violations, which occurred in the process of forming TECs and PECs of the corresponding election, couldn't significantly influence the membership of these commissions and their ability to organize the voting process on the basis of political impartiality. However, similarly to 2015-2017 local elections, the professionalism of election commissions is still on the agenda. Observation results have one more time proved it's necessary to introduce a complex training system for members of TECs and PECs, and guarantee a stable complement of trained election commission members, which are attracted to election administration. Observers received during the election process some information about an illegal pressure upon the certain members of election commissions. OPORA would like to affirm that it is going to watch the investigation of this information and calls on the law-enforcement bodies to guarantee a comprehensive examination of all the facts and circumstances.
- According to OPORA's data, financial, material and technical support of the preparation and conduct of elections was not provided to the fullest extent possible. Most of the TECs and PECs worked in premises, which didn't correspond to the needs of election process, or couldn't receive timely access to financial resources or improvements of material and technical support. In particular, the first local elections, held on 29 October 2017, raised the problem of adequate financing of raion election commissions and proper setup of election precincts to the election day.
- Remaining the key to guaranteeing competitiveness of elections, the registration of candidates was not accompanied by wide-scale rejection of registration, and the voters received enough alternative choices for the election. However, some rejections or cancellations of registration were still challenged in court in the certain united territorial communities. In some cases, such prolonged electoral arguments caused destabilization of preparations to the election day, or even low-quality production of ballot papers.
- Realization of passive electoral right was on a due level, but law-enforcement bodies should verify the statements of some political parties concerning illegal influence on candidates thoroughly and in accordance with the political impartiality principle. For example, statements of the certain political parties and candidates concerning non-public threats, including at their work places, may be confirmed or refuted only by law-enforcement bodies, based on professional investigation findings. Unfortunately, a technology of so-called duplicate nominees is still popular among unfair electoral stakeholders.
- Inadequate approach to ballot printing by a number of election commissions had not only caused complications in preparations to the election day, but also could be classified as obstruction to exercise of electoral rights. The absence of some candidates in ballot papers in the certain territorial communities caused violation of citizen electoral rights and additional expenses on production of ballot papers. However, local cells of parliamentary factions are also responsible for the errors, because they ignored an opportunity to check their candidates in commission for verification of ballot paper production. The problems, which emerged in the ballot paper production, show a strong need in strengthening the legislative requirements to this stage of electoral process.
- Requirements of the legislation concerning formation of electoral constituencies are still unclear for many election commissions, which often acted against the general standards of admissible discrepancy in the average number of voters per district and arbitrary interpreted law regulations. Electoral arguments concerning formation of electoral districts lasted until the election day, what have decreased the public legitimacy of election campaign and created preconditions for unpredictable legal consequences.
- Taking into consideration that many candidates kept their positions of civil servants or officials during the election process (including then-current village, settlement and city heads, heads of raion state administrations etc.), the state should strengthen guarantees for equal opportunities, and strengthen the mechanisms preventing misuses of administrative resources. Thus, it should focus on the prevention of incidents when budget administrative resource is used for the benefit of the certain candidates or political parties. The officials public officials should not only adhere to the legislation, but also take into consideration the general principles of electoral process, guaranteeing equal opportunities for all candidates. Civil Network OPORA was drawing attention during the election process to a number of incidents when civil servants were illegally involved into campaigning of candidates or election administration process. These incidents require further investigation and bringing offenders to liability.
- Another wide-scale violation of electoral legislation was the neglect of campaigning rules by candidates and local party cells. Thus, campaign materials were often disseminated in prohibited places, or didn't contain the imprint. The problem of transparent campaign financing is still topical in Ukraine. Unfortunately, Civil Network OPORA has to admit there are no efficient mechanisms for the campaign financing oversight, and most of electoral subjects simply ignore the law requirements on reporting. Thus, the further election reforming should find that balance between interests of candidates participating in local elections, who often have limited resources for professional organization of campaigning, and efficient procedures preventing electoral misuses.
- Election campaigns in united territorial communities were often accompanied by technologies providing material incentives to the voters, which often use drawbacks of the current legislation to avoid responsibility for such campaign technologies. According to the verified information about voter bribery incidents, we may state they we not wide-scale in most of territorial communities, but law-enforcement bodies should properly respond to each such incident.
- Although local party cells and candidates started the active stage of campaigning shortly before the election day, the voters had an opportunity to learn about pluses and minuses of each candidate. The number of candidates, nominated independently and candidates, nominated by political parties, we may state that the latter were quite interested in participation. It concerns for the most part the parties, which have the highest ratings on a nationwide level. At the same time, it wasn't good for the disputes around local development goals that political parties were trying to promote the national agenda in their local campaigns.
