Ukraine elections observed with NGO observers from Russia
European Platform for Democratic Elections (EPDE), a network of NGOs observing elections in Europe, has been united to observe the crucial Presidential elections in Ukraine that took place 25 may. 200 trained civil society observers monitored the elections in 10 regions of Ukraine in cooperation with local observers from Opora and Committee of Voters Ukraine. Norwegian Helsinki Committee, a co-founder of EPDE, joined the mission and assisted in the coordination of the effort. Today, the mission statement was published at a press conference in Kiev.
Mission statement of the European Platform for Democratic Elections
European Platform for Democratic Elections (EPDE) led a mission of short-term observers for the presidential election in Ukraine. Initially, 823 observers were supposed to be deployed across all Ukrainian regions.
However, the Ukrainian Central Election Committee (CEC) initially (May 19) denied accreditation to the mission. On May 23, a court decision was reached to allow accreditation, but due to this delay, EPDE had to reduce the number of observers. As a result, 200 short-term observers were deployed in 9 regions of Ukraine: Kiev, Kiev district, Dnipropetrovsk, Zhytomyr, Lviv, Odessa, Poltava, Chernihiv, Kharkiv region, as well as northern Luhansk. EPDE observers also conducted observation at the Ukrainian Embassy in Russia and the Ukrainian Embassy in Finland.
Observation was carried out in groups of 2 mobile EPDE observers that visited 1,160 polling stations during Election Day. Most monitoring crews included representatives of the Ukrainian civil network OPORA to ensure the group’s effectiveness and awareness of the local context in each location.
EPDE observers attended the opening of 82 polling stations, the voting process was observed at 1,011 stations and the observers were present at counting of votes at 67 sites.
Members of election commissions were generally friendly to EPDE Mission observers. Only 16 cases (1.5% of all visited polling stations) of admission difficulties to the polling site were recorded. In one case (Starobilsk, Luhansk region), EPDE observers were rudely removed from the site and were not allowed to carry out their monitoring duties. At the PEC 800961 in Kiev, where observers arrived on call from the representatives of OPORA, they were not admitted to the premises.
In general, in those regions where the EPDE Mission conducted monitoring (except Luhansk oblast), voting and counting were calm. Observers of EPDE did not report a single case of major violations, such as ballot stuffing, proxy voting, and voter bribery.
EPDE observers reported violations and incidents at a small number of polling stations, which were mostly due to procedural issues and did not affect the outcome of the vote. During the opening of the polling stations, the most frequent violation observed (24 cases, 29.3% of the visited stations prior to opening) was the failure to record the number of received ballots in the report of the commission before the beginning of voting. Another common violation was the lack of posters providing information about the candidates (97 sites, 9.6% of the visited polling stations). Commission members often considered informational materials to be propaganda, suggesting the need for a more thorough training of the committee members.
In 35 cases (3.5% of the total visited polling stations), observers noted the presence of campaigning and advertising in the vicinity of the polling station. 26 sites (2.6% of the total visited polling stations) had violations in the procedures for issuing ballots, with the most common being the issuing of ballots by a single commission member.
During vote tabulation, the most common violation was failure to record the data immediately, which happened on 16 sites (23.9% of the visited polling stations prior to vote count). In 11 cases (16.4% of the visited polling stations prior to vote count), the counting procedure for candidates was not fully implemented. 5 sites (7.5% of the visited polling stations prior to vote count) recorded a mismatch between the number of ballots and the number of listed voters who were marked as having received the ballots.
Many polling stations experienced long queues due to high voter turnout and shortcomings in the organization of voting. Vote counting by the precinct election commissions was also delayed due to the inexperience and lack of adequate training of commission members, a combination of elections at different levels: particularly, in Kiev presidential elections were held simultaneously with local mayoral and city council elections. The council elections use a mixed electoral system, that is, with two ballots. There were also shortcomings of the electoral law, in particular, because it poorly resolves issues related with a combination of elections.
In general, the Mission is confident that the election of the President of Ukraine on May 25, 2014, with the exception of most parts of Donetsk and Lugansk oblasts, were held in line with international standards for free and fair elections and the results of these elections reflect the will of the citizens of Ukraine.
The Mission notes that the voting and counting of votes in accordance with the Ukrainian law "On the Election of the President of Ukraine" largely resolved efficiently. However, the law contains a number of flaws, and the Mission recommends that the Ukrainian lawmakers continue to work on improving the electoral process.
The site of EPDE can be found here.
The findings of Opora can be found here.
The findings of Committee of Voters Ukraine can be found here.
Read also an article published in Open Democracy about the mission. "Beyond propaganda", by Alina Polyakova.