On September 1, the election process started for the by-elections of people's deputies of Ukraine in constituencies No. 184 (Kherson region) and No. 197 (Cherkasy region). The elections are scheduled for October 31, 2021, and will have to take place because in the 2020 local elections a people's deputy Ihor Kolykhayev won as mayor of Kherson and an MP Olexandr Skichko was appointed as head of the Cherkasy Regional State Administration.
The election of deputies on October 31, 2021 in single-member constituencies may be the last by-elections to provoke intensive "technical" nomination of candidates by political parties, with subsequent rejections of registrations due to lack of proper documents, including the monetary deposit. After all, the Law of Ukraine "On Political Parties of Ukraine" provides for the cancellation of registration of a political party in case of non-nomination of candidates in elections to the Verkhovna Rada or in the presidential elections for 10 years. Formally, the fact of submission of documents, despite further refusal to register, may be sufficient to comply with the relevant provisions of the Law. However, the case law on the liquidation of parties is ambiguous, and is still in the making, so in their decisions, the courts sometimes refer not only to the requirement to nominate candidates, but also to their subsequent registration.
The first month of the election process was characterized by intensive campaigning of candidates for deputies, most of whom conducted early campaigning in the summer of 2021. There is already a high level of competition, and the election situation does not look predictable in terms of potential results. These elections were no exception to the use of "twins" technology. At the end of September, constituency 197 had a candidate, Vitaliy Voytsekhivskyi (self-nominated) who changed his name six days before the submission of documents, thus having identical names to the recognizable candidate, Vitaliy Voytsekhivskyi ("Servant of the People"). The CEC also registered two candidates named Holub (self-nominated) in the constituency 197, while a candidate Vladyslav Holub (self-nominated) had already been registered in Cherkasy Oblast. Two candidates with the surname Lahuta and one person with the surname Kozyr have been registered in constituency No. 184, although Hennadiy Lahuta has been already actively campaigning in the constituency ("We are here to live!") as well as Serhiy Kozyr ("Servant of the People").
A comprehensive analysis of the election campaign of registered and potential candidates indicates the equal distribution in using all forms of public activity. However, direct communication with voters is the dominant form at this stage of the election, which is actively manifested in meetings with voters, participation and organization of public events, the opening of infrastructure facilities, and electoral charity. The use of advertising tools on social media in favor of candidates became less common in September, in contrast to the stage of early campaigning. Candidates Roman Sushchenko (European Solidarity) and Vitaliy Voitsekhivskyi (Servant of the People) involved other MPs, including Petro Poroshenko (European Solidarity) and Roksolana Pidlasa (Servant of the People), who are at risk of violating the standard of equal conditions and opportunities for election participants.
The main problem for ensuring the democracy of elections is still in the material incentives for voters, which in most cases did not have consequences for the offenders. Some of the registered candidates in Cherkasy region (Vladyslav Holub, Yulia Hershun, Ivan Stepanets) carried out pre-election charity in the status of unregistered subjects, which made it possible to avoid responsibility. Also, there is a charitable foundation acting in favor of the candidate for the constituency 184, Hennadiy Lahuta ("We are here to live!"). It conducts intensive activities within the constituency area, which includes the purchase of goods for the voters of the constituency, the organization of official celebrations, the construction of playgrounds, the provision of free legal aid, etc. The absence of legal provisions in the election legislation to classify such activities of the fund as voter bribery allows a candidate to obtain electoral advantages in an unacceptable way. However, OPORA observers captured episodes that show signs of voter bribery and should receive an appropriate response from law enforcement. This applies to cases of handing over a power bank, a smart watch and a plasma TV in the village of Novovorontsovka (constituency No. 184) at a campaigning event, which was accompanied by the provision of packages saying "Hennadiy Lahuta" ("We are here to live!"). Another case includes the information on the website of the Bobrytsia hromada (constituency No. 197), where a gift of a wheelchair to a local family was mentioned by the candidate Vitaliy Voitsekhivsky (“Servant of the People”).
This part of the election campaign was not accompanied by any high-profile or systematic conflicts, violent confrontations or black PR, and cases of such abuses were isolated occurrences. On September 30, in the city of Nova Kakhovka (constituency No. 184), at a session of the city council in the session hall, a rally was organized by the candidate Ihor Tokovenko ("People's Power") to protest against the construction project on the site of the city park. As a result, the candidate and his supporters were forcibly removed from the session hall by municipal guards, after which some participants needed medical attention. In the Cherkasy region, there were problems with spoiling campaign materials on outdoor media against candidates Vladyslav Holub (self-nominated) and Vitaliy Voytsekhovsky ("Servant of the People"), but the episodes were not systemic.
According to OPORA, the material and organizational support of the election administration process has been at the proper level. The election administration bodies comply with all the requirements of the election law and have not committed any critical violations. The local self-government bodies provided the district commissions with materials and technical equipment in sufficient volume to perform the current work. However, given the deteriorating epidemiological situation in the country and the existing examples of district commissioners ignoring the use of personal protective equipment, EABs must strictly adhere to anti-epidemic measures, which are further reflected in CEC guidelines for election commission members on the organization and conduct of elections.
Campaigning of potential and registered candidates
As of the end of September, the campaign had already become intense and expressive. There is a high level of competition between candidates and the situation in the constituencies does not look clear in terms of variability of choice and the presence of a single favorite candidate with a prevailing impact on the campaign. A systematic and comprehensive analysis of all forms of campaigning in the constituencies shows that a total of 13 candidates were active, five of them in constituency 184 and eight candidates in constituency 197. Nine of the active candidates started their campaigns at the stage of early campaigning and continued their public activity in the status of registered subjects: in constituency 184, Hennadiy Lahuta (Ihor Kolykhaev's party "We are here to live!"), Kateryna Odarchenko ("National Platform") , Ihor Yosypenko ("European Solidarity") and Ihor Tokovenko ("People's Power"); in constituency 197 - Vitaliy Voitsekhivsky (Servant of the People), Vladyslav Holub (self-nominated), Serhiy Vasyliuk (People's Power), Andriy Ilyenko (Svoboda AU), and Roman Sushchenko (European Solidarity).
