Canadian Observers Documenting Widespread Irregularities, Limitations of Freedom of Expression in Ukraine Parliamentary Elections
First Interim Report Presents Findings from Observers in all Regions of Ukraine
KYIV, October 2, 2012 – Preparations for Ukraine’s Parliamentary elections on October 28 are taking place in an environment ofprocedural irregularities,widespread vote-buying, limitations on freedom of speech, and a lack of effective consideration of election disputes.
These are the main findings in an interim report released today by Mission Canada after a month of intensive monitoring by 65 trained observers in all oblasts (regions) of Ukraine. The Mission represents the Canadian Government’s largest-ever deployment of election observers. The team already in place will be joined by 365 short-term observers two weeks ahead of Election Day. In addition, Canada is sending 10 long-term and 60 short-term observers attached to the multilateral mission organized by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE).
The elections for the 450 member Parliament are being held under a mixed electoral system (50% proportionally from party lists, 50% from single mandate districts), where deputies will gain seats for five years.
In its interim report, Mission Canada documented several examples of irregularities that could taint the outcome of the October polls. They include:
• A widespread problem noted by observers is the prevalence of indirect vote-buying. Cases were noted in almost all regions of Ukraine, with over 20 incidents verified. Indirect vote-buying takes on many forms. The fact that this is a widespread phenomenon impacts the free will of the voters and commercializes and degrades the electoral system.
• Observers have noted some 30 cases of violations of citizens’ human rights. Observers have also reported 35 cases of candidates reporting harassment and threats, both against them and their campaign staff. In addition, Mission Canada observers in all oblasts have noted that the abuse of administrative resources is increasingly evident and taking place in many forms.
• The selection process used for membership for both the District Election Commissions (DECs) and Precinct Election Commissions (PECs)was a single “winner-take-all” lottery. This resulted in issues in representation. Numerous complaints have been filed in the courts by DEC members, electoral contestants, and official observers that challenge a wide array of actions, inactions and decisions of the DECs, including the conduct of the PEC lotteries.We have noted issues that raise concern about impartiality.
• A wide range of interlocutors have raised concerns about ongoing restrictions on media freedom, harassment of journalists, and a general lack of pluralism. The government introduced, less than five weeks before voters head to the polls, legislation that would return defamation to the statute books as a criminal offence for the first time since 2001. Although the government decided not to continue to pursue enactment of the legislation at this time, the introduction of such legislation is regarded by Mission Canada as a step backwards and entirely inappropriate during an election period.
In addition, Ukraine’s legal framework establishes an overly complex and formalistic process for adjudication of election-related complaints and appeals, undermining access to justice. Moreover, the manner in which disputes have been handled by the election administration and courts has not been in full accordance with transparency, due process and rule of law. There has been little evidence of law enforcement bodies actively investigating and prosecuting electoral offences.
Speaking about the overall findings in the interim report, Ann Szyptur, Mission Canada’s Long Term Observer (LTO) Coordinator said: “While it is too early to make overall conclusions about the election process, with less than a month to go before voters head to the polls, the findings raised in our report about procedures and irregularities are cause for concern.”
She added: “Journalists and media organizations are raising concerns on the intensification of limitations on freedom of speech during the campaign, particularly the intimidation of journalists and the use of commercial measures to limit voters access to media outlets that feature alternative views. “
The Canadian observer mission expects to be in a position to submit a preliminary report to the Ukrainian and international community as well as the Government of Canada within 24 hours of the closing of polls.
The Mission Canada project was undertaken with the financial support of the Government of Canada through the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) and the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT). It was organized by CANADEM, Canada’s Civilian Reserve.
For further information, contact:
Michael Bociurkiw, +380-66-467-9083 / +1-310-954-9604; Michael.Bociurkiw@canadem.ca
OlesiaOleshko, +380 -50-315-0941, Olesia.Oleshko@canadem.ca
Website address: www.canademmissions.ca/ukraine
Follow us on Twitter: @CANADEM_Mission