ASSESSMENT OF THE VOTING AND TABULATION
- Civil Network OPORA conducted a comprehensive observation of the voting process in each Ukrainian oblast on 29 October 2017. Thus, 69 long-term and 122 short-term observers watched activeness of the voters and activities of TECs and PECs in the first local elections in united territorial communities. The data, gathered on the basis of representative sampling, allow to assess the scale of electoral violations and quality of adherence to major procedures by electoral subjects on the voting day.
- According to OPORA's data, received from a statistically-based sampling of polling stations, 85.6% of PECs started their preparatory meetings not earlier than 45 minutes before voting, providing observers and other electoral subjects an opportunity to watch the preparation of polling stations to the voting. However, 14.4% of PECs started their preparatory meetings at 7:15 AM. When the PECs ignore the legislative requirements concerning the timing of preparatory meetings on the election day, electoral subjects can't verify the number of ballot papers at an election precinct, examine ballot boxes and sign control sheets, which are put to the corresponding boxes. At 98.3% of polling stations, OPORA's observers had opportunities to provide a comprehensive observation of preparatory meetings of PECs and the beginning of voting process.
- According to observers of Civil Network OPORA, the PECs had a quorum on their preparatory meetings. Thus, at 100% of polling stations, included in OPORA's representative sampling, more than a half of PEC members attended the preparatory meetings. Almost 6% of PECs didn't keep the minutes of their preparatory meetings.
- 1.7% of polling stations opened later than 8:00 AM, due to the issues in preparation to the voting process. However, 98.3% of polling stations opened on time.
- At 98.3% of polling stations, observers had opportunities to provide a comprehensive observation of preparatory meetings of PECs and the beginning of voting process.
- In general, the voters had a free access to the voting since the opening of polling stations. At the same time, we have to admit that s number of PECs have failed to provide comfortable conditions for exercise of the franchise, causing lines at election precincts and additional inconveniences during the voting. There were issues with material and technical support at PECs, which were mentioned by OPORA in previous reports: Inconsistency of the space in premises and the expected number of voters, lack of mobile and stationary ballot boxes (Vinnytsia, Volyn, Zakarpattia, Sumy, Ternopil obl.), polling booths, absence of safes for keeping ballot papers and other electoral documents (Zhytomyr obl.). Lines at PECs (for example in Kherson oblast) occurred because the majority of commissions were formed in minimal membership. Although precinct election commissions are responsible for the arrangement of voting premises, they didn't have proper conditions for making such arrangements because of passivity or inaction of local government bodies.
- Besides that, OPORA's observers reported that some PECs failed to provide an adequate guard of ballots before the voting has begun. According to OPORA's data, law-enforcement bodies didn't guard ballot papers at 12.3% of PECs. On the eve of election day, observers reported poor communication between police and PECs concerning the protection of ballot papers. At the same time, ballot papers were not stored in a sealed safe (metal cabinet) at 1.7% of polling stations, due to their absence.
- According to OPORA's data, major violations detected by observers are attempts to issue ballots without passport verification or on the basis of unauthorized documents (for example, copies). Thus, such incidents were detected at 13.1% of PECs (particularly in Sumy and Zhytomyr oblasts). In most cases, OPORA's observers prevented the commitment of such criminal offenses. However, even though independent observers respond to such violations, the illegitimate issuance of ballot papers is tolerated by election commissions. Moreover, there were even attempts to legitimize such actions by collegial decisions of commissions. The fact that illegal actions of election commission members are often tolerated and supported by the voters shows the poor legal culture of the latter, as well as their knowledge of the legislation and consequences of its violation. Ballot papers shall be issued to the voters exclusively after they present their passports or a temporary Ukrainian citizenship certificate. 92.6% of election precincts consistently followed this regulation.
- The problems with production of ballot papers became critical on the election day. However, OPORA has informed shortly before the election that oversight commissions for ballot paper production were not created in 59% (118) of territorial communities, which were supposed to verify the production of ballots at the printing enterprises, adherence to the requirements concerning destruction of the printing templates, technical waste, defective printed matter, and ballots produced by mistake. Thus, from the very beginning of voting process, observers of the Civil Network OPORA reported a number of incidents involving low-quality production of ballot papers. The ballots lacked names of candidates, had errors in personal data of candidates and name of the elections themselves. Such incidents include the absence of a candidate in the text of ballot paper in one of single-member districts of Stanislav UTC (Kherson oblast), Luka-Meleshkivska UTC (Vinnytsia oblast), and Mala Divytsia UTC (Chernihiv oblast). Errors in surname of a candidate were detected in Baranyntsi UTC (Zakarpattia oblast) and Zvanivka UTC (Donetsk oblast), candidate's name was written with an error in ballot paper of Mala Danylivka UTC (Kharkiv oblast). In Velyki Mosty UTC (Lviv oblast), the PECs received ballot papers for mayoral election, lacking the date and name of elections. In Ovrych and Radomyshl UTCs (Zhytomyr oblast), 6 ballots didn't correspond to the standard form (lacking the text of protection marks). In Andriivka community of Donetsk oblast, for its part, three election districts received less ballots than required by the law.
