White Paper on preparation and conduct of postwar elections presented in Ukraine
The Center of Policy and Legal Reform and the Civil Network OPORA, two prominent Ukrainian expert non-profit groups focused on free and fair election processes in Ukraine, presented the first part of the White Paper on Preparation and Conduct of Post-War Elections to the public. It contains an action plan to address the problematic issues of post-war elections and recommendations for the parties involved in the electoral process.
Experts and authors of the book joined the discussion in Kyiv, hosted in late January 2024.
The White Paper also contains a list of proposed solutions to the most pressing problems that need to be resolved before the election process is announced, with arguments for the time frame required for their implementation.
Olha Kotsiuruba, Senior Legal Advisor at the Civil Network OPORA, noted that if campaigning for a large number of Ukrainian voters abroad is not regulated in advance, it could create unequal conditions in the first post-war elections.
“The main and first question is what to do with campaigning abroad and how to legalize its implementation and financing. Here, we have a whole list of challenges and opportunities. Currently, Ukrainian legislation prohibits campaigning in foreign media. But it is quite obvious that given the number of Ukrainian refugees abroad [due to Russia’s full-scale invasion] and the sharp increase in the number of voters in the foreign constituency, this issue will need to be addressed,” Kotsiuruba emphasized.
According to her, it is not possible to simply allow campaigning in foreign media. Therefore, the cooperation issues between the National Council on Television and Radio Broadcasting of Ukraine and the countries’ relevant authorities and where such campaigning could be carried out should be determined at the level of interstate agreements.
The expert also made several points about the “United News” (telethon), as this issue has a significant social significance in this context. She is convinced that holding elections in the “United News” (telethon) context is impossible. #UAtogether telethon aired on Rada TV since February 24, 2022, the start of Russia’s 2022 invasion of Ukraine. Within the first few days of its existence, it expanded to prominent TV channels by 1+1 Media, Starlight Media, Inter Media (until July 22, 2022), Media Group Ukraine (till closure on July 22, 2022), My-Ukraina (since Nov 8, 2022), and Pershyi. They provided 24/7 war updates in 6-hour slots each. Ukrainian independent journalists and bloggers repeatedly question the relevance of the “United News” telethon now.
“The threats posed by the “United News” (telethon) are well-known and widely voiced: these are additional costs from the state budget, risks of using administrative resources [to influence the context], the possibility of restricting media freedom, and all the things we hear when it is criticized,” she explained.
In addition, according to Kotsiuruba, if we talk about challenges, the criteria for holding elections should also include criteria for assessing compliance with the principle of free elections and the possibility of campaigning in a particular territory.
This raises the following challenges:
- the actual absence of regional independent media in the regions most affected by the war.
- lack of advertising, printing, and typography services; damage to billboards and city lights.
- unstable Internet coverage, among other issues.
All such challenges should be reflected in the relevant criterion and contribute to the evaluation of whether or not it is feasible to hold free and fair elections post-war.
Last November, all political parties represented in the Verkhovna Rada signed a memorandum stating that the next elections will be held only after martial law is lifted.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in an interview with the Associated Press that he was ready to hold presidential elections in Ukraine but that most Ukrainians consider voting during a full-scale war “dangerous and pointless.”
The next parliamentary elections were to be held in Ukraine in the fall of 2023, and the presidential elections in March of this year. However, Ukrainian law and the Constitution prohibit holding elections under martial law.