- Early local elections on May 25, 2014 will be conducted on the basis of substantially amended Law "On Elections of Deputies of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea, local councils and village, town and city mayors". In general the Law creates the proper conditions for conduct of elections according to international standards and reduces risks of fraud in the organisation and conduct of elections. After the early local elections the Parliament should consider the reasonability of holding elections of mayors in big cities by the majoritarian system of absolute majority.
- Law on local elections was adopted during the electoral process of local elections, so members of election commissions, candidates, judges and voters are not aware enough of the content of its key provisions. The CEC, the Supreme Administrative Court and civil society organisations should take measures to raise awareness among subjects of the election process, judges and voters on the main provisions of the Law. In future Parliament should refrain from making radical changes to the electoral law a few months before the Election Day.
- The CEC activities on preparation for the early local elections met the requirements of the electoral law. The CEC also provided proper conditions for the realisation of novelties of the Law on Local Elections; in particular it adopted a number of decisions on organisation and conduct of local elections.
- Although the elections will be held in several regions (including Luhansk, Dnipropetrovsk, Sumy, Mykolayiv), preparation of parties and potential candidates for the election campaign is being held quite slowly. In many cities there are no real campaigning activities. In cities where potential candidates started active campaigning activities (Kyiv, Odesa, Cherkassy, etc.), agitation is generally poor in content. In many regions the prominent feature is loss of electoral support for the Party of Regions (although in the South, in the East and in some Central regions Party of Regions keeps a leading position).
- Activities of local authorities are focused on preparation for the presidential elections, while local elections do not receive appropriate attention. Territorial election commissions generally take steps required by the law for the preparation for the elections, but their work remains nearly invisible.
1. Activities of Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine
April 8, 2014 Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine has made some significant changes to the law “On Elections of Deputies of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea, local councils and village, town and city mayors” (hereinafter - the Law on Local Elections). For a long time the Law on Local Elections adopted in 2010 remained almost the least accomplished one among all laws which provide the order to conduct elections in Ukraine.
The amendments to the Law on Local Elections unified territorial organisation of elections in Ukraine, and the legal framework for the activities of election commissions, voting, counting and tabulation, the procedure of appeal against decisions, actions or inaction on the election. These provisions became closer to the relevant provisions of the Law “On Elections of the President of Ukraine”. Positive innovations of the Law on Local Elections are mandatory decision making by majority of election commissions members, prohibition on changing the voter lists on election day, providing official observers from NGOs with status of the subjects of electoral process, established connection between the number of voters in a given administrative and territorial unit and the amount of election pledge that must be paid by subjects of election process that nominate candidates for election (or nominated by candidates). Amendments to the Law on Local Elections provide no possibility to cancel candidates' registration for violation of election laws. An important innovation of the Law is that it provides the possibility of self-nomination for candidates in single-mandate majoritarian constituencies.
The shortcomings of the Law are the following: preservation of majoritarian system of simple majority at elections of city mayors, no budget funding of election campaigns, no provisions to define the principles of informational support of elections (which are included in the two other election laws), and no effective mechanisms to ensure transparency of the election campaign at local elections. Certain provisions of the Law (such as prohibition to fund election campaigns by persons with dual citizenship, the prohibition of changes in voter lists after 6 PM of last Saturday before Election Day) are not reflected in two other election laws. Thus, the question of harmonisation of electoral laws despite significant changes to the Law on Local Elections and the Law "On Elections of the President of Ukraine" is still very important.
December 14, 2012 the People's deputy of Ukraine M. Katerynchuk submitted to the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine the draft law № 1098, which provided election of mayors in big cities (with population of over 500 000 people) in two stages (majority system of absolute majority). Although in April 2014 this draft law was approved in the first reading, it was not supported with the required number of votes in the second reading and in general. Thus, all the mayors elections assigned to May 25, 2014 will be conducted according to majoritarian system of simple majority. After the early local elections necessary amendments to the Law on Local Elections which ensure the election of mayors of big cities (cities with more than 500 000 voters) according to majoritarian system of absolute majority should be approved.
2. Activities of the CEC
As of April 24, 2014 the CEC adopted a number of regulations aimed to ensure the implementation of recent changes to the Law on Local Elections, including:
- resolution № 271 of April 14, 2014 “On the order of drawing lots on the inclusion nominations to the local election commissions for elections of deputies of local councils and village, town and city mayors”. Resolution stipulates carrying draws on candidates for membership of each TEC on local elections.
- resolution № 300 “On order of deposit, return and transfer of pledge at local elections”. The Resolution set the order of pledge deposit by local organisations of political parties and candidates at local elections, as well as the grounds and procedure for return of the pledge to local organisations of parties and candidates at local elections.
