IFES Ukraine Election Bulletin #80 (February 28 – March 13, 2019)
CEC approves the form and text of the election ballot paper. On March 8, the Central Election Commission (CEC) approved the form and text of the ballot paper for the March 31 presidential election. By the March 7 deadline for withdrawal, five presidential candidates had withdrawn their candidacy and asked their respective supporters to vote for another candidate: Andrii Sadovyi, Dmytro Hnap and Dmytro Dobrodomov endorsed the candidacy of Anatolii Hrytsenko, Serhii Kryvonos withdrew in favor of Petro Poroshenko, and Evgeniy Murayev – in favor of Oleksandr Vilkul. The overall number of the candidates on the ballot for this election remains record high: 39 and the length of the ballot will be 80 cm. The Presidential Election Law does not allow for withdrawal of candidacy after the March 7 deadline neither by the candidate himself nor by a nominating party. The ballot papers are now being printed on paper with various security protection features such as watermarks etc. to prevent forgery.
CEC fails to procure boxes for transporting the election documents to the DECs. On March 6, the CEC announced that it failed to procure boxes for transfer of used ballot material, the result protocols and other sensitive documentation to district election commissions (DECs) from polling stations after the precinct election commissions (PECs) have concluded the vote count on election day. The procurement failed because only two potential vendors submitted their bids before the deadline, and both of them were inconsistent with the requirements set forth in the Public Procurement Law. The 2019 presidential election is the first national election in which the CEC must adhere to the rules introduced in the 2015 Public Procurement Law. The rules require relatively long timelines for submitting and evaluating the bids, and for the selection of the winner. As the CEC has pointed out to the lawmakers, the envisaged long timelines for procurement do often not meet the needs of the election administration who work under tight deadlines due to the accelerated nature of the elections. Some stages of the electoral process such as candidate registration, the formation of the DECs, PECs are short windows lasting only a few days or weeks.
130,000 policemen to secure public order on election day in Ukraine. The National Police announced that more than 130,000 representatives of the police itself, the National Guard and others will be involved in maintaining public order during the presidential election. This number includes 69,230 policemen, 8,133 employees of the State Border Guard, 7,688 military staff of the National Guard, 39,361 rescue team members, 1,857 employees of the State Migration Service and 5,276 cadets from military academies. IFES, together with the OPORA Civil Network, is providing technical assistance to the National Police aimed at enhancing the provision of security on election day. The police is being trained in their role on election day. IFES and OPORA have provided police officers who will be deployed at the polling stations with 64,000 hard copies of a pocket handbook that covers the potential issues that might arise on election day.
The Supreme Court upholds the CEC clarification on certain aspects of election campaigning. On March 4-5, the Supreme Court of Ukraine reviewed the case regarding the complaints of two presidential candidates, Anatolii Hrytsenko and Vitalii Kuprii who challenged the legality of the CEC’s Resolution No 376 which clarified some issues regarding the pre-election campaigning, such as an issue of separating the distribution of goods and services among voters from the prohibitions and/or restrictions established in the electoral law. In the Resolution, the CEC emphasized that all the pre-election campaigning efforts should be financed through the candidate’s election fund, including the reimbursement of certain expenses of volunteers, including transport expenses. The Supreme Court confirmed that such clarification falls within the CEC’s legal mandate.
ENEMO International Election Observation Mission presents its first interim report. On March 12, the European Network of Election Monitoring Organizations (ENEMO) Election Observation Mission presented its first interim report with finding of its observation of the electoral process from February 8 to March 8, 2019. Overall, ENEMO assessed that the framework and essential conditions for holding democratic elections and political campaigns are at place for the March 31 presidential election. However, they noted instances of violations of campaign rules, allegations of abuse of administrative resources and vote buying. They raised concern over the continuous changes to the membership of district election commissions and stated that concentrated media ownership and the polarized media coverage are negatively affecting what is otherwise a highly competitive political environment. The full report is available here.
The Rada Committee on Legal Policy’s Working Group considered all the amendments proposed to the Draft Election Code. On March 11, Civil Network OPORA informed that the Rada Committee on Legal Policy’s Working Group have considered all 4,296 amendments proposed to the Draft Election Code No 3112-1 after the first reading. The Draft Code is now ready to be considered and approved by the Rada’s Committee on Legal Policy and the Judiciary. If the Committee preliminarily approves the Draft Election Code with the proposed amendments, the legislation will then be submitted to the Rada for consideration and a vote in the plenary. A simple majority vote – 226 votes – is required for the bill to pass. When President Poroshenko puts his signature on the adopted Draft Code, it becomes law. It is now unlikely that it will be put to a vote before the presidential election. It also remains unclear if the Rada’s Committee on Legal Policy and its plenary will manage to consider the Draft Code in time before the parliamentary elections given the Working Group frequently lacking quorum when considering amendments.
