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OSCE human rights chief urges Ukraine to safeguard previous achievements in holding democratic elections

KYIV, 18 November 2010 – During a visit to Kyiv today, Ambassador Janez Lenarcic, the Director of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), called on the Ukrainian authorities to safeguard and consolidate the improvements to the country’s electoral framework made in previous years.

Following a meeting with Foreign Minister Konstantyn Gryshchenko, Lenarcic welcomed the government’s intention to reform the election framework in line with international standards and the creation of a working group for this purpose. He thanked Gryshchenko for having invited ODIHR to contribute to this endeavour.

“It is crucial for the integrity and credibility of Ukraine’s electoral framework that the reform process takes place with the full participation of a wide range of political parties and civil society groups,” Lenarcic said.

He stressed that the importance of adopting the necessary changes with broad parliamentary support and well in advance of the next election to ensure a level playing field for all parties and provide sufficient time for organizational preparations.

Lenarcic highlighted recommendations made by ODIHR after previous elections in Ukraine and noted that the reform of the election legislation provides a good opportunity to address outstanding concerns.

This includes provisions ensuring a balanced composition of election commissions and establishing clear criteria for selecting commission members. There also is a need to codify the right to stand as an independent candidate, as called for by OSCE commitments.

In addition, it is important that candidates have sufficient opportunity to correct minor errors in their applications to avoid deregistration based on technicalities. Once registered, candidates should not be deregistered except by court decision and only for serious offences.

ODIHR has also recommended that election results be published by polling station to enhance the transparency of the tabulation process and make it easier for parties and observers to check the accuracy of results. The establishment of an independent public broadcaster with sustainable funding could help improving the media environment and ensure voters have access to objective and unbiased information about candidates.

Lenarcic welcomed amendments to the local election law allowing domestic civil society observers to be accredited, and stressed the importance of domestic observers for transparency and citizen involvement also during parliamentary and presidential elections.

ODIHR was invited by the Ukrainian authorities to monitor the 31 October local elections but was not in a position to send an observation mission due to the timing of the invitation and resource constraints. The Office did, however, send a small expert team as part of ongoing efforts to support the further improvement of Ukraine’s electoral framework.

As part of his visit to Ukraine, the ODIHR Director will also address the European Youth Forum’s 2010 General Assembly.

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