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2 November, 2012

Not Quite “Free and Fair”

These elections were not free and fair in accordance with OSCE standards. The European Union must state this and then increase their efforts for a new democratic start in Ukraine

The initial review of the parliamentary elections in Ukraine by the OSCE, the Council of Europe, ODIHR and the delegation of the European Parliament is very negative in tone, although in the opinion of observers, the election was well organized and mostly adhered to regulations. The biggest problems were related to the counting process, which lasted into the third night.

In order to determine whether the elections were free and fair, more needs to be evaluated than simply the election day events. Thanks to the long-term observers of the OSCE and the strong commitment of Ukrainian observers, many problems were discovered, leading to the harsh review on the day after the election. Even if these problems are not all new, any regression of democracy must be condemned. For a return to democratic rules, it is essential that representatives of the OSCE, Council of Europe and European Parliament have expressed their disapproval.

Once again, instances of voter coercion were reported. Voters were threatened with firing, not only from government jobs but also private companies. Votes were bought. Direct candidates were willing to pay more than ever for a single vote. Some people were observed voting multiple times as the carousel technology[1] was used. It is not yet clear to what extent these manipulations could affect the outcome. But there are still more reasons for the harsh reviews.

According to observation findings, the current electoral law does not suit the country’s needs.

The direct mandate exacerbates the temptation for corruption. In this situation, the opposition parties had no chance to obtain a fair number of constituencies despite considerable electoral support shown earlier. Opposition candidates were disqualified for “technical” reasons. Complaints were rarely investigated during the campaign. Candidates from the Party of Regions and their friends from “technical parties” took advantage of their institutional power to snatch up voters for themselves. Stories about the financial gifts granted to schools, hospitals and playgrounds are ceaseless.

Unequal opportunities for single candidates have been confirmed. Moreover, access to media, especially the medium of television, was unfairly restricted for the opposition. The state television reported on the ruling party more often and in a more positive light. The district election commissions were also unequally staffed in favor of the government, facilitating the manipulation of the counting and recording processes. In light of the many complaints regarding the processes of counting and documentation, a review should be considered.

It's a bad sign when a leading opposition figure like Yuriy Lutsenko must speak to election observers from a jail cell. Working for the OSCE, Walburga Habsburg Douglas traced the dark shadow that lies over this election. Yulia Tymoshenko and Yuriy Lutsenko are in prison because the president and his government want them there. The report by Pat Cox and Alexander Kwasniewski also describes this selective justice. Both make it clear that in a democracy, the success or failure of a government is decided by voters and elections, not by prosecutors in courtrooms. Politically motivated judicial systems are incompatible with free elections.

The ruling party would not have achieved a majority without the abuse of institutional power.

In my view of Kyiv, it is still important that a majority of citizens support the opposition, despite all doubts. And that these majorities want to be represented by politicians who do not serve themselves, but their country. Andreas Gross of the Council of Europe said: “A democratic election is more than a contest in which oligarchs pay to win", and "Citizens are the source of democracy." It would be a big step if the results were not rewritten by turncoats to provide the Party of Regions with a majority. We need to give careful consideration to the reasons for the success of UDAR and also Svoboda.

These elections were not free and fair in accordance with OSCE standards. The European Union must state this and then increase their efforts for a new democratic start in Ukraine. We have a commitment to provide criticism. The dispute over the Association Agreement must not obscure the urgency of Ukraine’s need for a good visa agreement with the EU. We must at last enable the citizens of Europe's largest neighbouring country to travel freely.

Rebecca Harms, Co-President of the The Greens–European Free Alliance group in the European parliament

[1]A technology whereby groups of people are driven from polling station to polling station to vote over and over again

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