Rigging the Election

17 September 2012, 14:36

Forgers follow one well-known rule: victory in elections comes to those who count the votes, not those who gain the majority. In the upcoming parliamentary election in Ukraine it will be the job of Election Commissions to count the votes. After Arseniy Yatseniuk's ‘Front Zmin’ (The Front of Change) and Yulia Tymoshenko's ‘Batkivshchyna’ (Fatherland) voted for the new election law sponsored by the Party of Regions and claimed that they thus prevented possible rigging, their triumph about it raised much doubt back in the autumn of 2011. The Ukrainian Week noticed one novelty of the law which qualified parties that nominated candidates, rather than party lists, as participants of the election process. This meant that a party could nominate just one MP in a first-past-the-post (FPTP) district and gain certain rights, including that of participating in the selection of election commissions. As a result, a crowd of technical parties would be legitimately involved in the process. In addition to the five parliamentary parties whose candidates are included in election commissions on a mandatory basis (they all nominated 225 people each), and a few major parties that are not in the parliament but will run in the election, almost 80 new parties nominated their candidates to election commissions despite zero chances of actually getting a seat in the parliament.  

According to The Ukrainian Week's sources, the party in power already controls over 2/3 of the Central Election Commission. The novelty, however, also gives it dominating control over first-past-the-post commissions where major rigging may take place in the October election. Thus, 13 out of 18 members of district election commissions, 18 being the maximum possible number of commission members, are elected through ballot drawing from non-parliamentary parties. On April 19th, 2012, the Central Election Commission set a ballot drawing procedure that runs counter to the Law on Parliamentary Elections in Ukraine. Under the latter law, the ballot drawing was supposed to take place in every district election commission, as was common practice at the previous parliamentary election. The procedure passed on April 19th, however, sets forth a list of parties that will take part in the nation-wide election of commissions.

Thus, on August 25th, the Central Election Commission chose 19 non-parliamentary parties of which only five have come up with their party lists while the rest will be running in the election with FPTP candidates. Most are completely unknown to the public. This raises the assumption that they are technical projects of the administration which it can use to have its people in district commissions. The Ukrainian Week's sources claim that the undisclosed quota of the Party of Regions was filled by candidates to district election commissions from parties, such as Russkoye Yedinstvo (Russian Unity) with 221 nominees; Russkiy Block (Russian Bloc) with 223; Rus Yedina (Single Rus) with 225; Narodno-Trudovyi Soyuz (People's Labour Union) with 225; Zelena Planeta (Green Planet) with 225; Soyuz Anarkhistiv Ukrayiny (The Union of Anarchists of Ukraine) with 220; Liberalna Partia Ukrayiny (The Liberal Party of Ukraine) with 219; Viktor Baloha's Yedynyi Tsentr (The Single Centre) with 43; Oleksandr Rzhavsky's Yedyna Rodyna (The Single Family) with 212; and Dmytro Korchynsky's Bratstvo (Brotherhood) with 225. Following the absurd procedure of the Central Election Commission, The Single Family and the Brotherhood nominated just one candidate to run in the parliamentary election each. The Ukrainian Week's sources say that all the above mentioned parties, other than The Single Centre, had their nomination applications (totalling over 2,000 district election commission members out of the maximum 4,050) prepared by the lawyers of the Party of Regions and of the oligarchs close to it. The lawyers were unofficially paid by sources from the party in power. It is common knowledge now that the preparation of the pool of technical parties started over a year ago. For this purpose, old party organizations were involved and new reliable political projects created.  

The party in power also has two more quotas in district election commissions that are entirely under its control. They are the quotas of the Party of Regions and Volodymyr Lytvyn's Narodna Partiya (People's Party). Members of the latter are included into the Party of Regions' party list and run in several FPTP districts approved by the Party of Regions. Thus, the Party of Regions will have at least 11-12 members in district election commissions. Their presence may rise to 13-14 out of the total of 18 members in each district election commission due to the varying degrees of their control over the Communist Party and Natalia Korolevska's Ukrayina-Vpered! (Ukraine – Forward!).

Another question to add to all this is how long opposition representatives will stand. Based on earlier experience, the opposition minority may shrink as a result of indirect pressure on district election commission members. Moreover, the new law prohibits the party that nominates an election commission member from nominating a new representative if the one originally nominated resigns. If the disobedient election commission members from the opposition refuse to resign ‘voluntarily’, the Central Election Commission may decide to terminate their powers.

Meanwhile, district election commissions ended up with not a single representative of Vitali Klitschko's UDAR (Ukrainian Democratic Alliance for Reforms) or Svoboda (Freedom) parties, the two opposition forces that are most likely to get into the parliament. As a result, the opposition will have no more than 3-4 members out of the 18 possible. Moreover, district election commissions can pass decisions with a simple majority or 2/3 of the members present on the day of the vote; therefore, if 2/3 of the 18 members are not present, a 2/3 majority of those that are there could all turn out to be loyal to the party in power. This means that the Party of Regions will have the tools to select virtually all members of election commissions at polling stations through district election commissions loyal to it; cancel their decisions or deem the election illegitimate in certain polling stations that provide the worst outcome for the party in power. Official observers will not be able to prevent this. The Party of Regions will have enough votes in every district election commission to remove them from any commission meeting.

Iryna Sekh, Head of the Lviv Oblast Office of the Svoboda party, disclosed instructions which the Party of Regions was giving to members of district election commissions that it has under control. The ‘guidelines’ tell them how to act when the commission is headed by a Party of Regions’ man, and when it is not, and when there is no quorum at the commission meeting. In commissions headed by someone disloyal to the Party of Regions, all candidates of the technical staff should be “swept away” during voting for them. In terms of responsibilities, the Party of Regions’ representatives are advised to delegated major tasks to loyal people while others should perform the most complicated and second-rate work. 

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