Ukraine

Security monitoring launched in Donetsk and Luhansk communities where local elections were cancelled

Security observers of the Civil Network OPORA are starting their activities in the government-controlled territories of Donetsk and Luhansk regions. They will monitor the situation in the 18 communities left without self-government in order to objectively and impartially assess the preconditions for organizing the elections.

In the local elections of October 25, 2020, local elections were not called in 10 communities of Donetsk region and in 8 communities of Luhansk region in the government-controlled territories of  Ukraine. On the other hand, in 2014–2019, the national elections usually were taking place in these communities. For exactly a year now, the Svitlodarsk town, Toretsk town, Myrne village, Olhyne village, Volnovakha town, Vuhledar town, Sartana village, Ocheretyne village, Avdiyivka town, Maryinka town in Donetsk Oblast, Hirske town, Lysychansk town, Popasna town, Severodonetsk town, Nyzhnoteple village, Stanytsia Luhanska village, Shyrokyi village, and Shchastia town in Luhansk Oblast have not had any self-government.

For several months, OPORA security observers will gather public information, send inquiries, and meet with representatives of civil-military administrations and community residents. After analyzing everything on the basis of our own developed methodology, OPORA will be able to publish public opinion on the possibility of conducting the election process and provide recommendations to the authorities.

Politically unbiased assessment of the actual situation in the territorial hromadas and establishing the peculiarities of each of them is an important element of introducing a new approach to election security.

Earlier, the Civil Network OPORA developed and sent the concept of solving the problem of elections in these territories to the Working Group on Improving Electoral Legislation operating under the auspices of the Verkhovna Rada Committee on the Organization of State Power, Regional Development, Local Self-Government, and Urban Planning. This concept was used as a basis to the text of the draft law.

Key aspects of the draft law 1) the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine (NSDC) shall be entitled to determine security criteria for not holding the elections; 2) on the basis of these criteria, more clear requirements to the format of the opinion of civil-military administrations shall be developed; 3) the decision not to call elections shall be made directly by the National Security and Defense Council; 4) The Central Election Commission shall announce the impossibility of holding elections on the basis of the decision of the National Security and Defense Council. This approach will allow for the introduction of clear and public requirements for decisions on the impossibility of holding elections in certain territories. In addition, it will enhance the level of assessment of the security situation from regional to national, reduce the risks of conflicts of interest during the preparation of the decision and strengthen political and formal responsibility on this issue. The OSCE will begin its expert mission in early November, jointly with the Venice Commission, to prepare an opinion on this yet unregistered draft law.

Based on the recommendations of reputable international organizations and monitoring of the security situation in the communities, OPORA hopes for a systemic legislative solution to the problem.

Chair of the Board at the Civil Network OPORA, Olga Aivazovska, believes that Ukraine will be a state governed by the rule of law only if the issue of political expediency does not stand in the way of the constitutional rights of citizens. "The country is tired of the international armed conflict, but we are different from our authoritarian neighbor in that we cannot afford to ignore the Constitution, human rights and the form of their protection. You can't blame war for everything. We can no longer take into account the assessments of security of civil-military administrations in 18 communities of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts where citizens were deprived of the right to local self-government. Any decision must be reasonable and based on facts, not on political interests. In some of these communities, the level of security may be inadequate and the elections will only aggravate the situation, and their organizers will not be able to ensure a free campaign,” - she emphasizes.

It will be recalled that the Civil Network OPORA has consistently highlighted the need to establish clear, well-founded, and public requirements for opinion statements allowing to not appoint the elections. This position is reflected in many statements of the organization or during the organized discussions with representatives of local self-government, people's deputies, representatives of the CEC, and the National Security and Defense Council. OPORA has repeatedly urged the relevant authorities to initiate discussions on options for legislative regulation of local elections in Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts and to develop certain criteria for deciding not to hold elections. The G7 ambassadors also expressed their hopes for the restoration of voters' rights in 18 communities.

The timeline of events:

April 16, 2020 The Law of Ukraine “On Amendments to Certain Laws of Ukraine Concerning the Definition of Territories and Administrative Centers of Territorial Communities” came into force, which provides for the authority of civil-military administrations to determine security conditions for holding elections in government-controlled territories.

July 30, 2020 The CEC appealed to the Donetsk and Luhansk oblast state administrations – oblast civil-military administrations – to provide an opinion on the possibility of organizing the preparation and holding of elections in the communities after the completion of the decentralization process. In response, letters were received with conclusions about the impossibility of holding elections in these 18 communities.

August 8, 2020 The CEC adopted Resolution No.161 “On the impossibility of holding the first elections of deputies of certain village, settlement, city councils of Donetsk and Luhansk regions and the respective village, settlement, city mayors on October, 25, 2020.”

On August 12, 2020, a citizen Bayramov Yevhen Vahid Ogly lodged a lawsuit with the Sixth Administrative Court of Appeals against the CEC Resolution No.161. As the Resolution was adopted before the start of the election process, on August 13, 2020, the case was transferred to the District Administrative Court of Kyiv. However, the court began consideration of the case on the merits after the day of voting and finally, on December 8, 2020, it rejected the claim. The appeal took place the following year.

January 5, 2021 The CEC appealed to the Donetsk and Luhansk civil-military administrations regarding the possibility of organizing the preparation and holding of the first local elections on March, 28. January 15 In response, the CEC received letters concluding that it was impossible to ensure the proper security of citizens and to avoid the terrorist threat during the organization and conduct of the first local elections.

On January 26, 2021, the Sixth Administrative Court of Appeals opened an appeal in the case of appealing the CEC Resolution No.161 on the appeal of a citizen Bayramov Yevhen Vahid Ogly. On May 11, 2021, the plaintiff’s appeal was upheld, the decision of the District Administrative Court of Kyiv was annulled, the plaintiff’s claims against the CEC were satisfied, namely, the CEC Resolution No.161 was declared illegal and annulled.

August 17, 2021 The CEC appealed to the Donetsk and Luhansk civil-military administrations regarding the possibility of organizing the preparation and holding of the first local elections on October, 31. As soon as on August 19, the CEC again received disappointing conclusions from the CMA regarding the impossibility of holding elections.

Therefore, despite the court decision on CEC Resolution No.161 on the first non-calling of elections, the situation still remains unresolved.

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