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OPORA’s observation of the Presidential election campaign in Ukraine

(February 14, 2019)


On 31 December 2018, presidential election campaign has official started in Ukraine. Registration of candidates and campaigning are main stages of the race in January 2019. Observers of Civil Network OPORA continued to analyze situation with campaign in regions, activities of the Central Election Commission, and maintained communication with law-enforcement bodies, aimed to prevent and record violations of electoral legislation.

OPORA has been recording in the last few months wide-scale early campaigning efforts organized by over ten potential candidates. Legal uncertainty about the character of such campaigning, as well as no legal mechanisms to control sticking to rules of de-facto campaigning activities, particularly expenses of potential candidates, are two key problems in early campaigning. Most of registered candidates have failed to open electoral fund accounts in time, while organizing wide-scale campaigning events. Thus, we may affirm there is a problem of shadow campaign financing during the official election process.

The Central Election Commission has organized the registration of candidates for the President (which is still open) in line with electoral legislation, preventing possible conflicts and avoiding politically motivated decisions on this stage of election process. All the candidates had an opportunity for realization of passive electoral right, and denials were justified.

State Voter Register administration body was was functioning openly during the reporting period. It informed the voters and promptly updated the data on current number of voters, particularly statistics on a temporary change of voting location without changing an election address.

Law-enforcement bodies pay close attention to the election process and are open to cooperation with civic observers. Such approach gives us a chance to systematically detect electoral violations and creates preconditions for efficient prevention and counteraction against potential electoral crimes.

The CEC gave 129 non-governmental organizations, which legally applied for realization of civic observation, permits to observe the regular election of the President of Ukraine. At the same time, an unprecedentedly big number of non-governmental organizations, registered for the observation, creates administrative complications, and shows there is a hazard of politically motivated interference in the election process.

According to OPORA’s observation, over twenty individuals (28) have started campaigning in January 2019. However, most of them were not officially registered as candidates when they organized most of the events. Thus, Petro Poroshenko and Yuliia Tymoshenko are absolute leaders by the scale and intensity of campaigning. Campaigns of Oleh Liashko and Andrii Sadovyi were intense as well, but covered less territories. Political outdoor advertising is still the most popular type of campaigning among candidates. At the same time, participation in public events and organization of street actions were the least popular ones among candidates.

The number of regional visits has decreased in January, and Petro Poroshenko (visited 7 regions) with Ruslan Koshulynskyi (visited 6 regions) are still leading by the number of visited regions and held events. However, the geography of visits has significantly narrowed in January. Thus, the biggest number of visits was detected in Zhytomyr and Tscherkassy oblasts (visited by 4 candidates each). Major legitimacy risks, brought by regional visits of candidates, are still the same: pre-electoral charity and participation of public officials in events organized by candidates.

Dissemination of printed campaign materials without an imprint and campaign financing from other sources than candidate’s electoral fund account, are the most widespread violations in terms of official start of election. The key problem in assessment of adherence to campaigning rules was the fact that individuals, who are campaigning but haven’t registered as candidates yet, are not subject to them. Nevertheless, only in January 2019, OPORA’s observers have sent 239 appeals and statements to territorial subdivisions of the National Police of Ukraine concerning violation of legislative requirements by candidates for the President. Most of them the incidents involving dissemination of printed campaign materials without an imprint concerned campaigning of Andrii Sadovyi and Anatolii Hrytsenko.

Unauthorized collection of personal data from Ukrainian citizens as a part of campaigning for the certain candidates shows there is unfair play in their plans, bringing real risks of illegal influence on the voting. Thus, observers noticed that personal data was collected from voters as a part of inquiry realized in the interests of potential candidate for the President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko, and as a part of subscription to a party newspaper by the Radical Party of Oleh Liashko. OPORA’s observers also detected involvement of employees of state institutions and organizations in realization of similar inquiries and other campaigning activities (in Khmelnytskyi, Lwiw, and Odessa oblasts). Such activities bring real hazards and may be classified as misuse of institutional administrative resource. Other inadmissible incidents involving participation of officials and employees of local executive and self-government bodies in public activities in support of the certain candidates, detected by OPORA in Dnipropetrovsk, Charkiw, Zakarpattia, Khmelnytskyi, and Ivano-Frankivsk oblasts, are against the principle of political impartiality of public officials.