The candidates' campaign in September was mostly characterized by direct communication with voters, which often included cases of pre-election charity. The vast majority of candidates focused as much as possible on meetings with voters, organization or participation in public events, attending festive events, including days of the city and villages, visits to various institutions and organizations. However, the analysis shows a decrease in the role of social media at the stage of the official deployment of the election process, in contrast to the early campaign, when the role of advertising on social media was dominant. September was characterized by the relatively uniform use of all other forms of public activity by registered and potential candidates. Thus, the candidates were quite widely represented on outdoor advertising media, actively used the methods of street campaigning, in particular, campaigning tents and rallies included image-making publications in the local media.
The first month of the election process was characterized by the involvement into the campaigning of people's deputies, political party leaders, and music groups. Thus, a number of events in Cherkasy region involving a candidate Roman Sushchenko were also attended by the People's Deputy, Petro Poroshenko, who repeatedly encouraged to support the candidate. To support Vitaliy Voytsekhivskyi ("Servant of the People"), an MP Roksolana Pidlasa was involved. Along with the candidate, she went to the meeting with entrepreneurs at the market in Kaniv. The leader of the National Corps, Andriy Biletsky, spoke near the Cherkasy Regional State Administration, where a protest was held against the government's persecution of Russian-Ukrainian war veterans, primarily against the imprisonment of Dmytro Kukharchuk, the party's candidate in constituency 197. Dmytro Kukharchuk was imprisoned in late summer on suspicion of hooliganism committed near the President's Office on August 14. In Cherkasy region, Andriy Ilyenko, a candidate from the Svoboda All-Ukrainian Union, organized a concert tour of the Romax band in the constituencies of the district, and Serhiy Kozyr, a candidate from constituency 184, invited a singer Nadiya Dorofeeva to a concert on the occasion of Nova Kakhovka City Day. Additional risks in terms of violation of standards are involved in the electoral race of government officials who arbitrarily interpret the requirements of the law to prohibit campaigning during the performance of official duties. Thus, the registered candidates are the mayor of Zolotonosha Vitaliy Voitsekhivsky ("Servant of the People"), the first deputy chairman of the Cherkasy regional council Roman Sushchenko ("European Solidarity"), the deputy chairman of the Kherson regional council Hennadiy Lahuta ("We are here to live!"), the chairman of the Kherson regional state administration ("Servant of the people"). However, often the activity of officials that have elements of covert campaigning take place exclusively within the constituency. At the same time, they are publicly presented as a work trip, an official meeting, or implementation of budget programs, etc.
Campaigning activity in constituency No. 184 (Kherson region)
As of the beginning of October, the single-member constituency No. 184 had 19 registered candidates. Most of the candidates are nominees of political parties, and their registration took place mainly in the second half of September, which allowed some active subjects to carry out de facto campaigning activities contrary to the requirements of the election legislation. The most popular forms of campaigning for the candidates in the constituency were personal meetings with voters and advertising on outdoor media.
The most active election campaign in the constituency was conducted by five registered candidates, four of whom were active at the unofficial stage of the election - Hennadiy Lahuta (Ihor Kolykhaev's party "We are here to live!"), Kateryna Odarchenko ("National Platform"), Ihor Yosypenko ("European Solidarity"), and Ihor Tokovenko ("People's Power"). In the second half of September, Serhiy Kozyr, a nominee of the Servant of the People party, who is the current head of the Kherson Regional State Administration, joined the campaign. In addition, the CEC registered 14 candidates in the constituency, but did not conduct any significant campaigning. The following persons became candidates: Serhiy Matviychuk (Symchyshyn Team), Oleh Barkarenko (Svoboda AU), Tetyana Lazareva (Mykolayivtsi), Andriy Pomazan (New Faces), Volodymyr Beryslavsky (self-nominated), Mykhailo Melnyk (Local Self-Government Party), Maksym Nehrov (European Party of Ukraine), Hanna Zhyvtsova (Anton Yatsenko's Party), Dmytro Vasyliyev (self-nominated), Serhiy Kozyr (self-nominated), Yuriy Kolykhayev (self-nominated), Hennadiy Lahuta b. 1968 (self-nominated), Hennadiy Lahuta b. 1972 (self-nominated), Oleksandr Ponomariov ("Bloc of Opposition Forces").
The most active candidate in September was the nominee of Ihor Kolikhaev's party "We are here to live!" - Hennadiy Lahuta. A large part of the candidate's campaign is connected with the Ihor Kolikhayev's Charitable Foundation of the same name "We are here to live!" The candidate actively conducted pre-election charity on behalf of the foundation. For example, in the city of Tavriysk, during the opening of the first phase of the city hospital complex, an air conditioner was presented to the institution, and during the opening of the Lokomotiv Stadium - a football goal and balls were presented as a gift. Representatives of the Charitable Foundation in the district hold events in favor of Hennadiy Lahuta, which are covered on the foundation's Facebook page with positive comments from the candidate. In September, the foundation organized a free medical examination of the villagers of Kaluha and Dudchany, purchased a sandbox for the educational complex of the village of Nova Kaluha, donated a helmet and bulletproof vest to the state fire brigade of the SES of Ukraine in Kherson region, organized a circus performance in the villages of Novovorontsovka, Arkhanhelsk, and Velykoaleksnadrivka, installed a playground in the city of Nova Kakhovka. The candidate has also actively held meetings with voters in the settlements of the constituency, in particular in the village of Velyka Lepetykha he met with representatives of the staff of the village council in the premises of the local government. In addition, the placement of campaigning on outdoor media was used in favor of the candidate, and a party newspaper was distributed from campaigning tents in the constituency. In the center of the district of Nova Kakhovka, there is an election headquarters of Ihor Kolykhayev's political party "We are here to live!".
In September, Kateryna Odarchenko (National Platform) focused on outdoor advertising and street campaigning through party tents. The candidate often raises the issue of medicine and job creation in the Kherson region. With the help of social media and party tents, signatures are being collected against the closure of the district's hub hospitals. Kateryna Odarchenko often participates in TV programs on national channels, where she highlights the issues of constituency 184. The candidate also holds meetings with voters in the communities of the district, which she actively reports on her Facebook page. She has been using local media and advertising tools on social media to promote campaign materials.
