Kyiv, Ukraine – Five months before Ukraine’s presidential election, slated for March 2019, and parliamentary elections, slated for October 2019, a joint pre-election assessment delegation of the National Democratic Institute (NDI) and the European Parliament found a broadly sound legal and institutional framework, as well as concrete areas for improvement (download the full election statement).
“Since the Revolution of Dignity, the Ukrainian people have intensified their commitment to achieving a fully-functioning democracy” said the delegation. These elections “will test whether the country’s institutions and leaders are keeping pace with the people’s desire for change.”
The delegation assessed that countering Kremlin interference must be a top priority, and that social media and digital platforms have a responsibility to help Ukrainians in this endeavor. For citizens to make informed choices, all campaigns and candidates should have equitable access to the media and the harmful effects of disinformation must be mitigated. Efforts should be taken to strengthen the bodies and organizations responsible for preventing political corruption and curbing the role of money in politics. The delegates expressed concern about violence and intimidation of politicians, journalists and civic activists. They noted that the maintenance of national cohesion will depend on campaigns that are constructive, seek to unite rather than divide, and respond to the aspirations of the Ukrainian people. Ukrainians clearly support greater equality between men and women, so the delegation urged attention to the underrepresentation of women in political life.
The delegation offered a series of recommendations, including:
- Candidates and political parties should conduct constructive, issue-based campaigns that avoid amplifying societal divisions.
- The Parliament still has time to enact the draft electoral code and in any case should expeditiously pass legislation that would expand enfranchisement, strengthen electoral justice, promote a more equal balance between men and women in the parliament, and provide the Central Election Commission (CEC) with the authority and resources to effectively discharge its responsibilities.
- The Parliament should reinstate the budget for the National Public Broadcasting Company of Ukraine.
- The CEC should embrace a “roadmap” for progress outlined by civil society groups.
- Facebook should establish an office in Ukraine and, along with other digital platforms, partner with Ukrainian stakeholders to monitor, expose, and counter disinformation.
- The media, whether traditional or digital, should label political advertising.
- Ukrainian authorities and the international community should support civil society groups in their efforts to monitor election processes and encourage citizen engagement.
“A transparent, credible election process would reinforce Ukraine’s democracy,” said the delegation. “It would also inspire those working for democracy throughout the region.”
The NDI delegates were led by Derek Mitchell, president of NDI and former U.S. ambassador to Burma (Myanmar), and William Taylor, executive vice president at the U.S. Institute of Peace and former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine. Other NDI delegates included Christina Hartman, elections expert and political consultant; Laura Jewett, director of NDI’s programs in Eurasia; Patrick Merloe, director of NDI’s electoral programs; and Mary O’Hagan, global adviser and director of NDI’s programs in Ukraine. The European Parliament delegates were led by MEP Dariusz Rosati (European People’s Party, Poland) and included MEP Rebecca Harms (Greens/EFA, Germany); and Gerrard Quille, head of unit in the European Parliament’s Directorate for Democracy Support.
The delegates met with prospective candidates, government and political party leaders from across the political spectrum; electoral authorities; civil society organizations; media representatives; and representatives of the international and diplomatic communities. Beginning in December, NDI will deploy a team of long-term analysts to continue monitoring the themes raised in this report. This will be supplemented by an international election day observation delegation. The NDI mission is funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development.
The NDI and European Parliament delegation conducted its activities in accordance with the Declaration of Principles for International Election Observation and Code of Conduct.