Local and regional elections in Ukraine observed on 26th March 2006
Rapporteur: David Lloyd-Williams, United Kingdom
Chamber of Regions
Political Group: ILDG
On 26th March 2006, Ukraine held parliamentary, local and regional elections for the third time since the country’s independence. The Congress was the sole institution entrusted with the specific task of monitoring local and regional elections and deployed teams in eight regions.
The Congress considers that the local and regional elections held on Sunday 26th March in Ukraine are basically in compliance with international standards in electoral matters, and commends the Ukrainian Authorities for the progress made since the last presidential elections and for their efforts to conduct elections in line with international principles and values.
The Congress regrets however that the predominant focus of the electoral campaign on parliamentary elections prevented political parties from devoting appropriate attention to local and regional affairs. The concurrent holding of local, regional and parliamentary elections also created many operational problems such as delays in setting-up district and precinct electoral commissions; overcrowding in polling stations mainly due to the length of the ballot papers, the complex burden of delivering ballot papers to the voters and the fact that voter information was registered on two different lists. Furthermore there were long and complex procedures in particular counting process e.g the ballot papers of all elections held concurrently were deposited in the same ballot box by voters thus requiring that prior to the commencement of counting of ballot papers, members of the electoral commission had to choose the ballot papers for the different elections. The electoral law does not allow that different ballot boxes are available for the different ballot papers available at the polling booths.
The Congress observers draw attention to other shortcomings such as the confusion due to the variety of election laws, the failure of the law governing local and regional elections to involve non-partisan domestic observers in local and regional elections, the lack of adequate training of all election commission members, accessibility problems in polling stations and remaining inaccuracies in the voters’ registry.
Despite the progress made to enhance local and regional democracy since Ukraine’s ratification of the European Charter of Local Self-Government, the Congress regretted the amendment to the Law on the Status of Deputies of Local Councils granting members of local councils extensive immunity against criminal and administrative investigations which, in view of the Congress, posed a great danger to local democracy.
On the basis of its findings the Congress invites the Ukrainian Authorities to address several issues with a view to making sure that, in the future, local and regional elections in Ukraine are carried out in full compliance with international electoral standards.
1. On 26th March 2006, the Ukrainian electorate was invited to elect the 450 members to the Verkhovna Rada (Parliament) as well as its representatives in the lower-tiers of government.
2. Following an invitation by the Ukrainian Authorities1, the Bureau of the Congress decided to send a delegation to observe the local and regional elections of 26th March in Ukraine2.
3. In view of the importance of the local and regional elections in Ukraine, the Congress organized, in co-operation with the Foundation for Local Self-Government of Ukraine and the Central Election Commission of Ukraine, a Round Table on Local and Regional Elections in Ukraine on 27-28 February 2006 in Kiev. On this occasion, Congress members met representatives of the Ukrainian Government, the Ukrainian Parliament, the President’s Secretariat, local and regional authorities associations, academic and research institutions as well as domestic and international observer organizations. This Round Table provided a unique opportunity to exchange views on measures taken so far to implement the recommendations made by the Congress in the Report on Local Elections in Ukraine (2002) and Recommendation 102 (2001) of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe. Moreover, it provided with key elements to assess the pre-electoral environment in Ukraine and to prepare the mission of the Congress for the observation of local and regional elections in Ukraine. Finally, the conclusions of the Round Table will help implement the Action Plan of the Task Force on Regionalization in Ukraine for 2006 which was approved by the Bureau of the Chamber of Regions of the Congress on 16 December 2006.
4. The Round Table concluded that, following the 2004 Presidential elections, the Ukrainian electoral legislation had seriously improved at all levels. Despite the many problems of a technical nature, no systematic violations of the democratic principles were noted during the pre-election period. Significant improvements were also noted with regard to the voters’ registry and lists. However, the concurrent holding of parliamentary, regional and local elections was very negatively assessed by the participants who considered that this was detrimental to the local and regional elections and would technically damage the electoral process as a whole. Some interlocutors feared that the lack of proper attention to local and regional issues would give rise to far more violations at the local level, particularly regarding the use of ‘administrative resources’ (illegal use of governmental instruments to manipulate the voters’ decisions or the electoral process). This issue added to one of the main issues of concern, namely the amendment to the Law on the Status of Deputies of Local Councils granting members of local councils an extensive immunity against criminal and administrative investigations. Finally, according to some participants the newly applied proportional system would result in a fragile balance between the Mayor and the local council.
