IFES Ukraine Election Bulletin #81 (March 14 – March 27, 2019)
Latest Opinion Polls Ahead of 2019 Presidential Election. According to an opinion poll published by the Rating Sociology Group on March 19, comedian Volodymyr Zelenskyi is the frontrunner in the Ukraine presidential contest with 24.9 per cent of support from likely voters. Former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko and incumbent President Petro Poroshenko are in a statistical tie for second place at 18.8 and 17.4 percent, respectively. The number of undecided voters – 15 percent of those interviewed – remains high. The poll was conducted from March 9 till March 15. It sampled 2,000 respondents and has a margin of error of two percent.
On March 25, the Kyiv International Institute of Sociology (KIIS) published results of its latest opinion poll and, again, Zelenskyi is the frontrunner with 32.1 percent of support from likely voters. Poroshenko has the support of 17.1 percent and Tymoshenko is at 12.5 percent. According to the KIIS poll, more than 25 percent of voters remain undecided which contributes to uncertainty in predicting the March 31 election results. The KIIS poll was conducted from March 14 till March 22 and sampled 2,004 respondents with a margin of error of 3.3 percent.
Voters temporarily change their place of voting ahead of presidential election. On March 26, the Chair of the Central Election Commission (CEC) Tetiana Slipachuk informed that 315 725 Ukrainian voters have temporarily changed their place of voting for 2019 presidential election first round. A huge part of these voters come from temporarily occupied territories of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts – 63 869 and 28 834 voters respectively. An overwhelming majority – 210 000 voters – have changed their place of voting during the last week before March 25 deadline, established by the presidential election law.
According to the Law, changing the place of voting is a one-time exercise that must be repeated before a possible second round of the presidential election. Therefore, all the IDPs and labor migrants etc. who changed their place of voting to the place of current location in the first round will need to undergo the same procedure before the second round. If the CEC schedules the second round only 10 day prior to the run-offs, IDPs and labor migrants would have a 5-day window to file applications to change their place of voting. Such a narrow timeframe might result in long queues, additional administrative burden on the RMBs, and some voters who would not be able to change the place of voting in time. The procedures and tight deadlines need to be communicated to voters well in advance of the second round, while the RMBs should consider expanding working hours to process all the applications for changing the place of voting by the deadline April 16 deadline.
CEC Creates Special Polling Stations in Military Units and on the Territory of Joint Forces Operation. On March 14, the CEC adopted Resolution Number 554 to create special polling stations in military units and on the territory of the Joint Forces Operation in certain territories of Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts. Overall, 93 polling stations for Armed Forces servicepersons have been established – 79 in the Joint Forces Operation area. One special polling station for the Ukrainian military will be in operation at the Yavoriv training center in the Lviv Oblast and one will be established in Kyiv, in the disciplinary battalion’s territory of deployment. Two polling stations will operate in overseas peacekeeping locations in Kosovo and Congo and 10 polling stations will be operational at Ministry of Defense medical establishments.
G7 Letter Raises Concerns about Violent Extremists in Presidential Election. In a March 15 letter to Interior Minister Arsen Avakov, the G7 Ambassadors’ Support Group for Ukraine expressed concerns that calls for violence by a nationalist group in the name of election integrity may threaten to disrupt the March 31 Presidential election. The National Corps has been officially registered by the Central Election Commission to observe the election through its affiliated NGO, the National Troops, who have pledged to “secure the integrity of elections through all means necessary, including violent”. Recently, representatives of the National Troops violently disrupted a Petro Poroshenko rally in Cherkasy. This raised concerns both inside and outside Ukraine.
“The G7 group is concerned by extreme political movements in Ukraine, whose violent actions are worrying in themselves,” wrote the ambassadors. The G7 ambassadors urged Minister Avakov to act against violent extremist groups who might threaten to disrupt the upcoming vote and take over the Ukrainian National Police’s law enforcement mandate. The ambassadors also advised the Minister to consider banning extremist groups from electoral activities in the future.