According to OPORA’s data, the Central Election Commission has organized registration of candidates for the President of Ukraine in a proper and conflict-free manner.

We may state based on observation results of the candidate registration process that the CEC puts passive electoral rights of candidates as a priority when considering problematic registration documents. Such registration strategy of the CEC, we believe, is in line with standards of democratic elections and allows to guarantee realization of passive electoral right by citizens.

As of 30 January 2019, the CEC has registered 26 candidates for the President of Ukraine, and 12 individuals were denied registration. Thus, the CEC still has registration documents from 13 potential candidates to consider, and submission of documents is open till 3 February inclusive. Based on the preliminary assessments made by OPORA, which are going to be published when the registration of candidates finishes, the CEC had solid grounds to reject registration documents from 12 individuals. Thus, either documents had inconsistencies, or potential candidates failed to pay the monetary pledge.

At the moment of writing this report, the number of registered candidates is already above the number of candidates for the President of Ukraine in 2014 early election (23 persons), 2010 regular election (18 persons), and 1999 regular election (15 persons). Taking into consideration the right of candidates to submit nominees for DEC and PEC members and no restrictions on the maximum membership of these commissions, OPORA calls on each electoral subject to guarantee conscientious administration of elections at the level of oblasts and election precincts. Professionalism and competence of these commission members, representing candidates for the President of Ukraine, is a foundation for stable functioning of DECs and PECs during this regular presidential election. Thus, deployment of incompetent representatives to the membership of election commissions may become a deliberately used technology aimed at destabilization of the election process.

OPORA calls on candidates for the President of Ukraine and mass media to refrain from any statements discrediting activities of the State Register of Voters. Dissemination of non-substantiated information about the increase in the number of voters in Ukraine in 2014-2019 and violation of the update procedure by the State Register of Voters, undermines the public trust in electoral process as a whole. The organization believes there are no facts proving such allegations today.

As of 31 December 2018, 35 million 602 thousand 855 voters were included in the State Voter Register. This number includes the voters whose election addresses belong to temporarily occupied territories of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea, the city of Sevastopol, Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts. This number also includes 985 thousand 375 voters, included in the Register with a mark “deregistered”. Thus, the number of voters on the election day (31 March 2019) will include all the citizens, whose electoral addresses lay within state-controlled territories. Individuals, whose election addresses are within temporarily occupied territories, will not be included in voter lists if they don’t follow the procedure for a temporary change of voting location without changing of an election address. This category of citizens includes both living on temporarily occupied territories and internally displaced persons. According to the current legislation, citizens with a mark “deregistered” in the State Voter Register are not going to be included in voter lists. Thus, the following citizens will b authorized to participate in regular election of the President of Ukraine: voters whose electoral addresses lay within state-controlled territories and voters who live on temporarily occupied territories or belong to internally displaced persons but have temporarily changed their voting location without changing of the election address. For example, there were 35 million 96 thousand voters included in voter lists for precincts participating in 2014 early election of the President of Ukraine.

OPORA has noticed that electoral subjects are concerned about possible increase in the number of citizens, who will stay outside their electoral process on the election day and won’t use the procedure for a temporary change of voting location. These negative expectations are related to the processes of internal and external labor migration and possible misuse of ballot papers by PEC members working in conspiracy with unfair electoral stakeholders.

Some citizens have informed OPORA’s observers personally about possible enlisting of electoral addresses, where citizens are permanently absent, by unknown persons. Taking into consideration these circumstances, OPORA welcomes a public statement of MIA of Ukraine concerning its readiness to counteract against any attempts of receiving ballot papers instead of other voters, who are absent from their election addresses on the election day. This perspective of counteraction against violations may become one of the top-priority ones for observers from candidates for the President of Ukraine and non-governmental organizations.

OPORA welcomes efforts of the State Voter Register administration body in prompt publication of statistics on a temporary change of voting location without changing of an election address. This will facilitate realization of information and awareness campaigns for the voters, who live outside of their election addresses. It would be also reasonable if the CEC would continue the dialog with political parties represented in the Parliament concerning an improvement of the procedure for public oversight of the State Register of Voters’ maintenance.

