IFES Ukraine Election Bulletin #88 (June 22 – July 5, 2019)
Preparing for Parliamentary Elections. According to its website, the CEC has so far registered 5,978 candidates to participate in the early Verkhovna Rada elections later this month. The newspaper Holos Ukrayiny published the party lists of candidates representing 22 political parties contesting the nationwide constituency through a closed list proportional system where citizens vote for political parties. The candidates from those parties advance to the Verkhovna Rada if their party overcome the five percent threshold. A total of 2,760 candidates are registered on party lists. The CEC also register candidates in single-mandate constituencies (SMC) where they win Rada seats if they receive more votes than their competitors in a “first-past-the-post” system. So far, the CEC has registered 3,218 SMC candidates. The CEC has published the list of SMC candidates nominated by political parties, while the list of self-nominated – or unaffiliated – SMC candidates are published by the DECs in the regional news media.
Candidates or the party that nominated them have until July 8 to withdraw (i.e. last-minute withdrawals of candidacy may still affect the preliminary numbers provided above). The CEC will soon close registration and begin printing the ballots for the single mandate constituencies.
The printing of party list ballots commenced early last week and is now finalized. The CEC on July 7 gave instructions to the State print house to begin the distribution of the printed ballot papers, including to the 102 polling stations created at diplomatic representation of Ukraine abroad where polling stations have been created for the vote on July 21.
As noted above, there are 22 parties on the list. The CEC had initially registered 21 parties in the nationwide constituency election element and on June 25 conducted the lottery envisaged by law to determine the order of appearance of party lists on the proportional ballot. On June 26, the CEC adopted a corresponding decision on the final design of the ballot based on this lottery. On June 29 the Supreme Court upheld a complaint from former Georgia President Mikheil Saakashvili’s Movement of New Forces. The CEC subsequently registered the party’s candidates and assigned it number 22 on the party ballot without conducting a new lottery.
Prior to its decision on amending the ballot without conducting a new lottery, the CEC consulted representatives of all competing political parties since the legal framework does not specify which actions to take if a political party is registered following the deadline for conducting the lottery. Furthermore, parties had already begun using the assigned number in their campaign; thus, re-doing the lottery would potentially cause voter confusion.
Despite the gentleman-agreement to proceed in this manner, one of the competing parties filed a complaint to the Sixth Administrative Court of Appeal against the CEC decision to amend the proportional ballot in this manner. The first instance court satisfied the complaint of the party, but CEC challenged its decision to the Supreme Court. At this stage the CEC had already printed more than 5 million ballot papers for the party list vote. Redoing the lottery would mean that CEC had to begin the ballot printing process from scratch including by initiating new procurement and applying for allocation of additional funds from the State budget for this purpose. This would inevitable have caused delays and resulted in the postponement of election day. The Supreme Court on July 6 upheld the CEC appeal. The decision of the Supreme Court is final and means that a potential delay of the July 21 early parliamentary elections was avoided.
Since formation of District Election Commissions on May 31, the CEC has to date accepted 27 resignation requests from DEC members and some 1,243 replacement requests from nominating political parties. Of the 3,582 DEC members initially appointed, 3,555 remain and some 35 percent, or more than one in three DEC members, have been replaced by those authorized to nominate them – political parties that contested the parliamentary elections in 2014. Although most of the DEC replacements were made before IFES-CEC trainings for DEC members on procedures began, the membership turnover could negatively affect the commissions’ work. Indeed, DEC replacement activity continues and, by law, will be ongoing until Election Day on July 21. DEC members who hold executive positions can also be replaced and the CEC has satisfied a few such replacements. This DEC membership shuffling potentially undermines the effect of the IFES-CEC training as there is no legal requirement that DEC members have election administration capacity or experience.
As was the case in the recent presidential election, the CEC established 199 DECs for the Verkhovna Rada elections – one for each contested single mandate constituency. Five single-mandate constituencies in Donetsk and Luhansk have less than 50 percent of the average number of registered voters; but, Donbass is a special case due to its proximity to the armed conflict’s contact line and the vote will move forward in those constituencies.