5. Though several international organisations were there to observe the parliamentary elections as part of the International Election Observation Mission (IEOM) 3 , the Congress was the sole international institution entrusted with the specific mandate of monitoring local and regional elections. Given that the local, regional and parliamentary elections were taking place at the same time, it is inevitable that certain comments in this report will refer also to the parliamentary elections.
6. The Congress delegation was headed by Mr Ian Micallef (Malta, EPP/CD, L) and composed of Ömür Aybar (Turkey, EPP/CD, R), Susan Bolam (United Kingdom, EPP/CD, R), Alain Chénard (Honorary Member, France, SOC), David Lloyd-Williams (United Kingdom, ILDG, R - Rapporteur), Guiseppe Magni, (Italy, ILDG, L), Pascal Mangin (France, EPP/CD, L), Giorgi Mosidze (Georgia, EPP/CD, R), Michael Neureiter (Austria, NR, R), Sean O’Brien (Ireland, SOC, L), Zeljko Ozegovic (Serbia and Montenegro, NR, L), Fabio Pellegrini (Italy, SOC, L) Ludmila Sfirloaga (Romania, SOC, R), Anatoly Saltykov (Russian Federation, SOC, R), Marja van der Tas (The Netherlands, EPP/CD, L), Wim Van Gelder (The Netherlands, EPP/CD, R). The delegation was accompanied by Antonella Cagnolati, Pilar Morales and Irina Blonina of the Congress Secretariat.
7. On Election Day, the nineteen member Congress delegation were deployed in eight regions: Kiev, Chernihiv, Simferopol, Lyiv, Dnepropetrovsk, Kharkov, Odessa, Chernovtsy. Meetings in the regions were held as shown in the Appendix IV.
8. During the days preceding the elections, the Congress delegation met with the President of the Central Election Commission, government representatives, members of the Verkhovna Rada, domestic observer organizations, non-governmental organizations, leaders and representatives of political parties, and representatives of the international community in Ukraine. Congress members also attended briefing meetings organized by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, by the OSCE/ODHIR as well as the de-briefing of the International Election Observation Mission on the day following the elections.
9. The Congress would like to thank the representatives of the Government, opposition parties, non-governmental organisations, as well as of other organisations appearing on the Programme (Appendix I), for their readiness to meet Congress members during their mission. It also wishes to express its thanks to Ambassador Kopaj, Head of ODIHR Election Observation Mission, to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe and to Mr Pavlichenko, Director of the Council of Europe Information Office in Ukraine, for the support provided to the Congress monitoring mission.
10. The press release issued by the Council of Europe (Appendix II) was presented during the Press Conference, 27th March, following the International Election Observation Mission (IEOM) presentation of its the preliminary findings (Appendix III). 4
2. Legal framework
11. Since the last parliamentary and local and regional elections held in 2002, election law has evolved significantly in Ukraine.
12. On the one hand, the Constitutional reform initiated by former President Kuchma in 2002 was finally approved in December 2004. The most important consequence of this reform was to increase the power of Parliament at the expense of the President who lost one of his major powers, that of forming the government.
13. On the other hand, the laws governing parliamentary and local and regional elections had both been re-drafted. With regard to parliamentary elections, the Law on Elections of People’s Deputies of Ukraine was adopted and became law in October 2005. Concerning local and regional elections, the Law on the Election of Deputies of the Supreme Council of Autonomous Republic of Crimea, Local Councils and Village, Settlement and City Heads was approved by the Rada on 6 April 2004. As for the law on parliamentary elections, the new law governing the election of representatives in local and regional self-government bodies introduced proportional representation nationwide, with a three percent threshold.
14. Since the adoption of the Law on the Election of Deputies of the Supreme Council of Autonomous Republic of Crimea, Local Councils, Village Settlements and City Heads, some political forces have brought into question the legality of this law and strongly opposed the proportional system. One of their arguments is that the law contradicts the constitutional principle of the role of the local and regional councils as representatives of the interests of communities and not of the population- according to this principle councillors should be elected in communities. The second argument contests the party-based proportional system, which strongly limits the chances of independent candidates being elected. Finally, in the view of certain political forces, the introduction of the proportional system at the local level, combined with the mayors’ election on simple majority rules, will seriously compromise the political stability of local and regional self-government.