Taking into consideration the need to guarantee electoral rights of citizens, the CEC, central and local authorities, and non-governmental organizations should strengthen and coordinate their efforts aimed to inform the citizens about an opportunity to temporarily change a voting location without changing of an election address.


As of January, 29, 2019, the National Police of Ukraine is investigating 8 criminal proceedings related to the election process. It is supported by the data published by the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Ukraine. One of the proceedings is related to the vote-buying (Art. 160 of the Criminal code of Ukraine), one case for impeding lawful activities of journalists (Article 171 of the CC), and one for abuse of power of official position (Art. 365 of the CC).  Four criminal cases are related to hooliganism (Art. 296 of the CC).

According to the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Ukraine, with the launch of electoral process, 73 administrative offense protocols were filed. In total, the National Police of Ukraine in all regions of Ukraine received 357 reports on electoral fraud.

OPORA Civic Network recognizes the due level of communication of the organization’s observers with the management and with the territorial units of the National Police of Ukraine and the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Ukraine. Systemic interaction between the non-affiliated observers and the representatives of law-enforcement agencies creates preconditions to enhance measures to counteract election fraud.

OPORA calls the law-enforcement bodies to provide for politically unbiased investigation of identified election fraud.

CEC granted permit to 129 CSOs to hold observations during the upcoming Presidential elections.


As of January, 29, 2019, the CEC granted the permit to conduct observations during the upcoming Ukrainian presidential election to 129 civil society organizations. According to the Election Calendar, CSOs had an opportunity to apply for the CEC to ask for permission to have official observers before January, 29. The number of CSOs planning to do the observation has significantly increased as compared to previous general elections. During the early presidential election in 2014, a permit was granted for observations to 10 civil society organizations, during the 2014 early parliamentary elections – to 37 CSOs, during the interim elections of the people’s deputies of Ukraine on July, 17, 2016 (in 7 districts) – 19, at the regular 2012 elections of the people’s deputies of Ukraine 2012 року – 68.

According to OPORA’s provisional estimates, a significant increase in the number of CSOs in the area of election observation is partly related to the activities of electoral bodies of the Ukrainian presidential candidates. The use of non-governmental organizations as a legal form of conducting a politically motivated observation creates prospective threats for social legitimacy of the results of the party non-affiliated monitoring institutions.


In January, the campaigning activities of the candidates was less intense as compared to the previous period which preceded the official start of the electoral process. Political advertising on the outdoor media is the only means widely used by all registered and non-registered candidates. However, other forms of campaigning activities in January, 2019, were less used. In particular, the number has dropped for street activities and public events as part of visits of candidates to the regions of Ukraine, and a number of campaigning tents has decreased.   

The campaigning was unfolded in January by 28 persons – both the not yet registered candidates, or persons who do not intend to run for presidency (Arseniy Yatseniuk is the most active), and those who submitted their documents to the CEC in the last week of the month only (Yuliya Tymoshenko, Oleksandr Vilkul, Dmytro Dobrodomov, Ruslan Koshulynskyi, Oleh Liashko). In fact, most of campaigning activities recorded over the last month by OPORA observers were not funded from the candidates electoral funds, and were not under public control in any way. 

Leaders in the scale of campaigning in January are Petro Poroshenko  and Yuliya Tymoshenko

The absolute leaders in the scale of campaigning in January are Petro Poroshenko  and Yuliya Tymoshenko (all forms of campaigning covered all regions). A slightly less expanded but equally comprehensive and intense were the campaigning efforts of Oleh Liashko and Andriy Sadovyi. Instead, Anatoliy Hrytsenko and Volodymyr Zelenskyi were selectively using different forms of campaigning, and did not conduct the equally large scale activities in different regions of Ukraine. Oleksandr Shevchenko and Ruslan Koshulynskyi have active campaigning events, such as in the component of outdoor advertising. However, the first candidate focuses rather on media campaigning, while the latter, is much more active in holding public events. Campaigns of other active candidates (Oleksandr Vilkul, Yuriy Boyko, Serhiy Kaplin) were not of the general national scale in January, but rather had a regional focus. The candidates from the registered list who did not run any large scale campaigning events were Vitaliy Skotsyk, Roman Nasirov, Oleksandr Moroz, Arkadiy Kornatskyi, and Oleksandr Danyliuk.

