Supporting democratic progress in Ukraine.

IFES Ukraine

The International Foundation for Electoral Systems

Election Bulletin #103 (February 8-21, 2020)

CEC Registers Candidates for Parliamentary By-Election. On February 17, the Central Election Commission (CEC) registered candidates for the March 15 Verkhovna Rada by-election in the Kharkiv region’s single-mandate constituency number 179. Forty candidates were eventually registered – 17 are women.

The parliamentary seat was held by Servant of the People Member of Parliament Oleksii Kucher who was appointed Head of the Kharkiv Oblast State Administration (Governor) by President Zelenskyy on November 5, 2019.

CEC Decides to Conduct Remaining Amalgamated Community Elections in October. On February 12, the CEC ruled that the remaining first and supplementary elections in newly-amalgamated, or consolidated, communities will be administered concurrently with the next regular local elections on October 25, 2020. The Commission will save significant financial and organizational resources by combing the two forms of local elections.

Consensus Reached on Strengthening Elections in Ukraine. The International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) shared a report from an electoral conference on November 13-14, 2019, titled, the “2019 Presidential and Parliamentary Elections: Lessons Learned and Recommendations.” The conference, assembled a wide range of electoral stakeholders in Kyiv to discuss lessons learned from the 2019 presidential and parliamentary elections.

The report offers concrete recommendations for legal and administrative reform based on good practice and international standards. There are recommendations that deserve lawmakers’ and other stakeholders’ attention and they should be prioritized when the new election code adopted in December is scheduled to be amended this spring.

The conference was hosted by the CEC, IFES, the OSCE’s Project Coordinator in Ukraine and the Council of Europe with support from the United States Agency for International Development, Global Affairs Canada and UK aid as part of broader efforts to support the Central Election Commission’s protection of Ukraine’s electoral democracy.

NAPC Distributes 2020 Annual Public Funding to Political Parties. On February 11, the National Agency for the Prevention of Corruption (NAPC) announced it distributed UAH 283,530,000 – $11,446,400 – from the state budget to support political parties’ statutory activities in 2020.

According to the NAPC, five political parties – parties with Verkhovna Rada representation – qualified for public funding this year. They are: the Servant of the People, $5,675,230, or 49.6 percent of the distributed money; Opposition Platform for Life, $1,717,300, or 15 percent; Batkivshchyna, $1,076,530, or 9.4 percent; European Solidarity, $1,066,230, or 9.3 percent; and, Holos, $766,447, or 6.7 percent. These parties cleared the five percent voter support threshold in the July 2019 Verkhovna Rada elections to qualify for public funding.

The remaining $1,144,640, or 10 percent of the total available public funding for political parties’ statutory activities, was equally divided between two parties – European Solidarity and Holos – as a bonus for meeting the legal gender requirement – “the number of representatives of one sex among the elected MPs who assumed office does not exceed two-thirds of the total number of the MPs who were elected from that party” – as noted in Article 17 of the Law on Political Parties.

IFES Ukraine has criticized the increase in the electoral threshold eligibility for receiving public funding from two to five percent as contrary to international best practice that could weaken the overall competitiveness of Ukraine’s political party system and skew the electoral playing field in favor of established and wealthier parliamentary parties. The threshold increase happened after the results of the July 2019 parliamentary elections revealed six political parties had qualified for public funding under the previous voter support threshold of two percent. Those six parties are: Oleh Liashko’s Radical Party, Syla i Chest, the Opposition Bloc, Volodymyr Hroyzman’s Ukrainian Strategy, Shariy’s Party and Svoboda.

OPORA Presents Voting Accessibility Research. On February 14, Civil Network OPORA presented a report dedicated to information and campaign material accessibility for voters. Report author Katerina Zhemchuznykova says during the election some voters with visual or auditory disabilities did not receive enough information about political parties and candidates. She noted that instead of using an accessible information format, electoral stakeholders decided to leave people with those disabilities in an information vacuum.

Zhemchuznykova says the new election code leaves room for improvement in voter accessibility to electoral information. For example, people with visual disabilities still will not be able to mark the ballot paper independently. The electoral code also lacks effective and dissuasive sanctions for not developing campaign materials in accessible formats. People with visual and hearing disabilities are automatically assigned the status of homebound voters unless they express their will to vote at a polling station.

Civil Network OPORA emphasizes the need for additional transparent and inclusive discussions on voter information accessibility.

OPORA Presents Research on Absentee and Early Voting. On February 14, Civil Network OPORA presented a report dedicated to the pros and cons of absentee and early voting. Report author Mykola Zinchenko concludes that although early and absentee voting have advantages such as increased voter turnout and enhanced voter reflection because of additional time to cast ballots, absentee voting is prone to high risk of unauthorized interference with the vote outcome and other violations of the secrecy of the vote.

Postal voting risks damaging ballots, forging envelopes and poor transportation while voting by proxy does not guarantee that the vote will be cast exactly as the voter intends. And, early or absentee voting does not allow for independent observation of the voter process.

Mr. Zinchenko provides an overview of the most common types of convenience voting used throughout the world, including voting by absentee certificate, proxy voting, postal voting, and electronic voting.

OPORA emphasizes trust and security are central to the introduction of early and absentee voting.

Parliament Continues to Finalize Draft Law on Ukrainian Referenda. On February 13, the Verkhovna Rada working group on drafting direct democracy laws met and discussed the final text of the draft law titled, “On All-Ukrainian Referendum.”

First Deputy Speaker of the Rada, Ruslan Stefanchuk, proposed the working group discuss the role of civil society organizations in the referendum process, the inability to provide electronic voting and regulating information and campaigns. He asked members of the working group to finalize the bill as soon as possible, taking into account the latest comments and submit it to the group for discussion at their next meeting.