15. In overall terms, the laws on Elections of People’s Deputies and the Law on the Election of Deputies of the Supreme Council of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea, Local Councils, Village Settlements and City Heads, have greatly improved. The Law on the Election of People’s Deputies includes now a large number of the recommendations made by international organisations, including those emanating from the Council of Europe’s Venice Commission. Though certain shortcomings still remain the composition of the election commission, organisation of election campaigns, use of mobile ballot boxes and absentee voting certificates have been clearly enhanced.
16. However, the Law on the Election of Deputies of the Supreme Council of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea, Local Councils, Village Settlements and City Heads, contrary to the law governing parliamentary elections, fails to include one of the long-standing recommendations made by international observer organisations, namely the involvement of non-partisan domestic observers in the monitoring of local and regional elections. Though certain local organisations observe these elections with journalists’ accreditations, this situation should be remedied and this shortcoming addressed in line with the other law.
17. The Congress considers that, despite the improvements achieved, the fact that elections are still regulated by different laws and held on the same day in Ukraine is a source of confusion, repetition and inconsistency.
18. In the course of the preparation of its observation mission and during that mission, the Congress was deeply concerned by the amendment to the Law on the Status of Deputies of Local Councils. The revision of this law was part of the compromise Memorandum signed between Viktor Yushchenko’s and Viktor Yanukovich to allow the vote of approval of Yuri Yekhanurov as Prime Minister following the dismissal of Yulia Tymoshenko’s government in September 2005. The new Law on the Status of Members of Local Councils, which was eventually signed by President Yushchenko on 5 October 2005, introduced provision 7, article 30, granting members of local councils extensive immunity against criminal and administrative investigations. The new provision allowed bringing a criminal case against local council’s deputies only upon the decision of the corresponding council.
19. Allegedly, this increase in immunity led to strong interest in local council membership amongst the criminal and semi-criminal groups. Certain NGOs which the Congress delegation met during their meetings in Ukraine, spoke of evidence they had of the sums of money paid for buying good positions on party lists. During its meeting with the leader of the Party of Regions, Mr Viktor Yanukovich told the Congress delegation that its proposal to amend this law had been motivated by the unjustified prosecution of many of his supporters following the Orange revolution.
20. As clearly stated in its preliminary conclusions on the local and regional elections, the amendment to the Law on the Status of Deputies of Local Councils was very negatively assessed by the Congress. The Congress considers that such a measure is a clear threat to local democracy in Ukraine and seriously compromises the trust of citizens in local self-government bodies and shows that the attention devoted to local democracy is still far from adequate in Ukraine.
21. Therefore, the Congress can only welcome the Ukrainian Parliament’s decision, taken at the beginning of April 2006, to withdraw provision 7, article 30 of the Law on Status of Local Councils Deputies of Ukraine.
3. Local and regional elections
22. The Congress considers that the local and regional elections held on Sunday 26th March in Ukraine are basically in compliance with international standards in electoral matters, and commends the Ukrainian Authorities for their efforts, and the progress made since the last presidential elections, to conduct elections in line with international principles and values. Moreover, the Congress notes that the elections were carried out in a peaceful and calm environment.
23. The Congress also welcomes the high voter participation (67.13% in parliamentary elections, around 60% in local and regional elections) 5 which clearly reflects the strong commitment of Ukrainian citizens to democracy.
24. Most of the shortcomings noted by the Congress are related to the concurrent holding of parliamentary and local and regional elections, resulting in operational and practical problems regarding the organisation of elections and counting procedures. The Congress’ comments, as detailed below, also report a number of shortages relating to the electoral campaign at the local and regional level.
25. The Congress considers, as do other international observers, that the freedom of expression and the freedom of assembly have basically been respected during the electoral campaign. In this regard, it welcomes the considerable efforts made by the Authorities and by the Central Electoral Commission to guarantee an informative and fair electoral campaign. It also welcomes the measures taken to inform the electorate about the new legislative framework and about voting procedures, in particular through television information and wide dissemination of leaflets informing people about the new electoral system and on how to vote. In addition, it welcomes the support provided by the government to NGO organisations to conduct awareness-raising campaigns.
26. However, the Congress regrets that, despite the interest of the Ukrainian citizens in local and regional politics, only a few political parties campaigned very actively at the local and/or regional level and devoted the necessary attention due to local matters and policies.