One of the peculiarities of campaigning in January was its centralized nature, when the local electoral offices were least engaged into any campaigning activities. The format and the contents of the national campaigns of candidates (prospective candidates) did not have any expressed regional peculiarities. Instead, the electoral teams on the regional level were engaged in the search and selection of candidates for district and polling station commissions. The campaigning activities are unevenly distributed throughout the regional administrative units while focusing on the region capitals rather. On the level of districts, campaigning of local teams of candidates and of parties is not significant or not available at all.

Campaigning on outdoor advertising media is still the most widespread method of campaigning among candidates. Almost all of the registered candidates place their political advertising on outdoor media. The unparalleled leaders who use the advertising on bill boards and city lights on a mass scale are Andriy Sadovyi, Petro Poroshenko, Anatoliy Hrytsenko, Oleh Liashko, Yuliya Tymoshenko, and Volodymyr Zelenskyi. The leader of the non-registered candidates, except for Petro Poroshenko, is Arseniy Yatseniuk, whose campaigning activities are rather more oriented on the parliamentary, not on the presidential election.  

The campaigns to disseminate printed materials were took the full swing with 12 persons, including politicians who do not intend to run for presidency or those who have not registered yet (Petro Poroshenko, Arseniy Yatseniuk). At the same time, this form of campaigning is not used by Volodymyr Zelenskyi and Valentyn Nalyvaychenko, the most active candidates in other campaigning formats. Leaders in dissemination of printed campaigning materials in January, 2019, are Andriy Sadovyi (mass dissemination recorded in 21 regions), Yuliya Tymoshenko (20 regions), and Oleh Liashko (19 regions). Dissemination of such materials (party newspapers, calendars, information brochures) is mostly taking place during public events and in crowded places, and also via the network of street tents. Printed materials most often serve not only for political advertising of the candidates themselves, but also to promote the parties that the candidates and prospective candidates are affiliated with (predominantly, the “People’s Front,” “Batkivshchyna”, “Svoboda”, “Samopomich”).  


Over 20 persons are holding active campaigning activities in the context of the presidential campaign, using regional printed media. The largest scale campaigning in that respect are those by Petro Poroshenko (mass placement in 24 regions), Yuliya Tymoshenko (23 regions), and Oleh Liashko (20 regions). Among the non-registered prospective candidates as of January, 28, except for Petro Poroshenko, the most active actor is Serhiy Taruta (mass placement of campaigning in printed media of five regions).

Online media and social media are used for campaigning almost by all registered candidates. However, the most active actors in this component of campaigning are the six registered presidential candidates (Yuliya Tymoshenko, Oleh Liashko, Anatoliy Hrytsenko, Andriy Sadovyi, Volodymyr Zelenskyi) and Petro Poroshenko, who are far ahead of the others. 

In January, 2019, about half of the candidates (14 persons) were massively using regional audiovisual media for campaigning. Leaders in placing campaigning on TV and radio are Petro Poroshenko (mass placement in 20 regions), Yuliya Tymoshenko (17 regions), and Oleh Liashko (15 regions). In terms of the content of reports, there has been increased number of messages on program activities of candidates, the process of their nomination, and registration. The same as in the previous reporting period, regional audiovisual media were largely covering visits of candidates. A large part of campaigning content was about congratulating candidates (prospective candidates) on festive occasions and memorable events.

The least widespread form of campaigning of candidates in the first month of the election campaign was to run street events – 13 persons only were engaged in such activities. The largest scale public events and street activities in terms of geography were held by Petro Poroshenko and Andriy Sadovyi (in 12 regions), as well as by Oleh Liashko (in 10 regions). Not all candidates who lead in the use of other forms of campaigning were active in street activities in January. In particular, it refers to Volodymyr Zelenskyi. Election team of Petro Poroshenko (who was not in the status of the registered candidate at the time) organized the national survey which is a de facto form of street campaigning (the door-to-door campaigning). Such activities engaged on the paid basis not only the supporters of the candidate or neutral persons but also the employees of budget institutions. Such activities show the unlawful spending of electoral funds (before the electoral fund was established), and also bear indications of abuse of administrative resource.


