Ukraine

Monitoring of the Presidential election - DECs and candidates' programs

The Committee of Voters of Ukraine (CVU) has published its second long-term monitoring report of the Presidential election campaign. 

In this report CVU confirms the overall transparent establishment of district election commissions (DECs), yet also reports on problematic inclusions of candidates who are not entitled to work in the DECs and lacking experience by other candidates. CVU also analyzed the campaign programs of the presidential candidates and found that most are declarative in nature and lack clear implementable strategies, which, in addition to a lack of public political debate by candidates, leads to an uninformed electorate regarding their election choices. Reports of voter bribery and attacks on political parties and candidates in certain constituencies are also a cause for concern and CVU calls on the authorities to promptly investigate these incidents.

FULL REPORT OF FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS 

Activities of the central election commission (CEC) and the formation of DECs  

  1. The CVU commends the work of the CEC regarding the preparation the election. Over February, the CEC adopted more than 250 resolutions on the organization of elections. According to CVU, the Central Electoral Commission carries out its powers in accordance with the current legislation. Adopted by the CEC legal acts complied with the requirements of the Law and were adopted taking into account statutory deadlines.
  2. District election commissions were established on time and without violations of the requirements of electoral legislation. In total, 199 district election commissions were formed. They include more than 7,300 people. Thus, on average, DEC consist of 37 of the 44 possible members. Some candidates were irresponsible nominating candidates for membership in DECs, which led to the inclusion of commissioners who are unwilling or, for objective reasons, not able to work in DECs. In particular, often enough, candidates included in the lists of commission members people who live in other regions of Ukraine or even work abroad.
  3. Almost immediately after the formation of commissions there began replacements. In the Luhansk region, 7 of the 18 people appointed to senior positions in the six DECs were replaced during the first week of work. The following day, after the formation of the commissions, in Vinnytsya oblast people refused to serve as chairmen of the commissions in DECs number 11 and 13, and in the DEC number 17 all three members appointed for management positions resigned. Similar cases was in place in Kharkiv, Zhytomyr and other oblasts.
  4. The first meetings of the DECs in most cases took place within the statutory time. However, sometimes the meetings did not take place on time due to the lack of a quorum. District committees generally work in accordance with the current legislation, the atmosphere of their work is peaceful. Cases of violations are isolated.
  5. A significant number of commission members do not have the relevant experience. Thus, in Vinnytsa and Cherkasy oblasts, the ratio of people with previous experience in the DECs and without experience is 50 to 50; in Luhansk, Chernivtsi, Volyn oblasts the third of persons are with experience in the DECs, in Khmelnytsky oblast - a quarter, in Odesa oblast - in seven DECs only a quarter of the personel have experience. The similar situation is in other oblasts.

Analysis of electoral programs of presidential candidates

 6. The CVU analised programs of 44 candidates  for the post of President of Ukraine. Most of the theses of the electoral programs of the candidates are general, declarative and questionable in terms of the feasibility of their implementation. CVU encourages candidates for the post of President of Ukraine to publish strategies, extended programs, other documents, which prove realism of the provisions and will be based on specific mechanisms for achieving the proposed socio-economic indicators.  These documents should have priority sequence, time frame for implementation of program provisions.

7. Candidate programs dominantly contain economic and social issues. In the first place, by frequency of mentioning in the programs is the economy - an average of 31% of the content of each program; the second place is the legal policy - 11%, security and army - 8%, education and medicine - 8%, foreign policy - 6%. Another 20% of the programs contain descriptive general sentences, biographies of candidates, etc. Much of the promise of candidates does not correspond the authority of the President.

8. The predominance of the economic bloc in party programs is evidenced by the following data: 23 of the 44 candidates are mentioned in the programs the problem of high tariffs for utilities; 33 out of 44 candidates are highlighted in programs on small pensions; 28 out of 44 candidates are offering to raise wages.

9. In foreign policy, 19 out of 44 candidates welcome Ukraine's rapprochement with NATO. Regarding the return of the occupied territories, 36 out of 44 candidates raise this issue in their programs.

Electoral campaign  

10.  According to the CVU long-term observers, the most active electoral campaign in the regions of Ukraine is conducted by P. Poroshenko and Y. Tymoshenko. Also, in almost all areas active campaign is conducted by A. Grytsenko, O. Lyashko, V. Zelenskyi and A. Sadovyi. In certain regions, prominent campaigns were organized by Yu. Boyko, O. Shevchenko, S. Taruta, O. Vilkul, Y. Muraev, S. Kaplin, R. Koshulinsky. The activity of candidates differs depending on the region.