27. The lack of attention given to the electoral campaign at the local and regional level contrasts starkly with the active campaigning of political forces for parliamentary elections. As the Congress delegation was informed, insufficient financial resources of political parties, especially at the local level, were mostly spent on the parliamentary campaign.
28. Moreover, the Congress believes that the amendment extending the immunity of local council members marred an improved electoral environment before the elections. Congress observers were informed that, faced with high campaigning costs, certain political parties opted for selling high ranking positions on the lists to local councils. NGO representatives in certain regions even reported on the prices paid for inclusion in those lists.
29. In the view of the Congress, the decision to extend immunity of local councillors taken before the elections shows that the Ukrainian authorities still need to make significant efforts to ensure that local self-government, as the foundation of a democratic system, is soundly built on democratic rules. It also regrets the predominant focus of the electoral campaign on parliamentary elections, which in its view prevented political parties from devoting appropriate attention to local and regional affairs.
30. The Congress considers that the Central Electoral Commission administered elections in a transparent and professional manner. Nevertheless, it notes certain relevant shortcomings, in particular regarding the inaccuracy of the Voters’ registry and the formation of precinct electoral commissions after legal deadlines.
31. The Congress considers that the Voters’ registry has significantly improved compared to past elections. However, in spite of the efforts made to update voters’ lists and the establishment of working groups to this end, major inaccuracies still remain. These are closely linked to the change from the old way of registering voters; in particular due to the omission of streets and buildings in certain regions and to the imprecise translation of data from Russian into Ukrainian, the latter affecting mainly the Eastern part of the country and Crimea, as noted by Congress observers.
32. Though, according to most people interviewed, voters had made extensive use of the ability to request changes in voters’ lists, especially during the fortnight before elections, it seems difficult therefore to assess the accuracy of voters lists on that ground. The Congress could not establish any irregularities concerning the use of mobile voting.
33. The setting-up of district and precinct electoral commissions appeared to be quite complicated and in many cases subject to changes before the elections. This was due in particular to the large number of commission members as well as the lack of qualified candidates, including those from political parties. Considering the responsibilities of electoral commissions, the delays in their setting-up had a negative impact on the organisation of the elections, slowed down and reduced the possibilities for voters to check the correctness of their voting data. However, most commissions were in place at least 15 days before elections thus allowing those who wanted to check whether they were registered to do so before the elections. The size of commissions was often too big which added to the complexity.
34. The Congress observers noted that not all members sitting in electoral commissions had received adequate training and that, as a result, they were not at all times fully aware of the procedures to be followed, especially at the closing of polling stations, or regarding counting procedures.
35. The large number of observers present at all times in polling stations contributed to the free and fair conduct of the elections. The Congress regrets however, that the law fails to foresee the involvement of non-partisan domestic observers in local and regional elections.
Moreover the Congress is of the opinion that restrictions to free excess at any stage of the elections should be guaranteed and not only available to recognised observers who are present at the commencement of proceedings and who in turn are obliged to remain present during the entire counting proceedings.
Operational problems linked to the concurrent holding of several elections
36. The Congress noted the highly improved conduct of the scrutiny and the absence of significant irregularities during the elections. However, the concurrent holding of several elections gave rise to a large number of operational problems on voting day and seriously undermined the progress made by the Ukrainian Authorities to conduct elections in an efficient manner.
37. As mentioned above, the Ukrainian electorate was invited to elect parliamentary representatives, mayors and members of several self-government bodies (e.g. district council, town councils, local councils and regional councils). Depending on their place of residence, voters were given between four and six ballot papers.
38. Though voting activity started very early in the morning, overcrowding was prevalent in the vast majority of polling stations. Despite the extension of opening hours of polling stations beyond legal provisions (from 7 am until 10 pm), overcrowding persisted all day in a large number of polling stations.
39. According to law the maximum number of voters per polling stations should be 2 500. However in many polling stations the actual number on voters’ lists exceeded this figure and instances were noted of voters’ lists containing up to 3,300 voters.
40. The overcrowding referred to above was mainly due to the length of the ballot papers, to the complex burden of delivering ballot papers to the voters (who had to sign for each ballot paper they received) and the fact that voter information was registered on two different lists.
41. Moreover, the numbers assigned to political parties/candidates on the ballot papers were different on the different ballots, which added to the time needed by voters to fill out the forms.
