On election day, March 31st, the observers of “Uspishna Varta” recorded violations that attract attention by their repeatability and identity in different regions. Such violations on election day had an “iceberg effect” because they were the result of technologies implemented throughout the campaign and significantly influenced the will of the citizens. The result of their use was a decrease in the competitiveness of the election and a controlled vote in support of the current president, Petro Poroshenko, which allowed him to progress to the second round of the election.
Following the observation of the electoral process during January-March 2019, the observers of “Uspishna Varta” identified a number of violations and technologies, which significantly affected the results of the expression of will and represent a significant danger from the point of view of compliance with democratic electoral standards in the second round of the presidential election on April 21st.
President Poroshenko’s use of his official position and official powers to influence the results of voting was the subject of the heightened attention of observers throughout the electoral campaign. During March, President Poroshenko actively used his official position to carry out an electoral campaign, despite there being a direct legislative ban on this. In March the president held 18 campaign trips to regions, as well as a campaign rally in Kyiv. In every region the president, in an official capacity, held a Regional Development Council meeting, which was attended by representatives of local government and executive authorities. The trips of the president were accompanied by campaign rallies. People who disagreed with his policies were denied access to them and/or were forcefully escorted away.
As observers noted earlier, before the election, a number of government measures were launched in order to index pensions and monetize subsidies for public utilities. During March one-time payments were made in accordance with these programs, and they were presented as being the result of the policies of President Poroshenko.
During January-March, through public organisations and local organisations, Poroshenko's headquarters implemented a multistage scheme for constructing so-called "webs" of voters who received material assistance for budgetary social programs. Experts assumed that for the purpose of controlling the voting of people who received material assistance, more than 45,000 volunteers and campaigners of Poroshenko would be present as official observers at polling stations.
During election day on March 31st, the observers of “Uspishna Varta” repeatedly recorded cases of the controlled voting of voters in support of the current president, Petro Poroshenko (within the framework of the so-called “webs”). Thus, in Zaporizhzhia an observer found a woman who gave out money to the voters. The offender managed to escape. From the 300 people on the list, she managed to get about 10 to vote for the “correct” candidate. One of the people on the list said that she received 250 hryvnia in exchange for voting for Petro Poroshenko. The head of the commission explained to the observers that she didn’t go to the police concerning voter bribery because it happened outside of the station. Later, observers from one of the candidates sent information to the police.
In Kyiv at station No. 800316 (5 Bratislavskaya Street, Lesnoy Massiv), the observers of “Uspishna Varta”, together with the police, recorded how a representative of a public organisation personally led the voters to the voting booth from the very beginning, in the morning.
Groups of people who were on duty with voter lists near polling stations were also seen in the Kyiv, Chernigiv, Volyn, and Kherson regions. For example, in the Chernigiv region public observers recorded the presence of people who were on duty near stations with lists of campaigners in their hands. A woman who called herself the chief had a list with the names of campaigners and supporters. She also said that the campaigners had already received money for work in tents, and had not yet been paid money for voting. The “OPORA” civil network also reported a similar incident at station No. 800316 in the Dneprovsky district of Kyiv, where the official observer for “Solidarnaya Molodezh”, an all-Ukrainian public organization, had a list of apartments on a separate sheet and “campaigners' instructions for election day”.
All these and other cases should be the subject of an objective investigation of law enforcement bodies in order to prevent such practices in the second round of voting on April 21st.
On the eve of election day information about pressure being put on the staff of state and budgetary institutions (teachers, doctors, employees of the lower level executive authorities) also caused the observers of “Uspishna Varta” to be concerned. Under the threat of being dismissed from their jobs, they were forced to participate in campaign rallies in support of the current president, to participate in his campaign as commissioners and observers, and to vote in his favor.
