The Committee for Open Democracy (COD) officially observed the November 22, 2020, mayoral runoff elections in Ukraine. The mayoral runoff in the western Ukrainian city of Rivne was the focus of the observation. In addition, the worldwide Covid 19 pandemic created additional obstacles for conducting voting. However, close to 50 polling stations were monitored.
Issues of concern included:
- There was evidence of carousel voting and ballots without polling station numbers to identify them. However, to the credit of the polling stations, these ballots were not counted in the final tally.
- Voter turnout was a record low compared to previous elections, and clearly complicated by Covid 19. The voting stations included specific polling booths for those who had a high temperature to limit any possible infections.
- There were instances of vote-buying with buckwheat and other foodstuffs in the pre-election period.
- Also in the pre-election period, there were attempts to attack one of the candidates due to his Protestant faith. The materials were limited in distribution, but the campaign eventually spread to social media as well. In the end, though, it did not seem to affect the results.
The election commissions managed to meet the challenges in a professional manner. We reiterate our recommendations from the round one elections in conjunction with overcoming low turnout:
- The election law should include some sort of absentee or early voting provisions as in other countries. This will increase the turnout which has been declining consistently in recent years.
- Cases of vote-buying must be better investigated and punishments enforced through the legal system.
This is the 28th election observed by COD since its founding in 2010. Once again, COD is among the largest five observer missions in Ukraine with 24 official observers accredited by the Central Election Commission. In the past, COD has observed elections in Albania, Bulgaria, Lithuania, Macedonia, Moldova, Montenegro, Slovenia, the United Kingdom, and Ukraine. Prior to the Russian occupation of Crimea, COD also was the first international organization to observe the Kuraltai elections for the Crimean Tatar Medzhlis. COD is a US nonprofit organization that includes observers from multiple countries including Canada, Lithuania, America, Macedonia, and others.