As runoffs loom, vot­ers still don’t know many re­sults

Kyiv Post - - News - BY ALYONA ZHUK AND OK­SANA GRYTSENKO [email protected] [email protected] Kyiv Post staff writ­ers Alyona Zhuk and Ok­sana Gryt­senko­can be reached at [email protected] and [email protected] kyivpost.com.

It’s been two weeks since the Oct. 25 lo­cal elec­tions, but vot­ers still don’t know the out­come.

Why? Be­cause of poorly de­signed leg­is­la­tion and court ap­peals by los­ing can­di­dates, ex­perts say.

More­over, vot­ing isn’t even over yet. Runoff elec­tions for may­oral seats in 29 big ci­ties where no can­di­date won more than 50 per­cent in the first round are sched­uled for Nov. 15. In some of th­ese hotly con­tested may­oral races, ob­servers fear fraud and worse.

As of Nov. 5, the Cen­tral Elec­tion Com­mis­sion’s web­site showed the names of only 92.7 per­cent of all the can­di­dates who had won seats on lo­cal and re­gional coun­cils. That means that 22,730 more names of can­di­dates out of the over­all 158,399 elected po­si­tions are yet to be added. And less than half of the re­sults of re­gional coun­cil elec­tions have been posted on­line.

Ac­cord­ing to Kostyan­tyn Khivrenko, the com­mis­sion’s spokesman, the elec­tion law obliges lo­cal com­mis­sions to count the votes within 10 days, and to pub­lish the re­sults in the com­mu­nal or state-owned press over the next five days. They also have to re­port the re­sults to the Cen­tral Elec­tion Com­mis­sion. But the elec­tion law doesn’t spec­ify a dead­line for this.

“The empty spa­ces on the web­site of the Cen­tral Elec­tion Com­mis­sion do not mean that the lo­cal elec­tion com­mis­sions failed to count the votes in time,” Khivrenko said.

He added that no one can be cer­tain how much of the vote count has been com­pleted, ex­cept for the lo­cal com­mis­sions them­selves. The lo­cal com­mis­sions could pub­lish their re­sults and yet fail to de­liver them to the Cen­tral Elec­tion Com­mis­sion “due to tech­ni­cal is­sues,” he said.

An­other prob­lem is that the mem­bers of lo­cal elec­tion com­mis­sions are only em­ployed dur­ing elec­tions, rather than be­ing full-time elec­tion of­fi­cials.

Since they are not well-trained spe­cial­ists, the mem­bers of lo­cal elec­tion com­mis­sions some­times make tech­ni­cal mis­takes or fail to com­pile their of­fi­cial re­ports prop­erly, said Olek­siy Koshel, the head of the Com­mit­tee of Vot­ers of Ukraine, a na­tion­wide non-gov­ern­ment elec­tion watch­dog.

If that hap­pens, elec­tion com­mis­sions at higher lev­els re­turn the re­ports to lo­cal elec­tion com­mis­sions, which then have to re­write the re­port from scratch, caus­ing fur­ther de­lays.

How­ever, Koshel said he has no rea­son to be­lieve that the lo­cal of­fi­cials have been drag­ging their feet dur­ing the vote count.

“I didn’t see any re­port or com­plaint about the re­sults not be­ing an­nounced,” Koshel told the Kyiv Post. “Also, (in some con­stituen­cies) there are court ap­peals tak­ing place.”

Sasha Borovik, Odesa may­oral can­di­date and aide of Odesa Oblast Gover­nor Mikheil Saakashvil­i, came sec­ond in that city’s vote and is one of those chal­leng­ing the of­fi­cial re­sults. Af­ter of­fi­cial re­sults showed that Hen­nadiy Trukhanov was re-elected as mayor, Borovik chal­lenged the vote count in court.

Ac­cord­ing to Koshel, there are in­deed rea­sons to doubt the of­fi­cial re­sults in Odesa, as there was a “ma­jor mis­match be­tween the of­fi­cial re­sults and those of the exit polls.” An exit polls con­ducted by Savik Shus­ter Stu­dio, found that Borovik re­ceived about 31 per­cent, but he ended up get­ting about 24 per­cent of the vote.

