NDI's 20th anniversary logo


Kyiv, December 27, 2004

This preliminary statement is offered by the international election observer delegation organized by the National Democratic Institute (NDI) to Ukraine's December 26 repeat of the presidential runoff election. The delegation, totaling 35 observers from seven countries in Europe and North America, visited Ukraine from December 22-28. The delegation is part of NDI's ongoing monitoring of Ukraine's election process, which began prior to the first round of the election and will continue until the next president of Ukraine is installed in office. NDI may issue additional statements on this repeat election and will publish a final report on the overall election process in the near future.

The delegation was led by: Abner Mikva, former member of the United States Congress, White House Counsel and Chief Judge of a U.S. Court of Appeal; Bronislaw Geremek, Member of the European Parliament, former Foreign Minister of Poland and Member of the Polish Sejm (Parliament); and Patrick Merloe, NDI Senior Associate and Director of Electoral Programs. The delegation also included other current and former legislators, former ambassadors, elections and human rights experts, civic leaders and regional specialists.

The purposes of the delegation were twofold: to demonstrate the international community's continued interest in and support for the development of a democratic election process in Ukraine, in the context of this repeat election; and to provide Ukrainians and the international community with an impartial and accurate assessment of the election process and the political environment surrounding the repeat election to date. The delegation conducted its assessment on the basis of international principles for election observation, comparative practices for democratic elections and Ukrainian law. The delegation worked in cooperation with Ukrainian nonpartisan election monitoring organizations, particularly the Committee of Voters of Ukraine (CVU), and with credible international election observer missions coordinated by the OSCE/ODIHR, the European Network of Election Monitoring Organizations (ENEMO) and other international organizations. For more than a decade, NDI has conducted, on a nonpartisan basis and across the political spectrum, programs to support the development of democratic institutions and processes in Ukraine.

The delegation wishes to emphasize that at this point NDI does not intend to render a conclusive assessment of the repeat election process, given that the tabulation of results is not complete and that any electoral challenges and complaints will require monitoring through their completion.


Ukraine's December 26 election promises to cross the democratic threshold, opening a new era in the country's political history and breaking a decade-old pattern of seriously flawed elections. This is a major accomplishment, the credit for which belongs to the Ukrainian people.

Over the course of the last 37 days, Ukraine experienced a fraudulent presidential runoff election, hundreds of thousands of citizens coming into its streets independently and spontaneously to peacefully defend their right to an honest election, the nullification by Ukraine's Supreme Court of the November 21 poll, the negotiation by the country's political leaders of a solution to the national crisis caused by the fraud, and the repeat on December 26 of the presidential runoff. These extraordinary events, driven by Ukrainians' demand that their will should determine who would have the authority and legitimacy to be their president, earned the world's admiration and changed the country. As the election process is completed and if the will of the people expressed at the ballot box is honored, Ukraine will have passed through a critical challenge and taken its place in the community of democracies.

The December 26 election was peaceful across the country and orderly in most places. Voter turnout was high, as citizens went to the polls for the third time in less than two months to select the next president of Ukraine. The Central Election Commission (CEC) has operated transparently. Overall, the thousands of election officials appointed by both candidates demonstrated their capacity to work together to promote integrity in the electoral process. Though the process was not without problems, no systematic or large-scale fraud or irregularities have emerged to date that would bring its credibility into question.

There are crucial challenges facing Ukraine's new president, its other political leaders and Ukrainian civil society. Political polarization must be followed by effective national reconciliation and preservation of national unity. Meeting public expectations for reform and progress will demand concerted action by all political, business and civic leaders. Political reforms will require continued strengthening of judicial independence and the rule of law, as well as governmental openness and accountability.

The extraordinary awakening and actions by Ukrainian citizens to defend their fundamental political rights, often referred to as the phenomenon of the Maidan, will require leaders to act quickly and responsibly to consolidate this expression of political will into constructive engagement of citizens in governmental and public affairs. Achieving democratic governance requires democratic elections, and the awareness developed in the electoral context must be transformed into active and continuing citizen participation. Ukraine's experience presents a critical opportunity to translate public interest into public policy and governmental action that reflects the long-term interests of the citizenry.

NDI and others in the international community stand ready to continue to assist Ukrainians' efforts to achieve such goals.


