Ukraine: Call for participants in Youth in Politics school

Democracy Reporting International is looking for participants for its online school “Youth in Politics”, which is organised in cooperation with the Vostok SOS Charitable Foundation. The school will be held from 15 to 30 March. Young people, aged 18 to 35, are invited to apply. Priority will be given to candidates from the south-eastern regions of Ukraine.

Find more information in Ukrainian here.

Тренер(-ка) для Програм навчання з підготовки до стажувань в ОМС – Україна (ч/ж/н)

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Ми шукаемо в Україні тренерів для проведення навчальних заходів для молоді в рамках підготовки для стажування в місцевих органах влади у південно-східних регіонах України (тренінги будуть проходити в режимі онлайн (за можливості офлайн, орієнтовно в містах південних та східних областей).

Назва посади: тренер/тренерка для програм навчання в межах підготовки до стажувань для проекту «Демократія в дії — залучення молоді та громадянського суспільства до політичного процесу в Україні»/«Tangible Democracy – Engaging Youth and Civil Society in the Political Process across Ukraine».

Умови і період співпраці: багаторазова короткострокова співпраця (від 1 до 3 тренінгів для кожного з 2-х тримісячних тренінгових циклів для молоді, тренінги плануються один раз на тиждень), період роботи квітень – листопад 2021 року.

Обраних тренерів/тренерок буде включено до бази експертів, яких DRI запрошуватиме до виконання конкретних завдань протягом реалізації проекту з окремим узгодженням графіку, тематики та завдань.

Місця проведення програм: онлайн або у містах південних та східних областей України.

Контекст та мета програм:

Democracy Reporting International (DRI) є безсторонньою, незалежною, неприбутковою організацією, зареєстрованою в Берліні. DRI сприяє участі громадян у політичних процесах, підзвітності державних органів та розвитку демократичних інституцій в усьому світі. DRI працює в Україні з вересня 2014 року.

Офіс зі сприяння демократії (DRI) у співпраці з Благодійним фондом «Восток-SOS» проведуть серію з 2 циклів тренінгів для підготовки до стажувань молоді в місцевих органах влади у південних та східних областях України.

Мета програми стажувань: Завдання тренінгів в межах програм стажувань – ознайомити активну молодь з повноваженнями органів місцевого самоврядування, реалізацією реформ та сформувати навички, достатні для виконання посадових обов’язків державних службовців та посадових осіб місцевого самоврядування. Очікується, що завдяки тренінговій підготовці учасники зможуть успішно пройти практику та сформувати кадровий резерв органів самоврядування.

Обов’язки та відповідальність:

1) У координації з командою DRI, підготовка та проведення тренінгів для активної молоді у південних та східних областях на щонайменше одну із наступних тем (перелік тем невичерпний):

  • Нормативні документи та нормотворчий процес на місцях. Практичне діловодство для державного службовця.
  • Місцеве управління в умовах кризи (case study: пандемія Covid-19)
  • Державні закупівлі в Україні: законодавство та практика застосування
  • Інклюзивний процес прийняття рішень. Ґендерна політика на місцях
  • Основи цифрової безпеки для державних службовців.Захист особистих та сенситивних даних
  • Публічна інформація та відкриті дані у роботі місцевих органів влади

2) Співпраця та координація з партнерами, зокрема з Благодійним фондом «Восток-SOS»

3) Підготовка матеріалів для учасників

4) Звітування (зразок буде надано DRI) за проведеними тренінгами та оцінка тренінгу (зразок буде надано DRI: експерту потрібно буде додати тематичний блок для оцінювання рівня знань з тематики тренінгу, провести анкетування та консолідувати дані)

Необхідна кваліфікація та досвід:

  • Вища освіта зі спеціальностей у сфері демократичного управління та розвитку, наприклад: політологія, право, міжнародні відносини, тощо;
  • Щонайменше п’ять років досвіду у вибраній тематиці(ках) та перевірений досвід проведення воркшопів, тренінгів та лекцій;
  • Відмінні знання поточних політичних та правових реформ в Україні та державного управління;
  • Перевага надаватиметься експертам з досвідом проведення інтерактивних тренінгів в онлайн-форматі.

Останній день подання документів: 9 травня 2021 (о 23:59 за середньоєвропейським часом). Заявки прийматимуться до моменту формування необхідної кількості тренерів. Вітаються заявки від кваліфікованих у вище вказаних тематиках експерток.

Просимо зацікавлених кандидатів та кандидаток надсилати:

– своє резюме,

– інформацію про тему та зміст тренінгів, які ви хочете провести та чому, його очікувані результати,

– рекомендації експертів (за наявності),

– очікувану вартість тренінгу в Євро, з розрахунку один тренінг – 2,5-3 години,

на електронну адресу: info.ukraine@democracyreporting.org, вказавши в темі листа «Trainer for Study Programs».

*Експертам, які вже надсилали своє резюме у відповідь на дане оголошення, подавати свою кандидатуру знову не потрібно.

