Article by: Iryna Stelmakh
Victory at the early parliamentary elections in only one district will cost majority candidates between 1 and 3 million dollars, according to the Voters’ Committee of Ukraine. Even before officially registering with the Central Election Committee, the candidates started propagating themselves with the use of traditional distribution of meal packs, as well as help for ATO fighters and refugees.
“Buckwheat in Kharkiv! They are using a charity fund and volunteers,” Kharkiv resident Konstyantyn Dyakonenko wrote on his Facebook page and published a number of photographs, which show five-kilo bags with the logo of the ‘Help the Nearest’ charity fund that contain buckwheat, oil, biscuits, condensed milk, sugar and flyers that say: ‘We will win together! Volodymyr Skorobahach.’ According to the activist, the plastic bags were unloaded near one of the schools in Kyyvsky district of Kharkiv, having previously forced the teachers and students at middle school #4 and gymnasium #1 to take these ‘packs’ to people’s homes.
Do these actions on part of the regional, member of the Kharkiv City Council, fall under the category of bribery? Possibly, no, says civil network Opora, as Skorobahach is still not registered by the CEC as a candidate, and the citizens of Kyyvsky district in Kharkiv are not his electorate yet.
The delay of the date of registration in the CEC (it ends on September 25 – ed.), and so the possibility to advertise themselves without using the electoral fund, is a traditional maneuver made by Ukrainian parties and majority candidates during the electoral campaign. This year, immediately after the registration, the candidates will begin the second, much more active phase of buying votes, says deputy general director of the Voters’ Committee of Ukraine Nataliya Lynnyk.
“According to expert evaluations, the candidates are planning on spending between 1 and 3 million dollars per district on their electoral campaign, depending on the amount of competition. A major part of the money from the candidates’ shadow funds will go towards direct and indirect vote-buying. The main unfair struggle will begin on October 1,” warns Lynnyk.
Chernenko: direct buying is most dangerous
Besides traditional meal packs and organizing events, among the novelties for buying votes during the current electoral campaign, the VCU expects renovation of military hospitals, material assistance to the families of those who died in the ATO (giving the apartments, cars, furniture, appliances, medical care) and providing the refugees with shelter. However, because of such short terms for the electoral campaign, such ‘gifts’ are ineffective, says former head of the Ukrainian Voters’ Committee, and current nominee (but also not a candidate yet) Olexandr Chernenko.
“Why were these meal packs and gifts effective, in Kyiv in particular? Everyone remembers Chernovetsky’s team. Because they did not hand them out a month before the elections but half a year and even a year before. Such indirect bribery is not effective on short terms. Direct bribery is most dangerous, which is being executed within the last two-three weeks before the elections,” he cautions.
So far, Opora has documented few instances of direct bribery, however, they emphasize that it does not depend on the activists and observers as much as the law enforcement. They are the ones who have to know electoral law and prevent violations. Advisor to the Minister of Internal Affairs Anton Herashchenko assured that the MIA will infiltrate groups that engage in buying votes, and they will also issue special booklets with information on how to prevent electoral falsification for the policemen, in cooperation with the VCU and the CEC.