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OSCE holds its nose and says it all went OK – Ukraine

October 27, 2015

Yesterday’s entry relating to the local elections in Ukraine stated:

“One wonders just what is going to appear in the official reports of the official observers – for this election has been nowhere near the standards of the presidential, nor Verkhovna Rada elections of 2014.

Indeed it has been so consistently illicit in its nature that it belongs with elections from a decade past.

Of course the content of the official reports very much depend upon who actually writes the reports – and equally upon who decides who writes the reports. So openly dirty, illicit and unambiguously grubby has this election and the associated campaigning been in comparison to those elections held last year, there is going to be more than a little room for doubting any official report that states anything to the contrary. The entire election campaign in Odessa (and clearly in other regions too) has been an affront to the rule of law from start – and it seems, to finish.

Yet, somehow, it will be seen to pass the international “official sniff test” despite the rank odour the campaigning has given off from the very start.

Admittedly, and it is right to note, not all of the recorded irregularities over the preceding months and today/tomorrow, are irregularities that would or could change the voting behaviour of the constituency. Nor effect the ballot counting. Minor irregularities clearly will not sway a voter or an electoral count, but they are nonetheless irregularities. Some irregularities certainly will be of that very serious category however.

Whatever the case, it seems likely that the elections will pass the “official sniff test” so as not to put (another) hurdle in the way of decentralisation.”

Unsurprisingly today the OSCE has held its organsiational nose to avoid the noxious odour when applying the “sniff test” of electoral international/Council of Europe standards.

ODIHR

The OSCE (via ODIHR mission Tana de Zulueta) opined that “the elections held in Ukraine conform to international standards in spite of pressure from big business and mass purchase of election advertising space in printed media and air time on TV and radio.”  It was further stated that in general the elections were well organised and competitive.

This despite no polling stations opening in either Mariupol nor Krasnoarmeysk, and the elections in Svatovo being declared invalid.

In fact the primliminary OSCE report has almost nothing positive to say about the elections whatsoever.

OPORA, a prominent and reliable NGO, as of the time of publishing, had recorded 1,128 violations of electoral law during the entire period of the election campaign.  In order of commonality rather than seriousness, in 1st place – 557 illegal campaign financing violations.  In 2nd place – 290 instances of voter bribery (some of which have been transfered to the police, some of which haven’t).  In 3rd place – 136 violations of election procedures, election commissions, (including those that influenced the election results.)

They recorded 46 recorded violent confrontations, 35 cases of misuse of administrative resources, 33 occasions where the work of observers was obstructed, and 30 cases of falsification of election results.

This before the results of their parallel vote counts can be compared to reported vote counts – which will lead to court appeals undoubtedly where discrepancies present themselves.

Further, the OSCE’s Tana de Zulueta added that the complexity of the legal framework, the dominance of powerful economic groups, and the fact that practically all media campaigns to cover the elections had been well paid for, pointed to the need to push ahead with reforms in the country.

So everything passes the OSCE/international “sniff test” – despite official concerns that the electoral law is an ass and urgently needs changing, the campaigning was hardly fair unless candidates/parties were sponsored by big business/oligarchy as media coverage was simply monopolised, and that there were several canceled or invalidated elections.  This notwithstanding the litany of recorded electoral violations, some clearly serious, recorded by the OPORA NGO.

There may yet be further issues of course.  Parallel vote counts may raise significant anomalies.  There will be court challenges.  There are numerous second rounds of voting for mayors on 15th November that have to be policed/monitored strictly, and also new elections to organise for Mariupol, Krasnoarmeysk, and Svatovo due to failures in those regions.

Thus we are left to ask what next not only for democracy, but the rule of law that underpins it?

1,126 recorded violations, means there is documented evidence of 1,126 violators.  What will happen to them?  As the entire election campaign and voting day has been an affront to the rule of law, will the rule of law be allowed to recover and actually deal with these violations and the associated offenders in order to send a message for future elections, or will it all be simply forgotten?

Will any official cautions, fines small or large, or imprisonment, be forthcoming from the 1,126 documented irregularities?  If so, how many?  1?  10?  100?  500?

With the OSCE holding its institutional nose and moving swiftly on, will the rule of law (or lack of it) do the same in Ukraine?

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