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