11.  The most common form of campaigning is outdoor advertising: placement of printed campaign materials and political advertising on billboards, citylights. This form is often used in all regions of Ukraine. The second place is the distribution of election postcards, posters and other printed campaign materials. On the third - the establishment of campaign tents. A common form is also the publication in the media of political advertising, speeches, interviews, essays, video films. The following forms of campaigning such as holding public meetings, rallies, and organizing public debates are least actively used.  

12.  One of the problems of the election process, CVU considers the low level of content of the campaign. Candidates generally avoid answering to hard questions about their electoral programs and public promises. Among other things, this is evidenced in the fact that the candidates, as a rule, do not participate in political talk shows on TV channels, where journalists and experts are not loyal to them. The lack of real debate about the content of candidate programs is a significant disadvantage that does not contribute to a conscious choice of citizens. It should be noted that the current Law "On Elections of the President of Ukraine" provides the mandatory debate only on the eve of the second round of elections. In view of this, there is a risk that candidates' electoral programs will remain only formal documents and will not be discussed during a full-fledged debate on the eve of the first round. CVU calls on leading television channels of Ukraine on the eve of the first round of elections to organize broadcast of TV shows in the form of debates involving candidates for the post of the President of Ukraine to discuss the theses of their electoral programs, and calls on candidates to accept such invitations.

Violations during campaigning

13.  The CVU notes that the placement of agitation materials is often accompanied by a violation of the rules of the current legislation. Thus, 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) present in most regions of Ukraine. But in comparison with January, the number of such cases has decreased.  Existing materials indicate the presence of campaigning without initial data by A. Sadovy, R. Koshulinsky, A. Grytsenko, O. Bogomolets, Y. Tymoshenko, P. Poroshenko, O. Lyashka, O. Shevchenko, O. Vilkul, G. Balashov, S. Kaplin. The widespread violation is the campaigning in forbidden places. In particular, in buildings of local self-government bodies and state authorities.     

14.  Negative moment of the campaign is the dissemination in the media of hidden adds (so-called “jinsa”) and materials with signs of black PR. The hallmark of this campaign is the active dissemination of black PR materials on social networks, in particular on Facebook network. Thus, in Facebook there are popular groups that distribute commissioned information against A. Grytsenko, Y. Tymoshenko, P. Poroshenko, V. Zelensky. Also, the CVU records the active dissemination in the media of polls seems to be commissioned.

15.  The CVU welcomes the activities of the Security Service of Ukraine and the Ministry of Internal Affairs in preventing possible electoral crimes regarding vote-buying. On February 21, representatives of the Security Service of Ukraine announced that they had exposed the voter bribery network. Prior to this, the Interior Ministry also reported the discovery of a number of voter bribery networks. CVU urges law enforcement agencies to objectively investigate the cases. At the same time, the CVU emphasizes the importance of correct interpretation of the notion of bribing voters. According to the CEC's explanation for the bribing voters in criminal and administrative proceedings, it should be investigated and determined whether there were calls or proposals to vote for or not to vote for a particular candidate or mentioning of his name.

16.  The CVU emphasize the importance of using legal methods to ensure the work of campaigners in the presidential elections. According to the CEC's explanation, the involvement of voters in direct implementation of election campaigning activities is possible only on a voluntary basis. At the same time, an agreement on organizing and / or conducting election campaigning and / or dissemination of election campaign materials may, if necessary, provide the reimbursement of expenses incurred by individuals involved in direct campaigning, telephone services, travel, meals, lodging and other expenses. The CVU welcome the decision of the Central Election Commission and considers it as a contributing to the transparency of electoral finances.

17.  The CVU report on use of administrative resources by giving monetary supplements during elections for certain categories of citizens in a number of regions of Ukraine. In particular, in Odesa oblast, the oblast Council initiated the disbursement of one-off bonuses to retirees during the election process. This also applies to the recalculation of pensions for several millions of Ukrainian citizens and the conduct of the so-called monetization of subsidies for utilities. The CVU notes that formally the actions of local self-government bodies and the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine do not contradict the current legislation, however, if such payments are accompanied by campaigning for the candidate for the post of President of Ukraine or mentioning the candidate's name, such actions can be qualified as campaigning and vote-buying.

18.  In separate regions, the campaign is accompanied by the criminalization of the electoral process. This includes attacks on offices of political parties and candidates, threats to campaigners, the destruction of printed campaign materials, damage to billboards, attacks on campaign tents. The CVU urges the police to objectively investigate such cases.

19.  The CVU notes that during the election process, candidates and mass media deliberately distribute false information about the elections. At the moment, some media has spread a number of speculations that prevent citizens from making informed choices. In particular, the alleged impossibility of internally displaced persons to vote at the presidential elections, the presence of a million "dead souls" in the State Register of Voters, speculation on the topic of bribing voters. The CVU calls upon the headquarters of the candidates not to use manipulative technologies that impede the informed choice of citizens and to disseminate only reliable information based on facts and confirmed by an appropriate evidence base.

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