Ukrainian groups warn of 'unfair' election practices

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Many candidates from Ukraine’s leading parties running in the parliamentary election do not meet democratic criteria and some campaign practices are violating electoral law, civil society organisations said ahead of Sunday’s vote.

One organisation, Chesno ("Fair"), checked 2,332 candidates from 63 of all 87 parties and groups campaigning for parliamentary seats and found that the ruling Party of Regions of President Viktor Yanukovich had the biggest share of “unfair” candidates.

Chesno evaluated candidates based violations of rights and freedoms, involvement in corrupt schemes, trustworthiness of declared incomes and conflicts of interest. The group noted 1,828 violations, with some candidates falling under more than one category, the Kyiv Post reported.

Out of 327 candidates from the Party of Regions, 258 are considered as unfair, the Chesno website says.

The UDAR party of former boxing champion Vitali Klitschko - which polls show has surged to second place behind the Party of Regions - has 259 candidates checked with 60 branded unfair.

Another leading political force, the United Opposition of former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko’s Batkivschyna party and Arseniy Yatsenyuk's Front for Change, has 296 candidates with 154 deemed unfair by the non-governmental organisation.

Olga Aivasovska of Opora, another NGO, said the biggest reported problem in the election campaign has been the use of administrative resources to promote candidates. The civic organisation counted 179 cases in September where local authorities – oblast and regional state administration heads – endorsed candidates or political parties during work hours, using staff and office resources to assist campaigns.

Officials often accompany candidates to meetings with voters and give speeches in their support, which is strictly prohibited, Opora said. The most high-profile case involves the son of Prime Minister Mykola Azarov, Oleksiy, who is running in Donetsk Oblast and has been accompanied and openly endorsed by town mayors and other officials.

The Kyiv Post also disclosed cases of apparent vote-buying. Several humorous cases were reported, including where candidates gave prospective voters gifts of sparking wine, vodka or ice cream featuring their campaign portraits.

Oleksand Chernenko, head of the Committee of Voters of Ukraine, was quoted as saying that in the beginning of the campaign, food packages, bicycles and textbooks were distributed, while with the approach of the vote, cash is being used.

Cash bribes vary from 50 hryvnya to 500 hryvnya (€5 to €50) for a pledged vote, depending on the district, observers say.

Almost 3,800 international observers, representing 28 countries and 36 international organisations, are registered for the election, the Ukrainian press announced.

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