The Law of Ukraine “On Elections of People’s Deputies of Ukraine” applicable for the interim elections of the members of Parliament foresaw the establishment of results by April, 12, 2021, inclusive. The terms were successfully followed in constituency No 50 (Pokrovsk, Donetsk Oblast), whereas in constituency No 87 (Nadvirna, Ivano-Frankivsk Oblast) the process of establishing voting results has been largely delayed because of court proceedings about the violations and DEC decisions.
On April, 22, 2021, the CEC established the interim election results for a people’s deputy of Ukraine in constituency No 87 (Nadvirna, Ivano-Frankivsk Oblast). At the same time, they requested from the National Police of Ukraine to investigate the violations of electoral law when establishing voting results in the constituency. Specifically, the CEC drew the police attention to the missing 502 ballot papers at 6 polling stations in constituency No 87. The elected deputy was established – a candidate from the “Servant of the People” party, Vasyl Virastiuk, who officially received 15,536 votes, thus beating the opponent forerunner, Oleksandr Shevchenko, by 422 votes (“For the Future”).
The returns of the interim elections of a people’s deputy of Ukraine in constituency No 50 (Pokrovsk, Donetsk Oblast) were established back on April, 09, 2021. They documented the victory for a candidate from the “Poriadok” party, Andriy Aksionov. Aksionov gained 19,949 votes (65.46%). In considering the matter, the CEC gave a public feedback to the political debate around his alleged affiliation with the separatist activities and the citizenship of the Russian Federation. The CEC explained the lack of lawful possibility and mechanisms to cancel the candidate’s registration when they are Ukrainian nationals but also have the citizenship of another country. At the same time, the Commission reminded about their previous idea to be empowered to cancel candidate’s registration in the event a justified request comes from the SSU about the person’s involvement with the separatist, terror, subversive activities, or other crimes against the national security.
The process of interim elections has not finished yet as the candidate in constituency No 87, Oleksandr Shevchenko (“For the Future”), contested the CEC’s establishment of voting results to the Supreme Court of Ukraine. In anticipation of the lawful and fair decision of the highest court in Ukraine’s justice system, OPORA built its opinion assessing the election process in the two constituencies, as of now. With account for the decision of the Supreme Court of Ukraine, the non-partisan observers will provide additional comments.
OPORA’s Key Positions:
- The highly competitive election campaigns in constituencies No 50 and No 87 included significant breach of law and broke the democratic election standards. The violations list has financial incentives for voters, abuse of administrative resources for the benefit of candidates, the “twin-candidate” technique, breaking the rules for accountability and transparency of electoral finance of campaigners, having religious organizations break the sectoral law as to non-engagement of their members in the campaigning. The negative peculiarities of election campaigns in the constituencies could affect citizens’ choices; they require an effective investigation by law-enforcement agencies. Furthermore, interim elections of people’s deputies of Ukraine in 2021 continued the previous trend with the growing role of social media at elections, which requires an adequate and advanced statutory regulation of campaigning rules on social media.
- The discrepancies found in constituency No 87 between the PEC protocol data and the re-count results on the DEC level about Oleksandr Shevchenko’s scores, and a conflicting and politically-biased activities of the district commission, hugely undermined the respect for electoral standards in Ukraine. Despite the CEC’s efforts to verify all circumstances of the incidents and ensuring a lawful process in establishing voting results on the basis of court decisions, the voters in the constituency did not have enough guarantees for fair and true vote count. OPORA urges electoral actors to respect the right of opponents for judicial appeals, and hereby expresses the hope that the Supreme Court of Ukraine would systemically consider the process of establishing voting returns and results in the constituency.
- Response of law-enforcement bodies to highly resonant cases such as voter bribery, the identified missing ballot papers following the re-count, or the accusations of the SSU coming from certain candidates as to the illegal interference into the establishing of voting results in constituency No 87 did not have enough publicity and rapid response in a situation of a high social interest. OPORA hereby requires from the law-enforcement bodies to provide a public interim progress report, within reasonable terms, on the investigation of offences that challenged electoral standards in Ukraine.
- The interim elections of people’s deputies of Ukraine of March, 28, 2021, have highlighted the shortcomings of the current election administration system. They manifested in the unacceptable politicization and intense rotations of DEC members and, in some cases, on the PEC level (especially in constituency No 87). Political conflicts in constituency No 87 involving people’s deputies of Ukraine speak in favour of enhanced guarantees against the non-interference of improper actors into the operations of election commissions that are unstable, without adding this. In OPORA’s view, the parliamentary dialogue on professionalization and depoliticization of election commissions shall be resumed with account for positions of the CEC and deputy factions and groups.
- The spread of violations of electoral law among candidates at interim elections of people’s deputies of Ukraine and systemic issues in administration of elections show the need for further continuation of electoral reform in Ukraine. Moreover, they emphasize the importance of the Working Group of the Committee of Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine on the Organization of State Power, Regional Development, Local Self-Government, and Urban Planning. The unprecedented events in constituency No 87 showed the need for additional mechanisms to ensure legality in transporting electoral documents, in transferring the data from PEC to DEC, in running an ongoing DEC session, and in storing electoral documents.