Press Release, October 26, 2010 — Odesa, Ukraine: The Committee for Open Democracy which monitors elections for their adherence to international democratic standards and norms, has decided to focus the bulk of its’ observation mission on Odesa, Ukraine due to serious problems with the pre-election environment.
“Unfortunately, the pre-election environment in Odesa is the worst since 2002” said Committee spokesperson Brian Mefford, a veteran observer of Ukrainian elections. “There is a real danger that this election will be a major setback for Ukrainian democracy and fair elections. Our hope is that by citing problems before Election Day, that the local authorities and Odesa election commissions will take proper measures to fix these problems and ensure that the true will of the voters will be represented by the final vote count.” The Committee’s pre-election assessment cites several serious concerns with the Odesa pre-election environment:
- The Odesa City Territorial Commission is overwhelmingly composed of supporters of the candidate from the ruling party of Ukraine. The objectivity of the commission is in question because power is concentrated in the hands of the candidate from the ruling party rather than democratically dispersed amongst all the major candidates.
- The Odesa City Territorial Commission failed to adhere to Ukrainian election law and create all local polling stations by the October 15, 2010 deadline. Instead blank forms were signed and relevant information added after the fact. This nonchalant manner in which the local polling stations were created calls into question the competency of the leadership of the Odesa Territorial Election Commission.
- After local polling stations were created –after the legal deadline- they were composed mostly of “technical party members”. Most of these technical parties exist “on paper” only and do not have enough members to fill their seats on the commissions. For example, technical parties such as “Renaissance, Children of War, Peasants, Comrades, and Youth Party. Thus, many of the seats on the commissions are being filled not by the technical party members but rather by members of the ruling party instead. This again consolidates decision making power on the commissions into the hands of the candidate from the ruling party.
- The Odesa Territorial Election Commission has prepared 1 million ballots which is more than a quarter million more ballots than there are votes. . While Ukrainian legislation allows a small number of extra ballots to be printed, this is excessive and unneeded which calls into question the motivation of the TEC in doing so. A similar disturbing pattern of excessive extra ballots is being noted in Kharkiv and Ivano Frankivsk as well.
- The large use of administrative resources by the Odesa Regional State Administration to coerce voters to support the candidate from the ruling party can prohibit voters from making a free choice in the election. This pattern is repeating itself in other oblasts too –particularly Cherkasy.
- Many campaign materials fail to adhere to Ukrainian legal requirements (especially regarding the source and circulation) and have created a highly negative political environment amongst the electorate.
Our organization will be closely monitoring and observing the activities in Odesa on Election Day including the balloting and vote count to prevent fraud to ensure the will of the voters is fairly expressed. The Committee appeals to the Ukrainian President and authorities to take measures to correct the failures and mistakes of the Odesa Territorial Election Commission. In addition, the Committee thanks the President and Premier Minister for their appeal to the international community to send observers and as a result, the Central Election Commission of Ukraine has accredited 96 observers from the Committee for the election. The Committee for Open Democracy fields the largest international observation mission in Ukraine for the October 31, 2010 Local Elections.