Kyiv, Ukraine, November 17, 2018
This statement is offered by a joint international delegation organized by the National Democratic Institute (NDI) and the European Parliament. The delegation’s purposes were: to accurately and impartially assess electoral preparations in advance of the 2019 presidential election; review the broader political environment; examine factors that could affect the integrity of the electoral process; and offer recommendations that could contribute to peaceful, credible elections and public confidence in the electoral process. The cooperation of NDI and the European Parliament on this mission is symbolic of the shared trans-Atlantic commitment to Ukraine’s sovereign and democratic future.
Since the Revolution of Dignity, the Ukrainian people have intensified their commitment to achieving a fully-functioning democracy. A presidential election on March 31, 2019, followed by parliamentary balloting later in the year, will test whether the country’s institutions and leaders are keeping pace with the people’s desire for change.
Russian occupation, military aggression, hybrid warfare, and a subsequent economic recession, have complicated but have not prevented the country from making significant progress in recent years. Achievements include the decentralization of power to the local level, visa-free travel to the European Union, the creation of anti-corruption institutions, reform of public procurement, and macroeconomic stabilization. In addition, the electoral framework is broadly sound. Civil society remains vibrant, influential, and vigilant, and watchdog organizations stand ready to safeguard Ukraine’s democratic transition.
Nonetheless, as Ukraine approaches the presidential election, several key issues stand out. Countering Kremlin interference must be a top priority to safeguard the stability and unity of the country. 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. Similarly, efforts should be taken to strengthen those bodies and organizations responsible for preventing political corruption and curbing the role of money in politics, originating both domestically and abroad. The delegates expressed concern about violence and intimidation of politicians, journalists and civic activists. 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 underrepresentation of women in political life is striking and should be addressed.
To address these challenges and enhance public confidence in the overall process, the delegation offered a series of recommendations, among them are the following:
● 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 enfranchise internally displaced people (IDPs) and internal migrant workers, strengthen electoral justice. establish an enforceable gender quota in the parliamentary election law, and provide the Central Election Commission (CEC) with the authority and resources to effectively discharge its responsibilities and upgrade its information technology and cybersecurity.
● The Parliament should reinstate the budget proposed by the government for the National Public Broadcasting Company of Ukraine.
● The CEC should embrace the “roadmap” for progress outlined by civil society groups,1 including transparent open data practices for results tabulation and other key processes.
● 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. It would also inspire those working for democracy throughout the region. A flawed process would embolden those seeking to undermine the country’s aspirations and right to determine its future, with damaging consequences far beyond Ukraine’s borders. It is therefore vital for Ukraine’s friends in Europe and the United States to stand side-by-side with all Ukrainians in supporting a process that respects the will of the voters. This will help Ukraine better secure its sovereignty and unity as well as its place in Europe and in the broader community of democracies.