Kyiv, October 31 (Ukraine General News) – The local government elections in Ukraine got underway on Sunday, October 31, and are being seen as the latest test of democracy in the country.
As is becoming usual for Ukraine, the elections are being held under a new electoral law, which was adopted not long before the start of the election campaign. Experts have said the law is imperfect and favors the parties that are members of the ruling coalition. Among the problems seen during the election campaign they named the short time of the election campaign, the mechanism for forming election commissions and the ban on election blocs participating in the elections.
One distinctive feature of these elections is that they will be conducted for the first time under a mixed proportional-majority system, with one half of the local council deputies to being elected under party tickets, and the other half elected in single-member constituencies, although only local party organizations may nominate candidates for these constituencies.
The mixed system foresees the election of deputies to the Crimean Supreme Council, as well as regional, district and city councils. At the same time, the deputies of village councils will be elected under the majority system. Candidates for city mayors can be nominated only by the local branches of parties, whereas candidates for the heads of villages can be nominated by parties or nominate themselves.
The Central Election Commission has formed 670 territorial election commissions of various levels: 24 regional, two city (Kyiv and Sevastopol), 474 district, 166 municipal and four Sevastopol district commissions. According to the law, territorial commissions consist of 9 to 18 members, with up to 15 of them representing parliamentary parties, and three from other parties whom the Central Election Commission will choose by the drawing of lots.
Although the law doesn’t foresee the proportional representation of election participants, the Central Election Commission initially formed the commissions in such a way that representation of pro-coalition and oppositional parties was balanced. However, by the time of elections, the leadership of the commissions had changed, leading to an imbalance in the representation of political forces in favor of the members of the current coalition, in particular the Regions Party.
The Central Election Commission has set up over 11,000 territorial election commissions, which in turn organized the work of over 33,000 polling station commissions.
Polling stations opened at 0800, and will remain open until 2000. The Central Election Commission is to release the official results of the elections no later than on November 5.
Experts have also expressed concern that the voters may become confused by the ballot papers, as at some polling stations they will be handed up to seven different ballots. In some towns or villages, the number of parties and candidates exceeds 50 and the ballot papers are more than half a meter long.
The Central Election Commission has also registered 490 official foreign observers and 1,913 observers from national non-governmental organizations.
The state budget for 2010 foresees expenditures of UAH 1.032 billion on the local elections.
According to the local election law, the deputies of Kyiv City Council and the city mayor, as well as the deputies of Ternopil Regional Council, will not be elected on October 31, because they were elected in the extraordinary elections held after 2006.
Shortly before the start of the election campaign, the city councils in Kyiv and in a number of other cities, in particular Kharkiv, decided to disband district councils. Therefore, the elections will not be held there.
Under the current Constitution of Ukraine, the term of office of the heads of villages and towns is four years.
Ukraine is subdivided into twenty-four regions and one autonomous republic of Crimea. In addition, the capital city Kyiv and the Crimean city of Sevastopol both have a special legal status.
A number of exit-polls will be conducted in some cities on the day of elections. Research Branding Group on the day of elections to the local authorities in Ukraine on October 31 will conduct exit polls in Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhia, Lviv, Ternopil, Ivano-Frankivsk, Odesa, and Vinnytsia.
The GfK Ukraine Company will hold a nationwide exit poll ordered by the United Center party. The company will poll people at 580 polling stations in all regions of Ukraine in which the election of regional councils are taking place. They will also analyze the results of voting at mayoral elections in Donetsk, Kharkiv, Uzhgorod, Lutsk, Chernivtsi and Khmelnitsky.
Apart from that, the Strong Ukraine Party will conduct its own exit poll in 27 towns and 10 district centers of Donetsk region.
[UA EUROPE EEU EMRG POL PRO]