During September, Ihor Yosypenko (European Solidarity) focused on direct communication with voters, participating in public events and meetings with voters. The candidate visited the Boykivska Vatra festival in the village of Zmiyivka, where he addressed the audience from the stage, personally congratulated the Beryslav rescuers on their professional holiday, and gave sets of balls to the district schools on September 1. In the constituency, there is a political advertisement of the candidate on external carriers, cars branded in the name of the candidate run around settlements. He is using ad tools on social media less frequently.
A candidate for People's Deputies, Ihor Tokovenko ("People's Power") used public events to increase his visibility; there he highlighted local issues. Thus, in the city of Nova Kakhovka, together with supporters, he destroyed a part of the equipped fence around a construction site in the park territory. Tokovenko accused the local city authorities of illegally allocating land for construction near the city park, and in line with combating illegal construction works, the candidate planted trees in this area. He also took part in public hearings to increase travel on public transport in the city of Nova Kakhovka. The candidate holds meetings with voters, sets up campaign tents in the constituency, and uses outdoor advertising. The candidate uses advertising on social media less actively, in particular, he published accusations of the head of the Kherson Regional State Administration and the registered candidate Serhiy Kozyr claiming they had used administrative resources.The accusations concerned the transformation of the Tavriya Fair on the territory of the city of Nova Kakhovka into a campaigning event of the head of the regional administration.
At the end of September, the head of the Kherson Regional State Administration, Serhiy Kozyr ("Servant of the People"), officially joined the election race. OPORA observers note that the candidate's activity is often carried out in a role of the official, but it is territorially concentrated within the constituency. The candidate in Beryslav visited the International Women's Forum "Consolidation of Women for Large-Scale Projects". In the city of Tavriysk, he opened the first stage of the reconstructed hospital and sports complex. He also opened the Tavriya Fair and the Chumak Fest Cossack Courage Festival in Nova Kakhovka. In the constituency center, a city of Nova Kakhovka, he joined the round table "Ways of Community Economy Development", opened the Center for Administrative Services, and went to a football game to present the footballs on behalf of the regional football association. In his public activity, the candidate relied on the President's programs, in particular "Big Construction" and "Government in a Smartphone." At meetings with voters or during the opening of infrastructure facilities in the constituency, he emphasized the positive changes due to the President's course, at the same time he does not avoid commenting on his own position as a future parliamentarian. Also, reporting on the achievements of the "Big Construction," he mentioned the work on the construction of the Center for Olympic Sports "H2O Nova Kakhovka."
Campaigning activity in constituency No. 197 (Cherkasy Oblast)
At the beginning of October, 26 candidates were registered in the single-member constituency No. 197. 18 registered candidates have been nominated by political parties, eight candidates are running by self-nomination. Electoral legislation allows campaigning the day after registration by the relevant commission. However, most candidates registered in the second half of September, which enabled active subjects to campaign at the official stage of the election, which was not regulated by campaign legislation. The most popular form of public activity for candidates was direct communication with voters through meetings with residents of the constituency, the organization of public events, charity events and more.
OPORA observers highlight the lack of actual campaigning of most registered candidates. A comprehensive analysis of various forms of public activity shows eight candidates who campaigned during September. They were the registered candidates Vitaliy Voytsekhivskyi (“Servant of the People”), Vladyslav. Holub (self-nominated), Serhiy Vasyliuk (“People’s Power”), Andriy Ilyenko (Svoboda AU), Roman Sushchenko (“European Solidarity”), Dmytro Kukharchuk (“National Corps”), Yuliya Hershun (self-nominated), and Ivan Stepanets (self-nominated). In addition, 18 more candidates were registered, but they did not show any campaign activity: Ruslan Aleksiyuk (Rivne Razom), Vitaliy Voitsekhivsky (self-nominated), Leonid Datsenko (self-nominated), Olena Kozachuk (Young Kharkiv), Hryhoriy Kozma (Eduard Hurvits Bloc), Roman Konizhai (Youth Party of Ukraine), Petro Kuryat ("True Ukraine"), Andriy Lobunets ("European Party of Ukraine"), Bohdan Pankevych ("Ukrainian Galician Party"), Anton Podchapko (Power to the People! ”), Vyacheslav Reznikov (Andriy Baloga's Team), Natalia Stepushenko (New Faces), Tetyana Radchenko (self-nominated), Serhiy Cherednichenko (Anton Yatsenko's Party), Vladyslav Pylnyk (Mighty Ukraine), Tamara Zvyagintseva (Ukrainian political party "Christian Movement"), Vyacheslav Holub (self-nominated), Vladyslav Holub (self-nominated).
Vitaliy Voytsekhovskyi, a nominee from the Servant of the People party, is the most represented candidate in various segments of the election campaign. The candidate is quite extensively represented in the constituency by outdoor advertising; he actively attends the official holidays of the days of cities and days of villages in the constituency, where he performs from the stage and communicates with residents. In particular, the candidate visited the cities of Cherkasy, Zolotonosha, Kaniv, the villages of Ozeryshche, Hryhorivka, Heronymivka, which is additionally reported by videos on social media. OPORA observers note that the candidate does not miss almost any such events; and wherever he attends, the inflatable green balloons are handed out with the inscription "Servant of the People. Voitsekhivskyi's team." He actively holds meetings with communities, which is also reported in videos. He also attends public events, such as a boxing tournament, volleyball game, etc. He was widely represented in the online and conventional mass media of the constituency; he was on the air of regional news agencies and TV channels, in particular on the air of the TV channel "VIKKA" and on the air of "Vycherpno" news agency. Campaigners are engaged to support the candidate, such as in Helmiaziv hromada, during the eco-event "International Day of Clean Shores" there were people wearing T-shirts with "I support Voytsekhivskyi." He also exercises public activity as city mayor of Zolotonosha. On September 10, together with the head of the Cherkasy Regional State Administration Oleksandr Skichko, he opened a sports field with athletics tracks at the Zolotonosha Specialized School. With the support of Vitaliy Voitsekhivskyi, a project is being implemented in the Zolotonosha region to return letters sent by local residents forcibly deported to Germany to relatives of the addressees; it was covered by paid posts and political ads in local media. To support the candidate, the constituency was visited by an MP Roksolana Pidlasa ("Servant of the People"). Together with Voytsekhovsky, they met with entrepreneurs at the market in Kaniv. Also on the eve of Vitaliy Voytsekhovsky's registration (September 10), survey data by Sociostream was published, where it was determined that the candidate had the greatest support in the constituency. In a video on his Facebook page, the candidate reported that more than 20,000 signatures had been collected by Cherkasy residents to support him as a candidate for people's deputies from constituency 197. He has actively used advertising on social media. From August 26 to September 24, he spent $ 1,913 on Facebook advertising to promote 36 posts. The candidate also launched his own website, which collects the problems of the constituency's communities, presenting it under the slogan: "Engage in the building of the candidate's program. Vote for the issue that needs to be addressed in your community first. ” However, in order to vote and outline the problem, you need to provide your personal data.
