IFES Ukraine Election Bulletin #86 (May 25 – June 7, 2019)
CEC Establishes DECs for Parliamentary Elections. On May 31, the Central Election Commission (CEC) established 199 District Election Commissions (DECs) to administer the July 21 Verkhovna Rada elections.
On June 5, Civil Network OPORA released an analysis of the DEC formation after the CEC formed the commissions based on proposals from political parties. Parties with a parliamentary faction in the current Rada and parties who participated in the 2014 Rada elections are eligible to nominate one member each to fill out the DEC memberships. This allows parliamentary political parties to have two members on a DEC. If there are more nominees than DEC seats, the CEC will draw lots.
All DECs were formed with the legal maximum of 18 members. Of the six political parties with a parliamentary faction, five nominated a member to all 199 DECs while Samopomich, nominated members to 184 DECs. Of the 29 parties that contested the 2014 Rada elections, 23 exercised their right to nominate DEC commissioners.
The DECs have 3,582 members to support the 2019 Rada elections. The Party Petro Poroshenko Bloc “Solidarity” provides the largest group of commissioners with 309. The Radical Party placed 307 commissioners, followed by People’s Front at 305, Batkivshchyna at 300, Opposition Bloc at 290 and Samopomich at 237. Women make up 59 percent of the DEC membership.
OPORA determined that 38 percent of commissioners served on DECs in the recent two-round presidential election. One hundred and ninety-three DEC nominees have been nominated by President Zelenskyi’s Servants of the People party that is not entitled to nominate DEC members for these elections because it does not have a Rada faction and the party did not exist in 2014. However, the President’s party will be represented on most DECs through affiliation with other parties.
A pattern from past elections is developing: DEC members are being replaced. Every session day since DEC formation, the CEC has approved applications from nominating political parties. Until now, two hundred and eighty-two commissioners – 7.9 percent of DEC membership – have been replaced. Ukrainian law allows political parties to replace DEC commissioners up until Election Day. A concern is that if large-scale DEC substitutions occur after the planned extensive training in preparation for the Rada elections, resources will be wasted.
Procedural training administered by the IFES-CEC Training Center begins on June 30. IFES supports the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Office of Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR)’s recommendation that only persons who received certified training should be working at the DEC level to ensure professional election administration.
Obstacles Removed – CEC Proceeds with Election Material Procurement. Since the beginning of the parliamentary election process, the CEC has pointed to challenges in the public procurement law and mandated the purchasing deadlines for early Rada elections. Under existing public procurement rules, timely purchases of much-needed election material, such as ballot boxes and election protocol forms, is in jeopardy. President Zelenskyi, as one of his first official acts, initiated legislation and registered Verkhovna Rada Draft Law Number 10317 to address the issue; but, the Rada failed to include it on its May 22 agenda.
The CEC conducted a news conference on May 27 on the procurement issue and urged the Cabinet of Ministers to assist in finding a way out of the procurement crisis. On May 29, the Cabinet called a working group meeting where the Ministry of Economic Development stated it was in the process of drafting an order that would amend existing regulations, waiving several requirements and making exceptions for election administration purchases. The order was then sent to the Ministry of Justice and the Auditing Chamber, registered under Number 569/33540, on June 3 and was enforced the following day.
The order allows the CEC to split large election material procurements into smaller purchases while temporarily sidestepping the ProZorro system. On June 6, CEC Chair Tetiana Slipachuk welcomed the adoption of the order as a temporary measure for the July parliamentary election on her Facebook page. While the Ministry of Economic Development order removed major technical obstacles for administering preparations for the July 21 parliamentary elections within the legal deadline, the CEC would still like to see amendments to the public procurement law to make the special procurement procedures for election material permanent and bring the election administration on firm legal ground when doing procurements.
CEC Eases Registration Procedure on Temporary Places of Voting. On May 29, the CEC adopted a decision that will ease the procedures for registration of a temporary voting address that are different from the voters’ permanent electoral addresses (residency). Voters who apply for this procedure will not need to present supporting documentation in the future. To register, voters must bring their passport to local offices of the State Register of Voters and complete applications specifying the location of the polling stations where they prefer to vote on Election Day. The simplified procedure is already in place for internally displaced persons and Ukrainian citizens who reside in Crimea and the Donbas and will now be extended to all citizens, including economic migrants and other transient population groups affected by the rigid residence registration system in Ukraine. Citizens have until July 15 to change their temporary place of voting.
However, there is a caveat. Voters requesting a temporary place of voting can only vote in the political party list proportional element of the Rada elections’ parallel voting system. To vote for a parliamentary candidate in single-mandate majoritarian districts, such voters must either obtain permission to change their residence registration – which is both cumbersome and time-consuming – or on Election Day travel back to their home permanent constituencies. While returning to a permanent home to vote is an option for working migrants and students, it is of little value to Ukraine’s internally displaced population whose residency is in temporarily occupied territories where elections are not held.
Latest Opinion Polls. According to the Rating Sociological Group opinion poll on June 5, 48.2 per cent of Ukrainians who intend to vote in the early Verkhovna Rada elections in July support the Servant of the People political party of newly-elected President Volodymyr Zelenskyi. Almost 11 percent of voters support the Opposition Platform For Life; 7.8 percent favor the Party Petro Poroshenko Bloc “Solidarity”; 6.9 percent – Batkivshchyna; and, 5.6 percent support Sviatoslav Vakarchuk’s party, Holos, or The Voice.
Just below the five percent threshold is the Syla i Chest (Strength and Honor) Party affiliated with former intelligence operative Ihor Smeshko with 4.3 percent; Civic Position with 3 percent; and, Oleh Lyashko’s Radical Party at 2.4 percent. All other parties rate less than two percent support.
According to the survey, 47 percent of respondents state their primary motive in voting will be the party’s capacity to “bring change”. Another 30 percent of respondents said they will vote for a political force that is able to “restore order.” Every fifth respondent said they are attracted by new faces in the political force and its ability to “overcome corruption.” About 15 percent of poll respondents said the main motive for their choice is the party’s position on social justice and its leader’s strength.
The survey was conducted from May 29 until June 3 through face-to-face interviews with some 2,000 respondents aged 18 years or older. The margin of error does not exceed 2.2 percent.
Rada Adopts Presidential Impeachment Law. On June 6, the Verkhovna Rada adopted bill Number 1098 in the second reading which establishes legal procedures for an ad hoc investigative commission to probe misconduct such as treason or other crimes committed by a President of Ukraine. The presidential impeachment law was backed by 279 MPs.
Bill Number 1098 was registered in Parliament back in November 2014 by several lawmakers, including the current Rada Speaker, Andriy Parubiy.