CVU findings on July 26, 2015 interim elections of people's deputy of Ukraine

All-Ukrainian nongovernmental organization “Committee of voters of Ukraine” held long-term observation on interim Verkhovna Rada deputy elections in election district №205 (Chernihiv city), as well of E-Day monitoring. During voting and vote-tabulation official CVU observers worked at polling stations, district election commission and in mobile groups.

Election campaign at interim elections of people’s deputyof Ukraine in election district №205 was characterized by high competition, exceptional violations of legislation on vote-buying and illegal campaigning. Besides, the election process was marked by criminal offences, combined with violence, false mine-laying, active participation of militarist groups and their representatives. During E-Day and vote tabulation, there were few cases of election legislation violation, which did not have considerable influence over voting results. 

1. Registration of candidates in people’s deputy

Interim elections of people’s deputy of Ukraine in election district №205 broke national record of a number of registered candidates – 127.  Central election commission cancelled registration of some candidates before elections, so there were 91 candidate in the ballot paper. Main candidates used registration of many technical candidates for gaining control over polling stations commissions.

2. Election campaigning, vote-buying

During election campaign of interim elections in district №205CVU observers reported on a number of actions which may be qualified as direct and indirect vote-buying. Concerts of well-known music performers were held on behalf of candidates SerhiyBeresenko and Gennadiy Korban, as well as unveiling of children’s playgrounds and other social infrastructure objects. Candidate VolodymyrZub, supported by “Samopomich” party, combined his election campaign with provision of social services for voters of district №205.

For a long period of time, overt indirect vote-buying was practiced in Chernihiv. For two weeks, 5 distribution hubs have been operating in the city on behalf of charitable fund “Ukrop”. The hubs were distributing food packages. Name and symbol of the fund coincide with those of a political party. Besides, candidate G. Korban stated publicly that these hubs distribute food on his behalf.  According to different estimates, such overt mechanisms of indirect vote-buying covered over 40 000 residents of single-mandate election district #205. Such practice was in place on E-Day as well.

Besides, the election process was marked by criminal activities, as proved by: a) false mine-laying in Central and District election commissions; b) large groups of people who arrived presumable by invitation of candidates in MP; c) seize of an arsenal of fire weapon and ammunition from persons, close to candidates in MP.

Large number of sociological polls was a peculiarity of election campaign in district #205. Results public opinion polls from 6 different research organisations have been published during the election campaign without indication of survey procedures. Their presumptions on possible winner in district #205 were also quite different.

At the interim elections, there were also pseudo public initiatives, used by candidates in order to manipulate voters’ opinion. Thus, one of the initiatives with a name “Vote-buying – stop” worked in favor of one of the candidates. Initially, the campaign was presented as a joint initiative of a number of nongovernmental organisations, but none of the organisationswere actually named. It is worth mentioning, that public initiative with the same name was initiated by Committee of voters in Ukraine at 2014 parliamentary elections.

3. Election campaign financing

Several days before the Election Day the CEC issued notes of warning for 54 candidates registered in the single-seat constituency №205. The reason for this decision of the Central Election Commission was violation of the terms for opening accounts of candidates’ election funds. According to the Law “On Election of People's Deputies of Ukraine” parliamentary candidate in single-seat constituency should open his/her election fund account no later than at the tenth day after his/her registration. The fact that election fund accounts of parliamentary candidates were not opened can tell on their technical nature.

15 interim financial reports were published on the CEC website, including the reports of all major candidates. At the same time 22 candidates who opened their election fund accounts in time didn't pass interim financial reports.

4. Official observers

In general 4 NGOs gained admittance of the CEC to have official observers for these elections. However, the observers were registered only by two NGOs - CVU and all-Ukrainian NGO “Leading Legal Initiatives”. We should mention that 82 of 86 official observers were observers of NGO “Committee of voters of Ukraine”. 2052 more official observers in single-seat constituency №205 were registered from parliamentary candidates, or about 25 official observers per polling station. Such a large number of observers from candidates disturbed the normal work of precinct election commissions and made administration of the election process more complicated.

In addition, the district election commission in single-seat constituency №205 in its resolutions № 44 and 54 refused to register a number of observers from parliamentary candidates as proposed persons have already been elected as precinct election commission members.

5. Voting during Election Day, counting votes

CVU observers noted a number of problems during the voting. There were some minor violations such as the lack of information signs and posters of candidates at polling stations. Thus, at precinct №740998 election commission members hung information posters of parliamentary candidates only after critical remarks of observers.

There were also more serious violations. In particular, breaking silence mode on Election Day, there were numerous campaign posters and outdoor political advertising of various candidates.