- resolution № 301 “On the amount of pledge for early local elections scheduled for May 25, 2014, and for midterm elections of deputies of oblast, district, city and city district councils.” Resolution defined amount of election pledge, which should be paid by local party organisations and candidates for early and mid-term elections on May 25, 2014.
- resolution № 325 “On order of registration of official observers from foreign states and international organisations on elections of deputies of the Verkhovna Rada of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea, local councils and village, town and city mayors”. The order set out the requirements for international observers at local elections, the procedure of registration, grounds for termination of their powers.
- resolution № 326 “On the forms of personal invitations to election of deputies of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea, local councils and village, town and city mayors”. Resolution approved the forms of personal invitations, which are to be produced by the State Voter Register agency, transferred to PECs and delivered to voters.
- resolution № 343 “On forms of voter lists at precincts and other election documents for preparation and conduct of voting at elections of deputies of the Verkhovna Rada of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea, local councils and village, town and city mayors”. This resolution set forms of provisional voter list at regular precinct, adjusted voter list at regular precinct, voter list at special precinct, extracts from the voter list to organise voting at place of voter's residence, acts of transfer provisional and adjusted voter list by bodies of the State Voter Register, acts of submission data on citizens of Ukraine who have the right to vote at local elections and will stay at in-patient health care facility on Election Day;
- resolution № 356 “On the order of dealing with complaints by election commissions for elections of deputies of the Verkhovna Rada of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea, local councils and village, town and city mayors”, which defines jurisdiction of election commissions to review appeals against decisions, acts or omissions related to the preparation and conduct of local elections, the requirements for registration of complaints and decisions on the results of their investigations;
- resolution № 357 “On forms of protocols of precinct election commission on vote counting at the polling station, protocols of territorial election commission on the recount of votes at a polling station and acts on issuing copies of protocols on vote counting at a polling station at election of deputies of the Verkhovna Rada of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea, local councils, village, town and city mayors”, which approves the forms of the PEC protocols on vote counting at polling station during election of deputies of the Verkhovna Rada of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea, local councils and village, town and city mayors, the forms of TEC protocols on vote recount at polling station, the forms of acts on issuing copies of protocols on vote counting at polling station.
The CEC also introduced changes to composition of some TECs, which will carry out the preparations for the local elections (Antratsit, Vasilkivs Izmail, Zhmerynka, Kremenchuk, Truskavets, Ladyzhyn, Kaneiv, Nizhyn, Pershotravensk, Odesa, Okhtyrka, Sumy, Fastiv city election commissions Valkiv, Zaporizhia, Kulykiv, Talniv, Tomashpil, Tiachiv, Chernivtsi district election commissions), also new members of Kyiv City and city district in Kyiv TECs are formed. The main reasons for changes in electoral commissions were filing applications for resignation by members of relevant commissions, revocation or (according to the new law on local elections) replacement commission members by subjects of making nominations to commissions. Changes of TEC members were made by the CEC in compliance with the provisions of the Law on Local Elections.
The CEC also provided non-governmental organisation UDAR with permit to have official observers during the early elections of Kyiv, Mykolaiv, Odesa, Sumy, Kherson, Cherkasy and Chernihiv city mayors, at early elections of Kyiv and Cherkasy city councils, at mid-term elections of deputies of Volyn and Cumy oblast councils on May 25, 2014 (resolution of the CEC № 323 of 18.04.2014), while permission to have observers on elections of Kyiv mayor and Kyiv city council to non-governmental organisation "Syla krainy" has been rejected due to the fact that the applying for permit to have official observers at the local elections came from the organisation late and violated deadlines (resolution of the CEC № 324 of 18.04.2014). Granting permission to have official observers at local elections was carried out by the CEC in compliance with requirements of the law.
3. General overview of pre-election situation in regions
In most regions where on 25 May 2014 early local elections to be held there are no significant activities of potential candidates, local party organisations and authorities towards preparation for this election. Exceptions are only Kyiv, Odesa, Cherkasy, Kherson and Chernivtsi (see more details below). Prominent features of the campaign are the loss of electoral support in several regions by the Party of Regions and increase of voter support to former opposition parties. The election campaign most actively is held in Kyiv and Odesa, although is some other cities, where special election to be held, there are beginning of activities on deploying local headquarters, spreading printed campaign materials, installing billboards. Activities of TECs and local authorities on preparation for the elections are not active enough; partly due to the simultaneous presidential and local elections and priority given by authorities to preparation for presidential elections. Below you may find an overview of the election situation in some regions of Ukraine.
