Supporting democratic progress in Ukraine.

IFES Ukraine

The International Foundation for Electoral Systems

IFES Ukraine Election Bulletin #97 (November 4 – 17, 2019)

Rada’s Committee considers the draft election code. On November 15, 2019, the Committee on State Building, Local Self-Governance, Regional and Urban Development (the Committee) convened to consider the draft election code vetoed by President on September 14. Two days before the meeting, the Committee received a comprehensive set of amendments to the code from the Central Election Commission (CEC) and therefore decided to postpone the final consideration of the code until the CEC suggestions had been addressed and incorporated.

The Chair of the Committee, Andrii Klochko, read an official letter from the President’s Office which deemed the CEC’s input a valuable contribution to the process and expressed overall support for the suggested amendments. The Deputy Chair of the Committee, Alina Zahoruiko, who chairs the Election Code Working Group established in September 2019, informed members that the comparative table of amendments currently stands at 1,200 pages. The final document is expected to be considered by the plenary of the Verkhovna Rada on December 5, 2019.

The final text of the comparative table appeared only minutes before the beginning of the Committee meeting, which left no time for a substantive analysis of the suggested amendments. Of note, the comparative table had not been considered in full by the Election Code Working Group before it was tabled in the Committee. Therefore, the final stage of the process through which the draft election code has been revised can hardly be considered transparent or truly consultative.

IFES will follow up with a detailed analysis of the document to be voted on by the Rada in the coming days.

While the adoption of the election code is a priority, it is important that all amendments have been the subject of consultation with key stakeholders and have been checked to comply with international standards and best practices.

The international community and other stakeholders should consider conveying strongly to the political leadership in Ukraine that the country deserves an election code that reflects all the electoral reform ambitions that have been so clearly voiced and defined over the past years.

IFES Ukraine, as always, stands ready to continue supporting all stakeholders in the development of a new comprehensive and modernized election code in line with domestic electoral reform aspirations and international recommendations aimed at strengthening democracy in Ukraine.

CEC Establishes Result in Verkhovna Rada Single-Mandate District. At its November 5 meeting, the Central Election Commission (CEC) finalized results for Verkhovna Rada single-mandate District Number 198 in the Cherkasy region. Self-nominated candidate Serhii Rudyk was declared the winner with 18,921 votes – a majority of votes cast in the district, according to the CEC following a recount.

The extended process of determining the winner in District Number 198 was one of the reasons President Zelenskyy cited to dismiss the previous CEC. The CEC renewal delayed the implementation of a court decision obliging the CEC recount the votes in the district and the determination of the winner. The recount of 21 polling stations was conducted on October 28-29 and, after the expiration of the period for appeals, the CEC on November 11th determined the winner.

Thereby, the 2019 parliamentary elections can formally be considered over. Mr. Rudnyk obtained the last of the 424 seats in the Verkhovna Rada (elections did not take place in 26 single-mandate districts located in temporarily occupied parts of Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts and Crimea).

Conference on “2019 Presidential and Parliamentary Elections: Lessons Learned and Recommendations”. On November 13-14, IFES, the CEC, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe Project Coordinator in Ukraine and the Council of Europe’s Office in Ukraine organized a national conference titled, “2019 Presidential and Parliamentary Elections: Lessons Learned and Recommendations.” The event provided a platform for national and international electoral stakeholders to engage in an open and constructive dialogue about the shortcomings and successes of the 2019 Presidential and Parliamentary elections and to discuss recommendations for improvement. Conference participants included representatives of election commissions from all levels in Ukraine, the State Register of Voters, the Government, political parties, civil society, international organizations and media.

IFES Ukraine Deputy Country Director, George Kobakhidze, recognized the dedication and hard work of all stakeholders who had been a part of the elections in 2019 and noted the conference provided an opportunity to consider and reach consensus on key recommendations that will further inform electoral stakeholders and lawmakers about future elections.

“No doubt there is still much critical work ahead in order to safeguard and build on progress to date,” said Kobakhidze. “This includes and goes beyond strengthening electoral justice and the regulation of money in politics, as well as advancing comprehensive electoral reform in line with international standards – reform that promotes equal opportunities to the ballot and to elected office for all Ukrainians.”

Based on the observer reports that have been released so far as well as assessments and analysis of the 2019 elections, important areas for discussion were identified. Participants at the conference then broke out into groups to discuss and compile in-depth recommendations that will address electoral challenges in the future. These groups addressed:

  • Election Administration;
  • Voter Registration;
  • Pre-election Campaigning by Political Parties and Candidates;
  • Political Finance;
  • Election Observation;
  • Voting, Vote Counting and Tabulation;
  • Inclusion and Accessibility;
  • Cybersecurity and Disinformation in Elections; and,
  • Election Dispute Resolution and Electoral Violations.

Recommendations developed in the framework of the conference will be summarized and shared with national and international stakeholders by IFES.

The “2019 Presidential and Parliamentary Elections: Lessons Learned and Recommendations” conference is part of IFES’ broader efforts to support the CEC in safeguarding Ukraine’s electoral democracy and implementing critical electoral reform based on good practice and international standards. This conference was made possible with the support of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), UK aid and the Government of Canada (GAC).

