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Long-term monitoring report on the Presidential election campaign

(February 14, 2019)


The Committee of Voters of Ukraine (CVU) published its latest findings and recommendations based on its long-term monitoring of the presidential elections occurring on the 31st of March in Ukraine.

1. According to the CVU, the current Law “On Elections of the President of Ukraine” in general allows to organize the due electoral process and to hold elections in accordance with international standards. At the same time, the Law has a number of technical flaws and is often not in the line with the latest legislative acts.

2. CVU believes that the current legislation on presidential election does not establish effective precautionary measures regarding the impact of large money on politics. In particular, the maximum limit of the presidential candidate’s election fund has not been set. Thus, politicians can spend on elections arbitrary amounts of money. Also there should be set a spending limit on political advertising (for example, not more than 50% of the cost of the election fund), which would facilitate more meaningful election campaigns.

3. One of the risks to the electoral process may be the appearance of a significant number of biased members of electoral commissions on the initiative of technical candidates. The law provides that each candidate a guaranteed right to include his candidate in commissions. The drawing of lots for candidates are not held, the upper limit of commission members is not set. Thus, the technical candidates will have as many representatives in the commissions as they submit, and the number of commissions themselves can be artificially inflated.

4. CVU in general positively estimate the activities of the CEC and the Manager of the State Register of Voters regarding the preparation and organization of the election. Over December-early February, the CEC adopted over 150 Decrees on the organization of elections, in particular the registration of presidential candidates. CVU believes that the registration process was mainly conducted in a non-conflict atmosphere and in accordance with the current legislation. The CEC has denied to register some the citizens as a candidate (24 persons as of February 5). However, according to the CVU, such decisions were evidence-based and comply with the current legislation.

5. CVU welcomes the CEC’s initiative to increase transparency in the electoral process by publishing full Candidate Financial Statements on the CEC website. At the same time, it is important for the CEC and the NAPC to carry out not only a technical analysis of the reports (whether report submitted timely, weather it corresponds the data from the banks, whether the contributions were legal, etc.), but also to make efforts to verify the completeness of the information in the reports. In particular, whether the information in the reports corresponds to the actual expenses of the candidates. According to the CVU, traditionally, the percentage of shadow spending in elections in Ukraine is high, but the identification of such irregularities is rare and does not have a significant consequence.

6. In the presidential elections of 2019, there is a record number of candidates (30 as of February 5) in the history of Ukraine. In total, 90 people submitted documents to the CEC. For comparison: in the presidential elections in 2014, 23 candidates were registered, in 2010 – 18, 2004 – 26, 1999 – 15. Some candidates run for the presidency in the previous elections. E.g., Oleksandr Moroz has been running in 1999, 2004, 2010 years. However, most of the 30 politicians have never run for President before.

7. CVU calls on the Verkhovna Rada to adopt legislative changes aimed at solving the problem of vote-buying. Parliament should consider draft law No. 8270, to increase penalties for the bribing of voters, as well as to provide law enforcement officers with additional tools for instituting effective criminal proceedings.

8. Of the 30 candidates, 14 are current MPs. 12 candidates are self-nominated, 18 were nominated by political parties. Among parties that have nominated candidates are: the political party “5.10”, Opposition Bloc – the party of peace and development, Civic Position, Volia, Public Movement “People’s Control “, Servant of the People, Social-Democratic Party, Socialist Party of Ukraine, Svoboda, Radical Party of Oleh Lyashko, Socialist Party of Olexander Moroz, Nashi, Samopomich, Osnova, All-Ukrainian Association “Batkivshchyna”, Ukrainian unity of patriots – UKROP, Vidrodzhenia (Revival). There are 353 political parties in Ukraine.

9. One of the issues of the election process is the unofficial start of the election campaign, which took place in May-June 2018 instead of January 2019, as it is stipulated by the Law. According to CVU, 17 political parties and potential presidential candidates conducted massive advertising campaigns that had signs of election campaigning. According to CVU, such actions of politicians violated one of the basic principles of the election, namely the principle of equality.

