• Людмила Долгоновская

Local elections in Ukraine - campaigns summary by ANTS, ANTAC and Institute of Mass Information

On October 23, National Interests Advocacy Network “ANTS", Anticorruption Action Center and Institute of Mass Information representatives gave an open-air press-conference concerning the upcoming local elections in Ukraine.

We offer you the main statements of the event made by key speakers:

Hanna Hopko, Chair of ANTS Board, has summarized the results of ANTS initiatives:

I have spent the last few weeks traveling in Ukraine, visiting dozens of cities and villages, talking to many local elections candidates and voters. Last moment changes of voting rules by Ukrainian Parliament posed serious challenges to election process. With decentralization reform we can see that oligarchs and their proxies are trying to “invade” local self-governance in order to continue robbing the country. We are concerned that organized criminal groups, separatists and Russian agents tend get power in local councils pouring huge amounts of doubtful resources into their campaigns. We can also observe, that oligarchs and pro-Russian forces are trying to divide Ukraine into their spheres of interests. It is therefore very important that anti-Ukrainian forces do not get seats in local councils, fueling separatism and malign policies. We are also alarmed that Medvechuk pro-Russian media are pushing anti-Western rhetoric, discrediting reform agenda. In order to prevent such scenario, ANTS arranged #marathonwithcandidate - a series of the interviews with 23 candidates in local elections in 10 regions of Ukraine, #gotoelections, #supportworthycandidates, aimed to encourage citizens to vote for worthy candidates, series of expert discussions “Free & Fair? Ukraine in the election process-2020”. All these events are available at ANTS Youtube Channel and Facebook page.

It is also very important that the Parliament of Ukraine adopts in time necessary legislation on distribution of powers and responsibilities, along with budget and financial decentralization. It is not normal that as per today’s 2021 Budget draft, 74% of communities are facing underfinancing and can be further blackmailed by central power.

Daria Kalenyuk, executive director of the Anti-Corruption Action Center, Let's Make Their Visas Together Initiative: “The billboards are flooded with "experienced managers" who promote anti-Western propaganda and feed voters with fears of a terrible Western world. Their goal is to serve the oligarchs and the Kremlin. At the same time, these "experienced managers" themselves teach children in Switzerland, have vacation in France, do business in Austria, and receive income from Cyprus offshore. Who finances such "managers" and their propaganda? Where do the hundreds of millions come from to buy national and local TV channels? Before voting for a politician, Ukrainians must first find an answer to the question - where does he get the money for PR”.

Oksana Romaniuk, executive director of the Institute of Mass Information: “On the eve of the local elections, the main customer of covert campaigning was the pro-Russian “Opposition Platform - For Life” party. It accounted for an average of 37% of all recorded by IMI materials with signs of hidden agitation in the national online media. Moreover, the vast majority of such materials was devoted to promoting the Russian agenda. In this election, we also record a significant amount of black PR (every 5th material of covert agitation). Such materials are aimed at criticizing the state policy in Donbass, manipulating data on tariffs, pensions and medicine, as well as fakes on international agreements”.

Mykhailo Honchar, President of the Center for Global Studies "Strategy XXI": “This is exactly what Russia is doing now, using its proxies in Ukraine to promote them to power through local elections. The next stage is implementation in Ukraine of the system of so-called direct democracy through the adoption of an appropriate package of laws, the key of which is the Law on Referendum. In fact, it will become a legal platform for the implementation of destructive initiatives that, in the context of decentralization, will weaken the central government and can lead to the erosion of Ukrainian statehood. To reduce the destructive factors that can be used to destabilize and destroy the state, within the framework of current legislation to postpone the adoption of the law "On democracy through an all-Ukrainian referendum."

Today Ukraine seems to be divided into oligarchic and regional large businessmen-feudal lords with their own resources, law enforcement agencies, local media. A striking example is the activity of A. Derkach, an agent of the Russian Federation recognized in the USA and included in the sanctions list, in the Sumy region, or I. Kolomoisky's protégés with I. Palitsa in Volyn or Ivano-Frankivsk region. Over the years, there has been no purge of such "fifth column" members who have used the money for decentralization, and by investing some of them in rankings rather than strategic whims, they run the risk of being re-elected. Such a prospect is especially dangerous for politicians with pro-Russian and anti-state views.

The ANTS Marathon with a Candidate initiative is only the first step in our task to stop Ukraine's corrupt division of spheres of influence, and to show the public how big oligarchs merge with local businessmen, from amber mining to industrial monopolies in entire regions.

Video of the event is available here:

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