42. The overcrowding gave rise, in certain cases, to voting outside the voting booths and to family voting, thus compromising the secrecy of the vote. The large number of political parties and candidates added to the complexity. With so many candidates most voters seemed to need considerable time to sort out who they wanted to vote for. Voters often opted to read though the sheets and mark their preferred candidate whilst in the queue.
43. Elderly persons faced special problems in fulfilling their right to vote. Most polling stations were inaccessible for people with disabilities and presented accessibility difficulties for elderly persons. The inadequacy of certain polling stations also related in particular to poor conditions such as the inadequate number of voting cabins, poor lighting n cabins, absence of heating, little space and lack of seats for elderly persons.
44. The closing of polling stations was followed by long counting procedures. The use of the same boxes for all ballot papers and the use of two lists of voters made reconciliation procedures much more difficult for the members of the election commissions, who were overtired at such a crucial stage of the election process.
45. Though election commission members need to be congratulated for their readiness to take on a very tiring day, they were not always properly trained and not fully aware of the counting procedures, including the reconciliation process between voters’ lists, used and unused ballot papers and the counterfoils. Moreover, observers of political parties interfered in some cases rather than monitoring the way procedures were conducted which further delayed the counting process.
46. These operational and practical problems are strongly regretted by the Congress which considers that the organisation of the local and regional elections on the same day as parliamentary elections seriously undermined the progress made by the Ukrainian Authorities in the improved efficiency of their organisation.
47. During meetings held prior to the elections, certain contributors stressed that the holding of elections on the same day was mainly due to cost efficiency. According to the President of the Central Electoral Commission, Ukrainian citizens are used to voting on the same day and changing habits would negatively impact upon participation, in particular, in local and regional elections. However, many other contributors shared the Congress’ view that holding local and regional elections at the same time as parliamentary elections is detrimental to local and regional elections.
48. As for the conduct of the whole electoral process, the outcome of the local and regional elections was eclipsed by the results of the parliamentary voting. The difference in overall terms is that the Party of Regions was less successful on the local and regional level, than on the national level, with the Yulia Tymoshenko bloc achieving very good results at the regional and local level, for instance, advancing in the Western part of the country where “Our Ukraine” even lost seats.
49. The Congress welcomes the progress made during the elections of 26th March and that they were basically held in compliance with international principles and values. That the holding of these local and regional elections in Ukraine were for the first time in line with international democratic standards reflects the willingness of the Ukrainian Authorities to move ahead in the process of building-up local self-government structures based on sound democratic foundations.
50. Accordingly, the Congress wishes to renew, once again, its readiness to support and assist the Ukrainian Authorities in their efforts to consolidate local and regional democracy all over the country, in conformity with Ukrainian commitments with the European Charter of Local Self-Government.
51. Whilst positive about the conduct of the local and regional elections of 26th March, the Congress invites the Ukrainian Authorities to take consideration of the recommendations made in this report, some of which are detailed below so as to ensure full compliance with international electoral standards in future elections. To this end, the Congress recommends that the Ukrainian Authorities:
- Consider the possibility of undertaking a codification of the entire election legislation;
- Ensure that the work carried out to improve voters’ list is pursued;
- Organise local and regional elections separately from parliamentary elections: The Congress reiterates its proposal following the observation of the 2002 elections to organise local and regional elections separately from parliamentary elections. It considers that such a decision is closely linked to good governance at the local and regional level and is essential in order to devote to local and regional matters the consideration they deserve, for the sake of the wellbeing of the Ukrainian population.
- Ensure that non-partisan domestic observers can observe local and regional elections: The Congress recommends that the Law on the Election of Deputies of the Supreme Council of Autonomous Republic of Crimea, Local Councils and Village, Settlement and City Heads be amended so as to include a provision allowing non-partisan domestic observers to monitor local and regional elections and guarantee the free excess to all observers during the entire electoral process.
- Ensure that all electoral commission members receive professional, timely and adequate training: The Congress underlines the need to provide all electoral commission members with professional, timely and adequate training. In this regard, it recommends that any special education and training programmes be drawn up and organised, inter alia, with the assistance of the Council of Europe’s Venice Commission. It also recommends that such training be carried-out in co-operation with the Congress, to take advantage, inter alia, of the experience of the European Network of Training Organisations for local and regional authorities (ENTO).
