IRI Eurasia Director Briefs Helsinki Commission on the Impact of Ukraine’s Parliamentary Elections

November 16, 2012
Washington, DCStephen B. Nix, Director of Eurasia programs at IRI, today briefed the U.S. Helsinki Commission, chaired by Congressman Christopher H. Smith (NJ) and co-chaired by Senator Benjamin L. Cardin (MD), on the obstacles Ukraine’s October 28, 2012 parliamentary elections pose to the country’s democratic development.

In his remarks (PDF), Nix focused on the parliamentary election campaign, events on Election Day, official results, and the repercussions of the elections for Ukraine and its desire for further integration into Euro-Atlantic structures.  He opened by highlighting that the elections took place while two of the leading opposition figures remain in prison.  “Regardless of all of the analysis of the technical aspects of the elections…the specter that hung over these elections was that Election Day marked the 450th day of imprisonment of the leader of the Fatherland Party, Yuliya Tymoshenko, and the 671st day of imprisonment for the leader of the People’s Self Defense Party, Yuriy Lutsenko…It is from that starting point which the fairness of these elections must be judged to be a step backwards for Ukrainian democracy.”

In addition to the imprisoned opposition leaders, Nix went on to highlight a number of other problems that combined to create an uneven playing field that made it difficult for the opposition to compete, including:

  • The adoption of the Law on Parliamentary Elections, which was a return to the system last used in 2002 when international observers reported significant fraud;
  • The government’s increased pressure on independent media and civil society;
  • The intimidation of opposition parties and candidates; and
  • The uneven composition of election commissions that, at times, excluded major political parties while including pseudo parties that were created to allow the ruling party to dominate the commissions.
In closing Nix said, “Unless and until Ukraine improves the environment in which campaigns are conducted, it will not be considered a full democracy and will not be able to fully integrate into Euro-Atlantic structures.”