Uneven Campaign Playing Field Causes Ukraine Elections to Fall Short

Ukrainian Version

Kyiv, Ukraine – While overall Ukraine’s October 28 parliamentary elections were administered in an orderly manner, Ukraine continues to fall short in ensuring voters a campaign in which candidates have an equal opportunity to be heard and they can be confident that their individual votes count.  Despite the efforts of polling officials and voters who turned out to cast their ballots, after more than 20 years of independence, Ukraine still faces significant obstacles to its democratic development.

“A country that imprisons its political opponents, removes independent television from the air and harasses civil society is not an example of a country progressing in its democratic development,” said Congressman David Dreier, who has led election observation teams throughout the world.  “This is a message I heard throughout the day and is most disheartening to many Ukrainians, who want a better life and a better government but had months ago lost hope that these elections would bring about the change they have so eagerly hoped for.”

IRI delegation co-leader former Congressman Jim Kolbe also noted that, “While there didn’t appear to be systemic violations on Election Day, there are a number of issues that we are concerned about.  The most significant issue is the Central Election Commission’s [CEC] refusal to release results at the polling station level to ensure official results from the CEC can be compared with what was recorded during the count.  This is a critical component of transparency in any democratically conducted election and I urge the CEC to reconsider its decision and release the results in this manner.”

IRI delegation observed more than 160 polling stations on Election Day, the second step in a process that also includes the campaign period, ballot counting, adjudication of complaints and acceptance of results.  While observers did report some irregularities they did not report incidents that were systemic election abuses.

However, during the campaign period significant problems combined to create a very uneven playing field that made it difficult for the opposition to compete.  These included the following:

Today, the CEC indicated that it would not release election results by polling station protocol totals.  This is a major failure in the administration of elections and the lack of transparency will undermine public confidence in the electoral process.

Ukraine had made good progress in the administration of elections and ensuring a level playing field in its most recent presidential election and the last two parliamentary elections.  The problems in the campaign period and on Election Day are particularly troubling, as they indicate that Ukraine has not progressed in the way that it should and has not advanced as far as other former Soviet Republics, including Georgia, which just saw its first peaceful transfer of power from one democratically elected government to another.

IRI delegates from Cyprus, Lithuania and the United States observed voting and ballot counting at polling stations in Cherkasy, Chernihiv, Crimea, Dnipropetrovsk, Donetsk, Kharkiv, Kyiv, Lutsk, Lviv, Mykolayev, Odesa and Zhytomyr.

IRI’s delegation was led by U.S. Congressman David Dreier (CA-26) and Jim Kolbe former U.S. Congressman (AZ-8) and a Senior Transatlantic Fellow for the German Marshall Fund of the United States, both of whom serve on IRI’s Board of Directors.  Other delegates were:

IRI staff also served as observers and assisted in the mission.  IRI staff were led by Judy Van Rest, Executive Vice President of IRI, and Stephen B. Nix, Regional Director of IRI’s Eurasia division.

Prior to the election, delegates were briefed by representatives from the U.S. Embassy, political party representatives and Ukrainian election officials.  They were also briefed on the rights and responsibilities of international observers and Ukrainian election law. 

Since 1983, IRI has monitored more than 150 elections in more than 46 countries, including Ukraine’s 1994, 1998, 2002, 2006 and 2007 parliamentary elections and the 1999, 2004 and 2010 presidential elections.

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