Election observation is one of the most transparent and methodical ways of ensuring a fair election process in line with universally adopted international standards and development of democracy and human rights. There are three types of observers: from parties or candidates, from civic and international organizations. Observers from civic organizations and international institutions are independent from political processes. Thus, we will talk about them in detail.

International Election Observation

International observation of the election process became an important mechanism to ensure fairness and transparency of elections, especially in countries, which are undergoing democratic transformations. International observation is accepted today in each country. It increases voter confidence in outcomes and legitimacy of an election.

Thus, according to the Document of the Copenhagen Meeting of OSCE, members states take obligation to invite observers from other member states and from any related private institutions and organizations, which want to conduct observation. Thus, most of international observers organize a mission in response to a state, which undertakes a commitment to create conditions for unbiased and impartial election observation.

Declaration of Principles for International Election Observation , which also includes the Code of Conduct for International Election Observers, is a foundation for reliable international observation of elections. This document was composed by UN on 27 October 2005, and signed by over 55 intergovernmental and international organizations, which participate in international election observation.

However, international observation missions are more and more often act against the Declaration of Principles for International Election Observation. Moreover, they are used to discredit an election process or legitimize illegal elections. Such observation is called politically biased, or fake. For example, Russia used fake observation to legitimize elections in occupied Crimea, Abkhazia, South Ossetia, Transnistria etc. Civil Network OPORA is a member of European Platform for Democratic Elections (EPDE), which is deeply into the research of fake observation. Detailed information about fake observation, including those organized on occupied territories of Ukraine, is available in EPDE reports.

As of 20 February 2019, the Central Election Commission has registered 312 observers from seven international organizations and 36 observers from foreign states. In contrast to civic organizations, registration of international observers is open until one week before the election day. Thus, the number of international observers will probably increase before 31 March.

Civic non-partisan observation

Civic non-partisan observation is as important as international observation. The citizens are mobilized to observe the election process and inform about it, what is a way of participating in public life.

Thus, civic non-partisan observation has the following goals:

  • to prevent any issues through election observation;
  • to protect political rights of citizens;
  • to give recommendations to state authorities organizing elections concerning a general improvement of election process;
  • to increase transparency of the election process through public reports;
  • to assess the election process in an impartial manner.

However, we have noticed during the last election campaigns that civic organizations are more and more often used by political parties or candidates for politically motivated interference in an election process. This trend discredits not only the instrument of a non-partisan election observation, but also the electoral process as a whole.

Mayoral elections in Dnopro and Kryvyi Rih in 2015-2016 is a bright example of politically motivated civic observation. Thus, official observer Krasikov Ivan Serhiiovych from the “NATIONAL ACTION COMMITTEE” NGO, founded by himself, disseminated fake news in attempt to discredit OPORA (news material alleging that OPORA registered militants as observers), organized public poll, gave positive assessment to an unfinished voting process as an observer, and used other methods in the interests of candidates Oleksandr and Yurii Vilkul. On presidential election, where Oleksandr Vilkul also runs as a candidate, the CEC has registered “NON-GOVERNMENTAL MEDIA ADVOCACY GROUP” NGO for observation, which is founded by an already known Krasikov Ivan.

The Global Network of Domestic Election Monitoring (GNDEM) was found in 2009 with assistance of NDI to develop the standards of civic non-partisan election observation and facilitate communication between organizations, which organize national election observation. Civil Network OPORA and 250 other members of the organization have signed and made a commitment to support and realize in practice the following two documents: Declaration of Global Principles for Nonpartisan Election Observation and Monitoring by Citizen Organizations and the Code of Conduct for Non-Partisan Election Observers, which define rights, commitments and moral obligations of civic observers.

Civic observation of 2019 presidential election in Ukraine

According to the Law of Ukraine on Election of the President of Ukraine, there only two requirements for civic organizations willing to observe the election process. Thus, civic organizations, which are registered in line with the law and have electoral matters and observation included in their statutes, can deploy observers during an election process.

From 31 December 2018 to 29 January 2019, 152 civic organizations applied to the CEC for a permit to deploy official observers during regular election of the President of Ukraine. Thus, the Central Election Commission gave the permit for observation to 138 civil organizations. 14 civic organizations were denied a permit to deploy observers because their statutes lacked electoral matters and observation. The “Free Villagers Movement” All-Ukrainian Union is one of them, which is led and founded by candidate for the President Arkadii Kornatskyi. However, the organization challenged decision of the CEC in a court, and the CEC was obliged to give the permit for deployment of official observers.

(Statute of the “Free Villagers Movement” AUU says: “organizational and other assistance in realization of voting rights, and oversight of adherence to electoral legislation by electoral subjects”, while the law requires “electoral matters and election observation”. However, the sixth Administrative Court of Ukraine refused to satisfy an appeal, referring to the fact that the statute is not in line with the Law of Ukraine on Election of the President of Ukraine. The NGO then appealed to the Administrative Cassation Court, which obliged the CEC to give the permit, referring to the fact that in December 2018 the CEC gave this very organization a permit to observe elections in UTCs).

Thus, 152 of 139 civic organizations received a permit to deploy official observers during elections in Ukraine. 7 of them will observe only in some oblasts (to compare, – 10 NGOs on 2014 presidential election, 37 on parliamentary elections). We decided to learn more about these NGOs. Whether they have experience in election observation and, using open sources, to track any possible relation to presidential candidates, political parties and politicians.