- Ensure that polling stations are adapted to the needs of the voters and are adequate. In this regard, the Congress recommends that:
· as far as possible, polling stations be made more accessible for the elderly for people with disabilities;
· the law on the number of voters per polling station be re-examined and consideration be given to having a number of sub-polling stations in each building.
ELECTION OBSERVATION MISSION
LOCAL AND REGIONAL ELECTIONS
UKRAINE, 23rd - 27th March 2006
Wednesday, 22nd March
Arrival of Congress delegation in Kiev (Hotel President Kyivsky, Hospiltana Street, 01023 Kyiv, Tel: + 380 44 256 3 256, Fax: + 380 44 256 3 254, E-mail: [email protected] )
Thursday, 23rd March
Meeting of the Congress delegation
10.00 – 11.00
Mr Yaroslav DAVYDOVYCH, President of the Central Election Commission of Ukraine
12.00 – 13.00
Mr Yuriy KLUCHKOVSKIY, Member of the Verkhovna Rada
14.30 – 15.30
Mr Anatoliy TKACHUK, Adviser of the President of Ukraine – Head of the Main Department of Regional Policy
Mr Volodymir YATSUK,
16.00 – 17.00
Mr Igor POPOV, President of the Executive Board of the Committee of Voters of Ukraine.
Mr Peter NAVOTNY, Head of the Mission of the European Network of Election Monitoring Organizations (ENEMO)
17.30 – 18.30
Mr Vitaly SHIBKO, Socialist party
19.00 – 20.00
Representatives of the International Community in Ukraine
De-briefing meeting of the Congress delegation
Friday, 24 March
Mrs Ludmila SUPRUN, Leader of People’s democratic Parties Bloc
Mr Boris SAGALAKOV, Director on scientific issues, Ukrainian Sociological Centre Venue: Kutuzova, 8 (Institute of politics)
Mr Viktor YANUKOVICH, Leader of the Party of the Regions
13.00 – 15.00
Briefing by the OSCE/ ODIHR EOM
· Welcome and introduction Ambassador Lubomir Kopaj, Head of ODIHR EOM
Venue: hotel President Kyivsky
Mr Roman BEZSMERTNYJ, Head of Electoral Campaign, Our Ukraine Bloc
16.00 – 17.00
Media Panel 6
· 1+1 (TBC)
Venue: hotel President Kyivsky
Departure of Teams to Kiev Borispol Airport
Saturday, 25 March
Meeting with driver and Interpreter (hotel lobby)
· Meetings with OSCE/ ODHIR Long-term observers in the regions
Sunday, 26 March - Election day
Monday, 27 March
Return of teams to Kiev
De-briefing meeting of Congress delegation
Press Conference of the International Election Observation Mission (OSCE/ODIHR, Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, Parliamentary Assembly of the OSCE, Parliamentary Assembly of NATO, European Parliament)
Press Conference of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe
of Local and Regional Authorities
Council of Europe
F – 67075 Strasbourg Cedex
Tel : +33 (0)3 88 41 21 10
Fax : +33 (0)3 88 41 27 51/ 37 47
Press release – 170 (2006)
Free local and regional elections in Ukraine, though overshadowed by parliamentary voting
Kyiv, 27.03.2006 – The elections held on Sunday 26 March in Ukraine are, no doubt, the most free and fair elections of the lower tiers of Government held in the country since independence, according to the observers of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe. The Congress observers pointed out the high voter turnout, the peaceful and calm environment, the highly improved conduct of the scrutiny and the absence of significant irregularities on Election Day. They reported that, in the polling stations they monitored, no violations regarding the legal procedures concerning voters’ lists and the use of mobile voting could be found.
The Congress observers emphasized that the predominant focus of the electoral campaign on parliamentary elections had prevented political parties devoting the attention due to local and regional elections.
Referring to the many operational problems in polling stations, the Congress observers noted that the organisation of the local and regional elections on the same day as parliamentary elections had regrettably undermined the progress made to conduct elections in an efficient manner. Overcrowding was prevalent in the vast majority of polling stations mainly due to the length of the ballot papers, the inconsistency in the numbers assigned to political parties/candidates on the ballot papers, the complex burden of delivering ballot papers to the voters and, in some cases, the inadequacy of polling stations. The overcrowding often gave rise to voting outside the voting booths and to family voting, thus compromising the secrecy of the vote. Elderly persons faced special problems in this regard. Election commission members were not always fully aware of the procedures, particularly at the closing of polling stations. The use of the same boxes for all ballot papers unnecessarily added to the time for the counting process.
