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Where there is no law, but every man does what is right in his own eyes, there is the least of real liberty
Henry M. Robert

Million Signatures: For Ukraine?

13 November, 2012 - 00:00

Central Election Committee? The President?

Presidential election law makes it possible to combat unwelcome candidates
at the signature-collecting stage

July 13 is the deadline for submitting candidates' subscription lists.
I will remind the reader that to register a presidential candidate must
collect one million signatures, with at least 30,000 in each of two-thirds
of the regions, which is anything but easy.

Indeed, the law has a host of clauses difficult to implement. Suppose
we start with digits. Those of you who have ever collected signatures can
understand only too well that the practicality of getting a million signatures
over such short period is highly questionable. As it is, any candidate
can be accused of doing it wrong, and he will have a hard time arguing
his case. The only way to solve this problem would seem to get those signatures
playing fair. Yet even here the powers that be have plenty of room for
maneuver. For example, who can guarantee that a given team of signature-collectors
will not bring fake signatures to be "exposed" at the right moment? To
avoid this embarrassment, every candidate's canvassing headquarters is
to verify signatures before submitting them to the Central Election Committee,
yet this takes time which no one has.

Fair play in signature-collecting is also obstructed by the limited
number of subscription lists. This author's personal experience (collecting
100,000 and 200,000 signatures) shows that fair play requires lists with
3-4 times larger space for signatures than is set forth in the law. In
our case it should be 3-4 million, rather than 2 million as determined
by the committee. The latter refused to issue additional lists (even if
printed at the candidates' expense) and the General Prosecutor's Office
promptly overrode the Supreme Court's ruling instructing the committee
to issue such an additional quantity, which is further evidence that the
presidential campaign headquarters is versed in the technological reality,
as well as that state bodies are working for the incumbent.

As a result, it is safe to assume that in vitally important circumstances
those in the high office develop dense and multistage procedures, and that
the existing regime is built so that at every stage the final say belongs
to the executive. A million signatures is an ideal vehicle to keep this
system ticking.

Yet even this simple, so very convenient (for the regime) signature-collecting
procedure could not be implemented without breaches of the law, as evidenced
by readers' letters. One is published here.

By Volodymyr ZOLOTARIOV, The Day



Dear Editor:

My name is Mykhailo Tymoshenko and I consider myself a veteran reader
of The Day (I buy it almost every day). I am worried about how signatures
are being collected for the presidential candidates.

On May 30, [municipal] election day, a billboard displaying portraits
of Kostenko, Kuchma, Vitrenko, Moroz, Marchuk, Udovenko, and Symonenko
was mounted in front of our electoral district headquarters (School No.
298 on Heroyiv Stalingrada St., tel. 414-59-99). Signatures were collected
on behalf of the All-Ukraine Free Voter Association.

I signed for Yevhen Marchuk and so did my wife later. I signed the
sheet handled by authorized representative Leonida P. Finchuk and my wife
did that handled by Tetiana H. Berest.

In fact, we signed pages in ordinary school copybooks, since there
was no space left in the regular subscription sheets, we were told. Leonida
Finchuk said they would Xerox the copybook pages with signatures. I was
surprised and asked where the sheets would be transferred eventually. She
replied that a certain Liudmyla Ivanivna was in charge of the canvassing
station and that the sheets would be given her.

I thought that signatures for every candidate would be collected
by that candidate's canvassing headquarters. I was told that some people
refused to admit canvassers into their homes and did not want to show their
passports, so these women had volunteered to help collect signatures for
all contenders. The whole thing looked very strange to me.

I will be glad to know that my doubts are groundless, but if there
is anything amiss I am sure that you will be in a position to find out.

With respect, Mykhailo TYMOSHENKO, Kyiv


The problem raised in the letter above was, in fact, mentioned by People's
Deputy Valery Asadchev immediately after May 30. He noticed that the blanks
used were Xeroxed, without the CEC seal and signatures of the authorized
officials. One of the allegations was that this was done to reduce the
number of genuine signatures in support of certain contenders; once a voter
signed a fake sheet he would not, of course, sign a genuine one.

Young men and women who made a quick buck collecting signatures that
day believed that they were taking part in a poll. As for the Tetiana Berest
mentioned in the letter, she did not know the whereabouts of the organizing
committee. All she knew was that the Free Voter Association was doing a
poll and that subscription sheets she had were used to make the poll easier.
That was why signatures for Kuchma were made in copybooks and the column
"Authorized Person" was filled with the "polling agent's" name. No further
information was available, since the City Inquiry Desk had no information
about Free Voter as an association or the Free Choice Trade Union (perhaps
both were actually the same setup, because the stationery is the same).

It does not take a sociologist to understand that polls are never carried
out that way; there are special age-group, sex, social standing, and other
qualifications. Also, no one carries out polls asking to see the respondent's
passport. Incidentally, such sham sociologists worry the Ukrainian Sociological
Association. It has suggested that all organizations and institutions interested
in social studies volunteer get accredited with the Sociological Association.

Thus, the matter raised in the letter implies only one conclusion: someone
was simply collecting passport data, later to sell to a certain contender
wholesale. Here the only problem is purely technical: forging handwriting
when entering this data into genuine subscription lists. In fact, the CEC
Chairman no longer thinks that six or seven contenders will collect a million
signatures. In his words, the number may increase by adding several other
well-to-do candidates.

And signature-collecting the way it has been described above takes place
not only in the capital. UNIAN reports unanimous canvassers working in
Kharkiv, collecting signatures for Oleksandr Moroz, using fake subscription
lists. The Socialists claim that such sham sheets may be used to substitute
for the original when submitting signatures to CEC or to support a different

Ukraine's General Prosecutor Mykhailo Potebenko announced that citizens
must report all detected transgressions to CEC and the Commission, on verifying
such information, will forward it to the prosecutor to start criminal proceedings.
The CEC phone number is: 296-80-75. And you can also contact the Voters'
Committee (a volunteer organization monitoring the campaign): 216-35-96;

By Vyacheslav YAKUBENKO, The Day