Empowering Candidates and Voters Ahead of Ukraine’s Local Elections

  • Alexander Moree, Ryan Knight

On October 25, Ukrainians will go to the polls to fill more than 40,000 seats at every level of Ukraine’s local and regional governments – marking a new phase in Ukraine’s much anticipated decentralization reform. After the October elections, all local governments across Ukraine will be empowered with increased financing and powers to make budgeting decisions affecting all sectors of public service, including schools, healthcare, law enforcement, recreation and public infrastructure.

As Ukrainians prepare for these historic elections, the International Republican Institute (IRI) is providing critical support through a three-step approach:

Getting Out the Vote

IRI’s polling, conducted with support from the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), shows that young people are less likely to vote in the upcoming elections than older Ukrainians. Collaborating with youth from across Ukraine, IRI responded to the data by launching a get-out-the-vote campaign to encourage youth participation next month and provide young people a path to increased political engagement in their communities.

With support from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), IRI launched the #Defineyourfuture initiative, which includes a #WhyWeVote video competition. As part of this program, the Institute is conducting weekly seminars for candidates, campaign team members and young civic activists throughout Ukraine. To increase the quality of political discussion, IRI also organized a series of online debate sessions for politically active youth. Applying the skills they learned from IRI, several participants of IRI’s youth debate program are now running for local office.

Additionally, IRI’s contest of short get-out-the-vote videos is helping to mobilize a new generation of voters. The video competition included a series of webinars to train youth in producing videos with their cell phones to encourage their fellow citizens to vote. IRI received over 60 submissions, and the 12 finalist videos are being shared on IRI Ukraine’s social media, and over public television in Ukraine. The winners of the competition were announced on October 16 on IRI Ukraine’s Facebook page.

Training Candidates

By equipping candidates with the tools to design campaigns that are responsive to citizen interests, IRI is facilitating a competitive election environment in Ukraine. This year, with support from USAID, IRI launched a Video Handbook for Candidates that provides citizens with the resources to manage transparent and citizen responsive campaigns.

IRI is also working with the Ukrainian Chapter of the Women’s Democracy Network to train women candidates in fundraising, communications and campaigning. The Central Election Commission’s new requirement of at least two female candidates for every five male candidates presents an opportunity to amplify women’s voices in the electoral process. Even before the announcement, Ukrainian women had already assumed a key role in the country’s democratic development, with IRI’s recent survey revealing that they are more likely than men to vote in the upcoming election. By providing accessible training to women, IRI is supporting a new generation of local women leaders.

Assisting Newly Elected Officials

Decentralization reforms implemented by Ukraine’s Verkhovna Rada have changed the rules of the game for local governance in Ukraine. Following this month’s local elections, IRI will work with local government officials from across the country to help them adjust. IRI’s ongoing public opinion research will provide a fresh look at the interests of citizens to empower newly elected and re-elected officials in their critical work of passing budgets and implementing responsive policies following local elections. IRI’s trainings, conducted with the support of USAID and the NED, will empower a new generation of diverse local leaders.

Supporting good governance in Ukraine has been a priority of IRI for more than 20 years. As the country continues to manage the fallout of COVID-19, the ongoing war with Russia in eastern Ukraine, and economic hardship, responsive local governance will be crucial to forging a brighter, more democratic future for Ukrainians.

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