During the day of voting, observers received anonymous information about people being forced to vote or to issue financial resources and/or other preferences to employees of large industrial enterprises, utilities, local administrations, etc in exchange for voting in support of Petro Poroshenko
In a number of districts stations with an abnormally high percentage of support for the current president were recorded. Thus, according to the results of processing 97.83% of protocols, in the Donetsk region 11,3% of all votes in support of the president (11,856) were made in district No. 48 (Kramatorsk), which is informally controlled by a deputy from the “Bloc of Petro Poroshenko” M. Efimov, who was elected from this district. Also, anomalously high support for Poroshenko was recorded in district No. 52 (Debaltsevo), where 37,74% of voters voted for the current president (and in the whole region - 12.71%). As of 10:00 on April 2, only 67.85% of protocols were processed in this district.
The headquarters of one of the presidential candidates (Y. Boyko) also reported about anomalously high support for the current president, Petro Poroshenko, at 100 polling stations in the Donetsk region, calling it evidence of large-scale fraud committed by the authorities.
The practice of people forcibly voting under the threat of losing their job or other sanctions imposed by the leadership of enterprises and organizations is unacceptable. Legally, this situation is not considered to be a violation of the electoral law, but it significantly affects the results of the expression of will.
Throughout the campaign observers recorded evidence of the use of “black PR” technology in the form of covert campaigning against the main presidential candidates. Before the day of voting, leaflets and acts aimed at reducing the turnout of Yuliya Tymoshenko and Vladimir Zelensky were also recorded.
The observers of “Uspishna Varta” estimate the CEC’s refusal to establish the ordinal numbers of presidential candidates on the ballot to be one of the main facts of unfair competition in the current campaign. As a result, two candidates with identical names, initials, positions and place of work (Yuliya Tymoshenko and Yury Tymoshenko), as well as two candidates with the same names (Aleksandr and Igor Shevchenko) were present on the ballot.
As a result, on election day, the observers of “Uspishna Varta” repeatedly recorded appeals made by voters for a second ballot paper due to an error when voting for Yuliya Tymoshenko. As a result of this technology, the candidate Yuliya Tymoshenko actually lost 0.62% of the vote (115 079, according to the results after processing 97.83% of the ballot papers). According to observers, during the counting of votes in the commissions, ballots containing a crossed out tick in front of Yury Tymoshenko and a normal tick in front of Yuliya Tymoshenko were also recorded. Accordingly, such ballots were deemed invalid. In total, according to the voting results, 1.18% of ballots were recognized as invalid.
With the gap between candidates being 2.5%, this level of “erroneous” voting for a double candidate became critical for Yuliya Tymoshenko's progression to the second round.
As was reported by “Uspishna Varta” on the eve of elections, inaccuracies in the voter list can be used to falsify voting results. Observers and journalists discovered a mass of cases where long-dead people are present in the voter register. The exact number of such "dead souls" in the voter lists is not known. In addition, more than 3 million labor migrants, who were actually absent in Ukraine on election day, are included in the voter lists. At the same time, less than 6% of the 1.5 million internally displaced persons from the Donetsk and Lugansk region took advantage of their right to change their place of voting. In total, 315,725 Ukrainians changed their place of voting at the presidential election, and 37% of them were members of election commissions, police officers, and official observers.
According to the CEC, the number of voters on the list was 29,468,783. The printed number of ballots for the first round of elections was 30,028,913. However, the number of voters who received ballots in the presidential election is 18,711,933. Thus, 10,756,850 voters did not vote. At the same time, there is no statistics on how many people did not find themselves in the lists.
During the day of voting, the observers of “Uspishna Varta” in all regions noted numerous cases where voters did not find themselves on the lists or, vice versa, they found the data of their deceased relatives (so-called “dead souls”). In addition, observers recorded cases where commissions for formal reasons refused to let people who had previously submitted the relevant application vote at the place of their residence (at home).
Before the second round, citizens will have to go through the procedure of changing their place of voting again. Given the complexity of this process and the massive queues faced by voters in some cities in the last days before the end of the deadline for changing the place of voting (5 days before the election), at the legislative level it is necessary to provide for the possibility of changing the place of voting for both rounds of voting at once. Also, at the legislative level, it is worth returning the possibility of registering voters on the day of voting by a court or district commission. In general, voter lists need considerable clarification.
