Sunday, May 18, 2014

Is Ukraine Ready to Vote?: Washington Post/Monkey Cage Blog #elect_ua14 #вибори2014

My piece about Ukraine's election administration, part of an election note I am preparing for Electoral Studies, is online at the Washington Post's Monkey Cage Blog ( The Electoral Studies article will include additional information, notably an assessment of the competitors and the results. Below is some supplementary information that did not make it into the Monkey Cage entry, but may be a part of note.


Competitors and Campaign 
Prior to the collapse of Viktor Yanukovych’s government, the political opposition discussed the possibility of endorsing a single candidate if an early election were to be held. After the election date was formally announced, it quickly became clear that the opposition would not fully coordinate. Former supporters of the Yanukovych government also split, with the Party of Regions endorsing a candidate who would contest alongside other members of the former ruling party.

Candidates were required to register by March 30, 2014 to gain access to the ballot. The Central Electoral Commission (CEC) officially registered 23 candidates. Only seven of the candidates were formally nominated by political parties, including prominent politicians such as Yuliya Tymoshenko (Batkivshchyna) and Oleh Tyahnybok (Svoboda). Of the fourteen candidates who filed as independents, several are linked to parties although they are not formally standing as party-nominated contestants. For example, Mykhailo Dobkin received the Party of Regions endorsement, but he is running without a formal party label.

Two prominent politicians who were expected to run, Vitaliy Klychko and Arseniy Yatseniuk, supported other candidates. Klychko decided to back the current presidential frontrunner, Petro Poroshenko, and instead run for mayor of Kyiv. Yatseniuk, whose party coalesced with Tymoshenko’s Batkivshchyna, stepped aside and supported Tymoshenko’s nomination. Three candidates withdrew from the race in early May after gaining ballot access. One of these former candidates, Oleh Tsarov, is associated with the separatist movement in the southern and eastern regions of the country. Two other candidates withdrew just over one week before the vote: Petro Symonenko, the Communist Party candidate, and Oleksandr Klymenko.

Campaign activity has been subdued. Pre-election polling by the Kyiv International Institute of Sociology (KIIS) and International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) suggests that Petro Poroshenko, an entrepreneur known as the “Chocolate King”, enjoys a substantial lead over other competitors. The effective removal of around one million voters due to Crimea’s loss, and the potential for disruptions to voting for around four million additional voters in Donetsk and Luhansk, is likely to further dilute support for candidates associated with the ousted regime. While Poroshenko is currently the favorite to win the presidency, it is unclear if he will have enough support to win in the first round or if a runoff will be required. 

Conditions on the Ground
The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) is deploying the largest election observation mission, including approximately 100 long-term and 900 short-term observers. The CEC currently lists around 1,400 accredited international observers from fourteen organizations and six national delegations, as well as ten domestic observation groups. Given the recent experience with international observation missions in Azerbaijan, where many questionable organizations deemed the elections “free and fair” and only the OSCE challenged the credibility of the vote, the assessments themselves will also be under scrutiny and allegations of bias may emerge.


In addition to the text that did not make it in the final version of the blog post, two maps that further illustrate issues with election administration were omitted and are displayed below. Like the maps published in the Monkey Cage, these are based on data from Ukraine's Central Electoral Commission, coded by Cifra staff, and designed by Roman Sverdan.

The first map shows how PEC officers have changed, and especially illustrates how DEC staffing has affected the distribution of candidate-affiliated officers. The withdrawal of candidates, especially Symonenko's late decision to leave the campaign on Friday, will affect the identity of replacements. Officers have agenda-setting powers, and the affiliations of DEC officials could influence who is selected to fill open positions in PECs. I will be assessing this phenomenon with Nazar Boyko after all of the data are collected and processed.   

The next map is an oblast-level visualization of PEC staffing problems. In the Monkey Cage entry, I noted that DECs supplemented staffing for PECs that were unable to fill their positions. The map below shows variation in DEC contributions to PEC staff with data aggregated to the oblast level. At this level, the challenges of staffing central and western polling stations are more apparent.

I will be observing the election with the Committee for Open Democracy's team (the full list of accredited observers from CfOD is on the CEC site). I plan to post updates about the election here and also on Twitter as @erikherron, with the caveat that I may have limited online access during my trip.

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