Before the New Year's Eve, people traditionally summarise their successes and achievements, and make plans for the coming year. Everything is quite simple with our plans - we are preparing for a large-scale observation of regular 2020 local election campaign. As for our achievements, we can talk for a very long time about them. However, not to sound long and boring, we decided to select 14 most important events (dedicated to the 14th anniversary of the organization on 14 December 2019), and tell a story about each of them.

Number of observers, detected violations and 3 PVTs

OPORA's non-partisan observation of two rounds of presidential election this year involved 3,250 observers. Besides that, 1,750 network observers participated in the snap parliamentary elections. Every election since 2007, the organization is almost the only one in Ukraine that conducts wide-scale independent observation across the country at polling stations, selected using statistical sampling. Thus, 22,916 qualified observers have been involved in election monitoring efforts since 2007.

They have detected 1,153 violations during two election days of the presidential election campaign. During the parliamentary election campaign, they have detected 1,439 violations, which are mapped on our Map of Violations.

Also this year, OPORA conducted a parallel vote tabulation (PVT) three times during the parliamentary and two rounds of presidential elections. Based on a sociological statistical sampling (using the number of voters at an election precinct, number of precincts in a district and oblast etc.), this methodology allows to receive a forecast of election outcomes, which is more precise that exit polls and quicker than official results announced by the CEC. On the Election Day, short-term observers are staying at polling stations and detect violations. Besides that, they send reports on the voting process and tabulation results using special cipher and programs. A team of call-center, jurists, data analysts and IT specialists is behind the scenes of the work done by these field observers.

It is worth to mention that OPORA is the only organization in Ukraine that conducts a parallel vote tabulation.

First aid training for LTOs

OPORA's experts are teaching long-term observers (LTOs) to collect and analyse information, to understand election processes, to document violations, to challenge decisions of election commissions etc. However, another focus of observer trainings for OPORA's observers is their personal safety. Thus, in addition to the basics of physical and digital security, we have also included a first aid training from UNIT experts as a part of general training. This training prepares our observers to action in non-standard situations, and sometimes in fact to providing first aid in election precincts.

14 thousand references

OPORA held 15 all-Ukrainian press conferences this year. Regional offices organized 215 media events, attended by nearly 2 thousand journalists and international observers.

More than 3.5 thousand informational messages were posted on OPORA's website. Mass media and social networks mentioned OPORA and our experts more than 14 thousand times.

The most successful information campaign

Right before presidential election, StarLightMedia media group and Civil Network OPORA have united to protect the right of each Ukrainian to cast a vote free from pressure, threats, bribery and fraud. This wide informational campaign was also aimed to prevent falsifications in tabulation process.

Besides that, OPORA's social videos created as a part of initiative “Free and Fair Election” in cooperation with the StarLightMedia, had been broadcasted three times a day on TV channels ICTV, Novyi Channel and STB from 22 February to 21 April. Videos were placed 35 times on Novyi Channel, and 34 times on STB and ICTV. A total of 17.8 million people saw the video on voter bribery topic on both TV channels.

Besides that, ICTV and STB channels often broadcasted news reports about "Free and Fair Elections" in "Fakty" and "Vikna Novyny" programs. The communications department of OPORA had suggested a topic on problematic aspects of the election process, and journalists of the media group TV channels professionally revealed these topics. 12.6 million Ukrainians saw these news reports. These materials included:

19 thematic episodes, watched by 7,390,327 people, were broadcasted on STB and ICTV during the parliamentary election campaign.

Such a fruitful cooperation of OPORA with StarLightMedia was based on previous common efforts on the first season of the national TV project "New Leaders" in 2018. The second season was launched in summer 2019. This project is a public initiative, realized in a multimedia format. The Public Supervisory Board  is an independent and impartial project monitoring body comprising representatives of NGOs, which have been proving their strong reputation a year after year.

British communications agency Zinc Network became another information partner of OPORA for these elections, an international one this time. Their social mission is to help communities, brands, and governments implement positive social changes and properly inform about them.