The Lead-Up to November 21

While attention has focused on the November 21 fraudulent presidential runoff and the events that followed, the fundamentally flawed election process had developed for months in advance of the November poll. The lead-up to the November 21 runoff included pre-election developments and a troubled October 31 first round, in which no candidate won the required majority of votes. Among the key factors that undermined the credibility of the election process prior to November 21, were the following:
  • Flagrant abuse of the powers of office by state officials to advance the interests of one candidate, including among other things pressuring government employees and students to vote for the prime minister;
  • Frequent misuse of state resources for the political advantage of one candidate in disregard of legal requirements for separation of the state from partisan political interests;
  • Bias of state-controlled news media and media associated with government supporters, favoring the candidacy of the prime minister, at times resulting from use of extra-legal "press guidelines" (temnyky);
  • Distribution of bogus campaign materials, counterfeited in the name of one campaign as outlandish claims aimed to discredit the candidate, and bogus instructions to voters to boycott the polls or telling them to cast ballots in a manner that would invalidate their vote for the opposition candidate;
  • Intimidation and limited acts of violence in the election campaign periods directed against campaigners, election commissioners, journalists and election observers, both domestic and international;
  • Delay by the Central Election Commission (CEC) in finalizing the first round election results, thus introducing uncertainty into the runoff campaign and shortening the period of clear competition;
  • Lack of transparency in CEC actions by: not providing Territorial Election Commission (TEC) and CEC totals together with Polling Station Commission (PSC) results, thus hindering verification of the results; and failing to identify the numbers of ballots issued, absentee voting certificates used and the number of voters added to voter lists;
  • Reluctance of the CEC to redress complaints and its limited referral of electoral violations for criminal prosecution.
Many of these flaws were noted by credible domestic and international election observer missions concerning the October 31 first round, and recommendations were offered for addressing them. The recommendations, however, were mostly ignored, and several problems intensified in the lead-up to the November 21 runoff, including abuse of office and state resources, pressure against public sector employees and students, and organized abuse of absentee voting certificates.

Respected international and domestic election observer organizations uniformly determined that the November 21 runoff was not credible. NDI's election observation delegation to the November runoff, found that: "Fundamental flaws in Ukraine's presidential election process subverted its legitimacy. The cumulative effects of systematic intimidation, overt manipulation and blatant fraud during the campaign and particularly on election day were designed to achieve a specific outcome irrespective of the will of the people." The delegation stressed that: "Ukraine's political leaders should enter into an urgent dialogue to consider how to rectify the corrosive effects of the abuses in the election process. A full range of remedies should be considered, including partial or new elections under democratic conditions. In addition, the election authorities and the courts should immediately provide relief for electoral violations. The delegation urges that, as redress is sought, all sides respect the rights of others and refrain from the use of violence."

The following were among the critical flaws in the election process observed by NDI's November delegation on election day:
  • Suspiciously high incidence of voting by the use of mobile ballot boxes in certain parts of the country;
  • Incidents of intimidation and limited incidents of violence at polling stations, including unauthorized presence of police and other unauthorized persons inside the polls, as well as the presence of threatening groups of men outside polling stations;
  • Widespread pressures against public sector employees and students to obtain absentee ballot certificates for themselves and members of their families and to turn the certificates over to employers or school officials, thus disenfranchising large numbers of voters;
  • Organized movement of other persons to vote away from their homes, thus controlling their movements and creating the possibility for multiple voting by using numerous absentee ballot certificates;
  • Disenfranchisement of significant numbers of voters due to their names being omitted from the voter lists or errors appearing in their personal information;
  • Last minute dismissals by TECs of PSC members representing opposition candidates;
  • Invalidation of polling site results under illegal or questionable circumstances;
  • Failure of the law to accredit domestic nonpartisan election monitors, contrary to Ukraine's OSCE commitments under the 1990 Copenhagen Document.
Despite such obstacles, there were significant positive developments, particularly concerning political competition and the role of civil society organizations, leading to the November 21 poll, including:
  • Voters were presented with a range of candidates in the first round of the presidential election, and they were presented with a distinct choice in the second round;
  • The political campaigns and political organizations of both candidates in the second round led to a strong contest, despite the flaws in the process;
  • Civil society organizations participated vigorously in promoting citizen participation in the election process;
  • Women were active in the political campaigns, civil society organizations and election administration;
  • Citizen groups organized to monitor and promote electoral integrity, including the Committee of Voters of Ukraine (CVU), which mobilized approximately 10,000 people on each election day;
  • Journalists protested openly about temnyky, and other citizens acted to defend their political rights;
  • The Supreme Court acted independently in granting relief for electoral violations concerning the first round, sometimes reversing the effects of rulings of electoral authorities.
Many of these factors contributed to developments following the November 21 poll, leading to an active defense of civil and political rights and somewhat improved conditions leading to December 26.

The November 21 through December 25 Period

The world's attention focused on the political crisis in Ukraine that resulted from the fraudulent November 21 presidential runoff. Dramatic events unfolded in the streets, in Ukraine's parliament, the Supreme Court and through political negotiations. International leaders served as mediators, and the international community offered moral support. It was the Ukrainian people, their leaders and institutions, driven largely by the hundreds of thousands of citizens who came into the streets of Kyiv and other cities, however, who defended the right of Ukrainians to express their will as to who should have the authority and legitimacy to serve as their president. Despite extraordinary tension, they avoided the potential for violence and resolved the crisis in favor of fundamental rights that lie at the core of sovereignty.