З огляду на кількість заявок, які зазвичай надходять до DRI, до співбесіди будуть запрошені тільки кандидат(к)и, що увійшли до короткого списку. Із потенційними тренерами можуть зв’язатися до завершення терміну подання заявок.

Навчання організовується в рамках проекту «Демократія в дії — залучення молоді та громадянського суспільства до політичного процесу в Україні» за фінансової підтримки Міністерства закордонних справ Німеччини.

 

Trainer for Schools “Youth in Politics” – Ukraine (m/f/d)

Democracy Reporting International in Ukraine is looking for trainers to conduct educational events for young people within Schools on Democracy “Youth in Politics” in the south-eastern regions of Ukraine. (Trainings will be held online, and if possible offline, most likely in the Luhansk region, and in the cities of Kherson, Mykolaiv, Dnipro).

Job Title: Trainer for series of Schools on Democracy “Youth in Politics” for the project “Tangible Democracy – Engaging Youth and Civil Society in the Political Process across Ukraine”

Terms and Period of Cooperation: Multiple short-term cooperations (1-3 training days for each of the 4 Schools) during February – October 2021.

Selected trainers will be added to the database of experts, whom DRI will invite to perform specific tasks during the project implementation, with separate coordination of schedule, topics and tasks.

Location: South-eastern regions of Ukraine (trainings will be held online, and if possible offline, approximately in the Luhansk region, and in the cities of Kherson, Mykolaiv, Dnipro).

Background:

Democracy Reporting International (DRI) is a non-partisan, independent, not-for-profit organisation registered in Berlin. DRI promotes political participation of citizens, accountability of state bodies and the development of democratic institutions worldwide. DRI works in Ukraine since 2014.

DRI Ukraine in cooperation with the Charitable Foundation “Vostok-SOS” will conduct a series of 4 Schools on Democracy “Youth in Politics” with post-school events/initiatives in the south-east of Ukraine.

Duties and Responsibilities:

  1. In coordination with the DRI team, preparation, and conduction of trainings (duration of one on average 2 – 2,5 hours) for active youth on at least one of the following topics (the list of topics is not exhaustive):
  • What is democracy and how does it work? Challenges for democracy in the modern world: populism, radicalism, polarisation.
  • How is the political system in Ukraine organised? Powers and functions of public authorities, the interaction of state institutions with each other, the legislative process.
  • Human rights in politics (human-oriented politics, human rights in the political programmes of Ukrainian parties).
  • Gender policy. Gender balance in the decision-making process. Women in politics: the path and opportunities for future politicians.
  • Ukraine’s movement in the EU: the main achievements and challenges.
  • Decentralisation and local self-government. Resource provision of local self-government, inter-municipal cooperation.
  • Public participation in decision making: tools, procedures, technologies. Citizens’ appeals, public hearings, general meetings and public expertise.
  • Public budget: how can everyone change the life of their city?
  • Practical project writing skills: from idea to implementation.
  • Strategic communications in politics. How to design an effective communication strategy? Communication with stakeholders. What is wrong with state communications in Ukraine?
  • Protection of public interests: advocacy and lobbying. Successful strategies and principles.
  • Media hygiene: the who, how and why of manipulated information. How to recognise fakes? Where to look for and check information?
  1. Cooperation and coordination with partners, in particular with the “Charitable Foundation Vostok-SOS”.
  2. Development of materials for school participants.
  3. Reporting (sample will be provided by DRI) on trainings and evaluation of trainings (A sample will be provided by DRI. The expert will need to add a thematic block to evaluate participants’ level of knowledge on the training subject, conduct questionnaires and consolidate data.)
  4. Mentorship post-school support to participants during the development of their initiatives (if needed – to be discussed separately).

Required Qualifications and Experience:

  • Higher education in the field of democratic governance and development (political science, law, international relations, etc.);
  • At least five years of experience in the mentioned topic(s) and proven experience of conducting workshops, trainings and lectures;
  • Excellent knowledge of current political issues and legal reforms in Ukraine, knowledge in public administration.
  • Preference will be given to experts with experience in conducting interactive online trainings.

How to Apply:

Application deadline: 26 February, 23:59 (Central European Time). Applications will be accepted until the required number of trainers is selected. Applications from female experts qualified in the topics above are welcomed.

Interested candidates are asked to submit their CV and cover letter with information about the topic and content of the training they want to conduct and why, indicate its expected results and provide recommendations (if any) to the e-mail address: [email protected]. Please indicate “Trainer for Schools” in the subject line.

* Experts who have already submitted their resumes in response to this announcement do not need to reapply.

Given the high number of applications that DRI regularly receives, only shortlisted applicants will be invited to the interview. Potential trainers can be contacted before the application deadline.

The Study Programmes are organised under the project «Tangible Democracy – Engaging Youth and Civil Society in the Political Process across Ukraine» with the financial support of the German Federal Foreign Office.

Ukraine: Getting youth involved in local government

Increasing youth participation in local government is at the heart of DRI’s “Young People as the Drivers of Change in Your Region! Be the Change – 2020” programme, organised in collaboration with the Centre for Perspective Initiatives and Studies.

