OPORA's observation of the Presidential election campaign in Ukraine
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.
INTERIM RESULTS OF REGISTRATION OF CANDIDATES FOR THE PRESIDENT OF UKRAINE AND ACTIVITIES OF THE STATE VOTER REGISTER
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.
ACTIVITIES OF LAW-ENFORCEMENT AUTHORITIES DURING THE ELECTION PROCESS
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.
ACTIVITIES OF CIVIL SOCIETY ORGANIZATIONS ENGAGED IN OBSERVATION DURING 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.
CAMPAIGNING ACTIVITIES OF PROSPECTIVE AND REGISTERED PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES
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.
REGIONAL VISITS OF CANDIDATES AND CHARITABLE ACTIVITIES
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).
ELECTORAL FRAUD INCIDENTS WITH SIGNS OF BREACH OF LEGAL REQUIREMENTS OF UKRAINE AND STANDARDS OF ELECTORAL PROCESS
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.
According to recent reports, in January 2019, OPORA observers submitted 239 requests and reports to the local offices of the National Police of Ukraine on the presidential candidates’ violation of the law. Vast majority of them were about dissemination of printed materials with no data on the printing company, their circulation, persons in charge of the release, or commissioner for the materials
Local organizations of political parties and election facilities of presidential candidates combined campaigning activities with collection of personal data from citizens (“Solidarity” Block of Petro Poroshenko,” Oleh Liashko Radical Party, “Civil Position,” “Self-Reliance” Union). The largest scale of personal data collection was recorded during the polling of voters in the interests of a prospective presidential candidate Petro Poroshenko. At the same time, Oleh Liashko Radical Party accumulated the data on citizens in order to file the subscription for the party newspaper.
The practices of personal data collection from citizens, according to OPORA monitoring findings, included cases of violating or shortfalls of the special law. There were cases recorded when campaigners failed to obtain consent for personal data processing, while the objectives to collect and process the data were not always explained or made clear to citizens. It is apparent that it is impossible to effectively control the actual use of personal data of citizens collected by the candidates’ organizations. The problem includes, among other things, the identified cases when local candidate teams received copies of passports of citizens of Ukraine who either engaged into campaigning, or were common voters. The facts took place during the unfolding of the campaigners’ network to conduct the polling of voters in the interests of a prospective presidential candidate Petro Poroshenko (Yuzhnoukrayinsk, Mykolayiv region).
Civil Network OPORA addressed the Human Rights Ombudsman at Verkhovna Rada Ludmyla Denisova to request for checking the cases collected by observers on breach of the law on personal data protection. On the other hand, voters shall avoid giving their personal data to third persons if they fail to understand the objective for their collection, the term of storing them, or the forms of using the data.
The uncontrolled process of collection, processing and storing of personal data of citizens offers practical opportunities for unlawful influence on the will of voters (vote-buying, misleading, pressurizing, etc.).
Cases with Signs of Abuse of Administrative Resources in the Election Process
During the reporting period, OPORA observers recorded a number of cases with signs of abuse of administrative resources in favour of the electoral interests of certain registered and unregistered candidates. The identified cases require due response from the law-enforcement agencies, on the level of internal response procedures within the authorities, and on the level of social and political discussion. Effective response from the law-enforcement system as combined with the public being not receptive to cases of abuse of administrative resources would allow avoiding the scenario of mass spread of such kind of abuse during the active phase of election campaign. Special attention shall be focused on electoral fraud cases with signs of impeding the free expression of will of voters through coercion or threat.
The Laws of Ukraine “On Election of the President of Ukraine” and “On Public Service”, and other regulatory acts are based on the principle of equal voting rights and non-interference of public officials and civil servants into political and election process. In addition to limitation for officials of different levels set in the election law, the Law of Ukraine “On Public Service” directly states the inadmissibility of having political views influencing the acts and decisions of a civil servant, the need to avoid showing their own political views when in office. Criminal Code of Ukraine provides for liability for a public official who would abuse his/her official position and interfere with the operations of election commission through illegal demand or order aimed at exerting influence on the decision of the election commission. Illegal acts of public officials inhibiting free expression of will for the voters through coercion or deceit equally falls under the general breach of the Criminal Code provisions common for all subjects.
