BRAMA, Nov 15, 2004, 9:00 am ET|
Report from First Round of Presidential Elections in Ukraine
The Ukrainian Canadian Congress (UCC), the representative body for the 1.1 million Canadians of Ukrainian descent, expresses its admiration for the people of Ukraine who, in large numbers (over 75% of eligible voters), came to the polls on October 31, 2004 to take advantage of their hard earned right to vote democratically in the Presidential elections and by this action to take control of their destiny.
61 observers from Canada were in Ukraine for the October 31 election in the role of both long and short term observers. Long term observers were sponsored by the University of Alberta. Short term observers were volunteers who generously donated their time, experience and financial resources to monitor the election process.
Delegations of observers were sent to monitor the elections in the following oblasts:
Over 300 polling stations were visited with observers monitoring not only the voting process during the day, but both opening and closing procedures at polling stations. Observers also witnessed the submission of reports to regional election commissions.
Unfortunately, the UCC is forced to note with concern, that the right to vote has been compromised by a large number of irregularities during the election campaign and during the voting itself on Election Day. These serious and systematic problems negatively affect the Ukrainian people's ability to control their future and incorrectly reflect the true will of the electorate. The major problems are highlighted below. All the violations noted by UCC election observers at the over 300 polling stations at which they were present, have been compiled and are available through the UCC for use by government and non-government agencies.
- A universal problem, highlighted by all monitoring organizations, was the inaccuracy of voters' lists. These inaccuracies were revealed in many regions visited by the Canadian observers. For example, in the Odesa region a voters' list revealed names of non-existent individuals as well as voters with non-existent addresses.
- Many individuals came to vote whose names did not appear on the voters' list. These individuals were directed to the local court, which could amend the voters' list. Observers noted that the courts, although open, were not adequately prepared to handle requests, did not provide accurate information or did not have the correct forms available.
- There were cases in which UCC observers noted levels of pressure exercised on voters by people in authority, ie. workplace supervisors, local elected officials, post-secondary institution instructors. In the regions of Sumy and Kharkiv students of the Agrarian University were told by instructors how to exercise their vote with observers witnessing instructors checking students' ballots before they were deposited in the ballot box.
In Dnipropetrovsk, observers reported an instance of a local election commission and observers consisting of directors and managers of one factory which had instructed their personnel how to vote.
- Reports from Luhansk and Odesa indicated that certain local election commissions were denying access to the poll on election day to their members representing the opposition candidate.
- Irregularities were also witnessed at polling stations in different regions of the country during the counting of the votes, as well as during the submission of reports to regional election commissions.
- Other issues noted by the UCC observers included:
- the inadequate set up of many polling stations;
- voters being allowed to vote without the required identification;
- Local Election Commissions being uninformed about voting procedures.
Finally, persistent reports during the election campaign of misuse of government resources for overt political ends by certain forces as well as direct meddling in the expression of free speech through the mass media are true, concluded the UCC observers. The campaign-style visit of the President of the Russian Federation to Ukraine in the days before the election is a gross deviation from accepted international norms.
A second round will take place on November 21, 2004 there is an opportunity to address the issues highlighted by international monitors. The Ukrainian people are entitled to express their vote freely and the efforts of observers become more significant in ensuring that the second vote is truly a transparent one.
The UCC will have over 50 election observers on the ground in Ukraine for this second round of Presidential elections.