The Committee for Open Democracy, fielded the largest accredited international observer mission for the October 31, 2010 Ukrainian local elections. Comprised of 96 members from 14 countries, many of the observers have extensive experience monitoring elections in Ukraine.
Since monitoring and observing local elections is different from doing national elections, the Committee decided to focus all of it’s 96 observers on Odesa; which historically has held competitive elections. Our organization has been in coordination with other international observation organizations and diplomatic missions. The Committee for Open Democracy observed 90% all 347 polling stations on and before Election Day.
The findings of the mission are as follows:
1. International observers were confronted frequently with hostility from election commissioners. We believe this is a result of aggressive statements made by the Head of the Odesa Regional State Administration, Eduard Matvychuk against international observers in the days before the election. As a result, the commissioners were often afraid to answer routine questions and sometimes refused to cooperate. More troublesome, in several situations on Election Day, international observers from our mission were denied entry into polling stations. These actions are in direct defiance of President Yanukovych’s invitation to international observers to monitor the Ukrainian elections. It is also in clear contrast to international election observation norms.
2. The vote counting process was intentionally slowed down in many instances when our observers were present. It was intended to exhaust observers and persuade them to leave the polling station before protocols were issued. In addition, the commissioners were regularly uncooperative to requests to receive protocols as prescribed according to Ukrainian election law. This again is in direct defiance of President Yanukovych;s invitation for international observers to monitor local Ukrainian elections.
3. A number of violations were witnessed and reported on Election Day, these include but are not limited to: carousel voting, usage of unofficial voter lists without stamps, mobile ballot boxes without control coupons, commissioners in voting booths with voters, and the presence of ballots in excess of more than 110% of registered voters at a number of polling sites.
4. The use of “technical parties” resulted in most of the polling commissions being controlled by the ruling party. Most of these “technical parties” exist only on paper and do not have enough members to fill their seats on the commissions. Examples of these “technical parties” are “Renaissance, Children of War, Peasants, Comrades, and the Youth Party. As a result, many of the seats on the commissions were filled not by “technical party” members but by persons connected with the ruling party. This gives decision making power on the commissions to the candidate from the ruling party. Representation on the commissions therefore was not democratically dispersed according to international election norms.
5. The Odesa City Territorial Commission failed to adhere to Ukrainian election law and by not creating all local polling stations by the October 15, 2010 deadline. This nonchalant manner in which the local polling stations were created, as well as last minutes changes in the composition of the election commissions calls into question the competency and motives of the leadership of the Odesa City Territorial Election Commission. In addition, most poll stations were poorly organized and many commissioners were poorly trained and not prepared to fulfill their legal duties.
6. The excessive use of administrative resources by the Odesa Regional State Administration to coerce voters to support the candidate from the ruling party appears to have affected the voters’ ability to express their free will in the election.
Unfortunately, based on these events, this represents the worst election in Odesa since 2002 – an election in which the courts later invalidated key results. It is disappointing that local authorities failed to meet the democratic standards called for by the President. It is our hope that these problems will be addressed and rectified through legal process and the courts. We thank the Ukrainian government for allowing international election observers and for the serious attention that we know will be given to these issues in their investigation.