Ukraine vote 'democratic' but more reforms needed: OSCE
International monitors said Monday local elections in Ukraine at the weekend were "well organised" and "democratic" but that Kiev's pro-Western leadership needed to tackle political meddling by powerful oligarchs in the war-scarred country.
"The elections were competitive, well organised overall and the campaign generally showed respect for the democratic process," the observer mission of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) said in a report.
"Nevertheless, the complexity of the legal framework, the dominance of powerful economic groups over the electoral process, and the fact that virtually all campaign coverage in the media was paid for, underscore the need for continued reform," the report said.
President Petro Poroshenko's fragile ruling coalition faced a major test of its anti-austerity measures and anti-corruption drive in the elections held in all areas under government control.
The pro-Russian rebel-run parts of the eastern Lugansk and Donetsk regions are planning their own elections for early next year.
Early results and exit polls showed most mayoral races heading for mid-November runoffs.
The vote was marred by the failure of polls to open in the strategic southeastern port of Mariupol.
The OSCE report did not directly address the problems in Mariupol -- a government-controlled city of 500,000 on the edge of the war zone -- but noted some cases of improperly printed ballots and of its monitors being denied access to polling stations that were reported shut.
"In five percent of polling stations visited... observers were restricted in their observation. Overall, opening procedures were negatively assessed in 7 per cent of precincts."
The report urged Poroshenko's government "to further enhance the integrity of and public confidence in the electoral process."
It also condemned local authorities for barring some parties and candidates on technicalities that appeared to be selectively applied.
"The restrictive interpretation and inconsistent implementation of candidate registration rules hindered the right to stand for candidates on an equal basis in several instances.
"In a number of instances observed... the decisions by territorial election commissions with respect to the registration of certain candidates and party lists appeared politically motivated and designed to exclude certain political forces from participating in the elections."
The final results of both the mayoral and local council races must be released by next weekend.
© 2015 AFP