Thus, 85 of 139 non-governmental organizations have no experience in election observation in Ukraine. Only 5 of 139 participated in observation of 2014 early election of the President. 14 NGOs observed the election process only once – during elections in united territorial communities on 23 December 2018.

We have also checked their date of registration. As you can see on infographics, most of NGOs were registered after 2014. 26 non-governmental organizations were registered in 2018, 6 – in January 2019, including:

  • “Civic Union of Luhansk oblast” NGO


 The names of 13 non-governmental organizations contain names of candidates and politicians or names of political parties:

  • “Young People's Movement” All-Ukrainian NGO
  • “VOLIA!” NGO

We have also checked registration addresses of non-governmental organizations. Thus, 89 NGOs are registered in Kyiv. Some of them also have the same legal registration address:

  • “CONCEPT GROUP” NGO and “FOR THE RULE OF PEOPLE” NGO are both registered at address: city of Kyiv, 3 Mykoly Pymonenko St., office 5.
  • “INDUSTRIAL ECOLOGY CENTER” NGO and “PATRIOTIC MOVEMENT OF UKRAINE” – at address: city of Kyiv, 4A Zoolohichna St., office 139.
  • “ZAPORIZHIA” HUMAN RIGHTS GROUP OF ZAPORIZHIA NGO and “ZAPORIZHIA CRISIS MEDIA CENTER” NGO – at address: city of Zaporizhia, 13-B Sytova St., ap. 17.

We paid special attention to the founders and leaders of non-governmental organizations. We have also noticed three incidents when the same person is a founder of two non-governmental organizations:

  • Kovalevska Yuliia Serhiivna – MP of Zaporizhia Oblast Council, and founder of “TRIUMVIRATE” INTERNATIONAL ORGANIZATION NGO AND “LEAGUE OF VOTERS” NGO.
  • Bizdenezhnyi Serhii Romanovych – representative of the Authorized Human Rights Representative in Zaporizhia oblast, founder of “ZAPORIZHIA” HUMAN RIGHTS GROUP OF ZAPORIZHIA NGO and “ZAPORIZHIA CRISIS MEDIA CENTER” NGO.
  • Sysak Vladyslav Tarasovych – founder of “FREE CHOICE OF UKRAINE” NGO and “COUNCIL OF PUBLIC GUARD” NGO. Besides that, these two NGOs are not registered as legal entity.

Moreover, there are three incidents (6 NGOs), when direct relatives are founders (brothers/sisters).

We used open sources to check all NGOs and their possible connection with presidential candidates, political parties and well-known politicians. Thus, we've found out that 55 non-governmental organizations are connected with candidates or political parties. In particular, their founders and leaders are proxies of candidates, members of political parties, MPs or their assistants etc.

Over 30 NGOs are directly related to presidential candidates. Thus, 17 of 44 candidates are connected with at least one NGO:

  • 9 NGOs are connected with candidate Oleksandr Vilkul;
  • 7 NGOs – with candidate Yuliia Tymoshenko;
  • 2 NGOs – with candidates Volodymyr Zelenskyi, Oleh Liashko, Oleksandr Danyliuk, Petro Poroshenko, Viktor Bondar, and Dmytro Dobrodomov;
  • 1 NGOs – with candidates Anatolii Hrytsenko, Andrii Sadovyi, Viktor Kryvenko, Yevhen Muraiev, Illia Kyva, Arkadii Kornatskyi, and Yurii Derevianko.

Other 55 NGOs are mostly related to current MPs and well-known politicians (Dmytro Holubov – 2 NGOs, Andrii Biletskyi – 2 NGOs, Oleh Petrenko – 1 NGO, Serhii Shakhov – 1 NGO), parties (People's Front – 1 NGO, Green Planet – 1 NGO), groups of MPs (Volia Narodu – 2 NGOs), city mayors (1 NGO – with Vitalii Klychko, 1 NGO – with Zontovym Olehom) and members of local councils (3 NGOs are directly related to members of Kyiv City Council Alla Shlapak), and other politicians (1 NGO with Klymenko Oleksandr).

We also noticed two identical NGOs “ZAPORIZHIA” HUMAN RIGHTS GROUP OF ZAPORIZHIA NGO and “ZAPORIZHIA CRISIS MEDIA CENTER” NGO, founded by representative of the Authorized Human Rights Representative in Zaporizhia oblast.

It's also interesting that citizens of Russian Federation are somehow involved in observation of presidential election in Ukraine. Thus, it turned out that “RUSSIAN AGGRESSION RESEARCH INSTITUTE” NGO was founded and is being administered by Russian human rights activists, who are currently living in Ukraine. However, founders themselves can not be registered by DECs as official observers, according to the Law of Ukraine on Election of the President of Ukraine.

Abnormally big number of non-governmental organizations, registered by the Central Election Commission, together with a record-breaking number of candidates for the President of Ukraine, bring the certain risks for the election process and election day. Many non-governmental organizations are connected with candidates and political parties, and don't have any observation methodology. They bring discredit upon the instrument of civic non-partisan observation, making it more and more similar to observation conducted by political parties.