Despite a large number of electoral complaints being filed, the findings of international and domestic nonpartisan election observers and thousands of Ukrainian citizens demonstrating against the preliminary results, the CEC certified a fraudulent election result on November 24. This took place less than 72 hours after the polls closed, even though the CEC took 10 days to certify the results of the first round and claimed it may need even more time to certify results of the runoff. The certification also took place before electoral disputes could be resolved in accordance with Ukrainian law. The CEC's action, rather than putting an end to the election process and causing citizens to give up their protests, catalyzed further dramatic developments.

Ukraine's Supreme Court ordered that the election results issued by the CEC not be published and opened a case reviewing the complaint filed by Viktor Yushchenko. This reinforced the resolve of those who were seeking to defend political rights. Ukraine's parliament, in a symbolic vote, rejected the election results. It also entered a vote of no confidence in the government of Prime Minister Yanukovych, though this vote was not accepted by President Kuchma. International leaders convened a roundtable to mediate political dialogue aimed at agreeing upon steps to be taken to resolving the crisis. On December 3, the Supreme Court nullified the November 21 runoff and ordered a re-run of that election on December 26. Political negotiations continued, as citizens remained on the streets, until the parliament passed a package of electoral reforms and constitutional changes on December 8. Thus, 17 days following the November poll and 18 days before the re-run, the stage was set for the December 26 vote.

Electoral Reforms. Temporary electoral reforms included, among others, the following elements:
  • The CEC was reconstituted, with a new chairman and four new members;
  • The 225 TECs and approximately 33,000 PSCs were reconstituted, providing balanced membership between the two presidential candidates and limiting last minute expulsions of members;
  • Significant controls were adopted against using Absentee Ballot Certificates as a means for illegal voting, which was one of the main fraudulent practices in prior polls;
  • Significant restrictions were adopted on voting through use of mobile ballot boxes taken to people's homes or places of hospitalization, which was one of the major arenas of fraud in the last election (although the new restrictions created the potential of disenfranchising a number of qualified voters);
  • The number of surplus ballots printed and distributed was reduced and tighter ballot security controls were adopted to help reduce fraud;
  • Additional requirements were adopted concerning reporting by electoral authorities of detailed information about voting data (although the provisions do not require the CEC to publish polling station results together with vote totals, which negates an important means of verifying the accuracy of results).
These and other electoral reforms, though not a complete set needed to address the multiple abuses noted in the November 21 poll, created the potential for better ensuring an honest election process. Unfortunately, the reforms did not provide for domestic nonpartisan election monitors, thus, leaving obstacles in place that have created difficulties for citizens to exercise their right to participate as observers of the election process.

Implementation Challenges. The 18-day period provided between the enactment of these legal reforms and the December 26 re-run highlighted challenges to effectively implementing them. As preparations were under way for the re-run, the legal reforms were contested before the Constitutional Court, which on December 25 ruled against new restrictions on use of mobile boxes for "home voting," while allowing the other provisions to stand. This decision left little time for expanding the number of persons who might apply for mobile ballot box voting, and confusion about who should be allowed to use mobile balloting ensued in some areas.

The reconstitution of the PSCs with membership parity between the two candidates created a challenge for both camps to provide the required number of commissioners. Allowing persons to be appointed from outside the TEC's boundaries gave both sides the opportunity to move people from their regions of strongest support to other areas, which facilitated appointment of PSC members. The appointment process, however, affected training of commissioners and delayed the work of many PSCs, the impact of which precluded public display and inspection of voter lists and other matters. The decision to use the problematic voter lists developed for the October 31 first round of the election as the basis for developing the December 26 voter lists, combined with the limited ability to inspect and correct the lists before the vote, posed the possibility of many voters needing to seek court orders permitting them to vote on election day.

The Campaign. The truncated campaign was robustly contested by both candidates, though on a somewhat diminished scale compared to the November 21 poll. While there were a few isolated instances of violence, the campaign was peaceful.

The media environment improved considerably over the prior polls. This improvement can be traced in significant part to the role TV Channel 5 played in covering citizens protesting in the streets, which encouraged other journalists and broadcasters to break from self-censorship and open their political coverage. Media monitoring efforts reported that coverage of the two candidates was generally more balanced than in the months leading to the October 31 and November 21 rounds, including on nationwide television networks. The leave of absence that Viktor Yanukovych took from being Prime Minister contributed to more balanced coverage of the candidates, as his official duties passed to the acting Prime Minister. A second televised debate between the two candidates took place, and the legally allocated free broadcast time was provided to both candidates on the state-funded television channel.

There were credible reports during the campaign of government officials pressuring students and public sector employees concerning the upcoming vote, campaigning for the Prime Minister, and otherwise abusing the powers of government office for political purposes, although the reports were diminished compared to the periods before October 31 and November 21 elections.

