Speaking about the major trends of parliamentary by-election in 7 districts, we should mention that so-called technical candidates prevail in number over the real candidates. Besides that, visits of national politicians to electoral districts, incidents of indirect bribery and misuse of administrative resources became more frequent as the election day gets closer.
OPORA's observers reported that the number of candidates who actively compete for supporters has increased, as well as the number and scale of campaign events held by the most popular candidates. However, only one third of registered candidates are involved in campaign efforts today. For example, only 11 of 19 candidates in SMD #23 (Volyn obl.) are active, and the most active are Iryna Konstankevych (UKROP), Serhii Bula (Radical Party of Oleh Liashko), and Liudmyla Kyrda (All-Ukrainian Union Batkivshchyna). In SMD #27 (Dnipro), only 15 of 59 candidates organize campaign activities. Independent candidates Tetiana Rychkova and Zahid Krasnov, and Tetiana Korniichuk (AUU Batkivshchyna) are the most noticeable. Withdrawal of Oksana Tomchuk (UKROP) in favor of candidate Tetiana Rychkova became the central event in the district in the beginning of July. 16 of 37 candidates in SMD #85 (Ivano-Frankivsk obl.) conduct campaigning events. Thus, activities of Viktor Shevchenko (UKROP), Serhii Nasalyk (Petro Poroshenko Bloc 'Solidarity') and Olha Sikora (AUU Batkivshchyna) are the most widespread. Activeness of candidates in Luhansk oblast (SMD #114) has significantly increased in the last weeks of the election campaign. Thus, 25 of 107 canidates are campaigning now if compared to 14 in June, particularly Serhii Shakhov (Nash Krai), Iryna Verihina (AUU Batkivshchyna) and independent candidate Andrii Lesyk. Bilovodskyi raion still has the largest number of campaigning events. Candidates in Poltava oblast (SMD #151) have also became more active. 14 of 47 candidates are campaigning quite actively, especially Ruslan Bohdan (AUU Batkivshchyna), Serhii Mamoian (Serhii Kaplin's Party of Simple People) and independent candidate Oleksii Riabokon. In SMD #183 (Kherson obl.), 10 of 29 candidates are quite active, and the most active of them are the following: Andrii Putilov (Petro Poroshenko Bloc 'Solidarity'), Yurii Odarchenko (AUU Batkivshchyna) and Illia Kiva (independent candidate). 13 of 74 candidates in SMD #206 (Chernihiv city) proved to be active in campaigning, with top three active candidates Maksym Mykytas (independent candidate), Yurii Vlasenko (AUU Batkivshchyna), and Dmytro Blaush (Radical Party of Oleh Liashko).
“Taking into consideration the number of electoral subjects which have actively launched their campaigning, districts #23 (Volyn obl.) and #85 (Ivano-Frankivsk obl.) are the most competitive; while districts #206 (Chernihiv obl.), 114 (Luhansk obl.) and #27 (Dnipropetrovsk obl.) are the least competitive. Unfortunately, we have to ascertain the fact that so-called technical candidates prevail in number the real candidates,” – stated Olha Aivazovska, Parliamentary and Electoral Programs Coordinator at Civil Network OPORA.
The forms of campaigning have remained the same at the final stage of election campaign. Thus, the candidates use the most often visual political advertising, direct voter engagement became more often, and the number of national politicians' visits to electoral districts has drastically increased (with exception of Luhansk oblast). Top campaigners are Yuliia Tymoshenko, Oleh Liashko, Oleh Tiahnybok, and Ivan Krulko. There was a number of incidents in 5 districts when outdoor advertising means bearing political advertising of candidates were deliberately damaged. Besides that, there were some uses of black PR technologies. Although the number of campaign materials without an imprint has significantly decreased in July, such problem still exists.
The major challenges on the eve of parliamentary by-elections in seven districts are the following: indirect voter bribery, misuse of administrative resources, and substantiated information about illegal technologies of monetary bribery of voters. “Candidates are actively providing goods, services, works or other material assets in their campaigning efforts to engage or attract attention of the voters. Charitable funds are functioning in the number of electoral districts. Their activities are often directly or indirectly related to candidates and aimed to provide them competitive benefits in election,” – stated OPORA's analyst Oleksandr Kliuzhev.
Infrastructural or social projects financed from the state budget is a popular form of indirect bribery used by the candidates (especially those holding public offices). Another example is a public poll, organized by a non-governmental organization in SMD #224. Thus, the respondents received 200 UAH and campaign materials in support of the certain candidate. The National Police and OPORA's observers detected in SMD #206 a so-called network of campaigners, with QR codes given to each of them and personal data collected, while the whole network is divided into specific subgroups.
As for the obstruction to activities of official observers and poor conditions of their legal activities, the most resonant incidents are closed meetings of district election commissions in SMD #206. Besides that, members of DEC #151 refused to provide interim financial reports on receipts to and expenditures from campaign funds of candidates.
OPORA confirms that law-enforcement bodies worked to prevent electoral violations and crimes. However, their activeness and response was insufficient and should be increased on the eve of election day.
Candidates in SMD #23 were the most obedient when it came to interim financial reports. Thus, 60% of them submitted the reports in accordance with law requirements. Situation in Luhansk oblast is the worst – only 14% of candidates submitted the reports. In most cases, the candidates who failed to submit financial reports also didn't inform the commission about opening of campaign account. The biggest amount of officially declared expenses was noticed in SMD #27 (total spendings reached 8.8 million UAH), and SMD #206 is on the second place. Candidates in Volyn oblast had spent the smallest amount – a little more than million UAH. Besides that, OPORA's observers noticed campaign materials of candidates, which were not declared in their reports.
Rotations in district election commissions reached quite a high level – over 62 substitutions as of 12 July 2016, what is almost a half of all commission members. DECs #114, 151 and 27 underwent the heaviest rotations. Besides that, there were serious problems with openness and transparency of the election process in DEC #206, where unauthorized persons interfered in activities of the Commission. This Commission was also accused of inaction and questionable from the legal perspective decisions and actions. Activities of the certain DECs were challenged in court, particularly the DEC #114.
Precinct election commissions faced the certain problems with organization of their first meetings, particularly: gathering a quorum, low competence of some PEC members, simultaneous inclusion of some members into more than one commission, and members who didn't give a consent to fulfill such duties. Besides that, PECs in all electoral districts do face heavy rotations. Preliminary voter lists were delivered outside the time constraints established by the law because of the issues with first meetings in PECs. However, there are no doubt that PECs are able to properly organize the election day.
For comment, please contact: Olha Aivazovska – 063 6179750; Oleksandr Kliuzhev – 063 8446723.