The laws of Ukraine comply with basic international documents on democratic standards for elections. In particular, The Code of Good Practice in Electoral Matters of Venice Commission relates the principles of equality of opportunities and free expression with the unbiased attitude of public authorities to election campaign. The International Code of Conduct for Public Officials (UN General Assembly, 1996) stipulates that the engagement of public officials in the political process shall not undermine confidence of the public in their unbiased exercise of functions and duties. The Document of Copenhagen Meeting of the Conference on Human Dimension of the CSCE requires from the member states to comply with the “clear division between the state and political parties, such as that the parties shall not merge with the state.”
To comply with the electoral standards, the state shall prevent abuse of institutional administrative resources
To provide for the compliance with electoral standards, the state shall prevent any abuse of institutional administrative resources, such as the use of personnel resources and material and technical resources of the state in the interests of certain parties or politicians, with no equal access thereto for all other political actors.
Locally, it was recorded a number of cases with features of engaging employees of budget funded organizations, and of public and municipal companies into conducting the polling on political preferences of voters, and into the establishment of a network of supporters for the Ukrainian presidential prospective candidate Petro Poroshenko. Artur Herasymov, head of faction “Solidarity” Block of Petro Poroshenko,” described the polling activities as a European-like ‘door-to-door’ campaign. It must be noted that Sumy regional organization of the “Solidarity” Block of Petro Poroshenko” refuted any affiliation of the political party to taking an opinion poll of voters.
Either on their own initiative or upon requests from citizens, the organizations’ observers checked a number of cases related to the engagement of the employees of budgeted institutions and organizations in taking the opinion poll in the interests of the prospective candidate. In particular, management of Khmelnytskyi University of Management and Law, Khmelnytskyi Regional Universal Research Library, and Khmelnytskyi Vocational Lyceum of Electronics undertook their own initiative to inform their staff about holding of trainings for the campaign activists on taking opinion polls. It was confirmed by the organizations representatives attending the training session on January 12-14, on the premises of Khmelnytskyi University of Management and Law. In her comment to OPORA representatives, a director of Khmelnytskyi Regional Universal Research Library confirmed the fact of informing her staff about the chance “to earn on the side” during election, while the fact of attending the training by the institution’s employees during the regular working hours was explained by their flexible work schedule.
In Yavoriv district of Lwiw region, citizens reported that the employees of the Board for Social Care of the district state administration made telephone calls to social workers offering to enroll for election commission members on behalf of the prospective presidential candidate Petro Poroshenko, and to enroll for the paid work of campaigners in favour of this election participant. In order to investigate the underlying circumstances of the case, an OPORA representative requested a comment from the head of Yavoriv district state administration, Ihor Samardak, who failed to refute the above mentioned fact.
Instances when the management initiated the participation of employees of budget institutions in taking polls were recorded also in Odessa City Polyclinic No 20, and in budget institutions and organizations in Velyka Mykhaylivka and Artsyz districts of Odessa region.
OPORA observers recorded a series of cases when trainings for campaigners were held in the buildings of budget institutions and organizations (premises of Khmelnytskyi University of Management and Law, school No 96 of Lwiw city, Mykolayiv Regional Center for Re-Training and Professional Development of Public Officials).
Over the reporting period, OPORA also recorded the case when the people’s deputies Iryna Sysoyenko, Roman Semenukha, and Ihor Didenko (“Self-Reliance” Union) held meetings with teachers and hospital staff during the regular working hours. During some of the events, the people’s deputies of Ukraine made statements with features of latent campaigning in favour of the leader of their political participant Andriy Sadovyi.
OPORA observers recorded cases of engaging employees of budget institutions, companies and organizations, and authorities into holding or organizing certain events attended by prospective presidential candidates Petro Poroshenko and Oleh Liashko.
During the regional visits of the President of Ukraine, and a prospective candidate for Presidential position Petro Poroshenko, the events engaged employees of local authorities, public and municipal companies and organizations. The practices were documented in Volhynia, Rivne, Tscherkassy, Zhytomyr, Kyiv, and other regions.
On January 18, during the meeting with the then prospective presidential candidate, a people’s deputy of Ukraine Oleh Liashko, at the palace of culture in the city of Oleksandriya in Kirovohrad region, there was a large-scale attendance of the employees of budget organizations and companies such as school teachers, doctors, and city council officials. During the event, Oleksandriya city mayor Stepan Tsapiuk expressed the gratitude to Oleh Liashko for his activities while he specifically mentioned that it was impossible to campaign when in his own official status.
Despite the fact that Petro Poroshenko and Oleh Liashko had an official position-related status (current President of Ukraine and a people’s deputy, respectively), the problem of distinguishing between the current office and political activities remains most pertinent.
