Kyiv, 11 April 2014 – Citing the resurgence of civic pride and political engagement brought about by the Euromaidan demonstrations, the National Democratic Institute (NDI) said today that “Ukraine has turned the corner onto a decidedly democratic path” but still faces an extraordinary set of challenges.
Those were among the findings of an NDI pre-election mission that issued a statement today after a week of assessing preparations for the presidential, parliamentary and local elections scheduled for May 25. Those polls, it said, will be the most important in Ukraine since it gained independence from the Soviet Union in 1991.
“The country’s democracy, integrity and sovereignty are at stake. A credible process could help build confidence in political institutions, promote national reconciliation, and reinforce the legitimacy of the interim government as it seeks to resolve domestic crises and resist grave security threats,” the delegation said.
“The legal framework, administrative capacity and political will currently in place appear conducive to a democratic process. Yet more will be required for the elections to meet Ukraine’s needs.”
Among the areas the group cited as requiring attention were enfranchisement for Crimeans, electoral security, and constructive campaigning. Over the longer term, reforms related to the media, women’s participation, and campaign and party financing are warranted. The statement offered a number of recommendations on how to address these issues.
“At the same time,” the statement said, “it is incumbent upon all members of the international community to devote their fullest capacities to supporting Ukraine’s democratic aspirations and unambiguously rejecting external efforts to thwart the process — through the May elections and well beyond.”
The delegation was co-led by Lloyd Axworthy, president and vice-chancellor of The University of Winnipeg and former Canadian minister of foreign affairs, and Edward “Ted” Kaufman, former U.S. senator from Delaware. Other members were Matyas Eorsi, former member of parliament from Hungary and former member of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe; Nadia Diuk, vice president of programs for Europe, Eurasia, Africa, and Latin America and the Caribbean for the National Endowment for Democracy; Andrew Bruce, executive director of Electoral Reform International Services; Bill Balan, vice president of finance and administration and chief administrative officer at the University of Winnipeg; Laura Jewett, NDI regional director for Eurasia; and Catherine Cecil, resident director for NDI in Ukraine.
During an April 7-11 visit to Ukraine, the delegation held meetings in Kyiv, Dnipropetrovsk and Lviv with candidates, parties and campaigns participating in the presidential and concurrent local elections from across the political spectrum; members of the Central Election Commission; domestic and international observer groups; members of parliament; journalists; the international and diplomatic communities; and civic groups.
The delegation said that a common assumption among those it met with is that the Russian government is actively seeking to disrupt the elections by provoking their suspension or otherwise calling the process into question.
“It will take concerted efforts from all Ukrainians involved in the elections to address these obstacles and provide maximum, feasible participation,” the delegation said.
The delegation conducted its activities in a nonpartisan manner in accordance with applicable law and international standards for election monitoring set forth in the Declaration of Principles for International Election Observation.
NDI will field a short-term observation mission for the polls on May 25.
The missions are funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development.