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12th Ukraine Breakfast Debate: “Monitoring Ukraine’s Presidential Elections: Chances and Challenges”

On April 11, 2019, our 12th Ukraine Breakfast Debate on the topic “Monitoring Ukraine’s Presi­dential Election: Chances & Challenges” took place within the framework of the project “Platform for Analytics and Inter­cul­tural Commu­ni­cation” (PAIC). This edition was organized as an extended format in cooper­ation with “Civic School for Sound EU Practice” (CiSEP), consisting of an inter­active working session that would complement the expert talk. Our experts, Iryna Shvets, Civil Network OPORA Lviv, and Anastasia Matvienko, All-Ukrainian NGO “Committee of Voters of Ukraine“ Odessa, provided substantive inputs before the partic­i­pants could test themselves as election observers based on real cases.

Despite numerous challenges like the enormous amount of candi­dates regis­tered for the presi­dential race (39) as well as opaque campaign funding, the Ukrainian presi­dential elections that took place in spring 2019 have been labled “free and fair” by the inter­na­tional community. Our experts noted that the presi­dential race has been charac­terized by true and honest compe­tition for the position. Furthermore, more citizens living in the Eastern regions of Donezk and Luhansk as well as inter­nally displaced persons (IDPs) would have been able to cast their vote, in comparison to the 2014 elections. Moreover, it would be remarkable that the Ukrainan-Russian language cleavage that is, the division of the multi­lingual Ukrainian society along the choice and use of their first language, would have been blurred and less important in campaigning: The Russian-speaking candidate Zelenskyy received majorities even in the most western, tradi­tionally Ukrainian-speaking regions. The input ended with insights into the Ukrainian electoral system, the Election Law as well as into the basics of election obser­vation to prepare our guests for the subse­quent working session.

During the second part of the breakfast debate, the partic­i­pants examined situa­tions that occurred during the presi­dential campaign and assessed these situa­tions with regards to their compliance with the law and codes of conduct. These cases included, among other things, the nomination of so-called technical candi­dates, the manip­u­lation of polling results for election campaign purposes, job offers made for the support of a candidate, or candidate-financed bus transfers to the polling stations. The guests also presented proposals to prevent such cases, such as an extended voting period, which may poten­tially allow distant voters to travel autonomously to the ballot stations.

In the final Q&A, last remaining questions concerning election obser­vation have been clarified. Here, the partic­i­pants showed a particular interest in the funding mechanism of election obser­vation organ­i­sa­tions, their way of dealing with the media, and the role of “fake” election observers.

The extended format of the Ukraine Breakfast Debate has created a more inter­active setting and enabled the devel­opment of constructive and creative solutions to existing problems. We would like to thank all partic­i­pants as well as our experts Iryna Shvets and Anastasia Matvienko for this fruitful exchange.

The project “Platform for Analytics and Inter­cul­tural Commu­ni­cation” (PAIC) aims at promoting profes­sional expertise among Ukrainian think tanks, creating synergies between German and Ukrainian think tanks and trans­ferring knowledge about devel­op­ments in Ukraine to Germany. PAIC is conducted in close cooper­ation with the Ilko Kucheriv Democ­ratic Initia­tives Foundation (DIF, Kyiv) and the think tanks devel­opment and research initiative think twice UA (Kyiv) and is kindly supported by the Federal Foreign Office.

The Civic School for Sound EU Practice (CiSEP) is a training programme for active citizens and change-makers in Ukraine. It creates a network of Associ­ation Agreement specialists with the common goal of enhancing Ukraine’s European integration. It is conducted in close cooper­ation with the Polissya Foundation for Inter­na­tional and Regional Studies (Chernihiv), the Civil Network OPORA (Lviv), the Odessa Regional Organi­zation of All-Ukrainian NGO “Committee of Voters of Ukraine” (Odessa) and the NGO Public Chamber of Ukraine and is supported by the Federal Foreign Office.