Victor Ashe, former Knoxville mayor and ambassador to Poland, went over to Ukraine to observe elections. He sent us a report yesterday. Here goes:
Kyiv, Ukraine – Ukrainians went to the polls on October 26 to elect a new parliament and empower the government in Kyiv to focus on implementing long-term reforms and respond to Russian aggression. Despite the violence in the east and the difficulty of reaching internally displaced persons across the country, Ukraine through elections has chosen the path of democracy and elected a new parliament.
With the exception of areas of Donetsk and Luhansk, where Russian supported militants prevented voting, and in Crimea, where Russia continues to illegally occupy Ukrainian territory, voters turned out in cold weather to register their continued support for the path to Europe which began with the Maidan. The Central Election Commission (CEC) has preliminarily reported that turnout was more than 52 percent.
“We congratulate Ukraine on conducting an election that met international standards.” Co- leader of IRI’s delegation Victor Ashe, former United States Ambassador to Poland stated. He went on to add “the vote is an affirmation of Ukraine’s desire for national unity.”
IRI observers visited more than 150 polling stations in Cherkasy, Chernihiv, Dnipropetrovsk, Donetsk, Kharkiv, Kyiv, Lviv, Mykolaiv, Odesa, Ternopil, Volyn, Zaporizhia and Zhytomyr oblasts.
IRI’s observer teams were also able to witness voting in liberated Ukrainian territory, Donetsk oblast, specifically in Sloviansk. Observers were impressed by the patriotism and willingness of the brave residents who participated in the electoral process. The delegation praises the election commissions who were able to operate polling stations on Election Day under difficult circumstance in this recently fought-for territory, seeking to ensure that as many voters as possible were able to vote as part of a united Ukraine.
IRI observers reported only minor non-systemic irregularities and none that would affect the outcome of the election. In a sharp contrast with elections before 2014, observers did not witness abuse of administrative resources during the campaign.
IRI’s delegation reported that the election was well-administered and polling officials should be commended for the role they played in the process. Observers saw continued improvement in the voter lists and voters were able to easily receive a ballot after providing proof of identification.
IRI’s delegation praises the CEC for its administration of the election and its dedication to an open and transparent process. Since the May 2014 presidential election the CEC was able to conduct elections in six additional single mandate districts, an improvement that enabled more people to vote. With the government’s commitment to holding future by-elections in those few districts in which Russian forces prevented voting, the CEC will continue to play a crucial role in bringing all Ukrainian voters into the system.
“With the election now over, it is time for Ukraine’s new leaders to undertake the reforms citizens have demanded. It is noteworthy that several new, pro-European parties have entered parliament. Ukrainian citizens expect swift change in the governance of their country and a continued path towards Europe,” said Iveta Radičová, former prime minister of Slovakia.
IRI found the election reflected a true exercise of democratic rights and another step towards Ukraine’s entry to Europe.
Yesterday’s election marked IRI’s 200th election observation mission, including Ukraine’s 1994, 1998, 2002, 2006, 2007, 2012 and 2014 parliamentary elections and the 1999, 2004, 2010 and 2014 presidential elections.
IRI’s delegation was led by Victor Ashe and Iveta Radičová.
Other delegates who observed the election were:
• Nadia Diuk, vice president of programs for Africa, Central Europe, Eurasia, Latin America and the Caribbean at the National Endowment for Democracy;
• Robert Kabel, lawyer at Faegre Baker Daniels;
• James Kirchick, fellow at the Foreign Policy Initiative;
• Gabrielius Landsbergis, member of European Parliament, Vilnius, Lithuania;
• Anita McBride, executive in residence at the Center for Congressional and Presidential Studies at American University’s School of Public Affairs and former chief of staff to First Lady Laura Bush;
• Robert O’Brien, managing partner at Arent Fox, LLP;
• Jan Pieklo, executive director of the Polish-Ukrainian Cooperation Foundation;
• Daniel F. Runde, William A. Schreyer endowed chair at the Center for Strategic and International Studies;
• Edward S. Verona, senior advisor at McLarty Associates;
• Olin Wethington, member of IRI’s Board of Directors, founder and chairman of Wethington International LLC and former special envoy on China.
Thomas E. Garrett, IRI’s vice president for programs, and Stephen B. Nix, director of IRI’s Eurasia programs, assisted in the mission.
Prior to the election, delegates were briefed by political party representatives and Ukrainian election officials. They were also briefed on the rights and responsibilities of international observers and Ukrainian election law.
IRI endorses the Declaration of Principles for International Election Observers and Code of Conduct for International Election Observers.