Publication

Observance of electoral rights of citizens

Review was prepared by Dementii Bielyi.

Local elections in 2015 were held in difficult conditions. Antiterrorist operation continues and in country and part of its territory is still occupied.

Because of security problems in 122 towns in Lugansk and Donetsk regions that are located close to boundary line with occupying forces, the elections were canceled. As a result, near 525 voters were unable to choose their local authorities. Another 1.46 million of internally displaced persons lost opportunity to take part in voting in the communities where they lived, because confirmation of the right to vote is the registration of residence and home address of the voter. Almost 13 million of citizens who do not reside at the place of permanent registration face with such problems.

10,051 city, town and village heads and 10,562 deputies of local councils were elected. Most elections were peaceful. Observers noted the absence of systematic intervention of administrative resources and recorded the minimum level of electoral rights violations.

There is still a significant level of shadow financing of election campaigns and indirect bribery of voters. Some decisions of the territorial election commissions were politically motivated and violated the equal rights of subjects of electoral process.

Some violations can be explained by low level of political culture, unsatisfactory level of financial and logistical support and unpreparedness of election commission members.

Observers note the appropriate level of response of law enforcement bodies to reports of electoral violations.

Increased court fee had a negative impact on the opportunity of judicial remedy of election process participants.

Most of the last year recommendations about human rights activists were not followed. In particular, MPs actually slow down the election reform. Constant change of electoral legislation had a negative influence on the quality of elections.

Rights of citizens to referendum are completely ignored, and the law on local referendum was not adopted this year, and some issues that were earlier resolved through local referendums, were transferred to the authority of deputies.

One of the few last year recommendations of human rights activists that was followed was wide training of officers of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Ukraine the day before elections, it is increased their competence in electoral matters.

The following may be noted among the unfulfilled recommendations:

  1. The electoral legislation was not unified. Partly positive step is the preparation of the draft Election code. Two drafts codes were registered in Verkhovna Rad as of November.
  2. Voting rights for internally displaced persons (IDPs) were not ensured, although in 2014 MPs guaranteed participation of IDPs in local elections.
  3. Effective system of control over the formation and use of election funds of candidates and monitoring of shadow costs in the electoral process was not introduced. The shadow finance of election campaign was one of the significant problems in the last election.
  4. The staff of the Central Election Commission (CEC) was not renewed, although term of participation in the Commission for majority of its members has expired. The society expects renewal of the CEC and appointment of independent experts on election law.
  5. A major problem is system of election commission formation. Due to the constant rotations training of education commission members is leveled. This leads to a large number of violations of electoral rights of citizens.
  6. In 2015 the law on local referendum was not adopted and the law on national referendum remained unchanged. Although several drafts were prepared once again.
  7. The vast majority of criminal cases initiated upon the results of elections in 2014, have not reached the courts.

The instability of electoral legislation is one of chronic problems and violation of international standards. In particular, the Code of good practice in electoral matters provides that “the basic elements of electoral law, including the electoral system, composition of election commissions and defining the boundaries of electoral districts shall be reviewed no later than a year before the election.” [1] The law on local elections was adopted by Verkhovna Rada on July 14 – less than four months before the election.

The main novels of the new law was the introduction of simultaneous use of three electoral systems, raising the threshold for political parties to 5%, limiting the right to participate in the election for independent candidates, significant reduction of rights of observers, complications of voters’ access to information about candidates, prohibition to include voters in voter lists on election day even under court resolution. The problem of participation of internally displaced persons in voting was not decided.

The introduction of gender quota – representation of 30% of persons of other gender in party lists was among the positive points, but the Law has not provided any penalties for non-compliance of this provision.

Part of election procedures was not clearly prescribed, and, as a result, public observers recorded numerous cases of different application of the Law of Ukraine “On Local Elections” in similar situations that does not promote the compliance with appropriate standards of electoral process[2].

According to International election observation mission in the Law on local elections there is not enough legal certainty regarding registration of candidates, rules for election campaign running and financing, resolution of electoral disputes and regulation of activities of the media. A number of previous recommendations from OSCE/ODIHR and the Venice Commission have not been taken into account. The legal framework does not comply with some commitments to OSCE and the Council of Europe.[3]

Despite of all shortcomings, the electoral legislation, according to public observers, allowed to hold the elections in compliance with most international electoral standards.[4]

 

Local elections

The election process was open and transparent. This was promoted by activities of both law enforcement agencies and public observers.

