Statement of OPORA on the Parliamentary elections
During the election day, observers of the Civil Network OPORA did not identify any systemic violations of election law or conflicts that would destabilize the course of voting or have any significant impact on citizen voting results. However, frequent and recurrent procedural violations made by polling station election commissions and the incompetence or illegitimate intentions of voters had a negative effect on the election process on election day on July, 21, 2019.
"We failed to identify any systemic violations that could affect the course of voting or the voting results, as of this moment. Nevertheless, it does not imply that in the course of voting and on the stage of vote count, violations were absent. It is obvious that Ukraine has not progressed that far in this respect. In particular, at 10% of polling stations, we recorded that ballots were issued without due diligence. Upon the whole, 139 cases of this kind were recorded. In some cases, the situation was rather comic when the ballots were issued upon the pension IDs, international passports, or a passport’s photocopy. It is obvious, that the problem is most typical for small places and regions where members of polling station commissions don’t think it mandatory to request IDs from people they know personally. At the same time, there is a positive trend such as fewer cases of taking photos of the ballots, as it occurred during the presidential elections, especially during the second round. In general, the number of polling stations where such cases were identified was almost 4% nationwide. Currently, it dropped to 0.8% of polling stations," – says Olga Aivazovska, chair of the board of the Civil Network OPORA.
Numerous cases of issuing voting ballots without presenting due IDs, or multiple attempts to vote for another person, are a cause for major concern. On election day, such cases were identified at 10.1% of polling stations in different regions of Ukraine.
Another frequent violation on election day on July, 21 was the disclosure of the secrecy of the vote where voters showed their filled in ballots or polling stations did not comply with requirements for installing the polling booths and or arranging voting places within the polling station commission. Such cases were recorded at 4.2% of polling stations. During the second round of the Presidential election in Ukraine, the number was 5%.
During this elections, voters and those involved in the electoral process were more compliant with the regulation to not take photos of filled-in ballots at polling stations. Such incidents were sporadic and identified only at 0.8% of polling stations. In the first round of the Presidential election, the scale of such violations was much bigger (4.8% of polling stations). During the second round, cases of taking photos of ballots on the premises of polling stations (in a booth or beyond), were recorded by OPORA observers at 3.3% of polling stations.
OPORA observers also found that there were fewer attempts of ballot box stuffing or moving of ballot boxes outside of polling stations (statistical indicator of this violation is 0.1%). However, observers also noted the fact of casting ballots into a fixed ballot box at the polling station commission no. 140750 in the constituency no.50 in the city of Myrnohrad (Donetsk region). No planned and systemic actions were identified that could signify the attempt of vote buying at polling stations.
It is common for elections in Ukraine to have illegitimate voting practices, such as voting without documents or with other unsuitable documents (such as with an international passport (PS 461150 constituency 125 (Lviv region), a pension ID card (PS 730195 constituency 202 (Chernivtsi region), a passport’s photocopy (at polling station no. 710742 in the village of Holovkivka (Chyhyryn district, Cherkasy region), or voting on behalf of another person which is a criminal offense according to Article 158 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine. The latter violation was identified in 130 cases (69 violations in western regions of Ukraine, 49 cases in central regions, and others – in the East and in the South).
In 59 cases, observers recorded a violation of the procedure for counting the vote (a typical form of this violation is when members of the polling station commission pour the ballots out from all boxes at the same time and put them into piles). In 7 cases, despite the completion of the count procedure, the commission refused to issue the copies of protocols to observers. In 11 cases, there were signs of falsifying or manipulation with voting documents (many such cases occurred in central regions of Ukraine). A typical violation was to indicate in the protocol of the polling station commission the date of the next day of July, 22, 2019, at the PS 461520 of constituency no. 125 (Lviv region) signatures in the protocols of vote tabulation were signed still during the voting.
In 3 cases, direct countermeasures were taken regarding observers' recording of violations occurring in election commissions (such as at PS 181432, PS 181432 (Zhytomyr region) – there was a ban on video-recording; at PS 120458 (Dnipropetrovsk region) – a secretary of the polling station commission and the village head prevented observation). Observers faced obstacles and limitations in their observation in 13 cases and also 4 cases were recorded where commissions posed a threat to observer’s safety. In one particular case an observer was threatened in an aggressive manner to be scared away from the polling station (PS 511442 constituency 135 (Odesa region). Observers were also hindered by physical obstacles from recording the entering of untruthful data into protocols (PS 181432 constituency 62 (Zhytomyr region), PS 120458 constituency 34 (Dnipropetrovsk region).
Unauthorized persons present at the polling stations were recorded in 23 cases (in most cases, it was about the representatives of the National Police, The State Emergency Service of Ukraine, heads of village councils, deputies of local councils). The identified person was present at the polling station commission as a journalist but under an invalid ID (PSC 320278 constituency 94, Kyiv region); also on a special polling station 531211 constituency 144 (Poltava region) in colony 64, when the vote count was attended by the head of the penitentiary institution who checked the ballots and sent data to somebody upon announcing the results for certain candidates. It may signify the controlled nature of voting. At the PS 320270, 8 persons tried to be present in a place of voting.
