A pre-electoral delegation from the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) visited Kyiv to evaluate the election campaign and preparations for the early presidential election on 25 May 2014.
The PACE delegation is convinced that, following the revolution, Ukraine needs a democratic and credible presidential election to establish legitimate political authority. Therefore, it calls on all Ukrainian citizens, whatever their political convictions or linguistic and regional sensibilities, to play an active part in the election campaign and to participate in the forthcoming election. Any external interference in the domestic affairs of Ukraine and in the electoral process should be excluded, in order to guarantee the people’s freedom to vote.
The PACE delegation noted that significant changes have been made to the legal framework for the election during the last two months which could improve its credibility. Regrettably, however, some important issues have not been addressed, including election campaign financing. There is no upper limit on spending for presidential candidates, despite the fact that the Council of Europe’s Venice Commission has recommended capping election campaign expenditure.
In this regard, the PACE pre-electoral delegation recalls the Assembly’s conclusions after the last presidential and parliamentary elections in 2010 and 2012: “The place of money and oligarchies in politics in Ukraine in general and in the election process in particular. This reality appears to have reached even more alarming proportions during this election campaign. Unfortunately, many Ukrainian citizens are seeing the political ‘combat’ as a struggle between different clans and their financial interests rather than between competing platforms and ideas.”
Traces of this oligarchic dominance are still to be found in the media and in the way the public domain is structured. Although Ukraine has a wide range of pluralistic media outlets, the lack of independence and the lack of transparency of media ownership are matters of serious concern. The Assembly delegation was also informed of cases of harassment and restrictions on the freedom of journalists. It firmly condemns any attempt to undermine media freedom and asks the authorities to provide journalists and others in the media with effective protection.
The delegation pointed out that the election campaign environment has been affected by tensions, and the interference of armed groups influenced by the Russian authorities, particularly in the eastern regions. Numerous cases of intimidation and violence towards citizens and presidential candidates have been reported. The Assembly delegation strongly condemns all cases of violence. It is crucial that all presidential candidates enjoy equal conditions to freely meet the electors and inform them about their programmes, have equal access to the media and are able to conduct their campaigns in all regions of Ukraine without discrimination and according to Ukrainian legislation.
The delegation welcomes the efforts of the Ukrainian authorities to enable all Ukrainian citizens whose homes are occupied, such as in Crimea, or are the subject of armed interference, such as in the regions of Donetsk and Lugansk, to go to the closest polling stations in order to cast their vote. Voters must be sure that they can exercise their right to vote in safety and security.
The election campaign provides the presidential candidates, with their various political, linguistic and regional sensibilities, the opportunity to exchange ideas and platforms in order to build bridges between the citizens of all regions of Ukraine rather than reinforce dangerous dividing lines. Therefore, it calls on all presidential candidates to assume this heavy responsibility.
The pre-electoral delegation was informed that the process of registration of presidential candidates was inclusive. Despite the difficult political environment, the Central Election Commission is functioning normally; its sessions are open for observers, media and candidates’ representatives. During the campaign and on election day, all necessary measures should be taken to ensure the security of the entire electoral process, including the functioning of district and precinct election commissions, to avoid possible cases of intimidation or violence towards their members.
The Parliamentary Assembly will send a 52-member delegation to observe the early presidential election on 25 May 2014.
The delegation had meetings with presidential candidates and their representatives; with Oleksandr Turchinov, Chairman of the Verkhovna Rada and acting President of Ukraine; Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk; the Deputy Secretary of the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine Oleksandr Lytvynenko; the President of the Central Electoral Commission and the members of OSCE/ODIHR election observation mission. Meetings were also organised with representatives of civil society and the media.
Members of the delegation:
Andreas Gross (Switzerland, SOC), head of the delegation
Frank Jenssen (Norway, EPP/CD)
Ingebjørg Godskesen (Norway, EDG)
Tinatin Khidasheli (Georgia, ALDE)
Nikolaj Villumsen (Denmark, UEL)
Marietta de Pourbaix-Lundin, co-rapporteur of the Monitoring Committee (ex officio) (Sweden)