With the official start of election campaign, there has decreased a number of visits by candidates and prospective candidates to different regions of Ukraine. As of January, 29, OPORA observers recorded 56 regional visits. The area covered by such activities is usually limited to the regions adjacent to Kyiv region. The most frequently visited regions in January were Tscherkassy and Zhytomyr regions. The regions were visited by four presidential candidates each. Zaporizhia, Kyiv, Poltava, and Dnipropetrovsk regions were visited by three candidates each (prospective candidates). At the same time, the candidates ignored three western regions of Ukraine with their visits (Transcarpathia, Lwiw, and Chernivtsi), as well as Kherson, Mykolayiv, and Khmelnytskyi.

The largest number of regions (7 regions) in January, 2019, were visited by Petro Poroshenko who did not have a status of the registered presidential candidate ta the moment of visits. Ruslan Koshulynskyi started being proactive in his campaigning activities in the second half of the month who visited 6 regions in total. Oleksandr Vilkul had visits to 5 regions over the same period. In total, 14 candidates had regional visits with the aim of campaigning over the last month. Oleksandr Shevchenko did not have any visits to the regions even though he was active in this component of early campaigning in December. This format of interacting with voters was not used by Volodymyr Zelenskyi. During the month, Yuliya Tymoshenko did not have any regional visits but on January, 29, she started her all-Ukrainian campaigning tour.

As part of the monitoring of regional activities of candidates (prospective candidates) OPORA also conducted a detailed analysis of the geography of visits within regions, as well as the intensity of public events held by candidates. During their visits, the largest number of settlements (22) was included by Petro Poroshenko, and also there is another leader – Ruslan Koshulynskyi (16 settlements visited). The same two politicians have the largest number of events held during the regional visits – 32 and 22, respectively. It shall be reminded that in December, the situation with the distribution of leaders in the number of visits, events, and settlements visited was the same.

During the monitoring of regional visits of the election actors (and prospective candidates), observers identified 10 cases when they handed out goods to citizens, either on their own behalf, or on behalf of the party. The cohort also includes cases of having political leaders participating in official presentations of goods procured at the budget expense. Most often, the format of campaigning was used by Oleh Liashko (4 episodes) and by Petro Poroshenko (3 episodes).

During his visits in the regions, Oleh Liashko offered charitable support mostly to social care institutions and establishments. In particular, he presented the presents to the team of the kindergarten in Balakleya amalgamated hromada (Tscherkassy region) and to the children in Zhytomyr Center of Social and Psychological Rehabilitation.

Charitable activities of the candidate representing the “Svoboda” all-Ukrainian Union Ruslan Koshulynskyi, as part of his presidential campaigning, took place in the format of offering assistance to the military servicemen (for example, in the town of Severodonetsk, the candidate publicly handed out medications for the military hospital).

The current President of Ukraine, during his visits to promote autocephaly to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, had had episodes of electoral charities (such as he publicly presented watches to the soldiers staying in Rivne regional Hospital of war Veterans, and also presented sports equipment to children in Zhytomyr region).


In January 2019, a large part of active participants for the Presidential elections in Ukraine did not yet have an official candidate status but still conducted de facto campaigning and/or were training their teams to engage in the campaigning. Therefore, legal assessment of negative signs of de facto early campaigning of prospective candidates was complicated to manage. The Law of Ukraine “On Election of the President of Ukraine” establishes a set of restrictions for campaigning but they only apply to the candidates for the position of the Head of State registered by the CEC. However, the complexity of legal response to the de facto violation committed by a prospective subject of electoral process should not allow for the ignorance of incompliance with the democratic elections standards.

In the first month of the election process, the most frequent breach on the law was production and dissemination of printed materials for campaigning with no source data thereon, or funding of the campaign from sources other than a candidate’s election fund. The large scale of cases was related to the following two key factors: materials of early campaigning of candidates have not been changed upon their official registration, or new campaigning materials were produced and disseminated with no source data thereon, and before the candidate officially opened the election fund.

The Law of Ukraine “On Election of the President of Ukraine” obliges a Presidential candidate to cover the campaigning costs solely from the election funds accounts. That is why placement of early campaigning materials upon the candidate’s registration or de facto funding of campaigning expenses before the opening of the election fund is a direct violation of the law. At this junction, the CCE adopted an important decision to file a request to the National Police of Ukraine to verify the legal compliance of the funding for production of printed campaigning materials of the Ukrainian presidential candidate Ihor Shevchenko.

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