As the famous Beatles song goes, money can’t buy love. But it may buy votes. At least that’s what candidates in the upcoming Oct. 28 parliamentary election seem to be banking on. With the election just a little more than five weeks away, the parties and candidates have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars officially. But many think the actual spending is much higher, just off the books, like much of Ukraine’s economy. Where the money is coming from is a tightly kept secret by political parties and leaders. “We are a poor country with very expensive elections,” joked political analyst Volodymyr Fesenko. Four out of the top parties leading in opinion polls, including the pro-presidential Party of Regions, United Opposition, Communists and Natalia Korolevska’s Ukraine-Forward refused to provide any official information about their campaign budget and financing sources. “Go to a bank and try asking about their money. Would they tell you any numbers?” asked Communist Party Spokesman Petro Shelest, oblivious to the notion that the people who will elect or not elect communists have a legitimate interest in knowing who is backing them. His boss, Communist Party leader Petro Symonenko, promised to reveal the financial information in a formal report filed with the Central Election Commission (CEC) after the vote, an election law requirement that experts say offers little real oversight and controls. Other top parties are making the same promise, saying that the info will be released within 15 days after election.
Denys Kovrizhenko, a legal counselor at the International Foundation for Electoral Systems in Ukraine, expects the official numbers to be much more modest than the actual spending. “In reality, parties spend on campaigns 10 times more than they report to the CEC,” Kovrizhenko said. “Plus there is no liability for failing to file the declaration or declaring fake numbers. So, it’s all up to the party.”
Kovrizhenko said that Ukraine lags in transparency. In the U.S. and in many European nations, candidates and parties are required to report their finances before the election to show voters who backs them. In Ukraine, no agency has the power to check up on party finances. The election commission is only able to investigate reported violations. In Ukraine, he says, no one really has power to check party finances. “And since everyone violates the rules, no one reports violations. It is a kind of mutual responsibility. Parties cover up for one another,” Kovrizhenko added.
Full Article: Expensive elections in a poor nation.