In March-April, Civil Network OPORA in partnership with the Zinc Network, produced and published 9 videos explaining some procedures of the election process and the most common violations: bribery, administrative resource, issuing a ballot without passport verification. These videos were posted on OPORA's Facebook and Instagram accounts. Each video has from 360 thousand to 780 thousand views, many comments and shares. Three most popular videos are:

  • TV shop on a sale and purchase of votes;
  • how NOT to respond to electoral crimes;
  • how NOT to change the voting location for an election.

Two seasons of TV programs

As a part of awareness campaign, OPORA in cooperation with the Hromadske TV had launched a series of programs “Elections Inside Out” on March 7. Each series comprises 16 episodes, dedicated to different electoral topics.

Thus, the following topics are considered in a detailed and relaxed manner: opportunities for realization of voting rights; “fake” observers and technical candidates; administrative resources; voter bribery; politicians who use events, financed from state subventions, for personal promotion; violations during the election day; populism in electoral programs; and digital safety on elections etc.

Four episodes were published on Facebook page  and YouTube channel of Civil Network OPORA, as well as broadcasted on hromadske.ua and 24th Channel in March, before the first round of presidential election. Another 4 episodes were aired in April, before the second round, and 8 more in summer, before the early parliamentary elections. Each program was viewed by 30-40 thousand people on hromadske.ua, and around 500 thousand people on the 24th Channel.

Temporary change of voting location

A record-breaking number of people have changed their assigned voting location for the second round of presidential election this year - 325,604 voters. Thus, 315,725 voters changed their voting location before the first round of presidential election this year, and 280,922 voters before snap parliamentary elections, compared to 171,078 voters in 2014 early presidential election and 190,283 in 2014 regular parliamentary election. The number of informed voters has increased also thanks to the efforts of Civil Network OPORA.

Thus, OPORA had been creating awareness-rising materials on the change of voting location and other procedures during the election process. The Communications Department has developed a separate page with detailed instructions on how to change the voting location, which documents are required, and how to find yourself in the voter list https://l.oporaua.org/proholosuvaty. This material was viewed by 24.5 thousand users. Initiative citizens of Kyiv shared at their cost printed information about this OPORA's page in establishments of Podil district of Kyiv.

Before the second round, OPORA's communications team prepared information on how to check your data in the voter list and how to solve the most common problems in case of its absence https://l.oporaua.org/perevir. Tips for voters - what to do and what NOT to do at an election precinct - were especially popular on the Election Day.

Streaming of Central Election Commission's meetings

Since October 2018, when the Parliament of VIII convocation appointed new members of the Central Election Commission, OPORA started to stream CEC's meetings online. We made live streamings of CEC meetings and video comments from its members on Facebook page of OPORA. Thus, we have recorded 288 such videos by September this year.

In October 2019, the CEC started to function in its new membership. Over the first month of the new CEC, OPORA's representatives have recorded 15 streamings and comments from the meeting hall. Since early November, the Central Election Commission has finally launched its online broadcasts of meetings.

Thus, OPORA was the only source of operative public information about the Central Election Commission for journalists, the public, and even subjects of two electoral processes, during the whole year. 

Election Code

The Election Code had been developed for around 8 years, and finished in the end of 2019. OPORA had been constantly involved in its development, and will continue to work on improvement of electoral legislation. Let's look at each step of the process.

On 2 October 2015, the ElectionCode was registered in the Parliament of VIII convocation, although the text itself had been drafted a few years earlier. On 7 November 2017, the Verkhovna Rada supported the draft Election Code in the first reading. A total of 4,296 amendments were submitted for elaboration before its second reading.

On 16 April 2018, a Working Group on the Election Code started to process these amendments. The Group comprised 24 MPs, but only 4-6 MPs attended the meetings in average. The Working Group had been meeting about every two weeks for almost a year. The last meeting was held on 11 March 2019.