The Congress observers reiterated the proposal that local and regional elections be organised separately from parliamentary elections. They underlined the need to provide all electoral commission members with professional, timely and adequate training.
Finally, the Congress underlined the need to remove the recent amendment to the Law on the status of members of local councils, granting them a large immunity against criminal and administrative investigations, which represents a clear threat to local democracy and seriously compromises the trust of citizens in local self-government bodies.
The Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe deployed 16 observers in eight Ukrainian regions on election day (Kiev, Chernigov, Crimea, Lviv, Dnepropetrovsk, Charkiv, Odessa and Chernivsti).
Composition of the Congress delegation
Omur Aybar (Turkey, EPP/CD)
Susan Bolam (United Kingdom, EPP/CD)
Alain Chénard (France, SOC)
David Lloyd-Williams (United Kingdom, ILDG)
Giuseppe Magni (Italy, ILDG)
Pascal Mangin (France, EPP/CD)
Ian Micallef (Malta, EPP/CD)
Giorgi Mosidze (Georgia, EPP/CD)
Michael Neureiter (Austria)
Sean O’Brien (Ireland, SOC)
Zeljko Ozegovic (Serbia and Montenegro)
Fabio Pellegrini (Italy, SOC)
Anatoly Saltykov (Russian Federation, SOC)
Ludmila Sfirloaga (Romania, SOC)
Marja Van der Tas (Netherlands, EPP/CD)
Wim Van Gelder (Netherlands, EPP/CD)
Antonella Cagnolati, Deputy Chief Executive of the Congress
Pilar Morales, Head of the Co-ordination and Management Division, Co-ordination of election observation
Irina Blonina, Institutional Committee of the Chamber of Regions of the Congress
The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe observed the parliamentary elections of 26 March as part of the International Election Observation Mission (IEOM) consisting of the Parliamentary Assemblies of the Council of Europe, the OSCE and NATO, the European Parliament and the OSCE/ODHIR.
Council of Europe Press Division
Tel: +33 (0)3 88 41 25 60
Fax:+33 (0)3 88 41 39 11
NATO Parliamentary Assembly
Assemblée parlementaire de l’OTAN
INTERNATIONAL ELECTION OBSERVATION MISSION
Parliamentary Elections, Ukraine – 26 March 2006
Kyiv, 27 March 2006 –The International Election Observation Mission (IEOM) for the 26 March parliamentary elections is a joint undertaking of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly (OSCE PA), Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), European Parliament (EP), NATO Parliamentary Assembly (NATO PA) and the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights’ (OSCE/ODIHR) Election Observation Mission.
Following an invitation by the President of Ukraine, the OSCE/ODIHR established an Election Observation Mission (EOM) in Kyiv on 23 January 2006 with 12 experts and 52 long-term observers. The PACE sent a cross-party Pre-election Mission to Ukraine between 28 February and 2 March.
On election day, 914 observers were deployed in the context of the IEOM from a total of 45 OSCE participating States, including 100 parliamentarians and staff members from the OSCE PA, 43 from the PACE, 14 from the EP and 25 from the NATO PA. The IEOM observed the polling and vote count in over 2,500 polling stations throughout the country.
The Honourable Alcee Hastings, President of the OSCE PA, was appointed by the OSCE Chairman-in- Office as Special Coordinator to lead the short-term observers. Ms. Renate Wohlwend led the PACE Delegation. Mr. Marek Siwiec led the EP Delegation. Mr. Pierre Lellouche, President of the NATO PA,led the NATO PA Delegation. Ambassador Lubomir Kopaj headed the OSCE/ODIHR Election Observation Mission.
The election process was assessed for compliance with domestic law, OSCE Commitments, Council of Europe commitments and other international standards for democratic elections. This preliminary statement is delivered prior to the completion of counting and tabulation, the announcement of preliminary and final results, and adjudication of possible complaints and appeals. The OSCE/ODIHR will publish a comprehensive final report, offering recommendations for potential improvements, approximately two months after completion of the process. The PACE will present its report with recommendations at its April meeting.
Modalities for implementation of recommendations could be discussed with authorities of Ukraine in the framework of a possible follow-up process. The institutions represented in the IEOM remain ready to support such follow-up efforts.