The city of Kyiv
May 25, 2014 elections of Kyiv mayor and deputies of Kyiv City Council will be held in the city of Kyiv. Post of Kyiv mayor remains vacant since July 12, 2012, when the Kyiv City Council accepted the resignation L.Chernovetsky, while the term of powers of Kyiv city council finished in June 2013. Parliament failed to call elections in Kyiv for a long time (primarily due to countermeasures of the ruling majority in the Parliament). Finally, in February 2014 the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine adopted a decision to hold early elections in Kyiv on May 25, 2014.
We should mention that electoral mood in Kyiv have changed significantly for the past 6 years. Thus, some local politicians and parties that participated in elections to Kyiv City Council elections and Kyiv mayor in 2008 finally stopped their political activities (including L. Chernovetsky and his bloc), at the same time the level of electoral support of parties that have failed to pass the threshold in 2008 increased - for example, VO "Svoboda", which that time got only 2.08% of votes, at parliamentary elections in 2012 in Kyiv was supported by 17.33% of voters. Events of November 2013 - February 2014 caused more changes to electoral preferences of voters.
UDAR (with "Solidarity" of P.Poroshenko), "Batkivschyna", Radical Party, "Democratic Alliance", "European Party" will most likely participate in election of Kyiv City Council. Among potential candidates for post of Kyiv mayor an intention to stand for election was declared by Vitaliy Klitschko, L. Orobets, M. Katerynchuk, V. Bondarenko. It is likely that V. Klitschko will be nominated by UDAR party and supported by "Solidarity"; L. Orobets will be nominated from "Democratic Alliance" party; possible candidate from the "Batkivschyna" is V.Bondarenko; "European Party" will evidently nominate as candidate M. Katerynchuk. The latest survey on voter sentiment in Kyiv (on elections of Kyiv mayor) held on 22 - 28 March 2014 shows that Katerynchuk receives 12% O. Lyashko (8%), V.Bondarenko (8%). However, this data is hardly relevant today, as at the time of survey V. Klitschko planned to stand not for a post of Kyiv mayor but for the post of the head of state.
Election campaigning held more or less active only by some candidates for Kyiv mayor post and by some local organisations of parties. In particular, in Kyiv there are a large number of billboards of L. Orobets. Campaigning by candidates for mayor and candidates for deputy of the Kyiv city council in single-seat constituencies is also held with direct mailing of printed campaign materials. Gradually election campaign is getting started on the Internet: "Democratic Alliance" party started a special portal dedicated to elections in Kyiv ( http://vybory.dem-alliance.org/).
Kyiv city election commission (new composition of which was approved by the CEC) has started the registration of candidates for deputies of Kyiv City Council and candidates for the post of Kyiv mayor in terms required in the law. Besides, on April 23, 2014 Kyiv city election commission established 60 single-mandate majoritarian constituencies for the election of deputies of Kyiv City Council.
Election of the Mayor of Odessa was appointed on May 25, 2014. Party of Regions , VO "Batkivschyna" and UDAR are most likely to nominate candidates on this election. Self-nomination of candidates is also possible. Potential leaders of public support are Gennady Trukhanov (MP from the Party of Regions), Edward Hurwitz (MP from UDAR), and Svetlana Fabricant (MP from the Party of Regions). Gennady Chekita (deputy of Odessa City Council from "Batkivschyna", left the party in 2012) also has a certain electoral support.
No campaigning by local party organisations was registered, however, potential candidates for the post of Odessa Mayor are engaged in campaigning activities quite actively. Thus, a large number of billboards with various political advertising is placed in the city, in particular from S.Fabrykant and H.Chekita. Gennady Chekita and Gennady Trukhanov began to meet with voters. At the same time Gennady Trukhanov during the meetings promises to repair Fame Alley, which can be considered as indirect bribery of voters. Gennady Trukhanov placed a large number of tents around the city, in which his campaign is held and voters are offered to write "orders" to the candidate as to future city mayor. Potiticians (H.Trukhanov and H.Chekita) are also active in social networks. It is interesting that Edward Hurwitz gave only one uncritical interview, which can be called political advertising and is not declared as such. In general, the campaigning activities of potential candidates for the post of Odessa mayor are poor in content.
Election headquarters were deployed only by the candidates Edward Hurwitz, Gennady Chekity and Gennady Trukhanov. Campaign headquarters for other potential candidates are just in process of development.
There are almost no cases of unfair methods of political competition, except for the case of damage caused to several billboards of H.Trukhanov, installation of billboards that spoof the billboard of H.Chekita and some other rare cases.
Bodies of executive authorities and local self-governments are more focused on preparing for the presidential elections, rather than preparing for local elections. In particular, the polling stations (including special) are allocated, space for campaign materials is allocated. Odessa city election commission started active work since April 4, 2014 (schedule is defined and responsibilities are distributed among the commission members, the commission approved budget, the technical staff is also approved, etc.). However, since that time TEC meetings were not held and therefore no decisions were approved.
