IFES Ukraine Election Bulletin #75 (December 6-19, 2018)
PACE Suggests Updating Guidelines on Referendums in Council of Europe Member States
On December 11, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe’s (PACE) Political Affairs Committee adopted a resolution suggesting a number of updates to the Venice Commission’s Code of Good Practice on Referendums in light of the increasing use of referenda in democratic countries and convergence of digital and traditional print media.
Among other aspects, the resolution recalls that the referendum should not be used by the executive branch of government to overrule the legislative process and its democratic safeguards – a concern particularly relevant in the Ukrainian context.
The PACE resolution also suggests updating the 2007 Code of Good Practice on Referendums to more broadly engaging voters in testing referendum questions and including social media in the discussion.
OPORA Detected 748 Instances of MPs Allegedly Using State-Funded Projects for Early Election Campaigning
In a recently published report from its monitoring on potential use of budget funds for campaign purposes conducted in summer and fall of this year, Civil Network OPORA in all regions of Ukraine detected 748 instances where members of parliament and political parties allegedly used state funds on local infrastructure projects and social benefit schemes and presented these activities as their achievements as part of early election campaigning.
OPORA examined alleged abuse of government funding for social and economic development and politicians’ activities associated with abuse of state money for campaign purposes. The means of reaching out to voters in this form of early election campaigning were public events (49 percent of cases), social media (44 percent) and official internet resources of local authorities or officials (7 percent).
OPORA cites the following points in its report:
- Early and concealed campaigning during public events usually consists of participation in opening ceremonies of infrastructure objects, publicly hand-over of procured equipment and inspections of ongoing work. In many cases, it is emphasized that money for implementing these projects was allocated “with the support” of a specific MP despite they were actually not involved in securing the funds for the purpose.
- In some cases, early and concealed campaigning took the form of posts in social networks and materials in media stating that funds for a given project were allocated with support of a particular MP.
- Early and concealed campaigning involving alleged use of state resources by local government officials also includes cases when websites of these officials emphasize that state support for certain local projects was supported by a particular MP.
- Some instances of manipulative campaigning were noted where government resources were portrayed as private MP fund. MPs or members of their campaign teams handed out equipment procurement certificates but failed to mention that the procurement was funded by the state.
OPORA notes that the government grant money was applied to educational institutions (515 cases); household, welfare and infrastructure development (113 cases); healthcare institutions (111 cases); cultural programs (95 cases); and, road renovations (34 cases).
Instances of alleged use of budget money for indirect campaigning was detected by OPORA from all factions and groups in parliament, except for Samopomich. MPs representing the Petro Poroshenko Bloc (372 cases) and People’s Front (142 cases) were the most frequent to misrepresent the use of government money in their campaigns. Next, OPORA noted unaffiliated MPs (89 cases); MPs from the Will of the People (78 cases); and parliamentarians from the Renaissance Group (60 cases). According to Opora, less than 10 cases were associated with MPs from the Radical Party, Batkivshchyna and the Opposition Bloc.
In the report, OPORA raises concerns about the lack of transparency in the work of the commission charged with preparing proposals for distributing government money. The commission was established during the Yanukovych era and consists of 14 MPs (seven of whom are representatives of the Petro Poroshenko Bloc and three represent People’s Front) as well as two representatives of the Ministry of Finance. There is no public information available about the commission’s membership and decision-making which, according to OPORA, reduces its transparency and accountability.
OPORA emphasized the importance of increasing transparency of the government grant process and adhering to a systematic, balanced and fair priority-based approach to distributing state resources in the regions. Recommendations, developed by OPORA, will be shared with key stakeholders.
OPORA is an IFES partner and subgrantee.
Despite a lack of quorum, the Verkhovna Rada’s Election and Referendum Subcommittee Working Group considered almost 79 percent of the 4,300 proposed amendments to the draft Election Code, according to Civil Network OPORA.
In May, the Working Group which is established under a subcommittee to the Rada Committee on Legal Policy and Judiciary began considering amendments to Draft Election Code Number 3112-1 which was adopted in first reading by the Rada on November 7, 2017.
All amendments agreed by the Working Group must be considered by the Election and Referendum Subcommittee before they are submitted to the Legal Policy and Judiciary Committee. If the Committee preliminarily adopts the draft Election Code with the proposed amendments, the legislation will then be submitted to the Rada for consideration and a vote. A simple majority vote – 226 votes – is necessary for its approval.