Candidate for People's Deputies Vladyslav Holub (self-nominated) has been conducting an active election campaign in the constituency. In September, the "Together we are a powerful force" NGO and two cultural and educational centers of Vladyslav Holub established in the summer at the stage of early campaigning, continued to work in favor of the candidate. Every Friday, the centers organize retro parties for active and always young "Tunes of our youth" in the Pine Forest park in Cherkasy. Vladyslav Holub's cultural and educational centers also host various training courses for the elderly: financial literacy, working with a smartphone, etc. Vladyslav Holub's own Facebook page and the NGO's page also reported on the initiative to install video surveillance cameras in schools in the constituency's settlements, which was also covered in the story of the local TV channel "Vikka". He has held meetings with communities, and actively attended official events to celebrate the days of towns and villages of the constituency. The candidate's campaign involves campaigners who distribute branded inflatable balloons at mass events. The candidate posted videos on Facebook and YouTube about his work during the term of the People's Deputy of the previous convocation. In particular, they focus on projects implemented through subventions allocated to the constituency. Also, the created website of the candidate, as part of the achievements of the Holub team, information was posted about the facilities financed by the subvention for socio-economic development. Vladyslav Holub is represented on outdoor media and in the online media of the region. From August 26 to September 24, he spent $ 177 on advertising on Facebook from his page and $ 40 on advertising on the page of the NGO.
Andriy Illenko (Svoboda AU) has been active in having meetings with voters and handing out a campaigning leaflet from tents in crowded places in the constituency. Besdies, campaigning leaflets have been distributed from tents in crowded places by the candidate’s party peers. Andriy Ilyenko attended the days of towns and villages in the constituency, where he delivered public speeches. The candidate organized a tour of the Romax band in the settlements of the constituency, and they performed almost every day. He participated in public events, in particular, he joined the cleaning of the banks of the river Supiy in Helmyazov and was present at boxing competitions in Kaniv. The candidate is represented on outdoor advertising media.
Some noticeable election campaign has been run by Roman Sushchenko, nominated by the “European Solidarity” party. He has actively met voters in the constituency and reports about it in detail on his Facebook page. Like other candidates, he attended festive events at city and village days in the constituency, where he spoke in public from the stage. He is also represented by outdoor advertising in the constituency. Advertising tools on social media have been used to support the candidate. Featured reports were aired on the national TV channel “Priamyi” owned by Petro Poroshenko. On September 19, Petro Poroshenko, a People’s Deputy and leader of the “European Solidarity,” visited the settlements within the constituency 197. Roman Sushchenko accompanied him at all events. In particular, Petro and Maryna Poroshenko, Iryna Herashchenko, accompanied by Roman Sushchenko and local authorities inspected the completion of the reconstruction of the main entrance to the Cherkasy Zoological Park and an artificial lake, and conducted a tour for schoolchildren. It should be noted that ROSHEN Corporation financed the repair and restoration works in the Cherkasy Zoo. On the same day, Petro Poroshenko, accompanied by Roman Sushchenko, visited the Cherkasy Scientific and Engineering Center “Scanner,” where the People’s Deputy presented him as a candidate in the by-elections. Petro Poroshenko also encouraged to support Sushchenko when visiting the Shevchenko National Reserve on Tarasova Gora. In addition, Petro Poroshenko and the candidate joined the Kulish Fest that took place in one of the city parks.
A candidate for people’s deputy, Serhiy Vasyliuk (“People’s Power”) has a relatively fewer campaigning activities. OPORA observers noted that Vasyliuk paid more attention to concert activities, as he is the frontman of the Shadow of the Sun band. He campaigned personally from party tents in crowded places in the constituency or the representatives of the candidate's party did the campaigning, in particular the party leader, former People's Deputy, Yuriy Levchenko. The candidate’s campaign leaflets have been distributed in the district. He has little representation in advertising posts on social media supporting his candidacy.
Ihor Zaychuk, a member of the Cherkasy party cell, was to become a candidate for the National Corps political party. However, upon imprisonment of Oleh Dovbysh and Dmytro Kukharchuk, on suspicion of hooliganism near the Presidential Office on august, 14, the party nominated Dmytro Lukharchuk as a candidate. On September 5, a march of veterans and football fans took place in Cherkasy to support the imprisoned members of the Cherkasy National Corps, Dmytro Kukharchuk and Oleh Dovbysh. On September 18, a protest rally “against Zelensky authorities persecuting veterans of the Russian-Ukrainian war” took place outside the Cherkasy Regional State Administration. The rally was attended by representatives of many socio-political forces, veterans, volunteers and residents of the city. The leader of the National Corps, Andriy Biletsky, also spoke at the rally. Several billboards were placed in Cherkasy demanding the release of party representatives.
Ivan Stepanets, a public activist, has had a status of potential candidate by October, 1. In September, he actively attended public events, greeted from the stage the residents of the community of Kaniv. Stepanets also attended official celebrations. He actively held meetings with communities and work teams, and co-organized the Boxing Festival in Kaniv. He also focused on charitable activities, in particular distributing personal protective equipment against coronavirus. The potential candidate reported on social media about the provision of personal protective equipment to various institutions in the settlements of the constituency (rural health posts, schools, kindergartens). In addition, he reported about granting face masks, shields, suits and medical antiseptics to social institutions and medical institutions to the Sofiyivka and Tubiltsy starosta districts and to the Moshniv Central Hospital from the “Army Assistance Center” NGO. According to public data, the charity organization with this name has existed since 2014, and ceased its operations in 2017, but in 2019, in Cherkasy, an NGO was registered called "ASSISTANCE CENTER FOR THE ARMY, VETERANS AND THEIR FAMILIES."