Election of Kherson city mayor is appointed on May 25, 2014. Kherson Mayor used to be Volodymyr Saldo but in 2012 he was elected for MP of Ukraine. Until February 2014 the mayor duties were performed by Zoya Berezhna, but in February 2014 the leader of the VO "Batkivschyna" Vladimir Mykolaenko was elected for secretary of Kherson city council; however his influence on the city council members is rather limited (deputies block sessions and staff decisions, etc.) Potential candidates for election of Kherson Mayor are V.Mykolayenko, S.Putilov (industrialist), S.Semenchev (former village head of Antoniska, against whom a criminal case was launched), and O.Ursulenko (deputy of Kherson City Council from «Front of Changes». K. Samoilyk and V.Saldo are also potential candidates, V.Saldo has good chance to be re-elected as a mayor in case he refuses from deputy's mandate and get nominated at local elections. The election campaign is relatively actively carried only by two potential candidates at election - by V.Mykolayenko and by S.Semenchev. No cases of unfair methods of political competition during preparation for early elections of Kherson Mayor were detected. Activities of Kherson City Election Commission on the preparation for the elections are not particularly active, but the TEC held the first meeting.
In Cherkasy oblast early election of 5 mayors (Cherkassy, Kaniv, Khristinivka, Korsun-Shevchenkisky, Kamyanka) and deputies of Cherkasy City Council will be held on May 25, 2014. After the events of November 2013 - February 2014 the Party of Regions essentially lost electoral support of voters within the region, while the rating of "Batkivschyna" significantly increased. UDAR and Svoboda, which also have a steady level of voter support, also gradually activate their activity. Solidarity, Radical Party and Right sector are being developed fast. The CPU rests on the remains of its electorate and does not pretend to increase it. The Party of Free Democrats exists only in Cherkasy and keeps rating only due to personal rating of the former Cherkassy mayor S.Odarych. Couple of branches of Hromodyanska Pozycia and SPU also exist and periodically activate their efforts in oblast. S.Odarych and M.Bulatetskyy have the highest level of electoral support among the potential candidates for the post of mayor of Cherkasy. On the early elections of deputies of Cherkasy City Council "Batkivschyna", "Svoboda", "Solidarity", UDAR and the Party of Free Democrats have a high chance to win and to get a significant level of representation in the City Council. On elections of most other city mayors to be held in May 25, 2014 there is no clear favourite of the race.
As of mid-April 2014 TEC which will hold early election on the territory of oblast, didn't receive costs from the State Budget for the elections. TEC generally started work and held the first meeting, while local authorities started equipping buildings of TEC for work. Besides funding, current problem of local elections is low awareness of commission members with the provisions of the new Law on Local Elections.
The election campaign is carried out more or less actively mainly in Сherkasy. The most active campaign events are conducted by S.Odarych, M.Bulatetskyy and A.Bondarenko. Their intention to participate in the election of Cherkasy City Council has announced the "Batkivschyna", "Free Democrats», UDAR and "Solidarity." The election campaign is held not in honest ways: M.Bulatetskyy places the outside political advertising under the slogan "We stopped Yanukovych. We will stop Odarych". The first cases of "black PR" against candidates were recorded in Cherkasy : leaflets "Top Secret" were distributed against the current deputies of Cherkasy City Council and potential candidates for election on May 25, 2014.
Election of Chernivtsi mayor was appointed on May 25, 2014 . Pre-election situation in the city is characterised by loss of electoral support for the Party of Regions and the potential increase of rating of former opposition parties. O.Kaspruk ( "Batkivschyna"), O.Kolomiyets (UDAR), N.Horuk ("Svoboda"), R.Tsaplyuk (local businessman), V.Myhaylishyn (former secretary of Chernivtsi city Council, "Ridne Misto") will most likely participate in election of Chernivtsi mayor. However campaigning activities are not actually started by local party organisations and potential candidates. There are no signs of election headquarters' work. Image billboards appeared in the city with the caption "Chernivtsi. Avtomaydan. Join us!!! Oleksiy Kolomyjec.” At the same time potential candidate O.Kolomiyets from UDAR denied relationship between the appearance of billboards and the start of his election campaign. April 15, 2014 a presentation of the public association "New Chernivtsi" was held, the head of association R.Tsaplyuk also participated in event. Chernivtsi city TEC does not show much activity towards preparation to the elections of Chernivtsi mayor, but April 5, 2014 it announced the beginning of election process at early elections of Chernivtsi mayor. Chernivtsi executive committee defined locations for placing campaign stands, which were installed near most polling stations, but the campaign materials have not been placed there yet.