The Committee for Open Democracy (COD) officially observed the October 25, 2020, national local elections in Ukraine. The voting took place under an open list electoral system whereby voters selected both a party and individual candidates. In addition, the worldwide Covid 19 pandemic led to new safety requirements for voting stations, a first in Ukraine’s history. COD observed the election in six locations including Kyiv, Kharkiv, and Rivne. Close to 50 polling stations were monitored.
Issues of concern included:
- Many new and untrained commissioners. Multiple commissions complained about a lack of guidance and instruction from the Central Election Commission in Kyiv.
- The new voting system was confusing for voters, observers and commissioners. The so called “open list voting system” was not properly explained to the voters resulting in confusion and slow vote counts. The confusion with the vote count also create longer queues to vote which is unfortunate especially given Covid social distancing precautions.
- Voter turnout was a record low compared to previous elections, at just 37% nationwide.
- The font of the ballots was too small and contributed to the confusion when voting.
- There were clear instances of voters making photographs of their ballots in order to receive payments.
The Central Election Commission, despite having mostly new members, overall met the challenges in a professional manner. Most major cities will hold mayoral runoffs on November 15, 2020 since the law requires a candidate to receive 50% plus one vote.
- The open list ballot system needs to be better explained to the public, or a new election system implemented which is easy to understand.
- 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 27th 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.