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Ukraine: statement of the pre-electoral delegation

A pre-electoral delegation from the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) visiting Kyiv to evaluate the election campaign and preparations for the early parliamentary elections in Ukraine on 26 October 2014, issued the following statement:

"With regard to the legal framework, the PACE pre-electoral delegation recalls the Assembly’s resolutions, in particular Resolution 1988 (2014) asking the Ukrainian authorities to adopt a unified Election Code, on which basis new parliamentary elections should be promptly organised when technically and politically feasible. The early parliamentary elections will take place before many of the electoral reforms have been implemented. We regret that the existing Verkhovna Rada was unable to agree on the necessary legislation. That makes it the all-important to have early elections so that a newly-elected Verkhovna Rada can implement electoral and other important reforms which are long overdue.

The election campaign is being conducted in very challenging circumstances, due to the continuing war in the eastern part of Ukraine and the Russian illegal annexation of Crimea. The delegation understands the decision to hold early elections and is impressed by the efforts being made to ensure that as many people as possible are able to participate, including internally displaced persons. The biggest political issues centre around the future security of the country and the peace plan negotiated in Minsk in September.

The delegation notes that seats will be kept in the new Verkhovna Rada for MPs from those parts of Donetsk and Louhansk regions where it will not be possible for security reasons to hold elections. Likewise seats will also be kept for those from Crimea whose territory has been annexed.

The pre-electoral delegation was informed by certain interlocutors about some cases of intimidation and physical violence towards candidates and their representatives. The delegation strongly condemns any violence and has been assured by the relevant authorities that they will investigate all cases thoroughly.

Concerning the financing of the election campaign, the Council of Europe’s Group of States against Corruption (GRECO) has frequently stressed the need for more robust legal mechanisms to increase the transparency of political financing of election campaigns. Unfortunately, many recommendations still remain unaddressed and the delegation hopes that the new Verkhovna Rada will be able to address these issues as a top priority.

Ukraine has a wide range of pluralistic media outlets and, according to different interlocutors, the conditions for free and equal access of political parties in election campaigns have significantly improved, particularly on public TV channels. The PACE delegation was informed about the persistent problem of lack of transparency of media ownership concentrated in the hands of wealthy individuals. The delegation therefore welcomes the draft laws which are being put forward in response.

The Central Election Commission (CEC) informed the delegation that additional measures should be taken to ensure the security of the electoral process, including the transfer of electoral material and the security of polling stations. The delegation understands that the CEC has drawn up draft legislation which the delegation hopes will be approved by the Verkhovna Rada on 14th October.

The PACE delegation calls on all political stakeholders to assume their heavy responsibility in the election campaign, dominated at this stage by the military conflict. It encourages all Ukrainian citizens to play an active part to ensure that the newly elected Verkhovna Rada has the authority to take forward a programme of reforms.

The delegation notes that despite the armed conflict, the general atmosphere in the election campaign is conducive to a democratic election.

The Parliamentary Assembly will send a 42-member delegation to observe the early parliamentary elections on 26 October 2014.

The delegation had meetings with Olexander Turchynov, Chairman of the Verkhovna Rada, leaders and representatives of the main political parties participating in the elections, Andrii Olefirov, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, representatives of the Ministry of the Interior, the Chairman of the Central Election Commission, foreign ambassadors and the head of the OSCE/ODIHR election observation mission in Ukraine. Meetings were also organised with representatives of civil society and the media."

Members of the delegation:
Christopher Chope, head of the delegation (UK, EC)
Arcadio Diaz Tejera (Spain, SOC)
Tinatin Bokuchava (Georgia, EPP/CD)
Karl Gardasson (Iceland, ALDE)
Andrej Hunko (Germany, UEL)
Marietta de Pourbaix-Lundin, co-rapporteur of the Monitoring Committee (ex officio) (Sweden)
Mailis Reps, co-rapporteur of the Monitoring Committee (ex officio) (Estonia)