In January, OPORA representatives documented activities of public officials and civil servants of local executive authorities and self-government with features of failing on the principle of political neutrality and parity.
On January, 16, 2019, OPORA observers personally attended two meetings of the Dnipro city mayor Borys Filatov and his deputy mayor Mykhaylo Lysenko with the representatives of condominium associations and employees of municipal companies in the field of water supply and transportation. The speeches of the officials from a local self-government authority had signs of indirect calls to support the current President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko during the elections. In particular, city mayor Borys Filatov stated that it did not seem like there was any other feasible candidate to vote for than Petro Poroshenko. At the same time, when opening the meeting with the employees of municipal companies, the deputy city mayor Lysenko described it as an hour of “political briefing” and drew the participants’ attention to the positive relations of the city council with the Presidential Administration of Ukraine, and to the successful decentralization outcomes. Holding events of political briefing type for employees of municipal companies and organizations subordinate to the organizers of such events is rather questionable in terms of complying with the principle of non-interference of authorities into electoral process.
A number of public officials of local executive authorities and local sle-fgovernment made statements in favour of prospective and registered candidates for the position of the President of Ukraine. The cases were documented in favour of the current President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko, and a nominee of “Svoboda” Union Ruslan Koshulynskyi. Head of Transcarpathian regional state administration Hennadiy Moskal, Charkiw city mayor Hennadiy Kernes, and a Bakhmut city mayor in Donetsk region made public statements on their intentions to support the candidacy of Petro Poroshenko during the next presidential elections. In Letychiv district of Khmelnytskyi region, a printed media “Letychiv Newspaper” published an article signed by the head of district state administration Iryna Matlayeva “Why I Am Going to Vote for the Current President of Ukraine.” In the same region, local regional media published a statement by the head of Starokostiantyniv district state administration Serhiy Fesun, on the same subject.
In January, Ruslan Koshulynskyi was publicly supported by the first deputy head of Volhynia regional council Oleksandr Pyrozhyk, and by Ivano-Frankivsk city mayor Ruslan Martsinkiv.
OPORA observers note the facts of using official web resources for local executive authorities in the electoral interests of one of the prospective candidates for the position of the President of Ukraine.
In Mykolayiv region, OPORA observers noted significant reduction in the number of materials covering issues of local development on official websites of district state administrations. A key topic of the web resources of local executive authorities was to inform on the activities of the President of Ukraine in the context of election process. For example, Vradiyivka DSA posted some information on the poll findings by the “Democratic Initiatives” Foundation and by the “Razumkov Center”, followed by a comment from the DSA head Vasyl Zhosan, on the increase of electoral ratings of the current President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko. On the other hand, in Donetsk region, the official website of Donetsk RSA published the report quoting the decision of Bakhmut city mayor Oleksiy Reva to support Petro Poroshenko at the next Ukrainian presidential election.
The practices of covering the activities of the President of Ukraine by local executive authorities cannot be deemed compatible with the Law of Ukraine “On Election of the President of Ukraine”. Part Three of Article 58 of the Law establishes that electoral campaign does not include any official statements during the election process on the actions of Ukrainian presidential candidates related to their official (service related) duties. However, as the law highlights, the statements shall not be followed by comments that could bear signs of campaigning. An important part of the legal assessment of the situation is to take into account the legal ban for public authorities and local self-government to engage in the election process (par. 2, Part 4, Article 3 of the Law of Ukraine as regards providing for equal rights and terms of participation in the election process). Covering activities of the President of Ukraine in the context of his electoral prospects or advantages goes against the principle of equal opportunities and terms of participating in the election process, as well as against the general legal principles of free and fair election. According to OPORA, the remark is legitimate both in case of activities in favour of the registered candidate, and the non-registered election subject as of the moment of the incident.
A distinct area of activities of public officials was public recognition of the role of the President of Ukraine in providing for public funding of infrastructure facilities and social programs. One of the problematic aspects of such public positioning is the fact that a large share of the programs and projects funded at the expense of the State Budget of Ukraine are beyond the official competence of the Head of State. At the same time, implementation of the programs during the election process bears risks of abusing the budgeted administrative resources in the electoral interests.
For example, in Odessa region, head of regional state administration Maksym Stepanov initiated a “Mobile Polyclinic” project. The project provides for conducting free of charge medical examination of citizens on the basis of a mobile diagnostics unit. The patients under examination are given printed materials about the program of the President of Ukraine for health care.