Until October 1, Yulia Hershun has been active in the constituency as a potential candidate. As the head of the "Yulia Hershun Charitable Foundation "Development of Gifted Children", she provided a certificate for 25 thousand hryvnias for the winner of the VI Kaniv International Film Festival. As the president of the foundation, in September, she congratulated the communities of Hryhorivka, Keleberda, Heronymivka, and Yabluniv on the Village Day, where she routinely organized a free trampoline for children. She was also present at the Cossack Boxing Glory Cup in Kaniv on September 25. Earlier, she attended the Cherkasy City Day and Kaniv City Day.
Denial of registration to potential candidates
In September the CEC denied registration to 14 candidates nominated exclusively by political parties. Also on October 1, the CEC further rejected 15 candidates, 14 of whom were nominated by political parties. OPORA observers noted the lack of previous campaign activity in the constituencies of the rejected candidates. They also did not appeal against the commission’s rejection decisions in court. The expected results of the registration process could have been deliberately planned by the nominees to prevent the cancellation of the registrations of the respective political parties.
According to the Law of Ukraine “On Elections of People’s Deputies of Ukraine,” the Central Election Commission is a body that shall register candidates. In order to apply the election legislation uniformly during the registration of candidates in the by-elections, the CEC on 16 January 2020 adopted an explanation that includes exhaustive grounds for rejecting to register candidates. The CEC registers candidates nominated by political parties in single-member constituencies, subject to the receipt of the documents specified in part one of Article 55 of the Law. Such documents include the application for registration of the candidate, the decision of the highest governing body of the party to nominate a candidate, the person’s statement of consent to run in the elections, the candidate’s autobiography on paper and electronically with some mandatory information about the person, declarations of the person authorized to perform functions of central government or local self-government, statements on the presence (absence) of arrears of child support, a document on the payment of deposit, photos of the candidate in a certain format and photocopies of the first and second pages of the candidate’s passport of a citizen of Ukraine. Also, the Central Election Commission refuses to register a candidate if it has been found that a potential candidate had a criminal record for an intentional crime, if this criminal record is not expunged and removed in the manner prescribed by law, and in case of violating legal requirements for living in Ukraine during the past five years.
Of the 29 candidates who were denied registration, 25 were nominated in the constituency 184, and 4 candidates stood for constituency 197. The main grounds for refusal of all candidates were violation of the procedure for submitting the declaration of a person authorized to perform state or local government functions and non-compliance with the requirements for payment of a monetary deposit, when instead of UAH 60,000 candidates paid UAH 2 or UAH 60, and when candidates were payers instead of parties. Also, additional grounds for refusal were: failure to provide photographs of proper format on paper and in electronic form, non-compliance with the requirements for registration of the candidate, lack of CV or its mandatory parts, non-compliance with no criminal record for intentional crime and residence rules during last 5 years. The CEC’s decisions on refusals had motivating parts with clear arguments and references to the election legislation. The following political parties became the subjects of refusals: the political party of small and medium business of Ukraine, “Solidarity of the right forces”, the Social and Ecological Party “Union. Chernobyl Ukraine,” “Social-Patriotic Assembly of Slavs,” “Cossack Ukrainian Party,” “Accent,” “Socio-Political Union “Intellectual Initiative,” “Soyuz” (lit. – Union), “Big Ukraine,” “Union of Anarchists of Ukraine,” “Our House,” “Socialist Ukraine,” “People’s Power,” “Native Fatherland,” “Internet Party of Ukraine,” political party The Green,” “Pirate Party of Ukraine,” “Stability and Justice,” “Roma Party of Ukraine,” “Bloc of Darth Vader,” “Spiritual Ukraine,” “People’s Democratic Party,” “People’s Labor Union of Ukraine,” “People’s Party of Depositors and Social Protection,” Green Environmental Party of Ukraine “Rainbow,” “The People,” and “Peasant Party of Ukraine.”
There are about 370 registered political parties in Ukraine; their main function is to participate in elections and represent the interests of citizens. According to the Law of Ukraine “On Political Parties of Ukraine,” failure of a political party to nominate its candidates in the elections of the President of Ukraine and elections of people’s deputies of Ukraine for ten years shall be the grounds for revocation of the registration certificate. It entails the termination of activities of the political party, dissolution of its managing bodies, of its regional, city, district organizations and primary cells and other statutory formations. Potentially, all deliberately unsuccessful nominations of candidates who were denied registration were aimed at complying with the requirements of the Law to avoid the liquidation of the respective political parties. As of now, judicial practice is only being formed on this issue. Legal analysis of court cases shows different positions of courts on the implementation of the Law of Ukraine “On Political Parties of Ukraine” in the nomination of candidates. Positions differ on the actual nomination of candidates and their subsequent registration with the CEC, as in the opinion of some courts it is not enough just to nominate candidates, but you need to register them. However, the law defines only the nomination. On the other hand, it should be noted that these elections may be the last by-elections, before the next national elections, which could provoke a significant number of deliberately planned denials of registration. In total, 44 candidates nominated by political parties have already been rejected in the by-elections of 2021 under such circumstances.
Elements of “twins” technology
The by-elections of people's deputies on October 31, 2021 were not exceptional about applying the twin candidates technology. On September 24, the CEC registered Vitaliy Oleksandrovych Voytsekhivskyi (self-nominated) in a single-mandate constituency No. 197 who has exactly the same full name as a candidate Vitaliy Oleksandrovych Voytsekhivskyi (“Servant of the People”) registered on September 10. Vitaliy Voitsekhivskyi (self-nominated) changed his proper name six days before submitting documents to the CEC (before the change, the potential candidate was named Viktor Shevchenko). In addition, the potential candidate noted in the documents that he worked as the chairman of the Zolotonosha Public City Council Public Union, while the candidate from the “Servant of the People” party, Vitaliy Voitsekhivskyi, worked as the mayor of Zolotonosha. Similar to the name, the place of work of candidates is additional associative information that can confuse voters during voting. In fact, according to the election law, information on the employment of candidates must be included in the ballot paper. The CEC members stated the possibility of using the technology of “twins” during the consideration of the issue of registration of self-nominated Vitaliy Voytsekhivskyi, but the members of the higher administrative body had no legal grounds for rejecting the registration.
