IFES Ukraine Election Bulletin #83 (April 11 – April 24, 2019)
CEC Reports Preliminary Second-Round Election Results. On April 23, the Central Election Commission (CEC) announced it processed 100 percent of presidential election result protocols received electronically from District Election Commissions (DECs).
According to Ukrainian law, the CEC must receive DEC tabulation protocols in hard copy as well as review any complaints and decisions before it can announce the official presidential election results. Official results are to be announced by the CEC within ten days, i.e. by May 1. Because just two candidates contested the second-round, (compared to 39 candidates in the first round), final results are ready to be announced earlier, depending on the number and nature of the complaints and appeals filed against the preliminary results. However, the CEC is unlikely to announce elections on Sunday or Monday due to the orthodox Easter, so Tuesday April 30 is the more likely day for the announcement.
The CEC reported 61.37 percent voter turnout based on preliminary reports received shortly after 20:00 on Sunday, April 21. Voter participation was 62.09 percent in country and 13.33 percent abroad. Preliminary turnout was based on reports from all 199 DECs in the country and information from the 101 polling stations outside Ukraine.
Based on preliminary reports received by the CEC, Volodymyr Zelenskyi, representing the Servant of the People Party, won 73.23 percent of votes cast compared to incumbent President Petro Poroshenko’s 24.45 percent total. The number of invalid votes was 2.32 percent of votes cast, according to the CEC.
CEC results confirm a parallel vote tabulation (PVT) conducted by Civic Network Opora, the leading domestic election observation group. According to their PVT, Zelenskyi received 73.2 percent and Poroshenko earned 24.3 percent. According to OPORA, invalid votes were 2.5 percent of votes cast. The PVT’s margin of error was .3-.5 percent
In post-election remarks, Poroshenko conceded; but, emphasized that “he will not leave politics and will be fighting for Ukraine.” Zelenskyi thanked his supporters and encouraged other post-Soviet countries to follow Ukraine’s lead.
Tetiana Slipachuk, Head of the Central Election Commission of Ukraine (CEC), attends a press briefing on election day, April 21, 2019. Photo: fb.com/UACEC/
International Election Observers Weigh In. The second round of the 2019 presidential election was well-administered without large-scale violations, according to international election observers. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s (OSCE) Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) joint forces with three parliamentary partners to form the International Election Observation Mission (IEOM). The IEOM noted in its Statement of Preliminary Findings and Conclusions that the presidential election was competitive and administered with respect for fundamental electoral freedoms. It further stated that “the orderly transfer of power should offer the opportunity for strengthening democratic institutions and their accountability. It was, however, noted that the campaign for both rounds lacked genuine discussion of issues of public concern.”
All international observer missions including the National Democratic Institute, International Republican Institute, European Network of Election Monitoring Organizations and Mission Canadaassessed election day positively noting a marked improvement in the administration of the vote count and tabulation compared to first round.
The election administration was praised for a well-implemented process despite time constraints and concerns following the candidates’ inability to staff election commissions. These challenges were mitigated by commendable efforts from the CEC and the DECs.
Observer reports acknowledged minor problems with voter lists. Time constraints negatively affected the IDPs and others who needed to re-register at a temporary voting place for the April 21 runoff. It created bottlenecks at register maintenance bodies and prospective voters may have been discouraged from applying after reports of long lines and processing times of up to 5-6 hours. Observer reports call for adoption of Draft Law Number 6240 to mitigate the problems associated with IDP and mobile voter election participation.
Assessment of Domestic Election Observers. In its preliminary report, Civic Network OPORA noted isolated incidents and minor electoral violations, including citizens allowed to vote without showing proper identification; voters photographing their marked ballot (which could be evidence of vote buying schemes) and violations of vote secrecy. They underlined the competitive nature of the election and said voting and pre-election campaigning mostly complied with international standards for free, fair and democratic elections.
According to the preliminary report issued by Committee of Voters of Ukraine (CVU), the election was generally conducted in line with the legal framework and international standards. CVU noted a decrease in violations compared to first-round. Problems include breaches of campaign silence, voting without proper ID and vote secrecy issues. However, these were isolated cases and did not affect the election outcome, according to the CVU.
National Police Address Electoral Complaints. The National Police reported that as of April 21 they received 1,245 election complaints related to second round. Police launched 17 criminal investigations and drew up 21 protocols of administrative offenses. The largest number of complaints were filed in Dnipro Oblast, the city of Kyiv and Donetsk Oblast. Most alleged illegal campaigning and photographing marked ballots. Photos of marked ballots might be a sign of either violation of vote secrecy, vote buying or carousel voting. Police received 11 complaints of vote-buying. With investigation still ongoing, the police’s role on election day generally received positive assessment in domestic and international election observer reports.