According to the Ministry of Internal Affairs, from March 31st the police have opened 61 criminal proceedings related to the violation of electoral legislation. A total of 2,605 allegations were reported to the police.
Contrary to observers' fears, right-wing radical groups or other persons didn't carry out any significant provocations of a violent nature on the day of voting. In a number of regions, observers recorded certain situations, but they did not have a significant impact on the electoral process. Thus, in Dnepr, the police checked eight reports of the alleged mining of polling stations in the city. As a result, criminal proceedings were initiated under Part 1 of Article 259 of the Criminal Code (knowingly false report of a threat to the safety of citizens). According to the National Police, during the election day the police received 15 anonymous reports of mining and the threat of an explosion.
Information about the release of flammable substances in one of the stations in the village of Borzna in the Chernigiv region was also received. According to the observer of “Uspishna Varta” in Lutsk, a voter came to PEC 071046 with a pistol in his pocket. The police quickly responded and took the voter away from the PEC. In addition, at some polling stations in the Volyn region there was a power outage after the end of voting and before the start of the counting of votes.
During the day, the presence of a group of unknown young people in sports clothes (so-called "titushki") outside the CEC building was recorded, but they did not take any action. The remaining cases were isolated and non-systemic.
As was previously reported by the observers of “Uspishna Varta”, despite publicly declaring neutrality and unbiasedness, the Security Service of Ukraine was involved in the electoral campaign and carried out actions in the interests of the incumbent President Poroshenko.
During March the SBU carried out public and secret investigative actions against candidates who are the main opponents of President Poroshenko in the elections (Zelensky and Tymoshenko). In addition, in accordance with the resolution of the CEC, representatives of the SBU were included in the working groups of district commissions that are supposed to ensure the security of the "Vybory" automated information system. The presence of representatives of the SBU during the transferral of voting results may lead to abuses of official position and interference in the results of the counting of votes.
According to the information of the observers of “Uspishna Varta”, on the election day the SBU was present at the server in a number of district commissions, but no significant interference was recorded. At the same time, after 90% of the protocols were submitted to the CEC, delays with the introduction of protocols were recorded at a number of DECs, including due to the fact that the system did not accept the data. In this regard, conflict situations were recorded (for example, in Kyiv-Svyatoshinsky district of Kyiv, DEC No. 95).
The interference of the security bodies in the electoral process, including at the stage of entering data into the IAS “Elections”, is unacceptable. The presence of employees of the Security Service of Ukraine and the cyberpolice in the server rooms of the commissions in the second round of voting should be under control of ukrainian and international observers.
The low level of competence and training, as well as the lack of readiness of members of lower-level election commissions to perform their functions, remained a significant destabilizing factor in the organization of the electoral process throughout the campaign. The main problems in the work of the commissions are the massive refusal of their members to work and the extremely low level of material and technical support for the work of the commissions. In a number of commissions the process of replacing members of commissions, including leaders, continued even on election day.
Thus, in the evening of March 31st the CEC made a decision (Resolution No. 745) on changes in the composition of the DEC. In particular, the powers of two members of DEC 31 (Dnepr) and one member of DEC No. 118 (Lviv) were terminated ahead of time, and a member of the commission in DEC No. 65 (Zhytomyr) was replaced, as well as the head of DEC No. 117 (Lviv). Earlier, “Uspishna Varta” complained to law enforcement bodies regarding the activities of the head of this commission. In the Lviv region (DEC No. 117), on election day, cases of citizens being made PEC members without their permission were also recorded.
As was noted earlier by “Uspishna Varta”, frequent changes in the composition of district and precinct commissions are due, among other things, to a high number of so-called "technical" candidates for the presidency. A number of candidates replaced the commission members that were submitted by them initially at a rate of more than 100%. Commission members from “technical” candidates informally represent the interests of the headquarters of higher rated candidates, thereby helping them receive a majority in district and precinct commissions. According to experts, more than 50% of DEC and PEC members are controlled by the current president, Petro Poroshenko, through a number of technical candidates and those PEC members who were appointed to replace the recalled technical candidates.