According to OPORA’s observations, the mayor of Zolotonosha carried out campaigning activity in the constituency, but the presence of the same name on the ballot paper may mislead voters and make it impossible to clearly identify the candidate. The CEC also registered two candidates named Holub (self-nominated), while a candidate Vladyslav Holub (self-nominated) had already been registered in Cherkasy Oblast. Two candidates with the surname Lahuta and one with the surname Kozyr have been registered in constituency No. 184. Although Hennadiy Lahuta has been already actively campaigning in the constituency ("We are here to live!") as well as Serhiy Kozyr ("Servant of the People").
The technology of “twins” is a manipulative but effective mechanism for reducing the level of support for the candidate, which in some cases can have significant consequences in establishing the results of the will of citizens. For example, in the by-elections of people's deputies on March 28, 2021, in Ivano-Frankivsk region, the twin candidates of Oleksandr Shevchenko ("For the Future") withdrew 473 votes, which was 1% of the total number of voters who took part in the voting. According to OPORA’s study “Voters’ Perception of Different Types of Ballots to Improve the Electoral Process” in the 2020 local elections, candidates kept “claiming” several percent of the vote, which can be a decisive factor in a competitive political struggle with a minimum difference between candidates.
However, when a candidate is registered with intended dishonesty or abuse, it may be a sign of a violation of the Criminal Code of Ukraine. Establishing the motive and the fact of making a promise or proposal to a person involved in the election process intending to disperse the votes will be part of the offenses set in parts 2 or 4 of Article 160 of the Criminal Code. The Main Directorate of the National Police in Cherkasy Oblast opened criminal proceedings under Part 3 of Article 157 of the Criminal Code, which includes obstruction to the exercise of the right to vote, combined with fraud. The pre-trial investigation began after a voter’s statement to the regional police, in which a local resident described the change of name by Voytsekhivskyi as a misleading of voters. It is worth noting that in the local elections, OPORA published an explanation about the use of “twin” technology and the algorithm of actions by candidates and law enforcement agencies in such cases.
Ensuring proper conditions for the election process and evaluation of the activities of election administration bodies
According to OPORA, there are currently no circumstances that could have critical consequences for the quality of ensuring the conduct of the by-elections. To organize the election process in the constituencies, there is a Central Election Commission, two district election commissions, and nine departments of the State Register of Voters. Observations show that all departments of the Voter Register operate on a full-time basis and are open to all subjects of the election process. At the beginning of the year, all departments of the Registers involved in the by-elections underwent the stage of data reformatting in connection with changes in the administrative-territorial structure of the country and the liquidation of some departments. At the same time, the departments of the Register of newly formed district state administrations, in particular the Kherson department of the SVR, work and ensure the updating of the register data in accordance with the legislation.
In addition, in order to properly organize the election process, local governments, within their powers, should assist election commissions in exercising their powers, which, according to OPORA’s observations, has been done. Also, it is the local self-government bodies that must determine and arrange places for placing election campaign materials (by September 1 inclusive), but not all bodies within the district have complied with the legal requirement. Thus, as of September 14, the executive committee of the Cherkasy City Council has not yet passed such a decision, and other bodies have not arranged all the designated places. This situation was recorded by OPORA observers in Kaniv, Zolotonosha, and Nova Kakhovka. And some local self-government bodies of the constituency 184 have identified places for campaigning that are actually prohibited by the electoral law. In particular, they allocated public utilities and administrative buildings of starosta districts. However, at the request of OPORA, local governments changed these places as required by the Law. The importance of determining such places is that other places for accommodation may be expressly prohibited by law or violate the beautification rules of the settlement.
Activities of the CEC
The Central Election Commission is the highest body of election administration. It shall perform controlling, informing and organizational functions to ensure proper administration of the electoral process of by-elections of people’s deputies on October 31, 2021. In September, the CEC took a set of procedural measures to organize the by-elections and complied with all the requirements of the election law. A separate information and analytical section for the by-elections was allocated on the commission’s website, where the process participants have the opportunity to get acquainted with the information and methodological support of the elections. Thus, the CEC published a manual for members of district and precinct commissions and a collection of regulations of the Central Election Commission on the organization and conduct of by-elections. Given the expiration of a large number of these resolutions for regular parliamentary elections, it will be useful for equal application of the Law for all election participants.
In total, half of the CEC’s decisions in September concerned the electoral process of the by-elections. The commission made the largest number of decisions on the registration of candidates and their proxies – 19 resolutions. The highest administrative body also decided on the following: to form district commissions and replace members of these commissions (5), to permit NGOs to have their official observers (4), to approve decisions of district commissions (6), to issue financial support for elections (2) one explanation on consideration of appeals on amendments to the resolutions of the Central Election Commission on registration of candidates for People’s Deputies.
The CEC paid great attention to accountability of candidates’ expenditures, which was problematic in the March 28, 2021 by-elections. According to spring observations, ab 30% of candidates violated the deadlines for opening election funds and submitting interim financial reports. On September 13, the CEC requested the National Bank of Ukraine to inform banks of the procedure and features of the operation of election funds during the preparation and conduct of by-elections. The CEC also published explanations for candidates and voters on the procedure for opening an election fund account, the specifics of voluntary contributions, liability for breaches of accountability of election finances, etc. In addition, the commission published a presentation on the district commissions’ control over the receipt, accounting and use of election funds and its own regulations on the procedure for controlling election funds and forms of financial reports on the receipt and use of funds by candidates.
In the context of deteriorating epidemiological situation in the country, the Central Election Commission has published guidelines for members of election commissions on the implementation of anti-epidemic measures during the organization and conduct of elections under quarantine. If there are problems in compliance with quarantine restrictions by members of district commissions at the first meetings, clear implementation of the instructions at all stages of the election process will prevent the risk of mass morbidity of citizens.
