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Poroshenko signs election law amendments……but……

October 20, 2014

After returning from what can only be described as a less than successful ASEM Summit with regard to progress vis a vis The Kremlin, President Poroshenko has signed the election law amendments relating to voter bribery.

Thus it is now an offence for organisations, institutions, and enterprises to provide undue advantage, or the provision of free goods and services to voters for fear of imprisonment for 2 – 4 years, and/or depriving those responsible within from holding certain public office for a period of 1 – 3 years.

Those that would obstruct the execution of free universal suffrage (violating electoral rights), including the functioning of election commission personnel and observers, together with acts of bribery, fraud or coercion, now face a prison term of 2 – 3 years.

Abuse of office, including members of the election commission now carries a sentence of 3 – 7 years.

Also illegal instruction to an election official in order to effect or influence the election commission now carries a 5 – 10 year sentence, forgery of election documents 3 – 7 years, and theft or concealment of ballot boxes 5 – 7 years.

There is also some adjustment in the existing fines mechanisms.

All very good – but, and there is always a but – it is far too late to have any meaningful impact on this election campaign.  Currently there are at least 15 pending voter bribery cases now in Odessa.  14 in Zaporizhia, in Kyiv another 25.  Kharkiv has also at least 11 pending voter bribery cases, with Zhytomyr 9, and Donetsk another 7, etc.    How many thousands of voters this has influenced – who knows?

There is little point in listing all current bribery allegations under the old unamended law – suffice to say these new amendments cannot be applied retrospectively to at least 140 (and counting) cases of voter bribery during this election campaign.

It will perhaps, make a difference to the final week of electioneering before the ballot on 26th October, but  it is not going to have an effect on judicial outcomes relating those bribery allegations made prior to the law amendments being signed, or investigations/cases already under way.   The laws applicable are those in existence at the time of the commission of the offence – not those in force the date they are heard in a court of law.

Thus, no doubt there will be numerous – indeed plentiful – cases of voter bribery yet to be added to the 140+ incidents already known, that despite coming to light post signing of these amendments into law, will fall squarely within the law prior to it being amended due to the date the offence was commissioned rather than discovered.

Ponder we may, upon how election observers already on the ground in Ukraine will be able to cope with/assess a change of legislation a week before polling.  Dissemination of these amendments are usually less than timely, and their interpretation is not likely to be uniform across regional institutions around the nation either.

All, of course, is not entirely untimely.  The amendments may, and indeed will, be in legal effect when the electoral commission staff deal with the issues of polling day, and any subsequent counting or ballot box shenanigans thereafter.

It will be interesting to see what mention, if any, this gets in any international observer reports.

 

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