Member of the working group, Center for Political and Legal Reform expert Yuliia Kyrychenko stated the bill must clearly define boundaries of a national referendum. She emphasized that the results of a national referendum should not lead to abolition or restriction of constitutionally guaranteed human rights and freedoms.
The discussion assembled MPs, representatives of the Ministries for Digital Transformation and Justice, the CEC, scientific and pedagogical experts from the Rada’s Institute of Legislation and representatives of non-governmental organizations.

CVU Organizes Conference Dedicated to Local Elections. On Friday, February 21, the Committee of Voters of Ukraine (CVU) organized a conference titled, Local Elections 2020: Legislative Novels and Regional Dimension. The event was organized by CVU with the support of the Konrad Adenauer Foundation in Ukraine. The event assembled Members of Parliament, representatives of election management and national and international election experts.

Topics included potential amendments to the Electoral Code; regional political parties; the activity of political forces in Ukraine; and, party preparation for elections in the regions.

IFES Releases Feasibility Study on Introducing New Election Technology. At the request of the Ministry of Digital Transformation, IFES conducted a feasibility study on new election technology in Ukraine.

Based on IFES’ international experience, the study follows an election management-centric approach. Researchers asked: What are the problems with elections in Ukraine, and how can technology help solve them? Does technology add to electoral integrity? Does it help to bring more voters into the process? Does it make electoral officials and political parties more accountable? And, importantly, does it build public trust?

This approach allowed IFES to engage with a range of electoral stakeholders in an open and candid discussion to share its analysis and recommendations. Given the scope of the topic and limited time for the study, the report is concise. For any new election technology, the impact on core electoral principles must be profound.

IFES found that most interlocutors had concerns regarding the manipulation of technology, particularly in the context of elevated cybersecurity threats faced by Ukraine. The introduction of new technology in elections requires greater-than-average risk analysis. In light of the ongoing conflict and history of cyberattacks, more resources are needed for cybersecurity in Ukraine than in other countries.

Many interlocutors demonstrated a lack of detailed knowledge regarding Internet voting. This caused them to wrongly assume that if systems are protected from hackers, there are no major issues to be addressed. But, it takes significant time and effort to responsibly introduce electronic and Internet voting. Its successful introduction requires an inclusive and informed debate. For example, there needs to be consensus on how voters’ identities will be verified and other measures in place to safeguard vote secrecy.

The study contains long and short term recommendations. These include the following:

  • The CEC should in the short-term address persistent deficiencies in the electoral process, such as results management at all levels, streamlining of procedures for voters’ address change and professionalization of field staff. These initiatives should be given a legal basis and adequate resources.
  • The CEC should initiate and lead a research and development initiative. This initiative should seek to determine what models of electronic and Internet voting are appropriate for Ukraine.
  • Finally, new voting technologies should be tested 18-24 months prior to any election. Piloting in small scale elections could follow. Based on the findings of this pilot, Ukrainians could then make an informed decision about whether to offer limited electronic or Internet voting options for Presidential and Verkhovna Rada elections in 2024.

IFES’ study was made possible with support from the United States Agency for International Development, Global Affairs Canada, and UK aid.

BRIDGE Workshop on Civic and Voter Education. From February 19-21, IFES, the CEC and the joint IFES-CEC Training Center held a three-day workshop on voter and civic education using the comprehensive and interactive Building Resources in Democracy, Governance and Elections (BRIDGE) training curriculum.

The workshop engaged representatives of the CEC and CEC Secretariat, political parties, national and international civil society organizations and academics working in civic and voter education. The workshop explored different concepts and approaches to civic education, electoral education and voter information to assist informed public policy decisions as well as the merits of a long-term, strategic approach to a voter and civic education. With less than a year before 2020 local elections in the autumn, the workshop was designed to help electoral stakeholders develop and implement voter information and education campaigns for target audiences throughout Ukraine.

CEC and IFES Organize Meeting with Civil Society Working on Women’s Rights. On February 11, the CEC and IFES facilitated a meeting with civil society representatives working on women’s rights and gender equality. This inaugural meeting was part of the CEC’s efforts to maintain collaboration and dialogue with civil society with the ultimate goal of mainstreaming gender in all aspects of electoral administration and ensuring women’s political and electoral rights in Ukraine.

Election expert Denys Kovryzhenko conducted a session on gender equality implications of the newly adopted election code for 21 participants. The event also provided a platform to share information on activities on gender and discuss potential cooperation between the CEC and civil society. Steps needed for proper implementation of the gender quota mechanisms, now in the election code, were also discussed. And, participants examined ways of preventing cases of gender discrimination within political parties as well as opposing political bullying.

More Ukrainian Students Receiving Civic Education. With the beginning of the new semester in Ukrainian universities this month, more students have signed up to study IFES’ civic education course, Democracy: From Theory to Practice. This spring, five more universities will introduce the course to their curriculum after teachers received comprehensive training on interactive teaching methodology.

Developed with support of the United States Agency for International Development, Global Affairs Canada and UK aid, the course is now available at more than 20 universities across Ukraine and its availability continues to grow.

IFES highlights the experiences of those who have been influenced by the course and inspired to take action for democratic development in Ukraine. Learn about the course’s benefits and students’ feedback in a video via the link.

The course emphasizes innovative, interactive teaching methodology which is more engaging compared to a traditional lecture-style format. Before every semester, IFES organizes a series of trainings for course teachers on interactive teaching methods and how to effectively apply them.

A participant in the teaching methodology training, lecturer Oleh Matvieievskyi of the National University Odesa Maritime Academy has updated his instructional practice in the other courses he teaches based on the skills acquired while teaching Democracy: From Theory to Practice. Read our story about Oleh Matvieievskyi here.