In Lwiw region, engagement of local self-government in discussing prospective area development plans provoked a conflict between the heads of certain amalgamated hromadas and the management of DSA. The discussions evolved around the enactment of the Decree of the President of Ukraine dated December, 6, 2018 “On Additional Measures to Ensure the Reform of Decentralization of Power.”
OPORA observers witnessed the meeting in Mostyska DSA on January 17 where the DSA head emphasized to the heads of amalgamated hromadas the need to disseminate to citizens in rural areas the invitations to discuss the plans for development of territories. The invitations had a mark thereon that the discussion was taking place as initiated by the President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko. Head of Dydiatychi village council and Volytsia hromada objected to the DSA head about having local self-government fulfilling the task; they referred to the prospective participation of the President of Ukraine in the election process. Upon the conflict, the DSA head repeated the assignment at the meeting to inform citizens about the scheduled discussions by handing out invitations and posters.
Incidents were recorded related to the facts when Ukrainian presidential candidates used national and local budget programs for their own benefit in the de facto campaigning activities. The trend is also typical for activities of local organizations of political parties that nominated or plan to nominate the candidates for the position of the President of Ukraine. For example, a prospective presidential candidate Oleh Liashko had a visit to a Haemodialysis Center at the Municipal Hospital in Oleksandriya (Kirovohrad region) to check up on the process of its re-equipment at the cost of the State Budget of Ukraine. In Volhynia region, local organizations of the “Solidarity” Block of Petro Poroshenko” political party used the fact of procuring 23 vehicles for family therapists in their campaigning.
It must be separately stated that current people’s deputies of Ukraine largely participate in public informing of the implementation of infrastructure and social programs funded either with the funds of the State Budget or from local budgets. Even though there is often no direct link of activities of the people’s deputies of Ukraine to the election campaign of presidential candidates the practices impact the course of election process.
OPORA reiterates the importance of counteraction to practices of abusing budget resources for election needs. It is an inseparable part of the process of prevention of abuse of administrative resources, in order to provide for political neutrality of public officials and civil servants from authorities.
The budget administrative resources implies the use of budget funds and means in the interests of certain political parties and candidates. The use of budget administrative resource goes against the basic standards of election process, and also undermines the principles of budget processes and relations. Pursuant to the Budget Code of Ukraine, the budget system of Ukraine is based on the principles of effectiveness and efficiency, on fair and unbiased approach in distributing the resources among citizens and local communities. The use of budget funds in election interests usually distorts the principles and creates preconditions for ineffective use of resources of the state.
OPORA recorded a series of cases of dissemination of party newspapers and materials supporting prospective presidential candidates at the premises of local executive authorities and local self-government. The “Liashko Words” newspaper was handed out in the building of Svitlodar city council (Kirovohrad region), while the materials supporting the prospective candidate for the post of the President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko were placed in the buildings of local authorities and budget organizations in a number of settlements in Zaporizhia and Rivne regions.
OPORA observers did not record any cases for Presidential candidates bribing voters with cash
Incidents with Signs of Direct and Indirect Bribery of Voters
In January 2019, OPORA observers have not documented any cases of cash bribes of voters by Ukrainian presidential candidates. During the reporting period, it was documented several cases of granting presents (material values) to voters and to underage citizens, on behalf of prospective candidates Oleh Liashko and Petro Poroshenko. The cases were presented as social responsibility of political leaders and were done before their registration as Ukrainian presidential candidates. In Zhytomyr region, a prospective Ukrainian presidential candidate Oleh Liashko presented gifts to pupils and workers of social and psychological rehabilitation for children “Sonyachnyi Dim” (Sunny House). President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko gave a task to his assistants to forward to children from the village of Skrahlivka in Berdychiv district 10 sets of hockey clubs (at the cost from UAH 1,680 to 5,320 per piece) and safety helmets of BAUER brand (at the cost from UAH 2,000 to 7,500 per piece). The presents were handed out to the underage citizens by regional state administration staff.
Much larger scale activities were typical for local organizations of political parties that support registered and prospective Ukrainian presidential candidates. They were active in providing goods and services to voters. The identified facts were related to various political teams of the registered and prospective candidates. Formal grounds to provide voters with goods and services were usually festive days and local events and activities at educational establishments, and social care institutions.