IFES Conducts Post-Parliamentary Elections Survey. Since December 2018, Ukrainians have increasingly agreed that not only is Ukraine a democracy, but that elections held in 2019 accurately reflected the will of the votes.

In the post-parliamentary election survey, forty-six percent of respondents said the elections were completely free and fair and 33 percent said the elections were reasonably free and fair. These results largely mirror findings in a similar survey conducted by IFES following the presidential elections in the early spring. Just seven percent of respondents said the elections were flawed to the point that they doubted the accuracy of the reported results and five percent believed the Rada elections are both completely unfair and not free. Positive election assessments were consistent across all regions, indicating that Ukrainians largely view the election as well-administered and an honest opportunity to vote for the political party and candidate of their choice.

Successful administration of the 2019 Presidential and Rada elections has resulted in more positive opinions on democracy as a system of governance in Ukraine. Fifty-one percent of respondents say that democracy is preferable to any other form of government, an increase of eight percentage points from the pre-presidential election survey. Just 21 percent of respondents say it does not matter to them what form of government they live under. Seventeen percent said a non-democratic government could be preferable. Across all regions, a plurality of Ukrainians expressed preference for democratic governance, representing a change from previous surveys when residents in the East expressed more ambivalence about the type of governance they live under.

Ukrainians increasingly see the value in voting and its ability to bring about change in the country. Fifty-eight percent of respondents agree that voting gives people in Ukraine a chance to influence decision-making. This is a 19 percentage point increase over the pre-presidential election survey in the spring. Fifty-one percent – an increase of 22 percentage points – believe they have a role to play in democratic governance.

Thirty-seven percent believe that people like them can influence government. This represents a 15 percentage point increase over pre-presidential election polling. This data points to an increased belief that change can occur in Ukraine and one effective method of change is through the ballot box.

Finally, as a result of the 2019 elections, there are improved attitudes toward the CEC’s ability to organize credible elections. Sixty-four percent of Ukrainians express either a great deal or fair amount of confidence in the CEC. This represents an increase of 23 percentage points from the pre-Presidential election survey, with significantly fewer expressing little to no confidence in the CEC.

The fieldwork for the recent survey was conducted between September 29 and October 15 following the 2019 Rada elections. The survey interviewed 2,002 respondents throughout Ukraine, excluding the temporarily-occupied areas of Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts and Crimea. The data has been weighted by region, age, and gender to be nationally representative of the adult (18+) population of Ukraine. The margin of error for a sample of this size is plus or minus 2.19 percent. The fieldwork and data processing for the survey was conducted by the Kyiv International Institute of Sociology.

IFES Comments on Draft Law Number 2336. IFES Ukraine prepared comment on Draft Law Number 2336 which proposes political finance regulation changes. The Draft Law was registered in the Rada on October 29 by MPs from the Holos and Batkivshchyna parliamentary factions.

Draft Law Number 2336 is titled “On Amending Certain Legislative Acts of Ukraine on the Prevention and Counteraction of Political Corruption.” It offers reasonable solutions to problems associated with political parties private funding and financial reporting that are in line with previous IFES recommendations, including:

  • Simplifying donations to political parties by allowing online banking;
  • Lifting the ban on donations to political parties by private companies owned by local council deputies and people with tax debt; and,
  • Introducing provisions necessary for establishing an electronic financial reporting system for political parties.

The draft law is a step in the right direction but it does not address other important gaps and issues in the political finance legal framework in Ukraine. It is important the legislation is adopted into law and similar changes regarding campaign finance are introduced into all election law to harmonize rules governing political party and campaign finance.

For more details, please see the link to the IFES Comment.

IFES Releases White Paper on Countering Russian Influence in Europe and Eurasia. The Russian Federation uses various tools and strategies to destabilize democratic or democratizing governments across Europe and Eurasia and encourages the rise of populist, anti-democratic regimes. Its efforts in this regard have accelerated in recent years and will likely continue to intensify. These are the conclusions of a new IFES white paper examining how Russia attempts to influence countries to abandon or rethink Western liberal values. Countering Russian Influence in Europe and Eurasia challenges democracies to recommit to democratic principles and institutions and to remain actively engaged in the region. Its recommendations aim to mitigate electoral threats, build an active and informed electorate and support inclusion and equality.

IFES Trains Civil Society on Electoral Systems and Representation of Women in Politics. On November 4-7, IFES Ukraine conducted its annual Election School for civil society, local government authorities and representatives of academia. The training focused on electoral systems and representation of women in politics.
During the four-day event, participants discussed the following:

  • Electoral systems favored by women;
  • Barriers preventing women from participating in politics;
  • Mechanisms that can provide equal opportunities for participation of men and women in politics;
  • Ways to encourage women to participate in the electoral process;
  • Draft laws registered in the Rada aimed at strengthening the role of women in politics; and,
  • Effectively advocating for electoral law reform.

During the four-day training, participants learned to interpret and analyze electoral law and mastered necessary skills to tackle policy issues at various stages of the electoral process.