IFES Ukraine Election Bulletin #79 (February 14 – February 27, 2019)
2019 Presidential Election Update
On February 18, the Central Election Commission (CEC) formed 199 District Election Commissions (DECs) for the March 31 presidential election, which is one DEC more than in the last election in 2014. In addition, by Resolution Number 331, the CEC appointed DEC chairs, deputy chairs and secretaries.
As referenced in the February 12 IFES Election Bulletin, the CEC approved a list of districts where the presidential election will not be administered due to lack of security. The areas where election will not be held are the Russia-annexed Autonomous Republic of Crimea and in the city of Sevastopol as well as in specific parts of the Donetsk and Luhansk Oblast controlled by Russia-backed separatists. In Donetsk Oblast, elections will be administered in 12 of the 21 electoral districts; and, in six of 11 districts in Luhansk Oblast.
Civil Network OPORA analyzed the precinct lists in Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts where elections will be administered and concluded that the number of precincts covered by electoral preparations has increased by 178 precincts compared to the 2014 early parliamentary elections. Eighty-five of those precincts are in Donetsk oblast and 93 are in Luhansk.
Registered voters in government-controlled Donetsk oblast have increased by almost 19,000 compared to the 2014 parliamentary elections. In Luhansk oblast, the number of registered voters increased by 59,000 voters. OPORA welcomed the CEC’s decision to enfranchise more voters in government-controlled areas of Donbas and urged all electoral stakeholders to ensure rights of voters.
DEC Chair in Dnipro Election District Resigns
According to the Civil Network OPORA a paramilitary group on February 21 attacked a newly appointed Chair of DEC Number 24 in Dnipro forcing him to resign from the commission. The DEC chair Victor Marchenko was nominated by Socialist Party presidential candidate Serhii Kaplin. During the 2014 conflict with Russia and its proxies Marchenko allegedly organized rallies in support of Russian-backed separatism and raised the Russian flag near the Dnipro city council building. Marchenko was beaten by the paramilitary group until they were stopped by local police.
Following the incident, Kaplin published a statement on his Facebook page asking the CEC to replace Marchenko as chair of DEC Number 24 with Kostiantyn Aksyutin.
This incident demonstrates that some presidential candidates do not thoroughly research the background of their nominees for membership of election commissions. It also demonstrates the general risk of paramilitary interference in the election process and, more specifically, in election administration operations. While acts of separatism must be properly investigated, the is also a need to respect the independence of election commissions as noted in the Venice Commission’s Code of Good Practice in Electoral Matters.
Court Dismisses Tymoshenko’s Complaint Against Poroshenko
The Sixth Administrative Court of Appeals dismissed a February 19 lawsuit filed by presidential candidate Yulia Tymoshenko against President Petro Poroshenko who is running for reelection on the March ballot. Tymoshenko alleged that Poroshenko illegally used his official status to campaign as a presidential candidate.
The Sixth Administrative Court of Appeals is the first instance court for lawsuits against CEC decisions, actions or inaction, except for cases related to confirming election results. Its jurisdiction includes the city of Kyiv, the Kyiv oblast, the city of Chernihiv and Cherkasy oblast.
According to Tymoshenko, Poroshenko announced his presidential reelection platform at an “Open Dialogue” forum on February 9. This event was broadcast by three television channels – “112.Ukraine”, “Channel 5” and “Pryamyi”. Poroshenko paid for the broadcast on “Pryamyi” from his electoral fund. The telecast was placed on Poroshenko’s official presidential webpage as an event in with Poroshenko participated as head of state rather than as a presidential candidate, according to Tymoshenko.
Poroshenko’s legal defense claimed that his speech at the event did not contain any direct calls to vote for Poroshenko as a presidential candidate and did not discuss his election program. According to his defense, the remarks do not constitute election campaigning as defined by Article 58.1 in the Presidential Election Law. The court agreed the speech was not election campaigning and held that “media coverage of the President’s activities” should not be paid from the Poroshenko presidential election fund. Tymoshenko will challenge the court decision to the Supreme Court, according to her attorney.
IFES has repeatedly stated that election laws should provide for clear delineation between election campaigning and media coverage of elections and provide specific definition of what to consider “hidden political advertising” and “election campaigning”. Current definitions are too vague to be effectively interpreted and enforced.
CVU Conference Devoted to Election Campaign Trends and Issues
On February 20, the Committee of Voters of Ukraine (CVU), with support of the Conrad Adenauer Foundation, organized a conference titled “Election Campaign in Ukraine: Key Trends and Problems”. The event commemorated CVU’s 25th anniversary.
During the conference, MPs, government representatives, members of election observation missions, political experts and other electoral stakeholders discussed key trends, peculiarities and issues in the 2019 presidential election campaign. Topics such as Russian influence on the campaign, the unusually high number of candidates, vote-buying and the distribution goods and services to voters by candidates and their campaign teams were addressed.
A full video record of the conference is available here in Ukrainian.
OPORA Publishes Presidential Civic Observation Report
On February 21, Civil Network OPORA published a report with findings of their observation of the 2019 presidential election. The report reinforced the message that it is important to mobilize citizens to monitor the elections in a non-partisan manner and noted that civic observation will contribute by identifying problems, deterring fraud and improving the quality and transparency of the electoral process. It also noted with regret that civil society organizations are increasingly used by political parties and candidates for politically-motivated interference in the electoral process.
For this presidential election, 152 civil society organizations (CSOs) applied to the CEC for observer accreditation, of which accredited 139 (including one based on a court decision). While most applied to field observers across the country, seven CSOs will conduct observation only in certain regions. For comparison, the CEC accredited 10 CSOs in the 2014 presidential election and 37 CSOs in the 2014 parliamentary elections.