The signature of President Poroshenko is necessary for the Draft Code to become law. But, because national elections are immanent and the Rada will soon recess for seasonal holidays, it is considered unlikely that the Draft Code will be put to vote before the presidential election. It also remains unclear if the Legal Policy and Judiciary Committee as well as the entire Rada will consider the Draft Code given the Working Group frequently lacked quorum when considering the amendments.
The Council of Europe’s Venice Commission Code of Good Practice on electoral matters makes it clear that no significant changes to election laws – either the electoral system or election boundary delimitation – should be introduced later than one year prior to elections. Late adoption of the Draft Election Code might confuse voters and not leave sufficient time for the election administration to properly implement the many new procedures foreseen by the Code, including on voting, vote counting and tabulation and on election districting and election campaigning. For instance, the new open list electoral system that has never been used in Ukrainian elections. Even if adopted, it is not certain that all provisions of the Election Code will be applied already in the 2019 presidential and parliamentary elections.
In preparation for the March presidential and October parliamentary elections, IFES Ukraine has been working closely with the CEC to strengthen their cybersecurity efforts. Building on the findings of the IFES’ Cybersecurity Assessment of the Electoral Process, conducted this summer, IFES is developing the institutional capacity of the CEC through targeted trainings, technical assistance and sharing best practices addressing potential vulnerabilities in the Ukrainian electoral system.
In the last quarter of 2018, IFES conducted cyber hygiene awareness trainings for over 150 employees of the CEC Secretariat and the State Register of Voters (SRV). The series of trainings started on November 30 and concluded on December 18, thus completing the CEC certification on cyber hygiene. This innovative program – the first of its kind to be offered by IFES in Ukraine and globally – was designed by IFES experts to promote safe and responsible cyber behavior and cybersecurity awareness.
According to the 2018 IBM Cyber Security report, human error is to blame for 90 percent of data breaches. This could mean an employee storing sensitive data on a personal device or workers falling for phishing emails that lead to a data breach, business email compromise, malware or account takeovers. A lack of cyber hygiene practices in election administration and in government institutions could result in vulnerable elections to cyber-attacks.
IFES’ trainings engaged participants on good practices in cyber hygiene, including how to prevent phishing, security basics on the Internet and fundamental cybersecurity principles. In the run-up to the presidential election, trainings will be offered to a wide range of electoral stakeholders, including civil society organizations, the SRV and district election commission staff.
In addition to cyber hygiene trainings, IFES’ cyber security efforts include crisis simulations, a cybersecurity playbook, highly specialized information technology trainings for the CEC, electoral expert roundtables, international conferences and study visits.
IFES’ electoral cybersecurity training was supported by the United States Agency for International Development and UK aid.
In December, IFES, in partnership with the CEC and the joint IFES-CEC Training Center, isorganizing trainings on electoral procedures for precinct election commission (PEC) members. These events are part of IFES’ support to the CEC in preparation for local elections in amalgamated communities scheduled for December 23 in the oblasts not under martial law. Because of the partial introduction martial law local elections in ten oblast – Vinnytsia, Luhansk, Donetsk, Zaporizhzhia, Mykolayiv, Odesa, Sumy, Chernihiv, Kharkiv and Kherson –were postponed by the CEC through its Resolution No. 233 of November 29.
IFES’ training covers election day procedures, complaint adjudication, results tabulation and operational elements in the preparations leading up to election day.
On December 13-14, IFES, the National Democratic Institute, the Pact/Engage program and Institute Respublika organized “The Role of Citizens in Reforms: Vox Civicum 2.0” – an event aimed at raising awareness of political reform’s successes and challenges and highlighting the role of citizens in the reform process. The program supported the ongoing dialogue between citizens, civil society, political parties and MPs and created an atmosphere of increased citizen engagement in reforms while calling for immediate changes in national legislation.
The forum assembled political party leaders, MPs, national and international electoral experts and political and civil society activists from across Ukraine to discuss the role of political parties, civil society and citizens in implementing and promoting electoral, political finance and anti-corruption reform.
Full video recording of the event is available at the link.
With 2019 presidential elections approaching, IFES and NDI launched a series of regional informational sessions on campaign finance for political parties. The initiative is designed to strengthen political party representatives’ knowledge of key aspects of campaign finance requirements and oversight during the 2019 presidential election. Participants will also learn how to engage in constructive dialogue with civil society to increase the overall financial transparency of political parties and candidates. The first sessions took place in Lviv (December 10-11), Odesa (December 13), Dnipro (December 17), and Kharkiv (December 18).