The criminalization of election process is also proved with the presence of a large number of fake journalists with fake certificates of CVU newspaper “Tochka zoru” (Point of View) during the Election Day. CVU observers reported about 40 such persons. Mobile groups of CVU detained six of them and passed to the police. Relevant claims on the opening of criminal proceedings were issued. Fake certificates seized by police contained fake seal of organization and fake signature of the head of organization - Oleksiy Koshel. Some fake certificates contained printed signature of MP Chernenko O.M., the former head of the organization, who also gave evidence to the police. Obviously, offenders seized the old example of certificate and made copies without even checking the signature of the head of organization. Some fake certificates had actual date; the others were issued with the date of September 15, 2015. Committee of voters of Ukraine considers this incident as an attempt to discredit the organization and civil observation in general and will monitor the proper investigation of this case.

In addition, commission members violated the legislation on the presence of official observers of candidates and mass media representatives. CVU observers repeatedly recorded cases when several representatives of the same candidate or mass media were present at polling station. In some cases there were 3-4 observers from one candidate at the polling station, including 4 fake journalists at one polling station. Such violations happened due to a large number of observers and mass media representatives, which made difficult for election commission members to control their number from one candidate / mass media.

CVU observers also noted the presence of athletic young men at several polling stations, who sat up at the entrance to the voting premises. Such actions are not violations of the law, but the presence of such persons may put pressure on voters and commission members.

Some attempts of voters to take photos of filled ballots were also recorded. Thus, at precinct №740094 a young man took a photo of a ballot with smartphone. The violation was documented by the police, who arrived on a call.

CVU observers recorded an attempt to organize carousel voting. At precinct №741024 a man tried to throw a blank piece of paper in a voting box simulating that was a ballot and to bring a blank ballot out of the voting room. Observers called the police and made an act on the violation.

Before closing of polling stations CVU observers noted that police officers responded more quickly to calls and took people unauthorized to be present in voting room out.

Observers also noted the case that journalists were taken out of the room for counting votes. Thus, commission members of precinct №741010 brought out three journalists of online media, who demanded a protocol which is not required in election legislation.

Two stations experienced a threat of invasion during counting votes. Thus, the head of PEC №740995 received a warning on a possible assault from the police. While police provided a strong guard of a building, commission members and observers barricaded themselves inside the polling station.

In addition, in few minutes before closing the light was turned off at precinct №740998, and then a group of unknown persons arrived and tried to enter the polling station, threatening and making attempts to break down the door. The commission refused to satisfy their demand, shut all the windows and counted votes using a single portable lamp. The situation became normal after the police arrived on a call. The light wasn't restored before counting of votes was finished.

Counting of votes was held with some minor procedural violations, such as confusion the sequence of counting of unused ballots and control coupons for issued ballots, or annulment of a ballot with more than one mark in front of the names of candidates, while the content of voters' will is not in doubt. In general, such violations didn't influence the results of will expression.

We should note that after the voting the results of three exit polls were published, but only the exit poll of the Center for Social and Marketing Research «SOCIS» made on order of CVU showed results within possible variation. CVU notes that ordered by political forces exit polls can be used to undermine confidence in the election results in case the results are appealed.

RECOMMENDATIONS

1. To the Ministry of Internal Affairs – to consider recommendations of civic organisations on provision of public safety when planning its work at October 26, 2015 regular local elections. Representatives of CVU and other organisations approached leadership of Ministry of Internal Affairs Division in Chernihiv oblast with a request to enhance security and bring election process in district #205 back to normal. However, MIA demonstrated active involvement only three days before elections when tensions hit a peak in the district.

2. To the Ministry of Internal Affairs – to involve civic organisationsand mass media in its work to the maximum extent possible when investigating crimes, connected with direct and indirect vote-buying. It is of critical importance that voters and subjects of election process were informed on criminal cases and legal liability. Public reaction would scale down such violations at upcoming local elections.

3. To Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine – to introduce necessary amendments to legislation in order to define such crime as vote-buying more clearly. To provide that vote-buying refers also to giving voter an improper advantage by charitable funds and non-governmental organisations that use the same combination of words, letters, colors, numbers or symbols as a party or candidate – participant of the election process.

4. To the leadership of the Ministry of Internal Affairs – to perform internal investigation on actions of law enforcement bodies representatives who refused to stop mass distribution of food packages in election district #205.

5. To initiate criminal investigation against persons who performed vote-buying.

6. To Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine – to urgently adopt a law that would enable state purchases of goods, works and services for conduction of elections and referendums without tender procedures. підготовки та проведення виборів і референдумів без тендерних процедур. To include services of support, maintenance and modification of informational and analytical system “Vybory” (Elections) and its sub-systems to a list of exceptions from the Law on State Purchases. To stop practice of holding interim elections on credit, as it was done in district #205. Such practice held to speculations on possible breakdown of the election campaign.

7. To Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine – to introduce amendments to legislation that would enable CEC to cancel registration of candidates who did not open election fund accounts. Absence of election funds accounts is typical for “technical” candidates, who have no intention to hold an election campaign. Besides, it is quite an objective criteria for cancellation of registration, and can not be abused by CEC.

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