Each ballot for 2019 presidential election first round is 80 centimeters long — the longest ballot ever for a presidential election in Ukraine. Photo: facebook.com/UACEC
CEC Completes Printing of Ballots for 2019 Presidential Election First Round. On March 24, the Central Election Commission finalized printing of ballots for the March 31 first round of the Presidential election. Each ballot bears the names of the 39 candidates qualified for the election in alphabetical order. Each ballot is 80 centimeters long — the longest ballot ever for a presidential election in Ukraine. CEC Chair Tetiana Slipachuk noted the ballots have 10 protective features against forgery e.g. watermarks and special paper.
One Third of DEC Members Replaced. At a March 15 news briefing, Central Election Commission (CEC) Deputy Chair Yevgeniy Radchenko said the authority of 2,428 District Election Commission (DECs) members – almost a third of those initially appointed – has been terminated by presidential candidates. Many DEC commissioners were replaced following joint electoral procedure training through the IFES/CEC Training Center.
Frequent replacements of election commissioners by their nominating presidential candidates poses a serious threat to electoral administration independence and professionalism and undermines efforts of Ukraine’s international counterparts, including IFES, who are participating in election administration training in advance of the election. As recommended by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s Office of Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, members of election commissions should not be arbitrarily changed by those who nominated them. Political parties and candidates should more carefully select prospective DEC and Precinct Election Commission (PEC) members to avoid compromising commission membership. To solve the problem of frequent replacements on commissions and a lack of professionalism from commissioners, IFES advocates for amending Ukrainian election laws to provide mandatory training of all DEC and PEC candidates and certifying trained commissioners by the IFES/CEC Training Center.
OPORA Analyzes PEC Membership. As of March 16, according to data collected by the Civil Network OPORA, District Election Commissions (DECs) created 29,788 Precinct Election Commissions (PECs) to administer the March 31 presidential election. The PECs will deploy 440,588 Precinct Election Commissioners. Six Presidential candidates submitted the most PEC nominees. Petro Poroshenko is represented in 99 percent of the PECs; Yulia Tymoshenko is represented in 97 percent of PECs; Oleh Liashko is also represented in 97 percent of PECs; Yulia Lytvynenko in 95 percent of PECs; Anatoly Hrytsenko in 94 percent of PECs; and, Mykola Haber in 91 percent of the PECs. Volodymyr Zelenskyi (84 percent of PECs) and Yuriy Boyko (83 percent of PECs) also have significant representation. Four candidates did not submit nominations for PEC representation – Hennadiy Balashov, Inna Bogoslovskaya, Arkadiy Kornatsky and Roman Nasirov. OPORA notes that PECs were established in accordance with the law and by the legally established March 12 deadline. There was quorum in all DEC meetings where electoral administrative decisions were adopted.
OSCE/ODIHR International Election Observation Mission Presents First Interim Report. On March 15, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s Office of Democratic Institutions and Human Rights International Election Observation Mission presented an interim report of its findings in advance of the March 31 presidential election. The report focuses on campaigning, campaign finance, the media environment, complaint resolution and the record number of Ukrainian nongovernmental organizations observing the election. The full report is available here.
ENEMO International Election Observation Mission presents its second interim report. On March 25, the European Network of Election Monitoring Organizations (ENEMO) Election Observation Mission presented its second interim report with finding of its observation of the electoral process from March 9 to March 21, 2019. Overall, ENEMO assessed positively the overall performance of the election administration, though issues remain with regard to disparities in the level of preparation of electoral commissions at district and precinct level, and sporadic lack of transparency in the CEC’s decision-making process. The full report is available here.
IFES Assesses the risks related to overcrowding of the election commissions. In previous nationwide elections, both domestic and international observers noted isolated cases of long voter queues at the polling stations at certain times on election day. The 2019 presidential election can prove even more problematic as it would be challenging for the lower-level election commissions to accommodate all the persons entitled to be present at the respective commissions’ meetings or during election day in polling stations. High numbers of individuals present at a time in the PEC and DEC premises poses a number of other risks, including lessened secrecy of the vote, difficulties with observing the election by domestic and international observers, increased risks of fraudulent voting and violation of the voting procedures, and electoral violence, among others.
IFES comment titled “Overcrowded Election Commissions: Risks and Mitigation Actions” assesses all the risks related to overcrowding of the election commissions, overviews ongoing mitigation actions of various stakeholders to address those risks, as well as suggests further measures to be taken to mitigate the potential for overcrowding in the forthcoming and future presidential elections.