The elec­tion re­sults will be also con­tested in the town of Svalyava in Zakarpat­tia Oblast, where the win­ner and in­cum­bent mayor Ivan Lanyo is ac­cused of putting pres­sure on the lo­cal elec­tion of­fi­cials.

Le­gal chal­lenges are also pos­si­ble in Ir­pin in Kyiv Oblast and in sev­eral other ci­ties where ob­servers re­ported se­ri­ous vot­ing ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties, Koshel said.

Mean­while, the Cen­tral Elec­tion Com­mis­sion has al­ready re­ported that the may­oral elec­tions will head into a runoff in 29 big ci­ties, in­clud­ing 19 pro­vin­cial cap­i­tals.

Dnipropetr­o­vsk will prob­a­bly be the hottest race, Koshel said, with Olek­sandr Vilkul from the Op­po­si­tion Bloc and Borys Fi­la­tov from Ukrop run­ning neck-and-neck.

“Dur­ing th­ese lo­cal elec­tions there were two par­al­lel cam­paigns – one about the lo­cal elec­tions them­selves, in­clud­ing the may­oral elec­tion, while the sec­ond one was a false start to pos­si­ble early par­lia­men­tary elec­tions,” Koshel said. “An in­dica­tive ( may­oral) vic­tory is equally im­por­tant for both the Op­po­si­tion Bloc and Ukrop (to achieve). We will see the en­tire spec­trum of elec­tion tricks be­ing ap­plied there.”

A fierce fight is also pos­si­ble in Mar­i­upol in Donetsk Oblast, where the elec­tions were can­celled on Oct. 25 be­cause of a row over the print­ing of bal­lot pa­pers. The vote could now take place on Nov. 15 if par­lia- ment passes a law pro­posed by the Cen­tral Elec­tion Com­mis­sion. Vadym Boy­chenko, backed by oli­garch Ri­nat Akhme­tov, will com­pete there with Yury Ter­navsky, who is sup­ported by lo­cal Maidan ac­tivists and Donetsk Gover­nor Pavlo Zhe­brivsky.

In Uzh­horod, the pro­vin­cial cen­ter of Zakarpat­tia Oblast, ob­servers re­ported mass brib­ing of vot­ers in the first round of the may­oral vote. Now Koshel fore­casts a “dirty” sec­ond round, where a former mem­ber of Party of Re­gions, Bo­hdan An­driyiv, will take on the former mayor – the “in­fa­mous and scan­dalous” Ser­hiy Ra­tush­niak.

But the most in­ter­est­ing bat­tles for the post of mayor will be seen in Kyiv and Lviv, Koshel said.

In both ci­ties, the in­cum­bent may­ors, Vi­taliy Kl­itschko and An­driy Sadovy, re­spec­tively, got the most votes but failed to get more than half. How­ever, in both cases the gap be­tween the top can­di­date and run­ner up was more than 30 per­cent.

“There is no mo­ti­va­tion for the elec­torate of Kl­itschko and Sadovy to vote in the sec­ond round, as the re­sult seems clear,” Koshel said. But the sup­port­ers of their com­peti­tors, Bo­ryslav Bereza and Rus­lan Koshu­lyn­sky, will most likely come to the polls, feel­ing they have to sup­port their can­di­dates, who might still have a chance to win.

As a re­sult, Koshel said, Ukraine could well see the para­dox­i­cal sit­u­a­tion of the may­oral races in the coun­try’s big­gest ci­ties be­ing de­cided by a very small group of peo­ple, with the voter turnout be­ing as low as 20 per­cent.

Elec­tion com­mis­sion work­ers reg­is­ter peo­ple who came to vote to a polling sta­tion at school #9 for the fu­ture vot­ing, as the bal­lots were printed with mis­takes on Oct. 25 in Mar­i­upol. (Anas­ta­sia Vlasova)

Lo­cal Elec­tion 2015 Oct. 25

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