Activities of district election commissions
The district election commissions in the by-elections were formed on September 10 and began their work without significant problems. At the beginning of the second month of the election process, OPORA observers reported that there were no threats to the proper functioning of district commissions. However, according to observations in DEC No. 197, members of the commission used personal protective equipment during their meetings at their own discretion, not as required. OPORA has repeatedly stressed the need for strict adherence to anti-epidemic measures identified by the Cabinet of Ministers and detailed in the published CEC instructions.
All DEC decisions are made by a majority vote of the commission in accordance with the calendar plan. The district commissions divided the responsibilities among the members of the commission, determined the persons to perform their powers on a paid basis and involved specialists and technicians to work in the commission, including accountants, lawyers, system administrators, etc. DECs timely adopted the cost estimates of district and precinct commissions and ensured the publication of these resolutions on the CEC website. In general, DEC No. 197 was more responsible in complying with the legal requirements for publishing its own decisions on the CEC website, where nine decisions of the commission have already been published, unlike DEC No. 184 that only had four published decisions. OPORA reminds of the need for DECs to inform the CEC and the public about their activities in a timely manner. According to the law, a resolution adopted before the day of voting by the district or precinct election commission shall be sent to the Central Election Commission no later than the next morning after its adoption. Then, it shall publish it on its official website immediately upon receipt of the resolution.
The premises of the district commissions are located in other buildings, compared to previous election campaigns. As you know, the CEC moved the center of the district No. 197 from Kaniv to Zolotonosha, which led to a change in the premises of the DEC, which is now located in the Creative House for Children and Youth in Zolotonosha. DEC No. 184, located in Nova Kakhovka, also changed its location from the House of Culture of Tavria PJSC to the Palace of Culture. Aaccording to the chairman of the commission Viktor Boridko, it was related with a more convenient location of the new premises and its better safety. However, OPORA observers note that this did not affect the proper functioning of the commissions. DECs were provided with all logistical equipment to perform their duties, and commission members did not report any problems.
DECs conduct their activities openly, and all persons entitled to do so in accordance with the election law are allowed to attend their meetings without any impediments. Minutes are kept at the meetings, draft decisions are prepared, decisions are made in the form of resolutions and posted on the bulletin board, a journal of inquiries is kept. The commissions are guided by the provisions of electoral law when making their decisions, and the attendance rates at the commission meetings is sufficient for making legal decisions.
Violations of the election law and democratic principles of elections have been recorded
The common violation at the initial stage of the official election process was the placement of printed campaign materials on outdoor advertising media without the mandatory information about the customer of these materials, the printing institution, or an indication that the printing was done using party-owned equipment, their circulation, or information about persons in charge of the issue. Illegal campaigning was spread in favor of Vladyslav Holub (self-nominated), Roman Sushchenko (European Solidarity) in constituency 197, and Hennadiy Lahuta (We are here to live!), Ihor Yosypenko (European Solidarity), Kateryna Odarchenko (National platform), Ihor Tokovenko (“People’s Power”) in constituency No. 184. However, OPORA observers note the lack of systematic nature of these abuses, as the vast majority of campaigns without source data were disseminated during the early campaign phase and were not withdrawn after the registration of candidates.
Another example of a possible violation in the Kherson region was the situation with holding a campaigning event for representatives of the village council. Thus, Hennadiy Lahuta ("We are here to live!") publicly reported on a Facebook page about the meeting with voters. It was attended by the staff of the village council of Velyka Lepetykha, in the premises of the local government. It is worth noting that this format of campaigning may be a sign of violation of election law. According to Part 3 of Article 74 of the Law of Ukraine “On Elections of People’s Deputies of Ukraine”, the use of premises of state authorities and local self-government bodies for campaigning shall be prohibited. In addition, according to the Law, participation in election campaigns during working hours shall be prohibited for local government officials.
The election process in September was not conflicting and was not accompanied by violent confrontations, while electoral subject did not use any black PR. However, isolated cases of conflict occurred in constituencies. On September 30, in the city of Nova Kakhovka (constituency No. 184), at a session of the city council in the session hall, a rally was organized by the candidate Ihor Tokovenko ("People's Power") to protest against the construction project on the site of the city park. As a result, the candidate and his supporters were forcibly removed from the session hall by the municipal guards, after which some participants sought medical help. OPORA observers recorded isolated cases of damage to campaign materials of individual candidates in constituency No. 197, the nature of the abuses was not systematic. Thus, Vladyslav Holub (self-nominated) appealed to the police about the damage to his billboards, where obscene stickers were pasted on the planes above the candidate’s advertisement. Also in Cherkasy, the billboard of the candidate for People’s Deputies, Vitaliy Voitsekhivsky (“Servant of the People”) was compromised, and the facade of the room where the office of the “Servant of the People” party was located was painted. Representatives of the party told OPORA observers that they had contacted the police about the vandalism.
Material Incentives for Voters
The first month of the election process was characterized by cases of pre-election charity by potential and registered candidates, which often did not have a formal violation of the Law, but negatively affected the competitiveness of the election process. In constituency No 184, the Ihor Kolykhayev's Charitable Foundation "We are here to live!" has been active, with the same name as candidate's nominating entity, Ihor Kolykhayev's political party "We are here to live!" The charitable foundation conducts intensive activities within the constituency, which includes the purchase of goods for the voters of the constituency, the organization of official celebrations, the construction of playgrounds, the provision of free legal aid and more. The activity is carried out both by the representatives of the foundation, with further coverage on social media, with positive comments of the candidate, and personally by Hennadiy Lahuta. In the case of personal transfer of goods, the candidate calls himself a representative of the fund and a benefactor. Since the Law of Ukraine "On Elections of People's Deputies of Ukraine" does not have any provisions to classify the activities of charitable foundations as voter bribery (unlike the Electoral Code of Ukraine), the fund's activities and personal participation of Hennadiy Lahuta do not actually violate the election law. This fact is an unacceptable way to avoid responsibility and has negative consequences for ensuring the principle of equal rights and opportunities for all participants in the election process. As we know, the Law of Ukraine "On Charity and Charitable Organizations" prohibits charitable organizations to provide charitable assistance to political parties or on behalf of political parties, as well as to participate in election campaigning. However, all publications of the fund on social media emphasize that the fund has the same name as the party. However, OPORA observers recorded signs of indirect bribery by the candidate. Thus, on September 24, in the village of Novovorontsovka, at a pre-announced campaign of the candidate, residents were presented with a power bank, a smart watch, and a TV. Along with prizes, participants were presented with packages saying "Hennadiy Lahuta". In addition, on the stage, there were symbols of the party that nominated the candidate, and a banner with his image; the event itself was announced by the party and the candidate himself spoke at the event.