On 11 July 2019, at the last sitting of the Verkhovna Rada of VIII convocation, MPs adopted the Election Code, and then-speaker signed the document and sent it to the President for signature on August 27.

On 13 September, the President vetoed the Election Code, affirming that some of its regulations are against the Constitution of Ukraine, including ignorance of voting rights of the certain citizen groups - internally displaced persons and migrant workers. Thus, a new working group including experts from OPORA was formed based on the competent committee. They have drafted an updated document to override the presidential veto. Parliamentary factions took their time for consultations, and the committee had changed. As a result, three meetings took place, and each time the committee recommended the Parliament to adopt the Code, with new amendments each time. The last such meeting was held on December 17.

Finally, on December 19, the Verkhovna Rada of IX convocation supported the ElectionCode, and overcame the presidential veto. However, the document still contains  both progressive and inefficient regulations. A restored suffrage for internally displaced persons and migrant workers on local elections is definitely a positive side. It became possible thanks to the amendments suggested by our experts together with the partners of draft law #6240, registered in the previous convocation of the Parliament. It is important that a number of statements are already included in the document, despite the text is not perfect. Therefore, we continue working on a number of amendments already in the beginning of 2020, but finally succeeded in breaking the deadlock.

Monitoring social networks and processing political advertising on Facebook

In light of global trends in the use of social networks in elections, and despite Ukrainian legislation doesn't regulate this matter, we started to monitor Facebook in presidential elections. We focused our monitoring on: activities of candidates; activities of Facebook pages, created solely to discredit candidates; pages that shared disinformation and fake messages; Facebook advertising used for campaigning purpose. Thus, we tracked 370 public pages, which published about 280,000 messages during the election campaign. OPORA's monitors analyzed and grouped by content 37,000 of them.

During the snap parliamentary elections, OPORA analyzed political advertising on Facebook using Facebook's ad library API. 44,067 advertisements had been published on this social network during the campaign period. 3,040,000 American dollars were spent on advertising. The Holos (465 ads costing $ 244,185) and the European Solidarity (119 ads costing $ 178,257) spent the biggest amounts among political parties. Pages belonging to the Sharii Party and the Opposition Platform - For Life (then-page "Boiko the Prime-Minister", now "Boiko the Leader") used microtargeting technology and published the largest number of advertisements on the page 1,641 and 2,384 advertisements respectively.

Subventions and their uneven distribution

Civil Network OPORA has been analyzing the distribution of state subventions for social and economic development of territories for the fourth year in a row. Our research findings clearly show that this enormous budget program (more than UAH 15 billion over the last five years) has become a hostage to political conjuncture and parliamentary lobbying (mostly by majoritarian MPs). Every year, we prepared and sent recommendations to the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine aimed to raise the transparency of the subvention system using clear criteria for the distribution. However, the recommendations have also been ignored every year.

This year, this research has become even more important as we had detected that budget funds were used directly for campaigning purposes in 2,724 cases. On October 18, the Parliament supported the draft State Budget for 2020 in the first reading. The Budget didn't include subventions on social and economic development, so we hoped that this year's non-transparent distribution was the last one. However, subventions had returned into the budget before the second reading The mount is much smaller, though, - a little more than 2 billion hryvnias.

Thus, we launched the service for a convenient research into subventions for anyone interested in the topic: https://subventions.org.ua/.

Electoral Rights Ombudsmen Network

Civil Network OPORA has established a network of public ombudsmen to protect electoral rights of citizens.  We have conducted a public competition, selected and trained people with legal background to work precisely on the subject of election process and protection of electoral rights. Therefore, we now have 25 independent, competent, motivated individuals, who analyse systematically the application of legislation and investigations into electoral crimes. Besides that, they are communicators between voters, candidates, the media, and law enforcement agencies on introduction of practices for counteraction against electoral violations.

