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IRI's Preliminary Statement on Ukraine's Presidential Election Repeat Runoff

December 27, 2004

Kyiv, Ukraine – IRI election observation mission has determined that the repeat runoff election of December 26 demonstrated significant progress in Ukraine's democratic development.  Improvements in election administration, as well as legislative efforts to prevent fraud, contributed to demonstrative increases in transparency and fairness in the voting process, and the election campaign overall.  These improvements resulted in a more orderly process, and an atmosphere which allowed voters and officials to generally act without fear or intimidation. In addition, they helped establish the legitimacy of the process for the election of president. 

I. BACKGROUND

IRI fielded a 40-person delegation of observers for the repeat runoff election for Ukraine's presidency. Like the IRI delegations deployed during the first and second rounds, the current one consisted of representatives of a number of political parties in the United States and Europe, and was comprised of election experts who have observed multiple elections in numerous countries around the world.  The delegation was co-chaired by United States Federal Judge Bohdan Futey and Michael Trend, Member of the United Kingdom Parliament and Vice-Chairman of the Westminster Foundation for Democracy.

During the first and second rounds of observation IRI found a systematic and coordinated use of government "administrative" resources in support of the government-backed candidate.  IRI also found at that time systemic fraud in the management of voter lists, vote tabulation and reporting of results.

During the second round of elections, IRI identified numerous problems including:

  1. The voter list contained substantial inaccuracies;
  2. Busing of voters among oblasts and polling stations for the purpose of multiple voting;
  3. Expelling local and international observers, as well as journalists, from polling stations;
  4. In a number of polling stations, the percentage of votes certified by the Central Election Commission (CEC) was greater than 100 percentl voters;
  5. The CEC failed to provide the appropriate leadership and regulatory oversight of lower level commissions, resulting in extensive falsification and disregard of election law and procedure. Finally, the official election results, as reported by the CEC, did not accurately reflect the will of the voters of Ukraine.
The Ukrainian people reacted to allegations of massive fraud and peacefully demanded to have their votes properly counted.  Over the course of the last several weeks, Ukraine and the world have witnessed the Orange Revolution.  The people are demanding merely what they are entitled to under the Constitution and the laws of Ukraine.
 

On November 24, based upon evidence of massive fraud and violations of the election law, the Supreme Court of Ukraine overturned the CEC's vote count of November 21, effectively voiding the results, and ordered the CEC to conduct a repeat of the second round vote.

Having agreed with the Court that the second round voting did not reflect the will of the people, the Ukrainian prliament amended the election law and set a date for a new runoff.  The amended election law sought to restrict fraud by limiting the use of absentee ballots and mobile voting, as well as changing the composition of territorial and polling station commissions. In addition, the parliament voted no-confidence in the CECfter which new members were elected to that body.

In a significant ruling, only one day prior to the December 26 runoff, the Constitutional Court restored the right to vote via mobile ballot box to all handicapped voters.  All other provisions of the amended election law remained intact.

II. FINDINGS

  1. There existed some confusion over the terms and rules of eligibility for the use of mobile ballot boxes for the handicapped.  These issues arose largely due to the Constitutional Court's ruling on mobile ballot eligibility only one day before voting took place.  Notwithstanding the importance of voting for handicapped persons, mobile balloting was a small percentage of the national vote, and therefore is not likely to affect the overall result of the election.
  2. The reduction of use of absentee balloting was a positive step, given the level of fraud committed through their use during the first two rounds.  However, there was some confusion among voters in certain areas over eligibility and the procedure for application and registration to vote absentee on Election Day.  This was due partially to the fact that the amendments to the election law reduced the number of absentee ballots from four percent to one-half percent.  Again, these issues are not likely to affect the outcome of the election.
  3. The CEC, as well as lower commissions, did take steps to improve the accuracy of voters lists, resulting in a much smoother process of checking eligibility before the issuance of ballots to voters.  However, some voters still found errors on the list, and were unable to resolve inaccurate information in time to vote.
  4. In most election commissions observed, both candidates were represented.  Both campaigns should be commended for successfully undertaking this massive organizational effort in a very short amount of time.

III. SUMMARY

IRI acknowledges the significance of the role of the courts in ensuring a more fair election process.  The Supreme Court ruling calling for a new election, signaled judicial concern for election fraud, and underlined the Court's Constitutional role as an independent, co-equal branch of government.

Similarly, IRI acknowledges the positive role that parliament played during the electoral process.  In adopting critical amendments to the election law, the legislative branch acted promptly and effectively on the public's demand for new regulations designed to provide a more transparent and democratic electoral process.

Finally, IRI recognizes the role that civil society played in demanding the right to have their votes properly counted.  The Ukrainian people are to be applauded for rising to the occasion and exercising their constitutionally protected right of peaceful assembly throughout the political, judicial and legislative processes cited above.

In summary, the courts, the parliament and the people have not only spoken, but have acted accordingly. They should be saluted for their democratic actions geared toward preserving the sacred right to vote, and protecting that right from infringement.