The Kyiv Post carries an article today which says that 6% of Ukraine's voters are ready to sell their votes to the highest bidder. This could have a significant impact on the forthcoming elections, where victory could hinge on a small margin.

"In the past months, there have been several reports in the media highlighting politicians’ doling out presents that usually contain staples like buckwheat, butter, pasta and sugar. Such gifts are usually disguised as presents for holidays like Women's Day or Victory Day, and have a card with a message from the sender. Some 5.6 percent of GfK Ukraine's respondents said that they have been offered such presents. Party of Regions deputies Dmytro Svyatash, Iryna Berezhna and Valeriy Pysarenko have handed out such presents. So has former top Kyiv city official Oles Dovhiy, who plans to run as an independent in a single-mandate constituency in Kyiv."

Ukrayinska Pravda, the newspaper founded by the murdered journalist Georgiy Gongadze, also carries two articles about buying votes. It is alleged that a chain has been set up in Vinnytsa where people have been offered 1000 hr to sign up to vote for a pro-government candidate, plus a further 200 hr if they bring a friend. That friend then receives 1000 hr then a further sum for other introductions and signings. The article says that the newspaper will be sending an investigative team to look further into the allegations.

A second article describes how a charitable fund is being used to collect signatures on a letter to President Yanukovych supporting Russian as an official second state language. The fund, "Help your Neighbour", gives needy people in the Kharkiv area a package of essentials (sugar, oil, buckwheat etc), together with a leaflet giving useful telephone numbers for the local council and now also a campaign leaflet from the Party of the Regions candidate, Anatoliy Denysenko. Recipients of the packages are also asked to add their signature to the letter to the President. The community organisation 'Opora' says that this is blatant bribery but that the instigators cannot be prosecuted for breaking the electoral law until after the election period officially opens.

The Kyiv Post is also reporting that there will be over 3000 accredited election observers in Ukraine, while Prime Minister Mykola Azarov has told the German Ambassador to Ukraine that the government will do everything possible to ensure that the elections are free and fair.

But the concern must be that, if giving voters 'gifts' is widespread now, before the election campaign starts, then the fairness and honesty of the electoral process may be in tatters before the first observer arrives and the first polling station webcam is switched on.

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Ukrayinska Dumka


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