As a result of the frequent change of commission members and the lack of the necessary level of training, procedural violations that did not significantly affect the results of the ballot were recorded during the day of voting.
Most of the commissions on election day opened on time. As of 14:00, voting did not start at only two polling stations in the Odessa region. At PEC No. 511003 in Izmail, the reason for the delay was due to the lack of ballots. At polling stations in the Kyiv, Poltava, Volyn, Lviv, and Kharkiv regions observers recorded that the commissions received fewer ballots than the number of voters. In the Lvov region the transfer of ballots to special stages in an amount exceeding the number of voters by 25% was recorded.
The most frequent violations recorded by observers on election day were attempts by members of election commissions to issue a ballot paper without voters showing proper documents (passport or temporary certificate of a citizen of Ukraine, military ID - for conscripts). Cases of voting taking place outside the booth, mainly because of the queues at the polling stations, were also recorded. Such abuses by the subjects of the electoral process did not show signs of a systemic violation.
In addition, during the day of voting, observers recorded isolated cases of the intentional destruction of ballots and the breakage of seals by both voters and commission members. According to the information of the observers of “Uspishna Varta”, the members of the three PECs added the “withdrew” stamp next to the name of one of the candidates, thus violating the norms of the current legislation. For example, in one of the polling stations in the Ivano-Frankivsk region (No. 260236), 600 ballots were thus damaged.
Among other common violations, the observers of “Uspishna Varta” recorded cases of ballots being photographed at polling stations. In particular, in Zhytomyr, in PEC No. 181445, the chairperson and observers recorded how a voter took a photo of their ballot in the voting booth. The police subsequently drew up a protocol. At the same time, a number of local officials openly published on their social network pages a photo of themselves holding a ballot paper containing a vote in support of the current president, but no sanctions were applied to them (for example, the mayor of Zhytomyr and the head of the Zhytomyr Regional State Administration). An observer from “Uspishna Varta” in Kyiv submitted a statement to the police about the commission of a crime by a well-known blogger, who made and posted a photo of a ballot paper on a social network with a note attached in support of the incumbent president, thus intentionally violating the secrecy of voting.
According to the observers of “Uspishna Varta”, in most regions of Ukraine there were also cases of illegal campaigning on election day, when the official observers of one of the candidates used badges bearing the candidate’s symbols. This often led to conflict situations, since observers and commission members forced them to stop using materials bearing signs of campaigning. In addition, on the “Day of Silence” and on Election Day, the teams of five presidential candidates massively disseminated materials bearing signs of campaigning (boards, leaflets).
In the majority of the commissions where “Uspishna Varta” observers were present there were no problems related to the legitimacy (presence of a quorum) of election commissions at the vote counting stage. In a number of district commissions observers were faced the refusal of the commissions to issue copies of the counting protocols with wet seals, citing the lack of technical capacity or they just left to take away the ballots to the DEC without stamping them (Kyiv).
In addition, the observers of “Uspishna Varta” recorded the following problematic points in the process of counting votes:
On the eve of the second round of voting on April 21st, the CEC should make efforts to improve the quality of management of the electoral process by the district and precinct commissions and raise the level of skills of their members to prevent these and other procedural violations during the electoral process.
On January 18th 2019 the “Uspishna Varta” human rights platform received permission from the Central Election Commission to have its official election observers. Observation is carried out by the work of more than 100 long-term and short-term observers in constituencies; interviews with representatives of candidate headquarters, election commissions, the media community, and the public sector; the collection of information from public sources of information.
This report was formed on the basis of observation during the period of March 31st to April 1st 2019 in order to inform the Ukrainian and international community about the electoral process in Ukraine and violations that may affect the free will of citizens and the election results.
The second interim report on the results of observation for the period of March 1st-28th can be found here.
We will send a letter once per week in which we will report about the most important events in the field of legal protection and violations of the civil and political rights of Ukrainians