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5 November, 2012

Stealing Ukraine: Vote by Vote

Indications of falsifications in the national election

1.  The government’s most effective technology in rigging the parliamentary election was the newly-introduced mixed system. Three opposition parties enjoyed an undeniable victory in the party-list vote, gaining from 60% to 94% in 16 oblasts of Ukraine. However, the Party of Regions’ nominees and pro-government independent candidates ended up winning the FPTP vote in 57 out of 119 constituencies. On the whole, single-candidate constituencies gave the Party of Regions 115 seats in the new parliament, plus at least 40 “independent” MPs who are most likely to join the pro-government majority, and 73 seats gained under the party-list vote. If the election had been held under the proportional system used before the parliament changed the procedure, the opposition would now have over 50% of seats in the parliament, given the outcome of the party-list vote, while the Party of Regions – even with the Communist Party – would end up with less than 45%.

2.   Single candidates bribed voters on a massive scale. Some paid UAH 200 or 300 per vote, making the voters sign documents to make sure that they vote for the right candidate. Observers, media and party activists noted voter bribery all over Ukraine. Disparities in the support of parties from one political camp and single candidates from another signals that this mechanism was used in a given region. For instance, Batkivshchyna won the party-list vote in all constituencies in Vinnystia Oblast, while the United Opposition’s single candidates won in just three of the oblast’s eight single-candidate districts. Voters, especially public sector employees, faced intimidation in all oblasts, particularly those focused on agriculture. To reinforce the psychological effect, representatives of the authorities collected copies of their passports and signatures confirming their support of the Party of Regions, and threatened to fire them if they voted for an opposition party or single candidate. Many were warned that their choice would be monitored with video cameras installed at the polling stations. Facts of forcing doctors, teachers, and employees of utility service providers to give their signatures in support of the Party of Regions were recorded all over Ukraine, including Western Ukraine and Kyiv. In some places, including Kharkiv, college students were forced to vote under the control of supervisors.

3.   According to sources in the Party of Regions, bribing and intimidation were part of the plan to compile a register of voters who will vote for the party in power in given oblasts and regions, which was provided to its local organizations from above.

4.  Up to 10% of all voters applied to vote at home, many of them listing sickness as a cause. In the Kharkiv Oblast, the number of such people was 1.5 times higher in comparison to the 2010 local election. Moreover, observers noted that many people voted without any documents or certificates proving reasons for such voting in some FPTP districts. Half of those who voted at home in the Cherkassy Oblast had no proper documents to confirm why they could not vote at polling stations.

5.  All members in many polling stations were directly or indirectly controlled by the Party of Regions, according to UDAR, which learned this in Sevastopol after calling representatives of some DECs.  

6.  Svoboda and several single candidates from the opposition were marked as “withdrawn” on the ballots in some constituencies.

7.   Video cameras recorded massive ballot stuffing, especially in the Donetsk Oblast and the Irpin district of the Kyiv Oblast where the Party of Regions’ Petro Melnyk was running.

8.   Some voters were given only one ballot to fill in, while the ballot for single candidates was held back.

9. Observers noted carousels – a technology whereby groups of people are driven from one polling station to another to vote several times over; voters cast ballots filled in by falsifiers in advance and give away their clean unused ballots, or photograph the ballots they fill in to prove that they have voted for the right candidate or party – in the Odesa and Zaporizhzhia Oblasts, Uzhhorod and other regions.

10.  Voters were driven to polling stations in buses. This technology is not officially illegal, unless it is used as the promotion of a specific candidate or party. Such services were provided massively to voters in Zakarpattia, Donetsk and other oblasts, by people cooperating with certain parties.

11.   The “blue sweater” is a technology whereby commission members involved in falsifications wore signs to make sure that certain voters recognized them – this was mostly for those who intended to vote for absent voters. Reports on such activities were forwarded from several oblasts. UDAR representatives found this was the case in the Orikhiv Region, Zaporizhzhia Oblast, where opposition observers spent several hours trying to prevent a dozen people who were not on the voter list at the polling station, from getting ballots and voting there.

12.  Pens with disappearing ink were used in a number of polling stations, including those in Odesa, the Ivano-Frankivsk Oblast and other locations.

13.  Most districts in Crimea, as well as a number of others – especially in South-Eastern Ukraine - delayed the disclosure of voter turnout.

14.  Voter turnout in the Donetsk Oblast exceeded the overall turnout in the country significantly, reaching up to 100% in Horlivka, for instance, despite exit polls showing that the voters there were significantly less willing to go the election compared to the rest of the country.

15. Surprising results of the vote in special facilities, such as prisons, hospitals and the like. The party in power often exerted pressure on them to improve its ratings in the election. The penal colony in Berdychiv, Zhytomyr Oblast, that was No. 70 in District No. 63, was a telling example: its prisoners gave 237 votes for the Party of Regions and only 163 for Batkivshchyna, which is abnormal for a constituency where 43.77% of all voters supported Batkivshchyna compared to just 16.27% for the Party of Regions. In many cases, observers were not allowed into colonies during the vote, and no video monitoring was installed at special facility polling stations. This is where the Party of Regions won with abnormally high support compared to the general election outcome, with some polling stations registering as many as 98% of the vote in its favour. Opposition representatives also recorded facts where all patients were released from hospitals right after they voted, or early because they refused to tell the administration whom they were going to vote for.

16.  Some commissions found their work blocked. Some DEC members left commissions with the ballot boxes, unless they managed the right level of falsification during the vote at home – such as in the Holosiyevo District in Kyiv. DEC heads, loyal to the party in power, refused to sign protocols for other commission members in the polling stations where opposition parties or candidates won. Some DEC and polling station commission heads “disappeared” to avoid signing the protocols from polling stations where the party in power or its single candidates lost. DECs refused to accept ballots from the polling stations where the pro-government candidates lost, giving various lame excuses. Commission members who delivered ballots from polling stations where the opposition had been projected to win earlier to DECs were intentionally made to wait long hours – or days – to exhaust them and make them less vigilant.

17. Athletic young men blocked the work of DECs and polling station commissions, especially when serious violations were found there or opposition candidates were obviously winning the election. This was how the work of most DECs in Kyiv and the Kyiv Oblast, where opposition candidates were likely to win, was blocked.

18.  Votes were counted with a considerable lack of transparency. Vote counting for parties and single candidates includes two major stages: sorting ballots into piles by party and candidates, and then the counting. The most common and easiest rigging technology was to sort the ballots quickly without showing it to all the people present at the polling station. The law requires DEC members to show each ballot to all commission members while sorting them into piles, and to announce the party or the candidate marked in the ballot out loud. According to the OPORA NGO, its activists found that ballot sorting did not involve the demonstration of which party or candidate was market in each ballot in as much as 11% of all polling stations. Based on reports from other observers, the share of such polling stations amounts to nearly 40%.

19.   Vote counting was delayed in DECs where opposition candidates were likely to win. These included districts where the notorious President of the Tax Academy, Petro Melnyk, turncoat Bohdan Hubsky, and others ran.

20.  In many constituencies, the Party of Regions’ candidates won in the last minutes, as the last 2-4% of the ballots were counted, beating their rivals by several hundred votes.

21.  In a number of constituencies, phantom vote results were entered into the Election Electronic System. CEC Deputy Chairman, Zhanna Usenko-Chorna, admitted this: “We have a list of districts where the data entered into the Election software differs from that reported in the protocols with an original ink seal that was signed by commission members. There are quite a few such districts in Ukraine.”

22.  Many DECs and polling station commissions refused to respectively register and accept complaints about various violations. Reports of this came from all over Ukraine during the voting and counting. 

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