on the lack of a level playing field in the Ukrainian election
The election observation mission from the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (OSCE/ODIHR) was one of the key observation missions to the Ukrainian parliamentary election alongside the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, the Council of Europe, NATO and European MPs. It employs deep analysis of the election process and a clear methodology. OSCE/ODIHR Head Dame Audrey Glove talks to The Ukrainian Week about the mission’s observations.
UW: Your mission has been to follow the election campaign since the beginning of September. Can you share your observations on the whole electoral process in Ukraine? How has the situation changed compared to the previous national election campaign in 2007?
The OSCE/ODIHR election observation mission has been in Ukraine since 10 September. The Core Team is comprised of 20 members, including election, political and legal analysts and a media analyst with a team of assistants. We were joined shortly afterwards by 90 long-term observers who were briefed and deployed around the country. During their time here they have been observing the whole election process, including the election campaign, and reporting regularly to the Core Team. 600 short-term observers joined us for the election day.
Our preliminary findings are that these elections were characterized by the lack of a level playing field, caused primarily by the abuse of administrative resources, lack of transparency of the campaign and party funding, as well as a lack of balanced media coverage. Certain aspects of the pre-election period constituted a step backwards in comparison to recent national elections. However, voters had a choice between distinct parties. The election day was calm and peaceful overall. For the most part, voting and counting were assessed positively. Tabulation was assessed negatively as it lacked transparency. We are continuing to monitor the process.
UW: What major technologies were used to rig the election?
The new mixed electoral system with MPs for half the seats being elected by the proportional system and for the other half by a single mandate has changed the dynamics of these elections. The competitive nature of the campaign was negatively affected by cases of violence, intimidation, harassment and vote buying. Candidates were prevented from getting their message across to voters. Numerous violations were observed or substantiated by long-term observers during the campaign. Most worrying is the fact that the campaign was marred by the abuse of administrative resources, blurring the distinction between the state and the ruling party in contravention of Ukraine’s OSCE commitments.
UW: At which stages of the electoral process did your mission discover facts of falsifications? What were they?
The OSCE observation mission is an ongoing process. It observes the whole electoral cycle. We have long-term observers observing, checking and clarifying events during the whole time. If we find anything during that time, we reflect this in our Interim Reports. During the course of the mission, we published two such reports. We also issued our Preliminary Findings and Conclusion on the day after the election. We will be publishing a Final Report in about two months. It will reflect our observations of the election cycle on the whole and provide recommendations on how to improve electoral legislation and practices.
UW: Shortly after the voting, Ukrainian officials attempted to persuade Ukrainian society and part of the international community that this election was free and transparent. To what extent is this in line with your mission’s observations?
We have our methodology for observing elections and our mandate is to observe and assess the entire electoral process in line with OSCE commitments, other international standards and national legislation. But we are not here to legitimize the elections or declare them valid or invalid. The Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights would be willing to offer assistance to the authorities if they should require it. That is part of the ODIHR methodology.
UW: What was the role of the media in the election campaign?
We conducted the monitoring of seven main TV stations, as well as the print media. The campaign coverage in the news and current affairs programmes was limited to the most popular TV channels of those we monitored. This may have negatively affected voters’ access to different political views. The fact that the amount of paid political advertising was five times higher indicates that political parties required significant financial means in order to reach out to voters. State TV displayed a clear bias in favour of the ruling party.
UW: What to do you think about the efficiency of the first-past-the-post system in Ukrainian conditions? Most Europeans countries conduct mixed elections in two stages. Ukraine had it all in one day. Almost 50% of Ukrainian voters did not know that they also had to vote for single candidates.
It is the sovereign right of a country to choose whichever form of electoral system it would like to have. We commented in our statement that the new mixed electoral system has changed the dynamics of these elections. This new electoral law was adopted without the required wide consensual discussion and reintroduced some deficiencies which were noted previously. The law includes some important improvements although it also contains a number of shortcomings.
Dame Audrey Glover is a UK human rights lawyer. From 1994-1997, she was the Director of the ODIHR, and headed the UK Delegation to the UN Human Rights Commission from 1998 to 2003. More recently, she has headed OSCE/ODIHR election observation missions, including those to Georgia and Azerbaijan (2010), Albania (2009), Italy and the US (2008) and Ukraine (2007).
The election observation mission from the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (OSCE/ODIHR) was one of the key observation missions to the Ukrainian parliamentary election alongside the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, the Council of Europe, NATO and European MPs. It employs deep analysis of the election process and a clear methodology. OSCE/ODIHR Head Dame Audrey Glove talks to The Ukrainian Week aboutthe mission’s observations.