The IEOM wishes to thank the Government of Ukraine for the invitation to observe the elections, theCentral Election Commission for providing accreditation documents, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and other state and local authorities for their assistance and cooperation. The OSCE/ODIHR would also like to express its appreciation to the OSCE Project Coordinator in Kyiv for his support throughout the duration of the mission.
The 26 March 2006 parliamentary elections were the fourth since independence in 1991. Previous observation of the 1998 and the 2002 parliamentary elections concluded that those elections overall fell short of international standards. During the 2004 presidential election, the first and second rounds of voting were seriously flawed. The 26 December 2004 repeat second round marked a breakthrough for the conduct of elections in Ukraine. This has been further consolidated during the 26 March parliamentary elections, underscoring the stated priority of the authorities to meet international commitments.
The 26 March parliamentary elections were conducted basically in line with OSCE Commitments, Council of Europe commitments and other international standards for democratic elections. Overall, fundamental civil and political rights, such as freedom of expression and assembly, were respected. An inclusive candidate registration and a vibrant media environment provided for genuine competition and equal conditions. This enabled voters to make informed choices between distinct alternatives and to freely and fairly express their will.
Positive aspects of the process include, in particular, the following:
· The participation of parties and blocs, representative of the entire political spectrum of Ukraine, was facilitated by an inclusive registration process;
· The media allowed for comprehensive coverage of the campaign and enabled parties and blocs to communicate their messages to the electorate;
· The campaign period was conducted overall in an unhindered and dynamic environment. The few allegations of interference in the campaign could not be substantiated by the EOM;
· The Central Election Commission (CEC) administered the elections in a transparent, consensual and professional manner, respecting most legal deadlines;
· Implementation of long standing OSCE/ODIHR recommendations resulted in legislative provisions for domestic non-partisan observers to be formally accredited by the CEC;
· There was the political will to conduct a countrywide overhaul of the voter lists in an attempt to address deficiencies identified in previous elections, despite the condensed timeframe;
· The police performed their duties, both during the campaign and on election day, in a professional and neutral manner.
Shortcomings which require further attention include:
· The formation of a number polling station commissions was delayed, as only some of the parties could provide the legally required members of elections commissions in a timely manner;
· The Constitutional Court was prevented from functioning throughout the election period because the outgoing Parliament failed to fulfill legally required appointments;
· The current legal requirements regarding campaign financing are under-defined and require improved reporting mechanisms to increase accountability and transparency.
· Some 1,400 polling stations in which the number of registered voters exceeded the legally foreseen maximum could have been responsible for long lines, and potential cases of disenfranchisement;
· The scope, timing and duration of the voter registration overhaul, vesting significant responsibilities with local authorities underestimated challenges; however, regionally-specific allegations of inaccuracies in voter lists submitted to the EOM were only verified on a limited basis.
The overwhelming majority of voters were able to exercise their voting rights with virtually no serious incidents reported. Election day procedures were conducted in a peaceful manner, largely according to the law. Overcrowding and long queues were noted in nine per cent of polling stations visited, with voters having to wait extended periods. Such difficulties mainly occurred as a consequence of the concurrent conduct of legislative and local elections, and the large size of the ballot papers, as well as excessively detailed provisions of the law which restricted possibilities for immediate remedial action in the polling stations. As a result of overcrowding, voting outside of voting booths was noted in 12 per cent of polling stations visited, possibly compromising the secrecy of the vote.
It is commendable that, under conditions that were at times stressful, the vast majority of polling station commissions administered the vote in a credible and dedicated manner.
The counting of votes was overall assessed as having proceeded well, although there were a significant number of observer reports that indicated inconsistencies and poor understanding of counting procedures. Some irregularities were noted in a number of polling stations, including cases of party observers interfering with the count and difficulty in completing vote count protocols.
The presence of substantial numbers of both non-partisan and party observers in polling stations on election day significantly enhanced the transparency of the process. However, IEOM observers were denied full access to the tabulation of election results in DECs 111 (Luhansk), 143 (Poltava) and 162 (Sumy). At the time of issuance of this statement, observers reported some serious concerns regarding the vote tabulation in DEC 98 (Kirovograd).
Meetings held in the deployment areas
by Congress observers
· LTO of OSCE
· LTO of OSCE
· LTO of OSCE
· LTO of OSCE
· LTO of OSCE
· LTO of OSCE
· LTO of OSCE
· LTO of OSCE