The December 26 Poll

Election day was peaceful throughout the country, and the election itself was conducted in an orderly process. Voter turnout was high, as citizens went to the polls for the third time in less than two months to select the next president of Ukraine.

Overall, election administration bodies demonstrated their capacity to promote integrity in the electoral process. This was a major improvement over the October 31 and November 21 polls and is all the more remarkable given the short time they had to organize the election. The newly reconstituted CEC released information in a timely fashion and conducted its activities in a more transparent manner than its predecessors. Across most of Ukraine, the hundreds of thousands of members of the TECs and PSCs, who were appointed by both presidential candidates, worked cooperatively to address issues of the day and election night.

A number of problems were noted by NDI observers, but no indication of major or systematic fraud or irregularities that could affect the core elements of electoral integrity were detected. There was confusion concerning who had properly qualified for use of the mobile ballot box, given the Constitutional Count's ruling on election eve and instructions from the CEC and TECs on how to implement that decision. In some areas, particularly in eastern and southern regions of the country, there appeared to be localized attempts to use the mobile ballot procedure to introduce illegal voting, as was done in the November 21 poll. However, the balanced composition of the PSCs provided an effective check in most cases, and the number of ballots cast through mobile box voting was far below the inflated November figures.

In various places, problems were noted with the voter lists, which were those used for the October 31 poll and for which there was little time to make corrections before election day. The incidence of problems seemed to be lower than those noted by observers of the October 31 poll. Procedures for obtaining a court order allowing persons to vote whose names were omitted from the voter lists appeared to function properly, and the balanced composition of the PSCs provided a basis to curtail illegal voting where duplicates of names appeared on the PSC voter list.

There were also reports of isolated incidents of vote-buying, intimidation and breach of ballot secrecy. In a few places, observers from the Committee of Voters of Ukraine, who operated with journalist credentials due to failures in the law to accredit nonpartisan Ukrainian observers, were denied entry to the polls, as were international observers in limited instances.

No major problems were reported concerning the counting process or in the transmission of results from PSCs to the TECs. The CEC quickly published preliminary results throughout the early morning hours of December 27 and thereafter, which demonstrated transparency and provided a basis for increased public confidence in the electoral process.


NDI is an independent, nongovernmental organization that has conducted more than 100 impartial pre-election, election-day and post-election observations around the world. NDI recognizes that elections cannot be separated from the broader political process of which they are a part. The Institute's methodology for assessing elections is based on the premise that all aspects of the election process must be considered to accurately understand the nature of an election. Considerable weight must be assigned to the pre-election periods, as well as to the resolution of complaints and disputes following elections.

The delegation held meetings in Kyiv with: representatives of the two presidential candidates; the Speaker of Parliament; election administration officials; business leaders; representatives of the broadcast news media; civic leaders, including leaders of the Committee of Voters of Ukraine (CVU), Dosyt (Enough) and Pora (It's Time); the heads of the International Election Observation Mission (IEOM) to Ukraine coordinated by the OSCE, the European Network of Election Monitoring Organizations (ENEMO) and the Canadian election observer delegation, and representatives of the observer delegations of the Association of Former Members of Congress of the United States and the International Republican Institute (IRI); as well as the U.S. and other ambassadors and other representatives of the international community who are concerned with supporting a democratic election process in Ukraine.

Delegates divided into teams and were deployed around the country for meetings with governmental, electoral, political and civic leaders in their respective localities. On election day, the teams observed the voting, counting and tabulation processes in polling stations and TECs. Delegates then reconvened in Kyiv to debrief and develop this statement. The delegation expresses its gratitude to all with whom it met.

The delegation cooperated closely with the OSCE, ENEMO, and CVU observers in Kyiv and in the regions. The presence of our and other international observer delegations was a consequence of the accomplishments of the Helsinki process and in the particular commitments contained in the OSCE's 1990 Copenhagen Document. The delegation would like to emphasize that the work of these experienced, impartial organizations, as well as the dedicated professionals with worldwide experience who led their efforts, provided support and reliable exchanges of information that assisted this delegation's work, as was the case for NDI's November delegation. NDI and the other observer delegations noted above came to Ukraine to support a democratic election process—a process that reflects the will of the Ukrainian people. They did not seek to advocate a particular electoral outcome or to interfere in the election process. The Institute and such groups recognize that it is the people of a country who ultimately judge the character of their elections.


© National Democratic Institute (NDI). All rights reserved. Portions of this work may be reproduced and/or translated for non-commercial purposes provided that NDI is acknowledged as the source of the material and is sent copies of any translation.

National Democratic Institute, 2030 M Street, NW, Fifth Floor, Washington, D.C. 20036, Tel: 202-728-6335, Fax: 202-728-5520