OSCE alleges abuses in Ukrainian election
As elections within Ukraine come to a close, several international observers, including the Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), have delivered a staggering degree of criticism towards its outcome which saw the ruling Party of Regions, led by President Viktor F. Yanukovich, leading the polls with 32 percent after 80 percent of the ballots were counted.
“Considering the abuse of power, and the excessive role of money in this election, democratic progress appears to have reversed in Ukraine,” said Walburga Habsburg Douglas, who heads the OSCE observation mission.
An official statement by the OSCE alleges that “the elections were characterized by the lack of a level playing field caused primarily by the abuse of administrative resources, lack of transparency of campaign and party financing and lack of balanced media coverage.”
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has also aligned herself with OSCE criticism stating that “we share the view of OSCE monitors that Sunday election constituted a step backward for Ukrainian democracy.”
Ukraine, which was once considered for integration into Europe following the success of the 2004 Orange Revolution, has been closely monitored by international observers. Representative David Dreier, R-Calif., who heads the observers from the International Republican Institute was cited by the New York Times as he stated “if you look at the excitement of the Orange Revolution and what it brought about and where we are today, it’s very unfortunate”. Moreover The Washington Post quotes Dreier who has expressed that there was a “cause for concern about the credibility of the election.”
Such criticism contrasts the conclusion drawn by international observers during the 2010 elections which according to the BBC was “judged to have been transparent, unbiased and an impressive display of democracy.”
The prior election saw President Yanukovich defeat currently jailed opposition leader and ex-prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko who, in response to the results, has staged a hunger strike. Mrs. Tymoshenko was given a seven-year sentence last year for abuse of power which has drawn a considerable condemnation from western governments.
Paul Rizanenko, a former investment banker and city councilman who ran for parliament, expressed his disdain to the New York Times for the present administration stating that “They don’t live by laws […] they live by their own rules”.
According to the Huffington Post, Kiev-based political expert Volodymyr Fesenko pointed out that “the Party of Regions won by the number of points, but the opposition scored a moral victory” hence the monopoly on power will be harder to maintain.”
Prior to the controversial outcome, Ukraine has already attempted to increase the legitimacy of its election with the New York Times reporting that the government “went to great lengths to portray the balloting as free and fair, even installing Web cameras in more than 30,000 polling stations.”
Aside from the OSCE, the BBC reports contrasting conclusions by the European Academy for Elections Observation who viewed the elections as “in compliance with democratic norms” and hence was “a good election, not perfect but clearly acceptable”. In addition, ex-Soviet countries in the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) observed the elections as “transparent and democratic.”
In response to the OSCE, Reuters reports that the Yanukovych administration has shrugged off OSCE criticism stating “The observers gave a positive assessment to the process of voting”. Subsequently, the Huffington post mentions that Yanukovych adviser Hanna Herman made it clear that the results reflected the will of the power asserting that “we received a great credit of trust from the voters who said that we are moving down the right path.”
Along the same lines, Representative Dreier stated, “When you have political opponents incarcerated, when you have the minority television stations basically kept off the air, these are not positive developments.”
In the words of Andreas Gross, the head of the parliamentary assembly of the council of Europe, “Ukrainians deserved better from these elections. Unfortunately, the great democratic potential of Ukrainian society was not realized in yesterday’s vote.”