Last week the Committee of Voters of Ukraine (KVU), a nongovernmental organization monitoring election campaigns in the country, posted on its website (http://www.cvu.org.ua/) an extensive report on the presidential election campaign during its first month, July. The KVU found that in July various governmental and budget-subsidized institutions and organizations provided illegal campaign assistance to Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych, the main presidential candidate of the pro-government camp.
Doctors in the town of Vyshneve, Kyiv Oblast, invited pensioners to state-run clinics for free examination and required them to sign for Yanukovych.
The KVU categorized the most widespread illegal election interference by state officials -- the so-called "administrative resource" -- into four groups: a) using state money, property, and equipment for campaign purposes; b) state officials conducting campaign activities during their working hours and drawing state salaries at the same time; c) coercing or bribing voters to take part in public rallies and other campaign events; d) forcing voters to sign nomination lists for Yanukovych (each registered candidate has to submit at least 500,000 signatures in his or her support to the Central Election Commission by 20 September).
In addition, the KVU found that state resources and officials are also employed to obstruct the election campaigns of other candidates challenging Yanukovych's presidential bid. In particular, the KVU concluded that traffic police, road inspection authorities, and railway officials acted in concert to prevent thousands of Our Ukraine leader Viktor Yushchenko's supporters from arriving in Kyiv on 4 July to take part in a pro-Yushchenko rally on that day (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 July 2004).'Administrative Resource' In Action
From a plethora of examples provided by the KVU to show the use of "administrative resource" throughout Ukraine in favor of Yanukovych, RFE/RL cites below only the most glaring and/or characteristic cases.
In a 12 July rally in support of Yanukovych in Kharkiv -- with between 40,000 and 100,000 people -- many participants were forced to attend by their employers who had been given quotas from government officials for the number of people they were expected to send. Workers at one plant were promised a day off in exchange for their participation, while employees of other state-run companies were threatened with dismissal if they did not obey. A 30 July youth rally in Kharkiv was organized by local officials and paid out of public funds.
Ukrainian hospitals turn out to be convenient places for applying election "administrative resource." Government health-care administrators visited a hospital in Nova Vodolaga, Kharkiv Oblast, on 19 July wearing "I am for Yanukovych" badges and ordered workers to collect signatures for the candidate. The chief doctor of the Vasylkiv hospital in Kyiv forced workers to collect signatures for Yanukovych, threatening that anyone who signed for another candidate would be "exposed" because she had "people on the Central Election Commission." Local officials in Konotop, Sumy Oblast, ordered hospital workers to attend a meeting with Yanukovych on 7 July -- as a result, doctors stopped seeing patients at 11 a.m. Doctors in the town of Vyshneve, Kyiv Oblast, invited pensioners to state-run clinics for free examination and required them to sign for Yanukovych.
The raion administration in Putyl, Chernivtsi Oblast, organized public meetings in every village in support of Yanukovych.
A pensioner in the village of Chernylyavo, Lviv Oblast, reported that she was forced to sign a nomination list for Yanukovych at the local post office in order to receive her monthly pension.
It is noteworthy that the election headquarters of Yanukovych, led by National Bank head Serhiy Tihipko, sent a letter to regional election staffs from Tihipko on 4 August requiring that they strengthen their control over the collection of signatures for Yanukovych in order to pre-empt "attempts to use the administrative resource and influence this process by state institutions and enterprises." Tihipko's message seems to have been nothing more than a propaganda trick -- at that time his staff reported that it had already collected as many as 4 million signatures to back Yanukovych's candidacy. Ukrainian observers agree that the majority of them were collected with the help of "administrative resource."
Of course, millions of signatures collected for Yanukovych are primarily intended to create the impression that the prime minister's presidential bid is enjoying support among broad segments of Ukrainian society. But some commentators argue that the methods employed during their collection -- including official coercion, intimidation, bribery, and deceit -- may backfire on the voting day when voters, left alone in polling booths, will not be so afraid to express their actual election preferences.
"The first month of the election campaign was marred by the widespread and illegal interference of power bodies in the election process, which violated the principle of the equality of all election-process participants," the KVU concluded.
The KVU postulates that voters whose legal rights are violated in the election campaign should consider appealing to courts for redress. Such appeals, however, are filed by ordinary voters in Ukraine very rarely, if at all. It is likely that, guided by everyday experience, Ukrainians do not believe that it is possible for them to win with the authorities in court. Or perhaps they think it is not worth bothering to deal with such "trifling" matters as election procedures and standards. Also, it is quite possible that they are simply afraid to stand for their election rights in public. Regardless, democracy still seems to be a very faraway prospect for Ukraine.