Ukrainian Elections marked by Disputes and Violations

nsnbc : Ukraine’s regional elections on Sunday have been marked by disputes, violations and the tense, conflict-laden atmosphere in the country. 

Photo courtesy of Ukraine's Presidential Press Service, Mykola Lazarenko.

Photo courtesy of Ukraine’s Presidential Press Service, Mykola Lazarenko.

Exit poll results from the Ukrainian capital Kiev show that five parties have cleared the five percent hurdle and won seats in the City Council, reported the Committee of Voters. According to the exit polls, Solidarity won 28.3% and Samopomoshch (Self-Reliance) won 10.3% of the votes.

The Fatherland (Batkivshchina) Party of former Ukrainian President Yulia Timoshenko won 10.1% while the ultra-nationalist Svoboda (Freedom) party won 9.7%. Ednistvo (Unity) reportedly won 8.5% of the votes. Opposition Block won no more than 3.8% and has thus not cleared the 5% barrier in Kiev.

Opposition Bloc leader Yuri Boiko stated, however, that Opposition Block has won the local elections in the regions of Donetsk, Lughansk, Zaporozhye, Dnepropetrovsk, Odessa and Nikolayev. Boiko said:

“We have improved our standing as compared with the previous elections. We have won in six regions and improved our positions in six more regions, primarily in central Ukraine, as compared with the 2014 elections.”

Boiko said that the situation in the Kharkov region where Opposition Block had not been registered for participation in the election in cities and villages was a serious trial. Boiko stressed that Opposition Block would not recognize election results in those settlements where its representatives had been denied registration and that Opposition Block would request court to announce those elections as invalid. Boiko denounced the electoral authorities, saying:

“The country has never seen such dirty and problematic elections. … The authorities made use of the entire spectrum of violations: administrative pressure, police pressure on Opposition Bloc candidates, vote buying.”

Boiko also stressed that the voter turnout of merely 35% demonstrated that people have no confidence in the authorities. Boiko also noted that the elections in Mariupol were a real tragedy, adding:

“We will appeal to the international community about this fact, since it is a blatant case. We will initiate a bill in the parliament to hold elections in Mariupol and Krasnoarmeisk. We will insist the lawmakers pass it as soon as possible. And those responsible for frustrating the elections are to be called answerable.”

The local election has, in so many words, been marred by disputes and irregularities that reflect the de facto civil war in Ukraine and the volatility of the ceasefire. The head of Ukraine’s Voter’s Committee, Alexey Koshel, told the press:

“There were numerous violations. The amount of hidden advertising has significantly grown, for example. This was seen most of all at elections in Kiev, the Kievskaya and Cherkasskaya regions. … Many violations came as the law on elections had been adopted hastily.”

Polling Stations in Mariupol and Krasnoarmeysk did not open due to a lack of ballot papers. The Elections Commissions later recognized polls in the Lughansk Region’ Lisichansk and Svatovo as invalid. Ukraine’s Verkhovna Rada (national parliament) will have to introduce amendments to the law that stipulate holding election in these settlements during the second round.

Ukraine’s Voter’s Committee commented on Sunday’s elections, saying that the Interior Ministry has received a total of 470 reports linked to violations. Among the violations are reportedly 54 reports on voter bribery, 5 reports about damaged ballot papers, 2 reports of bomb threats, as well as two reported deaths at polling stations.

The representative of the slef-proclaimed Lughansk People’s Republic (LPR), Vladislav Deinego, commented on the low voter turnout and on what he described as gerrymandeing, saying:

“These elections are held in absolutely unacceptable conditions when torrents of lies are poured down on the voters who are openly intimidated. It would be no surprise for me if the voter turnout in Donbas is not more than ten percent. If it is higher, it will speak about open falsification. … They (Ukrainian authorities) are fully aware that there (in Donbass areas controlled by forces loyal to Kiev) they can have no support at all, that is why they are afraid to show the world the real picture. So, it’s only natural that they have opted to use whatever a pretext that might be not to hold elections in these territories, … Rather acute contradictions have taken shape in Ukraine, where they authorities are using all possible tools to rig the elections in their advantage. There is also a rather radically-minded opposition, also seeking to rig votes. In such conditions it is impossible to speak about any objective elections.”

The LPR spokesman commented on the low voter turnout, saying that people’s unwillingness to participate in the elections proves that people don’t believe in the existing system of the organization of authorities in Ukraine. Voter turnout has been markedly lower than voter turnout during the presidential elections. The low turnout, the disputes and irregularities suggest that Ukraine has a long way to go before the country can regain stability and reconciliation.

CH/L – nsnbc 26.10.2015

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