- During the election day, the observers detected more than 10 incidents in different communities, related to errors in ballot papers. Although such incidents caused by irresponsible attitude of PECs to their duties, they undermine the trust in election process and question the adherence to the principle of electoral competitiveness.
- Not all PECs sticked to the requirement demanding that only the voters, candidates and their proxies, official observers, mass media representatives, and CEC members may be present at voting premises. In particular, in Zaporizhia, Poltava, Kherson, Vinnytsia, Rivne, Luhansk, Donetsk, and Volyn oblasts, observers noticed officials of local self-government bodies, law-enforcement officers, MPs and other unauthorized persons at PECs. Although the election commissions duly respond to attendance of unauthorized persons at election precincts, the problem is that officials and MPs, who are usually attend, misuse their status and powers. Their actions are illegal and urge the commissions to ignore such violations of electoral legislation.
- During the voting day, OPORA's observers detected violation of the voting secrecy at 0.8% polling stations. Taking pictures of ballots was also detected at 0.8% of PECs. Taking into consideration that the number of such incidents has significantly decreased compared to the previous local elections, we may suggest that such violations have little impact on election outcomes.
- There were solitary reports from observers about transportation of voters to polling stations during the election day (Kharkiv, Zaporizhia, Ivano-Frankivsk, Sumy oblasts). In case of voter transportation, law-enforcement bodies should have checked which financing is used for the transportation, and whether the voters are supporters of a certain candidate or all voters. Unfortunately, law-enforcement officers didn't check the circumstances of such incidents.
- High activeness of voters (48.2%) caused lines of voters on the moment of closing the polling stations. Such situations were detected by observers at 1.6% of PECs.
- The PEC had closed at 8:00 PM and all precinct election commissions started their evening meetings on time. The complaints concerning violations of electoral legislation were submitted during the voting day and before the evening meetings at 2.3% of precinct election commission. According to the information gathered by observers of Civil Network OPORA, 99.2% of PECs worked in compliance with the vote count procedure. 0.8% of PECs, however, violated the procedure.
- The process of vote count was free from conflicts. Observers didn't report any incidents of obstruction to vote count by commission members, candidates of their proxies at 98.4% of polling stations. In general, 99.2% of observers stated they trust the results of vote count process at election precincts, and that they could freely observe each stage of the tabulation.
- In general, we noticed the typical violations during the first local elections in united communities, held on 29 October 2017, the same as we detected in December 2016, related to violation of the voting procedure by electoral stakeholders and attempts to influence the legitimate course of electoral process by unauthorized persons. In general, the procedural violations, witnessed by OPORA's observers, were caused by low quality of work and incompetence of some PEC members.
- Although the scale and statistics of electoral violations has decreased in comparison to the previous elections, unprecedented incidents criminal interference in the election process (like at polling station #120505, Dnipropetrovsk oblast) are inadmissible because they directly hinder the realization of voting rights by the citizens.
- You may learn in detail about the election day incidents and violations in OPORA's Digests.
VOTER TURNOUT ON 29 OCTOBER 2017 ELECTION DAY
- Civil Network OPORA was tracking the activeness of voters based on the data, collected from polling stations, selected by a representative sampling in all the Ukraine. The average turnout on the voting day of 29 October 2017 first local elections was 48.2% (margin of error 3.7%).
- Compared to the turnout of 47.29% on the first local elections held on 18 December 2016 (covering 144 united territorial communities in 22 oblasts of Ukraine), the voters were more active in this election. We remind that the average turnout in 2015 local elections was even lower, and reached 46.6%.
Comparison of voter turnout in the first local elections
Voter turnout in the first local elections held on 12/18/2016
Voter turnout in the first local elections held on 10/29/2017
Voter turnout on 29 October 2017 (OPORA's data)
|12:00 pm||21.4% (margin of error 2.3%)|
|4:00 PM||39.7% (margin of error 3.2%)|
|8:00 PM||48.2% (margin of error 3.7%)|
To the Central Election Commission
- To secure an efficient oversight of election commissions working in line with the legislation on the stage of establishing the election results.
To law-enforcement agencies of Ukraine
- To guarantee investigation of violations, committed on the first local elections, and inform the public on their results.
- To investigate operatively the statements of the certain political parties concerning illegal pressure upon candidates, registered for the first local elections.
- To inform about preliminary results of investigation into attack of unknown persons on the election precinct in Dnipropetrovsk oblast.
To territorial election commissions
- To guarantee the legitimate tabulation of election results in the first local elections (and prevent making any illegal specifications in precinct protocols).
- To guarantee the oversight of adherence to legislative requirements concerning the reporting of electoral fund managers of local party cells and candidates.
- To guarantee the rights of observers, providing the best opportunities to monitor the final stage of electoral process.