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Ukraine Conducts Historic Election Despite Intimidation and Violence by Outside Forces

The May 25 Ukrainian national election saw Ukrainians deliver a clear mandate to businessman Petro Poroshenko –now President Elect of Ukraine. The election took place despite intimidation, obstructionism and sporadic violence by outside forces primarily in Donetsk and Luhansk.

The unusually unified support for a single leader represents a victory for the brave and determined Ukrainian people who have succeeded in facing down armed Russian separatists to courageously and successfully conduct this election. There was a strong national turnout in the face of consistent and coordinated intimidation in the East and outside forces. This ballot is a strong positive step forward for Ukraine. The election met international and democratic standards despite the threat of war and separatism and its successful conduct is a vivid testament to the will of the Ukrainian people and their resilience. Of the precincts our observers visited in seven regions:

  • 87% had no incident of fear or separatist violence,

  • 95% were reported as intimidation free,

  • 94% were reported as normal, calm and quiet,

Specific areas of concern

  • Donetsk

Unlike other international efforts for ballot forensics, the COD missions focused on specific hot spots including Donetsk, Kharkiv, Dnipropetrovsk and Odesa. In Donetsk our team of officially accredited international observers were the last remaining observation team in the region. Sunday morning our teams of international observers attempted to observe precinct-level voting only to be prevented from doing so by masked, armed separatists. Thus, while around 90% of the polling stations our observers monitored recorded no problems with fear or intimidation, the people of Donetsk were largely denied their right to vote by the separatists who prevented polling stations from opening.

Based on the occupation of polling stations by armed separatists that prevented them from opening on Election Day as well as credible security threats against our observers, we made the decision to evacuate our monitoring teams from Donetsk. Thus, due to our safeguards and prudent decision making by our observer teams, all of our observers safely returned to Kyiv.

  • Odessa

Voter list irregularities, carousel voting, changed protocols, and intentionally delayed vote counting in many polling station occurred in Odessa city relating to the simultaneous mayoral election. Odessa is specifically an area of concern since the blatantly fraudulent election in the Mayor’s race in October 2010, when similar problems at polling precincts were orchestrated by the ruling party and local apparatchiks.

While the presidential election results were quickly tabulated, in contrast, the counting of ballots for the mayoral election continues more than 16 hours after the polling stations were closed with no clear end in sight. The intentionally slow vote count on the mayoral election by some poll commissioners continues and there is no clear winner despite creditable exit polling to the contrary.


Ukraine needs to ensure the security of all polling stations for future elections so that the voters, commissioners, observers and media can exercise their rights under the law.

  • Ukraine must provide protective security for all polling stations throughout the country to ensure citizen's right to vote without fear of violence.

  • Ukraine clearly needs a new, robust and unified election code to end confusion and discrepancies between the current presidential, parliament and local election laws. This reform will serve to consolidate the work of the election commissions and improve the transparency of election machinery and bolster public confidence in election administration. It is strongly recommended that Ukraine seek assistance from the election administration experts in the international community and develop a model system for election administration that will insulate local election administration from outside disruptions.

  • Along with a robust, unified election code, validated by – and supported by – the international community, there is a strong need for an improved, more accurate list of voters. This is absolutely vital to credible election administration given the fact that over the last twenty years Ukraine has seen a 12% population decline while only showing a 5% decline in the number of voters.

  • Finally, Ukraine clearly needs an improved overseas voter mechanism – and enabling legislation – to empower the millions of Ukrainians living abroad to exercise their vote. In every election in Ukraine’s history, less than one percent of Ukrainians were able to vote while abroad. In one of the countries with one of the fastest declining populations as well as more than a million citizens living abroad, this is an issue that must be addressed.

As in 2010, COD was again the largest observer mission for the local elections with 56 observers and one of the top 10 observer missions for the presidential election with 77 accredited observers. This is the second time in two years that COD has been a top ten observer mission and second time in four years to be the largest for an election in Ukraine. COD fielded accredited international observers from ten countries including the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Japan, Greece, Latvia, Lithuania, Georgia, and others.

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