The International Republican Institute (IRI) election observation delegation determined that Ukraine’s March 26 parliamentary elections met international standards and were carried out in accordance with Ukrainian election law, according to a press-release, obtained by UNIAN from the IRI. The elections were the most open and transparent in Ukraine’s post-Soviet history and reflected the will of the Ukrainian people. Ukraine’s successful conduct of elections should be commended and should be considered an important step in the consolidation of democracy in Ukraine.
IRI found that improvements in election administration contributed to continued increases in transparency and fairness in the election process. These improvements in turn provided an atmosphere which allowed citizens to freely exercise their right to vote, without fear or intimidation.
FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
Conducting parliamentary elections, along with elections for oblast, region, city and mayor, creates an undue burden on polling station officials. In addition, voters were sometimes confused by the number of ballots, which varied from four to six depending on the oblast. As a result, some voters were forced to wait in long lines to receive their ballots and then again for a voting booth. Also contributing to long lines, was the small size of some polling stations. To avoid long lines in the future, IRI recommends that parliamentary and local elections be held separately and that larger polling stations be provided.
The CEC has worked in a professional and transparent manner. In particular, the CEC has taken concrete steps to improve the voter lists, resulting in a much improved process of checking the lists prior to Election Day. Despite the good faith efforts of the CEC, the voter lists do contain some inaccuracies, some a result of the transliteration of names. These inaccuracies did result in some problems for voters. In an effort to address these issues, IRI recommends that parliament consider the appropriate legislation that would allow the CEC to create a national, computerized database of voters.
The CEC, as well as lower level commissions, should be commended for providing a calm, peaceful environment on Election Day, in sharp contrast to previous elections. The various political parties were fairly represented as members of polling stations and district election commissions and the parties should be commended for their efforts.
During the campaign period preceding Election Day, IRI found the a lively campaign among the parties. An Independent Ukrainian media played a vital role in covering the campaigns and the candidates, providing voters with informed commentary and coverage. Notably, IRI found the use of administrative resources by national and local officials basically absent, a tremendous improvement over the presidential elections of 2004.
IRI delegates monitored more than 100 polls in Chernihiv, Dnipropetrovsk, Donetsk, Ivano-Frankivsk, Kharkiv, Kyiv, Luhansk, Odesa, Ternopil, and the Autonomous Republic of Crimea oblasts. In addition, through a grant from IRI the Democracy Development Foundation (DDF), a domestic Ukrainian nongovernmental organization, monitored an estimated 2,600 polling sites with more than 150 observers. DDF was the only Ukrainian elections monitoring organization that conducted and coordinated both domestic and international election observation for the parliamentary and local election.
IRI’s delegation was led by The Honorable Michael Trend, former member of Britain’s parliament. Other delegates were Steven Berry, President, Steven K. Berry, LLC; Thomas Carter, President, Commonwealth Consulting Corp.; Marjorie Finkelnburg, Director of Government Relations, Pfizer; The Honorable Bohdan Futey, U.S. Court of Federal Claims; Charles Greenleaf, former Assistant Administrator, U.S. Agency for International Development; Lilibet Hagel, Trustee, Meridian International Center; Reuben Jeffery III, Chairman, Commodity Futures Trading Commission; Patricia Morgan, State Chairman for Rhode Island, Republican National Committee; Gardner Peckham, Managing Partner, BKSH & Associates; Roman Popadiuk, former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine; Bob Schaffer, former Congressman representing Colorado’s 4th District; and Morgan Williams, Director of Government Affairs, SigmaBleyzer.
IRI staff also served as observers and assisted in the mission. IRI staff were led by Georges Fauriol, Senior Vice President of IRI, Stephen B. Nix, Regional Director for IRI`s Eurasia division and Chris Holzen, IRI’s Country Director for Ukraine.
Since 1993, IRI has worked to help strengthen political parties and good governance in Ukraine at both national and local levels. IRI also works with youth, women and civil society to increase their participation in the political process. In preparation for the March 2006 parliamentary elections, IRI carried out trainings on campaign management, voter education, youth mobilization, and political party poll watching.
IRI has monitored more than 140 elections since 1983.