The campaign in Cherkasy region was also characterized by cases of charitable activities for campaigning purposes, most of which were carried out by unregistered candidates. In this case, charity could not be regarded as voter bribery due to the lack of acquisition of subjectivity of individual candidates and campaigning, which legally begins the day after the registration of candidates by the relevant commission. This situation was observed with the registered candidate Vladyslav Holub (registered on September 24) and potential candidates - Yulia Hershun and Ivan Stepants. During September, two Cultural and Educational Centers of Vladislav Holub offered training courses for the elderly people on financial literacy and smartphone use. Also, with the assistance of the candidate, video surveillance cameras were installed in schools in the settlements of the constituency. In September, a public figure Ivan Stepanets distributed personal protective equipment against coronavirus to various institutions in the constituency. At the same time, the potential candidate, Yulia Hershun, provided a certificate for UAH 25,000 for the winner of the VI Kaniv International Film Festival.
In addition, the situation with a possible violation by Vitaliy Voytsekhivskyi needs additional attendance by law enforcement agencies. Thus, on September 26, the Bobrytsia community’s website mentioned the candidate’s visit to the community on Village Day, where he was identified as a candidate, and additionally mentioned the gift of a wheelchair to a local family presented by Vitaliy Voitsekhivsky. It should be noted that according to the election law, the provision of goods to voters, accompanied by the mention of the candidate’s name, qualifies as an indirect bribery of voters. Also on the social media of Facebook, OPORA observers recorded a post from a resident of the village of Domantove, who expresses gratitude to the “candidate for deputy Voytsekhivskyi V.O. for his great help in rebuilding the house after the fire.” Identified cases of material incentives to voters may not reflect the scale of such abuses, and therefore law enforcement agencies should resort to verifying such facts and active actions in order to reproduce a holistic picture and prevent more serious violations. OPORA continues to call on the subjects of the election process to refrain from using pre-election charity in their own campaigns and to campaign exclusively in legal forms and ways.
Elements of Using an Administrative Resource
The use of administrative resources remains a separate risk to the democratic nature of the by-elections. In September, OPORA observers recorded violations of the principle of political neutrality at certain local governments, which showed elements of misusing a media administrative resource. In the single-member constituency No. 197, the mention of candidate Vitaliy Voytsekhivskyi in an official article on the Bobrytsia community’s website indicates a possible violation of election law. Equality of rights and opportunities of candidates is ensured by equal and impartial attitude of state authorities and local self-government bodies. When disseminating election information, the authorities must adhere to objectivity, impartiality, balance, reliability, completeness and accuracy of information. Positioning in the material of Vitaliy Voytsekhivskyi as a candidate may have signs of covert campaigning by the local self-government, while the law stipulates that official reports on the actions of candidates who are also officials should not contain campaigning-related comments. Involvement of an individual candidate during the election process in the official activities of local authorities may indicate the covert campaigning by the SG body and violation of the principle of equality of subjects of the election process and provide electoral advantages to a particular entity due to power status and authorities. In addition, Voytsekhivskyi’s campaigners wore branded T-shirts and presented the participants of the holiday with branded balloons with the inscription “Voytsekhivskyi’s team. Servant of the People.” There are also signs of a different violation when it comes to banning campaigning and disseminating campaign materials during events organized by local governments.
Another unacceptable situation is with the official use of funds of the nominating party for the organization of the event of the local self-government body. The celebration of the City Day took place in Nova Kakhovka on September 25, sponsored by Ihor Kolykhayev's party "We are here to live" and the deputy chairman of the regional council Hennadiy Lahuta (registered candidate from the party "We are here to live!"). This information was also further confirmed by the reply of the Executive Committee of the City Council to a written request from OPORA. According to the election legislation, political advertising includes notification of support for public events by the party that is a subject of the election process. However, the support can be provided only from the election fund. However, as mentioned above, campaigning and dissemination of election campaign materials during events organized by local governments is prohibited, and such bodies and their officials are generally prohibited from participating in campaigning.
We should also highlight the public activity of the recently registered candidate in constituency No. 184, the head of the Kherson Regional State Administration, Serhiy Kozyr ("Servant of the People"). The candidate intensified his visits to the settlements of the constituency on the eve of registration. They involved participation in public events, the opening of infrastructure facilities, meetings with residents of communities, etc. However, the monitoring shows that the candidate positions himself exclusively as the head of the regional administration, which can give him additional benefits to increase visibility, and promote himself as a participant in the election. In this case, the key criterion for ensuring the equality of subjects is a clear distinction between the performance of official duties and campaigning activities. Also, the candidate's public activity often focuses on the President's initiatives and programs. In addition, the opening of the CAS in Nova Kakhovka by Serhiy Kozyr took place within the framework of the Big Construction program. Although there are no formal irregularities in the candidate's activities, OPORA has repeatedly emphasized the conclusions of international missions and focused on current election standards, according to which candidates should refrain from using state-funded projects to gain electoral advantage during the election process.
To the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine:
- To improve legal provisions on non-nomination of political candidates by a political party as a criterion for cancellation of registration by establishing a requirement for full and actual participation of parties (their candidates) in the election campaign for ten years.
Ministry of Internal Affairs of Ukraine, National Police of Ukraine:
- OPORA hereby appeals to the Ministry of Interior and the National Police to ensure prompt verification and proper investigation of the implementation of technologies with elements of illegal influence on the will of citizens (in particular, registration and participation in elections of so-called "twins"; organization of public events accompanied by material assistance and services to voters), with further informing the public about the circumstances of the identified offenses, the initiators and motives of their actions.
To the election commissions:
- To strictly follow the anti-epidemiological instructions for holding elections under quarantine restrictions and to take all recommended measures to prevent the risk of disease among commission members and voters in general.