2012 Elections in Ukraine: Voting Mostly Calm, Results Delayed by Slow Count

October 29, 2012 - IFES

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Ukraine held elections for its parliament (the Verkhovna Rada) on October 28, 2012. Many observers saw the polls – taking place under a new legal framework and amid intense polarization among political actors – as a litmus test for the country’s democracy.

David Ennis, IFES chief of party for Ukraine, answers some questions about Election Day in Kyiv.

How was Election Day?

The mood on Election Day was mostly calm and orderly. However, observers are also reporting incidents in which candidates were harassed and voters were intimidated. It is too early to say how widespread such problems were.

How was turnout?

The Central Election Commission (CEC) has announced that 57.8 percent of eligible voters voted, as compared to an average of 63.5 percent in the last two parliamentary elections. This year’s figure is consistent with IFES’ own opinion polling, which indicated that turnout would be lower than in previous national elections.

Ahead of the elections, IFES advised the CEC about how to manage crowding of polling stations on Election Day. How were the lines to vote?

Lines formed in many polling places, but polling station staff managed the flow of voters ably. Crowding does not seem to have been a widespread problem. But because Ukraine does not control the flow of voters at the entrance to the polling stations, at times there were significant groups of voters waiting to receive their ballots or use the voting cabins.

There was also some concern about accessibility for persons with disabilities. How was access to the polls for this segment of the population?

The accessibility of polling places for disabled voters was uniformly weak. Almost all polling stations required voters to climb stairs, sometimes multiple flights. It should be noted that Ukraine uses mobile ballot boxes so that voters who are unable to vote in a polling place are able to vote at home. However, IFES and others have been somewhat critical of this system, both because it marginalizes elderly voters and voters with disabilities and because it may be more prone to fraud. While the law contains a provision requiring that Braille readers be given to each polling station, this was not done for this election. Visually impaired voters could only vote with the assistance of other voters.

Did the recent changes to the electoral law create any confusion?

The new electoral law allowed parties to recall at will the commissioners they had nominated, and there was widespread late replacement of commissioners by parties – perhaps more than 50 percent of all commissioners – as late as the day before voting. This created difficulties in commission work and certainly adversely affected the CEC’s training and preparations.

The addition of a second ballot does not seem to have confused voters or polling station staff during voting. However, there have been widespread delays in finalizing the count at the precinct level – some precincts did not finishing counting until 7:00 am. – and this delay was likely due, at least in part, to the increase in the amount of counting-related paperwork required by the new system.

When can results be expected?

The CEC should announce preliminary results by Thursday or Friday of this week. The law requires the CEC to establish final results no later than 15 days after Election Day. We expect that the CEC will use most of that time, as there will likely be many count-related issues to resolve, possibly even court challenges.

When will the elected officials take office?

The new parliament will be convened 30 days after the results are promulgated.

For more information on the elections, see IFES’ Elections in Ukraine: October 28 Parliamentary Elections, Pre-Election Technical Assessment and Key Findings: Public Opinion in Ukraine.

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