An indicative example to illustrate the practices is about the activities of the “Center for Zhytomyr Citizens Care” established by “Batkivshchyna” Union. The center provides citizens with free of charge eye examinations, and with glasses, if needed. The activity was related to operations of the “LAV” charity foundation of the head of regional organization of this political actor, Anzhelika Labunska. Another example for the territory of this region is about representatives of local organizations of the “Batkivshchyna” Union handing out candy gift sets for children. The observers found out that some of the gift sets had a logo of the party and a portrait of Yuliya Tymoshenko thereon.
A non-standard approach in presenting goods and services to voters was used by a leader of the party “Ukrainian Union of Patriots – UKROP”, a people’s deputy of Ukraine Oleksandr Shevchenko. When still in the status of the non-registered candidate, the political leader offered lotteries for citizens of various regions to win free of charge package tours to the Bukovel resort. In order to apply for the draw to win the prize, participants had to share a post in social media with the link to the TV appearance of the candidate (Volhynia, Transcarpathia). In Volhynia region, the activities of the people’s deputy of Ukraine Oleksandr Shevchenko and the UKROP party are indirectly related to the activities of the “Only Together” charity foundation of the head of regional council Ihor Palytsia. Ihor Palytsia publicly supports the candidacy of Oleksandr Shevchenko at the presidential elections, whereas his foundation has been active since 2011. In the previous year, the “Only Together” charity foundation expanded their activities from the region capital to cover the entire region.
Formal and/or unofficial conclusion of paid contracts for campaigning between the candidates’ election campaign offices and the voters
Large scale polling of voters in the regions of Ukraine, and collection of their personal data and signatures to support the program of a prospective candidate Petro Poroshenko raised the discussion on prevention of such cases of material motivation of voters through paying for their campaigning work. The grounds for such discussion could be the experience of previous election campaigns when the facts of voters’ performing the campaign assignments were used to ‘publicly’ justify the monetary remunerations to voters.
OPORA representatives found out about the holding of polling of voters in all regions as initiated by the “Institute for Development and Support of Democracy” NGO. As established by the observers, in the organization of the polling, local centers of political party “Solidarity” Block of Petro Poroshenko” were engaged.
The polling does not include a sampling for the survey while the activities of interviewers are related to permanent polling stations, and are held at the addresses of residence of voters. During the survey, organizers plan to explore the attitudes of voters to policies and program principles of the current President of Ukraine, and also to identify the supporters of the prospective candidate. Working with voters implies the collection of a wide range of their personal data, including last name, first name, patronymic, residence address, and a telephone number.
The polling engages citizens who undergo specialized training and sign personal commitment. Provisions of the personal commitment stipulate the duty to avoid any acts that might discredit Petro Poroshenko, to avoid bribing of voters, and not to work as election commission members.
According to the results of direct observation over the training of campaigners, organizers plan to have four rounds of questioning the voters over the period from January, 21 until March, 28. OPORA observers established that the work of the trained campaigners will be paid by the polling organizers. Information on the planned payments to campaigners was documented in Khmelnytskyi, Ternopil, Dnipropetrovsk, Luhansk, Mykolayiv, Ivano-Frankivsk, and other regions. The amounts and criteria for paying the remuneration, as it was found out, are different in different regions (Ternopil – UAH 1,000 a month; cities of Lutsk, Rozhyshche, Kamin-Kashyrskyi of Volhynia region – UAH 1,000 for finding 10 supporters of the candidate; Mykolayiv – UAH 1,000 for polling 50-70 voters; Pyatykhatky in Dnipropetrovsk region – UAH 400 for one round of survey; Ivano-Frankivsk – UAH 1,000 for polling 60 voters; Novopskovsk district in Luhansk region – UAH 500/50 questionnaires).
On the fact of organizers of the survey promising to polling performers the monetary remuneration, OPORA shall clarify the following. Current version of the Law of Ukraine “On Election of the President of Ukraine” expressly forbids any conclusion of paid contracts with voters on campaigning at the expense of the election funds (part 6, Art. 64 of the Law). Thereat, the law does not allow funding the cost of election campaign other than from the election fund.
Paying material remunerations to voters for doing election campaigning goes against the principle of equal conditions and opportunities for the registered and prospective candidates for the position of the President of Ukraine. As mentioned above, the law “On Election of the President of Ukraine” disables such payments at the expense of the election fund. In case they are made, it creates unequal conditions for campaigning for the law-abiding candidates and for the trespassing candidates alike. Monetary payments to citizens for doing the campaigning create favourable conditions for direct vote-buying.