The second round of the 2019 presidential election was well-administered without large-scale violations, according to international election observers. Photo: IFES Ukraine / Valeriia Landar
CEC Announces Local Elections in 96 Newly Amalgamated Communities on June 30. On April 20, the CEC approved requests from oblast regional state administrations to schedule and administer elections in newly-amalgamated communities on Sunday, June 30. The local election process starts on May 11. Sixty-six communities will conduct their first elections while 30 additional communities will elect additional members to expand their existing local councils. The CEC decision marks the continuation of decentralization of governance in Ukraine. Among the territorial units that will hold local elections on June 30 are the amalgamated communities from the 10 oblasts that were affected by the cancellation of the December 23 local elections due to the partial introduction of martial law in Ukraine.
Ukraine MPs Considering Legislation to Limit Presidential Power. On April 11, Deputy Verkhovna Rada Speaker Oksana Syroid (Samopomich) announced she will collect signatures in support of a draft law limiting the powers of the presidency. Syroid noted that during the presidency of Poroshenko, the Rada amended 72 laws expanding the president’s powers. According to her, the draft law aims at reestablishing a “normal balance of powers” and “normal checks and balances”.
Possible Dissolution of the Rada and Early Parliamentary Elections. The fact that the party of the president-election is not represented in parliament has fostered speculations of a possible dissolution of the Rada and calling early parliamentary elections in the summer. If it materializes, it will be after the official inauguration of Volodymyr Zelenskyi as president.
In an interview to RBC-Ukraine on April 18, Zelenskyi confirmed that dissolving the Rada will be in his interest but added he will respect the law. The constitutional deadline for dissolving Parliament is six months before the end of its current term, i.e. May 27, which leaves him little time to take action.
Article 90 of the Constitution addresses the right of the President to early terminate the Verkhovna Rada’s mandate. One of the reasons listed is if no coalition has been created within one month following breakup of the previous coalition. Domestic political observers question if a governing coalition currently exists in the Rada as three political factions Batkivshchyna, Samopomich and Oleh Liashko’s Radical Party left the ruling coalition back in February of 2016. Since then, the withdrawal did thus far did not result in any formal decisions or actions. The procedure for both establishing and terminating a ruling coalition in the Rada is not explained well in the legal framework and the Parliament’s Rules of Procedure.
In a lawsuit filed in March 2019 with the Kyiv District Administrative Court, the plaintiff claimed that acting Minister of Health Ulana Suprun illegally occupies her position. In this connection, the court recently requested the Rada to provide a list of MPs who established the governing coalition in 2014. If the list is not handed over to the court or the list proves that the ruling coalition includes less than 226 MPs, the court may rule that formally no majority coalition exists or ceased to exist when the coalition dropped below 226 members.
Thus, there may be grounds for dissolving the parliament. According to one interpretation, such decision would have retroactive power, i.e. it took legal effect one month after the day the coalition ceased to exist. According to another interpretation, the court decision is effective form the day it is issued and MPs will have one month to create a new coalition. Only in the first case will the new President be able to dissolve the Rada and schedule early elections. Some domestic experts are also debating what to consider the deadline for the president-elect to dissolve the Rada.
According to Article 90 of the Constitution, “the powers of the Verkhovna Rada (…) may not be subject to an early termination upon the initiative of the President (…) within the last six months of the term of powers of the Verkhovna Rada (…)”. The terms of powers of the Rada can be counted from November 27, 2014, when the MPs took oath, or, alternatively, by subtracting 6 months from the latest date when the Rada is supposed to hold its first meeting, as suggested, among others by District Administrative Court judge Pavlo Vovk. In the first case, the deadline for the inaugurated President Zelenskyi to dissolve the parliament is May 27, 2019, and in the second case – somewhere in June 2019.
The second case calculation of the deadline is problematic in several ways: first, “the latest date” is a legally uncertain deadline and, secondly, “the latest date” does not mean the Rada cannot assemble earlier. Thus, the first calculation resulting in a deadline for dissolving the parliament on May 27 appears to be better-grounded. Regardless of these calculations, the prospect for a potential dissolution of the Rada still depends on how court will interpret the legal provisions and a range of other factors.
Political party faction leaders in the Rada should not ignore this amidst their ongoing discussions on which electoral system to use in parliamentary elections. It is not unlikely that MPs will agree to a closed list proportional system with a threshold for participation in seat distribution lowered to just three or even one percent (against the current five percent) for future parliamentary elections – maybe even for the elections in October this year.