Committee of Voters of Ukraine Present February Election Observation Results. On March 7, the Committee of Voters of Ukraine (CVU), presented a report with results of their long-term observations in February 2019. In the report, CVU commends CEC for doing a professional job in organizing the election process. Concurrently, the report also notes that most DEC commissioners do not have prior experience, which may negatively affect the overall performance of the election administration. CVU highlights that the distribution of campaign materials is often conducted in violation of the election law, e.g. print materials lack the necessary information about the institution that printed the material, and candidates use hidden political advertising in print and broadcast media. The full report is available here in Ukrainian.
OPORA Presents Second Interim Observation Report on the Presidential Campaign. On March 5, the Civil Network OPORA published a report with the preliminary findings of their long-term observation mission covering the month of February 2019. Among the main challenges of the election process, observers noted the misuse of administrative resources and the lack of campaign finance transparency. It was also noted that to prevent misuse of administrative resources, state authorities should stick to their areas of responsibility and division of powers and presidential candidates refrain from promising citizens social benefits in the pre-election period. This will provide a more level playing field for presidential candidates and enhance the competitiveness of the election process. In the report, OPORA also emphasizes that to prevent a distorted election outcome, law-enforcement bodies should make every effort to timely investigate each reported incident or allegation of vote buying in a uniform manner to exclude public allegations that the law-enforcement bodies and other enforcement agencies are acting based on political motivations.
OPORA presents report on alleged use of budgetary funds for indirect campaigning purposes. Between June 2018 and January 2019, observers from the Civil Network OPORA recorded 1,506 cases where publicly-funded events were used by MPs or political parties for the purpose of indirect campaigning in their favor. In 75.2% of the recorded cases, the events were financed by means allocated to the socio-economic development of certain districts, in 5.1% of cases – from the Road Fund, in 2.7% of cases – from the State Fund for Regional Development. In the remaining 17% of recorded cases, the recorded events were financed by budget funds or funds from medical and educational state programs. The full version of the OPORA report on the alleged use of budgetary funds for indirect campaigning purposes can be accessed in Ukrainian via the link.
Group of Influence engages in a voter education campaign aimed at enfranchising IDPs in 2019 presidential election. On February 25, Civic Holding “Group of Influence” presented a public service announcement (PSA), in which famous Ukrainian citizens who have been forcefully displaced from Donbas and Crimea due to Russian aggression, encourage internally displaced persons to change their place of voting to be able to vote in the presidential election. This PSA aimed at enfranchising IDPs was developed in cooperation with IFES and the CEC.
On March 4, “Group of Influence” presented voter education material that specifies how IDPs and other Ukrainian citizens residing on temporarily occupied territories will be able to vote on March 31. It outlines the actions that such voters need to take to temporarily changing their place of voting. The material was developed in cooperation with the Ministry for Temporary Occupied Territories and Internally Displaced Persons, the CEC, the Ministry of Justice with the support of IFES. Civic Holding “Group of Influence” is IFES subgrantee.
Trainings on electoral procedures for members of district election commissions. From February 26 to March 6, 2019, IFES in cooperation with the CEC and the joint IFES-CEC Training Center organized 106 regional trainings for more than 3,000 DEC members. The trainings were facilitated by trainers with extensive experience in electoral issues who underwent a five-day training of trainers (TOT) organized in Kyiv on February 11-15, 2019. The trainings covered election day procedures, including the adjudication of complaints and tabulation of results, as well as some operational aspects of their work in the lead up to election day. All trainings used interactive teaching techniques, such as discussion and group work. All DECs received copies of manuals on electoral procedures developed by the Training Center and IFES. These events are part of IFES’ support to the CEC in preparations for the 31 March 2019 presidential election.
Cyber hygiene awareness trainings. IFES continues to offer its cyber hygiene awareness trainings to various electoral stakeholders. On March 5-7, 2019, IFES organized 25 trainings for more than 300 DEC members. These trainings taught participants best cyber hygiene practices, including how to prevent phishing, the basic security when using the Internet and other guidance on how to improve their own and their organization’s cybersecurity habits. The initiative was designed to strengthen the cybersecurity efforts in the electoral process by promoting safe and responsible cyber behavior. The trainings are offered to a wide range of electoral stakeholders, including civil society, government institutions, the staff of the CEC Secretariat, the State Register of Voters and the DECs prior to the 2019 elections, with the aim to increase their awareness of necessary measures to strengthen the cybersecurity of the electoral process.