The situation is peculiar in that the polling is held in the election interests of the not yet registered candidate. The fact complicates the legal assessment of the situation but it does not delete the question on the sources of funding the remunerations, and on violating the standards of transparency of funding of political activities in Ukraine. According to OPORA observers, some campaigners who were conducting the polling revealed the plans of the organizers to pay to them in cash.
OPORA Civil Network calls on the registered candidates for the post of the President of Ukraine to avoid any payments to voters for campaigning work. Instead, the candidates not yet registered at the moment shall take measures to stop funding their campaigning activities and financially motivate the voters for engaging in the de facto campaigning. In some regions (Mykolayiv region), the National Police of Ukraine examine the facts of giving promises to pay to citizens for performing the campaigning.
OPORA observers also documented the fact of enrolling campaigners to do paid work in favour of the candidate Andriy Sadovyi. It was done by Holovanivsk district organization of the “Self-Reliance” Union.
Cases of Impeding Activities of the Registered and Prospective Presidential Candidates
In January, there was a recorded case of physical assault on the deputy of the Central City District Council of Kryvyi Rih, member of faction of “Batkivshchyna” Union. During the reporting period, in the regions of Ukraine, it was recorded a large number of cases of damaging outdoor advertisements of many registered and prospective Ukrainian presidential candidates (Yevhen Murayev, Andriy Sadovyi, Anatoliy Hrytsenko, Yuliya Tymoshenko, Oleksandr Vilkul, Illya Kyva, Petro Poroshenko).
In Chernivtsi, it was detected a fact of damaging some outdoor advertising media of Yuliya Tymoshenko and Volodymyr Zelenskyi, with putting on them anti-Semitic signs. It must be reminded that Article 161 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine provides for the liability for intentional acts aimed at incitement of ethnic, racial, or religious hatred or hostility. In Kyiv, certain materials of outdoor advertising of the candidate Oleksandr Shevchenko were damaged by covering with paint the word “porokh” [dust] in a phrase “Remove the [porokh] dust from our home.”
OPORA also documented a rather large scale dissemination in local media and social media of materials with signs of the ‘black PR’ such as untruthful or unproven information against certain Ukrainian presidential candidates. Mass media of different regions had reports coming out with similar titles and content, aimed at discrediting the candidates. According to provisional estimates of OPORA observers, the instances most often were related to the candidates Andriy Sadovyi and Anatoliy Hrytsenko.
Breaching on the terms and procedures for allocating the space, and arranging stands and notice boards for placing the campaigning materials on.
Large part of local executive authorities and local self-government failed on complying with the terms and legal requirements on allocating the space and arranging stands and notice boards for placing the campaigning materials on. Pursuant to Article 59 of the Law of Ukraine, public authorities should have allocated such spaces before December, 30, 2018. In some cases, such venues for placing the materials have not been allocated.
A number of local self-governments allocated such spaces for placing the campaigning materials that are prohibited by part 21 of Article 64 of the Law of Ukraine “On Election of the President of Ukraine”. It is about the ban on placing campaigning materials on buildings and within the facilities of public authorities, local self-governments, companies, institutions, and organizations of public and municipal ownership. For example, such cases were recorded in Ustyluh city council. Zamlychi, Markovychi, Bilopillia, Kukly village councils of Volhynia region allocated the spaces for placing campaigning materials forbidden by part 21 of Article 64 of the Law of Ukraine “On Election of the President of Ukraine”.
to the subjects of electoral process:
- to independently publicize information on the sources and structure of revenues and expenses to fund the campaigning activities
- to avoid unjustified statements or actions that could discredit the activities of independent public institutions and the results of their work, such as the process of functioning of the State Register of Voters
to the Central Election Commission:
- to continue and enhance awareness raising among citizens on the possibilities and procedures for changing the polling station without changing the voting address.
- to reinforce control over electoral subjects compliance with the legal provisions on funding the campaign, and specifically, on circulation of the candidates’ election funds.
to Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine:
- to facilitate the adoption of the Law of Ukraine on providing for voting rights to internally displaced persons, and other domestically mobile groups
- to regulate in the law the practices for campaigning and for funding of election campaigns in the absence of election process and on the preceding stage
to law-enforcement bodies of Ukraine:
- to consistently implement measures and programs to enhance the competence of law-enforcement officers in detecting, recording, and responding to electoral fraud.