The CEC also serves as the single mandate constituency boundary commission. No adjustment of constituencies has been made for these Rada elections. Preliminary analysis of voter data indicates that only the city of Kyiv would qualify for an additional mandate – 14 instead of the current 13 MPs – if a boundary review of single-mandate constituencies had been administered after the recent presidential election.
Kliuev, Sharii and Kuzmin Barred from Standing for Rada. On July 3, the CEC cancelled its initial candidate registration of Andriy Kliuev, Deputy Chief of Staff to former President Victor Yanukovych; and, blogger Anatoliy Sharii. The CEC had earlier registered Kliuev – who is believed to be permanently residing in the Russian Federation and Sharii – who is believed to be permanently residing in Lithuania – to run in single-member constituencies in the July 21 Verkhovna Rada elections.
The CEC initially did not register the candidates for failure to meet the residence requirement: the Ukrainian constitution and parliamentary election law mandate MP candidates reside in Ukraine for the previous five years before Election Day. However, the CEC’s decisions to reject them candidacy were overturned by court on appeal. The court found that the documentation was too weak.
Following their controversial registration – both men are wanted in Ukraine – new information about their departure from Ukraine was provided to the CEC by the State Security Service of Ukraine – the SBU. This information confirmed that both men left Ukraine for other countries in 2012 (Sharii) and 2014 (Kliuev) and there is no evidence they returned to Ukraine after they left. These absences disqualify both from running in elections.
On July 5, the CEC cancelled its initial candidate registration of former deputy Prosecutor General of Ukraine during Yanukoyvch’s times, Renat Kuzmin who was on the party list of Opposition Platform For Life. In this case, the CEC has also received new information about their departure from Ukraine from the SBU. This information confirmed that Kuzmin left Ukraine in 2014 and there is no evidence he returned to Ukraine after he left.
For more information, read IFES’ comment on the legal issues surrounding Kliuyev’s and Sharii’s status as parliamentary candidates.
Latest Opinion Polls. According to results of the latest survey published by the Rating Sociological Group on July 4, five political parties would clear the five percent voter support threshold in the nationwide constituency element of the July 21 parliamentary elections, thereby qualifying them for representation in the Verkhovna Rada. The Servant of the People party has 42.3 percent support of interviewed voters. The Opposition Platform For Life is at 13.4 percent and ex-President Petro Poroshenko’s European Solidarity party stands at 8.3 percent. The new Holos party lead by entertainer and former MP Svyatoslav Vakarchuk and former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko’s Batkivschyna come next with 7.2 percent of voter support.
Just below the five percent support threshold are the Syla i Chest, or Strength and Honor party, affiliated with former intelligence operative Ihor Smeshko at 3.8 percent; the Opposition Bloc with 3.1 percent; Ukrainian Strategy, led by Prime Minister Volodymyr Hroysman, with 2.8 percent; the Civic Position and Oleh Lyashko’s Radical Party with 2.4 percent; and, Svoboda with 2.3 percent support. All other parties have less than two percent support.
The survey was conducted from June 29 until July 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.
Civil Network OPORA Presents Report Analyzing July 21 Parliamentary Election Process. On July 1, Civil Network OPORA presented a report analyzing the election process in advance of the July 21 Verkhovna Rada elections. Its chief finding is that despite challenges with an unreformed legal framework, election preparations are on track. Campaign violations noted so far include distribution of goods and services to voters or their children and free concerts. Isolated cases of state resource abuse and campaigning by state officials were also reported. Many prospective candidates began campaigning ahead of their official registration by the CEC, according to the OPORA report. Candidates are not permitted to spend money on campaigning outside this official campaign period before they have opened a campaign fund.
First Local Elections in Amalgamated Communities. On June 30, 95 amalgamated communities conducted local elections. They were scheduled by the CEC as part of the decentralization process. Sixty-five communities administered their first local elections and 30 communities held by-elections. Committee of Voters of Ukraine observers reported elections were administered without significant violations. There were isolated cases of electoral violations such as not admitting observers to an election administration preparatory meeting, violations of secret voting and attempts to issue ballots without proper documents.