Bulgaria, noting the high turnout in the October 28 2012 parliamentary elections in Ukraine but also OSCE assessments of the voting as falling short of democratic standards and procedures, has urged that the government formed in Kyiv after the elections will steer the country on the path towards Europe.
Bulgarian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Vessela Tcherneva said on October 30 that the elections for the Verkhovna Rada, Ukraine’s unicameral Parliament, registered high voter turnout, proof that Ukrainian citizens wanted to express in a democratic way their will regarding the government.
The elections were assessed by the OSCE as insufficiently consistent with democratic standards and procedures. The overall assessment of the electoral process will depend also on correct reporting of votes by the Ukrainian authorities, Tcherneva said.
On October 29, international observers said in a a statement that Ukraine’s parliamentary elections were characterised by a tilted playing field.
“This was the result, primarily, of the abuse of administrative resources, as well as a lack of transparency in campaign and party financing and of balanced media coverage,” the observers said, according to a statement on the OSCE website.
Voters had a choice between distinct parties and candidate registration was inclusive, with two notable exceptions, representing a wide variety of political views. The political environment, however, was dominated by powerful economic groups, to the detriment of the electoral process, the statement said.
“Considering the abuse of power, and the excessive role of money in this election, democratic progress appears to have reversed in Ukraine,” said Walburga Habsburg Douglas, the Special Co-ordinator who led the OSCE short-term election observation mission and the head of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly delegation. “One should not have to visit a prison to hear from leading political figures in the country.”
“Ukrainians deserved better from these elections. The ‘oligarchization’ of the whole process meant that citizens lost their ownership of the election, as well as their trust in it,” said Andreas Gross, the head of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) delegation. “Unfortunately, the great democratic potential of Ukrainian society was not realised in yesterday’s vote.”
Election day was calm and peaceful overall. While the voting and counting was assessed mostly positively by the observers, the tabulation was assessed negatively, as it lacked transparency, the statement by the international observers said.
The election administration managed the technical aspects of the pre-election process adequately, but routinely held pre-session meetings behind closed doors, and most open sessions lacked substance.
“Yesterday, we witnessed a strong turnout and a well-conducted polling process. The positive engagement of the Ukrainian people shows their steadfast desire for democracy, and this bodes well for Ukraine’s future,” said Assen Agov, head of the Delegation from the NATO Parliamentary Assembly. “We all hope that the disappointment of our overall assessment will galvanize political stakeholders into delivering the democratic progress which Ukrainians clearly seek.”
“The lack of appropriate responses by the authorities to the various electoral violations has led to a climate of impunity,” said Audrey Glover, the Head of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (OSCE/ODIHR) long-term election observation mission. “This has cast a shadow over the election and the democratic progress that, until recently, Ukraine had been making.”
Tcherneva said: “We hope that the new Ukrainian parliament will meet the expectations of all Ukrainian citizens, to become an institution that achieves consensus on the important priorities of the country and represents the interests of all Ukrainians.
“We are pleased that Anton Kisse, representing the interests of the Bulgarian community inUkraine, will participate in the parliament,” Tcherneva said.
“We expect that the government that will be formed on the basis of these elections will steer a clear policy towards Europe and towards the implementation of European values and standards, including rejection of xenophobic statements and actions. This is the path to prosperity for the Ukrainian people and their integration into the European family,” she said.
Meanwhile, members of the European Parliament have expressed strong criticism regarding the preparation of parliamentary elections in Ukraine, but also support to the Ukrainian people for the peaceful process and high turnout. These are the preliminary observations of an official delegation of 15 MEPs in the country.
Pawel Kowal (ECR, PL), who led the 15-strong delegation of MEPs to observe the elections – in the framework of the OSCE/ODIHR mission – pointed to the imprisonment of two prominent opposition leaders, new electoral legislation lacking guarantees for good application and the lack of opportunity for candidates to campaign on equal terms.
However – noting the peaceful and high rate of participation – he said, that the European Parliament has “a special commitment to the Ukrainian people to raise all of the issues which happened during the campaign and clarify all doubts. We also intend to keep a close eye on the way in which the winning parties will work with the opposition in the Verkhovna Rada.”
In a joint statement on October 29, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and European Enlargement and Neighbourhood Policy Commissioner Štefan Füle said that the turnout in the October 28 elections “shows Ukrainian citizens’ attachment to a democratic and pluralistic society”.
“We take full note of the International Observation Mission’s preliminary findings on the conduct of the elections – which present a mixed picture with several shortcomings – and of the difficulties faced by the local electoral observers,” Ashton and Füle said.
“The final assessment will also depend on post-electoral developments, which we will watch closely. It is therefore particularly important that the Ukrainian authorities ensure proper conduct in the coming stages of the electoral process, notably as regards the remaining vote count, tabulation of results and following up on possible electoral complaints,” Ashton and Füle said.
They said that they expected that the future Verkhovna Rada will fully reflect the will of the Ukrainian voters, as expressed during Sunday’s elections.
“Our engagement with Ukraine towards political association and economic integration remains based on its respect for our common values. We are committed to continue to work towards using the full potential of our relations for the benefit of the citizens of Ukraine and the EU,” Ashton and Füle said.