Ombudsmen were actively involved in 2019 presidential and parliamentary elections. They checked if election precincts are accessible for people with disabilities, consulted voters on getting themselves included in voter lists through a court, conducted awareness-rising activities, trained police officers to efficiently prevent and counter electoral crimes. Once election process in Ukraine had completed, ombudsmen conducted a comprehensive analysis of court decisions on election law violations, which was the first one in Ukraine, and became a part of OPORA's observation report. They also participated in the development of recommendations on improvement of electoral legislation.

Police training and more

During two election campaigns this year, Civil Network OPORA conducted 115 trainings for more than 3,000 law-enforcement officers. However, such cooperation goes beyond the election period, to boost its effectiveness.

We organized the first school for election commissioners in Lviv State University of Internal Affairs on 10-14 December, with law-enforcement officers from 12 oblasts of Ukraine participating. In January 2020, an audience for training and practice called "Model Polling Station" will open in the same university with our assistance. It will become a practical platform for the police to develop their skills in effective responding, recording and collecting evidence during an electoral process.

We should also mention our ongoing work on a draft law, which guarantees the certainty of punishment for electoral crimes. It was developed by the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the National Police and Civil Network OPORA as a result of lengthy public and expert discussions. The bill was supported by the former Government and registered in the previous Parliament with a registration number #8270. The text is currently being amended before a new registration, which is soon expected.

R4U for regions

Since 2016, Civil Network OPORA had launched a service "They vote for you". After the election of new parliament this year, the data of VIII convocation moved to the archive, and the resource was updated with information about new MPs. Besides that, the portal was scaled locally in 2019. This is how local services appeared in 12 cities:

If a city council is in our system, then all its deputies are like fish in a barrel. We know how many sittings they have attended or missed, who they vote in sync, and how vote for important city policies, even if it takes to analyze their behavior at sessions over the last three years.

Auto-distribution of city council mandates

The next local elections in Ukraine will take place in fall 2020. They will likely become the first national elections after the decentralization reform. However, we still don't know which system is going to be used for the election, because the Election Code's paragraph on local elections will be probably changed in the beginning of 2020.

In the old version of the law, used for elections in 128 UTCs in December, provides a rather complicated and imperfect mandate allocation system. Drawbacks of this electoral system sometimes result in "stolen" mandates, like in Kyiv Oblast Council, Vasylkiv Raion Council in Kyiv oblast, Cherkasy Raion Council, Monastyrysche City Council in Cherkasy oblast or in Kamianets-Podilskyi. Therefore, OPORA is preparing in advance to monitor both the next year's election process and the distribution of seats. In particular, our experts have created a site to calculate and verify the number of mandates received: https://protokol.danivyboriv.net/.

The purpose of the site is preliminary calculation and verification of an already made calculation to distribute mandates among parties by the formula used in Ukraine for local elections. We want that anyone could check the distribution of mandates or predict it based on a certain number of votes, if the needed data is available.

Thus, you select an oblast, name of a council, and number of seats in it from a drop-down menu, and then enter the election results - number of votes received by each party. The site will calculate a percentage of total votes and determine the quota for each party based on the Hare method (the largest remainder method).

In addition, anyone can upload protocols from local elections to supplement the public archive of election data. After all, the system used to store election documents in local elections is unpredictable and sometimes you may not find important information, despite its loss is punished by the law.

It is left to compare the number of seats received by each party with the result published on website of the Central Election Commission. If the numbers are the same - great, if not - it's time to ask from whom and how much votes got stolen. After all, automatic tabulation of data never lies, unlike people.

 

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Of course, it is impossible to succeed without support from friends: USAID, European Union Delegations to Ukraine, NDI, IFES, Civil Holding "Group of Influence", UNIT, Legal Aid Coordination Center, Ombudsman of Ukraine, hromadske.ua, 24th Channel, StarLightMedia, Zinc Network.

We are deeply grateful to our partners for their priceless contribution to the development of democratic processes in Ukraine, and for being our inspiration for even greater achievements. Let's reach new heights together!