In their analysis of CSOs with observer status, Civil Network OPORA found that out of these 139 CSOs, 85 have no domestic election observation experience and only five observed the 2014 presidential election. Fourteen CSOs observed the electoral process just once – during the first elections in amalgamated local communities on December 23, 2018.
Among the accredited CSOs, 26 were registered in 2018 and six in January of 2019.
OPORA also analyzed the political affiliation of the accredited CSOs and concluded that 30 of them may be considered directly affiliated with a presidential candidate and further 25 have links to individual MPs and other influential politicians. Thirteen CSOs bear a name that indicate their political affiliation.
OPORA concludes that both the number of CSOs accredited as observer and the number of presidential candidates are unprecedentedly high and may pose a risk for the administration of the electoral process, especially on Election Day. In addition, OPORA concludes, the fact that civic organizations are affiliated with candidates and political parties and lack monitoring experience may discredit the institution of civic non-partisan observation.
Reanimation Package of Reforms Presents Draft Legislative Agenda for the Verkhovna Rada
On February 5, the Reanimation Package of Reforms (RPR) presented a list of key draft laws which RPR considers a “must” for the Verkhovna Rada to pass during the ongoing plenary session. The draft laws cover five areas: national security, rule of law, public administration, the economy and sustainable development, and humanitarian development.
During the presentation of the report, Denys Kovryzhenko, an expert on the RPR’s Electoral Law Reform team and IFES Senior Legal Advisor discussed the latest developments in the field of electoral reform. He noted that, so far, the election law reform agenda has not been properly implemented and that the presidential race has a negative impact on the prospects for future reform. He raised doubts that systemic changes will happen before the October parliamentary elections and therefore highlighted the need to consider important draft laws pending in the Rada, including Draft Law Number 6240 enfranchising internally displaced persons and labor migrants; Draft Law Number 8270 on strengthening the system of sanctions for election-related offenses; and, Draft Law Number 5559 which ensures accessibility of elections for people with disabilities.
IFES Joins with Ukrainian Ministries to Prevent Illegal Campaigning and Administrative Resource Abuse
On February 14, IFES signed a memorandum of understanding and cooperation with the Ministry of Education and Science for implementing an information campaign titled, “Illegal Campaigning: Identify and Prevent”. The following week, on February 22, the Ministry of Health joined the initiative to ensure citizens’ electoral rights.
The reason for launching this initiative is the frequent cases where teachers, parents, and students in educational facilities and doctors and patients in hospitals come under pressure from the management of these institutions during the campaign to vote in favor of a particular candidate or political party. Some of the past examples include a case where a medical doctor refused to treat a patient unless the patient promised to vote for a certain candidate who had provided expensive equipment to the hospital. Which constitutes illegal campaigning.
The information campaign “Illegal Campaigning: Identify and Prevent” will be intensified ahead of the 2019 parliamentary elections in October and draw on lessons learned from the presidential election campaign.
IFES Briefing International Election Observers
Several international election observation missions (EOMs) have now deployed to Ukraine for the March 31 presidential election. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Right opened an EOM on February 6 with a 17-member core team based in Kyiv and 90 long-term observers (LTOs) deployed to all regions of Ukraine. On January 7, the National Democratic Institute’s Ukraine office was joined by four long-term analysts as part of its election observation efforts.
The International Republican Institute will deploy 12 LTOs to the regions in the first week of March. Mission Canada EOM has been present with a 14-member core team in the capital and 36 LTOs in the regions since February 12. The European Network of Election Monitoring Organizations has a 10-member core team and deployed 48 LTOs throughout the country on February 22. The Ukrainian World Congress visited Kyiv on February 11-12.
The OSCE Parliamentary Assembly announced it will deploy a short-term observation mission around election day and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, the European Parliament and NATO’s Parliamentary Assembly are expected to announce their observation plans shortly. IFES Ukraine met and briefed all five international EOMs currently in country on the status of electoral reform and the preparations for the presidential election.
Election observer organizations together plan to deploy more than 1,200 short term observers on election day.
On February 19, IFES announced a call to join its guest program for election day. The program preliminarily includes visits to a limited number of polling stations in Kyiv and meetings with a District Election Commission and CEC members. IFES Ukraine national and international staff will brief and accompany guest program participants on Election Day.
IFES Trains Election Management Bodies in Advance of Presidential Election
From February 11-15, IFES and the CEC Training Center organized a five-day training of trainers for over 120 individuals who in the coming weeks will go to the regions and conduct trainings for District and Precinct Election Commission (DEC and PEC) members. Over 100 trainings on electoral procedures will be conducted for DEC members and some 400 trainings for PEC members.
The T-o-T covered the electoral legislation, DEC and PEC procedures, presentation techniques and interactive teaching skills. All trainers were give specially developed educational material. The training was conducted by eight experienced election experts and facilitators who were previously involved in multiple IFES initiatives.
Teacher Training – “Democracy: From Theory to Practice” Civic Education Course
From February 16-19, IFES conducted a four-day interactive civic education training of teaching methodology in Lviv for 24 university-level teachers selected for the next round of IFES civic education program. They will be teaching IFES’ innovative civic education course, “Democracy: From Theory to Practice” at 12 universities in the 2019/2020 academic year.
The course’s objective is to strengthen knowledge, skills and values that are associated with students’ democratic citizenship through action projects where students identify, analyze, and address issues in and beyond their communities; and, focus on democratic principles, good governance, civil society, civic participation and human rights.
The session was facilitated by IFES Senior Civic Education Expert Dr. Greer Burroughs; IFES Civic Education Consultant Svitlana Tymchenko; and, IFES Civic Education Officer Karina Kalnyk.