All reports on electoral conflicts and response to them by the police are available on-line on interactive map that was placed on the official website of the MIA. Unlike previous election campaigns, this violations map was promptly replenished. Totally, police recorded 8236 reports.[5]

Local observers also recorded violations online. “Opora” civic network recorded 1547 violations on its traditional observation map.[6]

Rating of violations was led by illegal agitation (51%), direct and indirect bribery of voters (21.8%) and violations of electoral procedures by election commissions (14.4%). This trio made up 87.2% of all violations.

The system of these violations differs from violations recorded by public observers at the elections in times of V. Yanukovych in 2010-2013. We see that the facts of use of administrative resources in favor of certain parties and candidates, criminal interference in the electoral process, system interference to opposition – all these violations are gradually going to past.

The nature of violations is also changing. For example, the greatest displays of administrative resources this year were associated not with coercion of subordinates or organization of indirect bribery, but with agitation.

The most significant violations were unequal application of the law upon registration of candidates, non-transparent financing of the election process subjects, violation of freedom of voter opinion formation through indirect bribery and violation of electoral rights through the politicization of electoral commissions or their low level of training.

 

Recommendations[7]

  1. Consider during the change in the election legislation the recommendations of international organizations and human rights organizations that were provided in previous years.
  2. Adopt the Election code no later than in October 2016. Involve the wide range of public to a public discussion. Take into account:
  • regulation of political and electoral agitation in order to prevent shadow finance;
  • information support of electoral process. In particular, provide submitting political programs by local party organizations and candidates during registration. It is also necessary to provide information about the candidates at voting stations on election day;
  • professional training of election commission members and improving the independent status of commission members;
  • provide more clear electoral procedures and unambiguous grounds, especially during failure in registration;
  1. Verkhovna Rada shall adopt amendments to the current legislation, taking into account changes that are aimed at solving the problem of bribery. It is necessary to agree upon the notion of bribing voters in the Criminal Code and electoral legislation, providing definitions of indirect types of bribery of voters.
  2. Continue measures to create equal opportunities for women and men, including entering noncompliance with gender quota requirements to the list of grounds for refusal of registration in candidate list.
  3. Reduce the amount of court fee for submitting administrative non-property claims.
  4. Courts and election commissions shall analyze the practice of legislation application at the next local elections in 2015 in order to unify approaches to the application of electoral legislation.

[1]      The Code of good practice in electoral matters. Guidelines and explanatory report, approved by the Venice Commission at 52nd session (Venice, October 18-19, 2002). Brochure – P. 9. Code text located at: http://www.venice.coe.int/webforms/documents/default.aspx?pdffile=CDL-AD%282002%29023rev-ukr

[2]     See more: Preliminary findings of “Opora” CN on the electoral process in the local elections October 25, 2015 – October 23, 2015 [electronic resource] Access: http://www.oporaua.org/vybory/zvity/9538-zvit-poperedni-vysnovky-opory-shchodo-vyborchogo-procesu-na-miscevyh-vyborah-25-zhovtnja-2015

[3]     The statement on previous findings and results of International election observation missions in Ukraine October 25, 2015 – P. 5. All reports and Mission Statements can be found at the Mission page: http://www.osce.org/odihr/elections/ukraine/177906

[4]     Report No. 1 of CVU on the results of long-term observation for the period September 5 – September 28, 2015 [electronic resource] access: http://cvu.org.ua/nodes/view/type:news/slug:1-5-28

[5]      Calculation of messages when preparing the review was conducted from 2 September to 17 November. Among 8236 messages recorded, 214 have elements of administrative violations, 807 – elements of crime. 453 of these events related to elements of electoral crimes. See a detailed map that was created on the official website of the MIA. http://elections.mvs.gov.ua/reports/index/?s=1440028800&e=1448582399&z=6&i=day

[6]      See: http://map.oporaua.org/

[7] Under reports of CVU and “Opora” CN

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