10. CVU notes that the representatives of political parties were actively involved in unofficial campaign. Thus, over the period of October-December, CVU registered 272 news on the websites of five parliamentary parties that have signs of indirect voter bribery. In particular, they referred to the distribution on behalf of political parties, their local branches or people’s deputies of goods for voters. According to the CVU, such activities were mentioned on websites of the BPP, Batkivshchyna and Opposition Bloc, People’s Front and the Radical Party of Oleh Lyashko.

11. According to CVU, the most widespread violation during January was the placement of illegal campaigning. In particular, the placement of campaign materials without initial data (information about the institution that made the printing, circulation, information about the persons responsible for the issue, customers of the relevant materials). Illegal campaigning took place in most regions of Ukraine and in Kyiv.

12. CVU encourages candidates to give up on campaigning in schools and kindergartens, as well as not to place photos of children in campaigning materials and official publications of parties.

13. CVU indicates that some of the presidential candidates have not opened election funds, but have been campaigning, which is a violation of the current law. Thus, according to CVU data as of January 25, election funds have formed only 5 out of 20 registered candidates.

14. CVU generally welcomes the work of the Ministry of Internal Affairs to prevent violations of electoral legislation, but calls on to refrain from political statements regarding the election campaign and to publish reasoned evidence of violations by the subjects of the electoral process. Also, CVU encourages presidential candidates to provide the appropriate evidence while informing about the violations, which will facilitate their investigation. According to CVU, candidates should refrain from excessively emotional and often unwarranted allegations of possible violations during the election process.

15. CVU encourages candidates to adhere to the Constitution of Ukraine and election legislation and not to disseminate materials that promote war, violence, inflame ethnic, racial, religious hatred, and violate human rights and freedoms.

16. A preliminary analysis of candidates’ election programs shows the predominantly low content of the campaign. Some candidates offer promises that are not in line with the authority of the President. CVU believes that candidates should have more balanced approach to their election promises, supporting their assertion by respective facts and financial calculations. Some candidates use in campaigning the topics that are contrary to fundamental human rights and are in contravention of Ukraine’s international obligations. In particular, the introduction of a death penalty in Ukraine. According to CVU, such promises can have serious reputational risks for the state and politicians should refrain from spreading them.

17. CVU notes that candidates mostly use weak content forms of election campaigning. Often, candidates use such forms of campaigning as publishing of political advertising in the printed and audiovisual media; distribution of election postcards, posters and other printed campaign materials; the placement of political advertising on the carriers of outdoor advertising. Instead, such forms of campaigning as the holding of public debates, discussions, roundtables, press conferences regarding the discussion of the provisions of election programs and the political activity of candidates for the Presidency are not used.

18. CVU draws attention to an abnormally large number of organizations that have received permission to monitor elections – 139 organizations. For comparison: the presidential election in 2014 was observed by only 10 organizations. Of these 139 organizations, 131 stated that they would be observing throughout Ukraine. At the same time, most of the registered organizations do not have experience of observation, and some of them (dozens of organizations) were registered only shortly before the election. Some organizations are related to certain political powers, which raises the question of the ability of such organizations to ensure truly independent and objective monitoring.

19. CVU encourages state authorities to make the necessary efforts to exercise the electoral rights of all categories of Ukrainian citizens, regardless of their place of residence. In particular, internally displaced persons and internal labour migrants who have the right to change the place of voting without changing the electoral address. Governmental bodies should facilitate the exercise of electoral rights of citizens through extensive awareness-raising work, as well as providing consulting and methodological support for submitting respective documents. CVU welcome the decision of the CEC to introduce a simplified procedure for changing of the place of voting for internally displaced persons. CVU also supports the publication on the website of the State Voter Register of information on the number of persons who have used the procedure of changing the place of voting without changing the electoral address.

20. CVU encourages state authorities to assist in the exercise of the electoral rights of military personnel and other persons involved in the Operation of the Joint Forces in the East of Ukraine. The Verkhovna Rada, in cooperation with the CEC and other state bodies, should consider introducing amendments to the Law “On Elections of the President of Ukraine” that would allow the election of military personnel and other persons involved in the Joint Forces Operation by the procedure of updated lists of voters (as provided for in the 2014 presidential elections).

For further details on these issues, please read the full report here:

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