Voters publicly showing the ballot was recorded in 11 cases; in 15 cases, voters were taking photos of the ballots, and 14 cases of campaigning at the polling station were recorded.
In 6 cases, voters were illegitimately banned from voting (such as in 3 cases, the grounds for rejection was the fact that the voter lacked an extract on the place of the voter’s registration, in addition to an ID as he did not have it along); taking the ballot outside the polling station was recorded in 5 cases.
In addition, 188 other violations were recorded where the vast majority concerned the breach of informational, inventory and logistics support, and procedural violations made by election commission. For example, they did not submit control letters (PS 321389 constituency 91, Kyiv region), or announced breaks during the count (PS 480770 constituency 127 (Mykolaiv region)
Moreover, 14 cases were recorded with incidents relating to campaigning at the polling station. The most widespread types were the following: 1) voters were coming to the station wearing the clothes branded with symbols of certain political forces; 2) printed campaigning materials were placed outside, near the PSC; 3) a candidate communicated with voters at the polling station (PS 610086 constituency 167); 4) campaigning by a commission member to vote against all candidates, in front of the voting place (PS 650613 constituency 184 (Kherson region).
The taking of ballots outside was recorded in 5 cases (in the East - 4, Center - 1). The reason for taking the ballots outside the polling station was usually due to there being a technical barrier for voters at the polling station (a voter with a disability was not able to enter the PS; a power cut).
Olga Aivazovska also added: "When we speak about the current stage of electoral process, such as the vote count and the work of district election commissions, unfortunately, the process is not without conflicts. However, the most blatant cases related to the operations of the DEC 94 in Kyiv region. There, from 1 a.m. and until almost 06:15 a.m., the DEC stopped accepting protocols from the polling station commissions and removed themselves from the process of which they were directly in charge of – such as accepting protocols and counting the vote. According to different sources, certain commission members planned to appeal to the CEC in order to resign from their positions, but let me remind you that on election day, and on the next day, it cannot be done. That is why the self-withdrawal from the final stage of the vote count and election results can have signs of major violations, including also violations qualified by Ukrainian law as a criminal offense. That is why we would like to ask the DEC members, despite a rather conflicting campaign in this constituency, to continue the process."
Since 20:00, on July, 21, OPORA observers started their observation of the vote count. Several problematic district election commissions were identified: DEC 199 (Cherkasy region) – mass rewriting of protocols, commission members evading the work in DEC 94 (Kyiv region), DEC - 116 decisions adopted under lack of quorum, DEC 181 (Kharkiv region) – unidentified persons near the DEC facility (over 10 persons), DEC 59 (Donetsk region) – termination to accept the documents before 12.00, resulting in queues forming of commission members.
According to Oleksandr Kliuzhev, an analyst at Civil Network OPORA, observation is not limited to the election day, which allows observers to assess the entire campaign in general. "Based on reports of our long-term observers, we might claim that this election complied with the democratic standards and requirements of the acting law, despite the fact that pre-election campaigning had some violations by candidates and political parties. In our opinion, voters had a competitive choice among the political parties and candidates in their constituencies. In the absolute majority of single-mandate constituencies, not only in a national multi-mandate constituency, electoral process was competitive. In fact, the candidates competed for voters. It positively characterizes the quality of this campaign. We basically have no regions with inactive campaigns and the available preliminary data on the vote count supports this analysis of the election campaign. A positive factor is that during this election, no political party or political group abused the administrative resource for their own benefit, on a central, nationwide basis. However, unfortunately, local political leaders and the standing MPs had access to state or local municipal mechanisms to use them in their own favour during election campaign. We hereby appeal to the Government again, and possibly, to the future Parliament, - to take the due steps to further de-politicize public service and local self-government service, to reduce the risk for abuse of budget funds for political and electoral benefit, by adopting special changes to the law, or by introducing changes to the by-laws," – he says.
At the same time, Oleksandr Neberykut, an analyst at Civil Network OPORA, also emphasized other problems related to shadow funding. "When it goes not only about the election day, we can highlight the two pervasive themes that require attention by different institutions, including also the reform of the law. In the first place, it is about the shadow nature of funding various aspects of electoral process. There are two blocks where the theme is reiterated and not addressed anyhow: firstly, it is about the shadow payment for the work of election commission members, secondly – the concealed advertising," - he states.
On the election day, on July, 21, Civil Network OPORA deployed 1398 trained and accredited PVT Observers to a nationally representative, random sample of polling stations. PVT Observers evaluated the quality of the Election Day process and recorded the official results. The PVT is a nonpartisan exercise conducted solely by OPORA with the intent of providing independent information on the integrity of the process and the veracity of the official results. Unlike exit polls, PVTs do not ask citizens how they voted, rather they rely on trained observers collecting data at polling stations.
The data was recorded as of 12:00, 16:00 and 20:00. Upon the whole, on a nationwide scale, according to OPORA, the turnout at the early parliamentary elections on July, 21, 2019, was 49.3% (error ± 0.6%).
Based on reports from PVT Observers, OPORA can state with 99% confidence that the results announced by the CEC should be: