The New CEC Gets To Work
On October 22, IFES held its first meeting with the newly elected Chairman of the Central Election Commission (CEC) Oleh Didenko. The CEC was further represented by its two Deputy Chairs – Serhii Dubovyk and Vitalii Plukar as well as the Secretary of the Commission, Olena Hataulina.
The Chairman emphasized that the CEC will uphold the principles of openness and transparency inherent in the activities of the previous Commissions, and closely work with national stakeholders and international partners to improve the framework for elections in Ukraine. He expressed appreciation for the high level of support and cooperation with IFES.
IFES Ukraine Senior Country Director Peter Erben noted that through the years IFES has consistently and unwaveringly supported the CEC and sees no obstacles to this support in the future. He subsequently briefed about ongoing and planned IFES activities in Ukraine, including the plan for future technical assistance to the CEC. In particular, the CEC’s strategic plan, cybersecurity, modernization of the vote count, strategic communications, and strengthening the work of the IFES-CEC Training Center were discussed.
On a separate note, Mr. Erben touched upon the organization of the Conference “Presidential and Parliamentary Elections 2019: Lessons Learned and Recommendations,” to be organized by IFES in conjunction with the OSCE Project Coordinator in Ukraine and the Council of Europe Office in Ukraine on November 13-14, 2019. His proposal to co-sponsor the conference was supported by CEC leadership.
The parties also discussed other areas of potential cooperation, including to improve the legal framework for elections and referenda in Ukraine. The CEC informed that they have formulated input for the Draft Election Code, which is currently being discussed in the respective Committee of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine.
On October 25, an internet-resource called Focus published an extended interview with the Chairman of the CEC. In the interview, Mr. Didenko emphasized the need to increase public trust in the CEC as it is closely linked to how the public perceives elections and their elected representatives in Ukraine.
Didenko commended the old CEC, of which he was a member, for achieving a significant increase in the level of trust in the institution. He cited several successful initiatives of the previous Commission, including its improved communication with media and civil society and its active action against so-called doppelganger candidates during the parliamentary elections. However, there was a palpable lack of trust in the former CEC among the representatives of the President’s Office as well as the majority of the Rada.
Commenting on the possibility of nationwide local elections being scheduled ahead of time, Mr. Didenko excluded the possibility unless the Constitution had been amended. He noted, though, that early local elections were still a possibility in some communities, including large cities.
Didenko has also stated that local elections in temporarily occupied territories of Donbas are impossible until all the security conditions are in place, including Ukraine’s control over the state border with the Russian Federation. The CEC cannot properly act unless the security of the governmental institutions in these territories is ensured. Thus, the CEC Chairman does not think holding local elections simultaneously across Ukraine including non-government controlled areas of Donbas is possible at the moment.