This second instalment of the programme brought together 17 young people who combined learning about local governance with practical experience through an internship with the Lviv regional government and city administration.

The programme included six training modules to give participants a sound understanding of the framework in which local governments operate in Ukraine. Although planned to take place in person, the covid-19 pandemic and resulting quarantine forced participants to move to an online format:

  • The first training weekend was dedicated to a detailed review of the system of public authorities and local governments in Ukraine. Trainees learned how to prepare reference and information documents, write official letters, requests, and analytical materials.
  • The second thematic module focused on decentralisation and local government reform, notably the structural elements of the reform, and community development planning. The trainees visited one of the amalgamated communities of the Lviv region, where they were introduced to the reform’s results, challenges and prospects for community development.
  • During the third training session, we discussed Ukraine’s European integration efforts and the implementation of the country’s association agreement with the EU. Participants learned the agreement’s main components and how they are implemented.
  • The importance of clear and understandable communication is often underestimated by public authorities, which provokes misunderstandings between the state and its citizens. Participants learned how to prepare communication campaigns, identify and deliver key messages and master the basics of public speaking.
  • The next thematic block focused on preparing important administrative documents, such as writing analytical notes on issues like legislative initiatives and navigating government plans and strategies.
  • The last training session was dedicated to media literacy, studying the most common types of media manipulation and verifying information using open sources.

After the completion of the training modules, participants pursued internships with the local authorities at both the local and regional levels.

Showing initiative

Participant’s input and ideas were valued throughout the programme. During one of the training sessions, participants were asked to draw up a plan for creating an air quality monitoring system in Lviv. Supported by the trainer, participants prepared a detailed proposal that was then sent to Lviv’s mayor and city council.

Additionally, participants were asked to design a communication campaign to implement a local initiative. Many of these focused on the environment and eco-tourism, while others addressed pressing issues related to the covid-19 pandemic.

For example, Victoria Biloborodova developed a campaign to involve local parents and help the city organise e-learning for students quarantined at home. Olena Pokalchuk designed a campaign promoting waste composting and alternative ways of handling fallen leaves and branches for Lviv’s residents. Bohdan Stanchuk, on the other hand, promoted a project aimed at developing the potential of regional tourism among young people.

Legal News: The Constitutional Court of Ukraine and the Judicial Reform Process

The Attempt of the Constitutional Court of Ukraine to Determine Fundamentals of the Judicial Reform Process – DRI Legal News by Kostyantyn Krasovsky

These views do not necessarily represent the views of DRI

In early 2020, the Constitutional Court of Ukraine (CCU, or “the Court”) decoded a number of cases which in effect represented a systemic analysis of “checks and balances” in the Constitution of Ukraine and developed its strategic vision of the judicial reform process. On 18 February 2020, Decision No.2-r/2020 was rendered upon the constitutional motion of the “old” Supreme Court of Ukraine (SCU) regarding the fate of the key law of judicial reform carried out by former president Petro Poroshenko. On 11 March 2020, Decision No.4-r/2020 finalised the case upon the constitutional motion of the “new” Supreme Court (SC) regarding the attempt at judicial reform initiated by President Volodymyr Zelensky.[1] These two decisions, as well as numerous separate dissenting opinions by CCU judges, demonstrate the extent to which the Court seized its opportunity. It is noteworthy that six separate opinions were added to Decision No.2-r/2020, and four to Decision No.4-r/2020.

1. The decision regarding the fate of the “old” Supreme Court of Ukraine

1.1. Background

On 2 June 2016, the Ukrainian Parliament adopted amendments to the Constitution of Ukraine concerning the judiciary (Law 1401-VIII); it marked the end of the constitutional phase of the judicial reform initiated in 2014 by former president Petro Poroshenko, and the beginning of a new, legislative stage. Along with other relevant pieces of legislation, the new Law of Ukraine “On the Judiciary and Status of Judges” (Law 1402-VIII) was adopted. While the SCU publicly supported the need for a radical overhaul of the judicial branch, it used its right to appeal to the Constitutional Court, stating that Section XII “Final and Transitional Provisions” of Law 1402-VIII contained “some provisions, the essence, content and practical implementation of which, in the opinion of the SCU Plenum, do not conform to the Constitution of Ukraine”. It is noteworthy that the SCU did not question the constitutionality of the general substantive rules of Law 1402-VIII, which, being guided by new constitutional approaches, concerned the organisation of the judicial branch and the status of judges. The SCU disagreed only with procedural rules contained in transitional provisions of this law that regulated technical issues of the transition to the new system. The SCU questioned the constitutionality of provisions concerning the termination of activities and liquidation of the SCU, as well as of higher specialised courts; the establishment, commencement of activities and selection and appointment of judges of the new Supreme Court; the termination of powers of judges whose five-year tenure was over; provisions for the release of judges from office based on the results of their evaluation; and the determination of judicial remuneration and permanent financial allowance.

1.2. Decision No.2-r/2020

In this decision, responding to the case brought by the SCU, the CCU indicated that the Ukrainian Parliament should comply with constitutionally defined boundaries regarding the status, organisation, functioning and activities of constitutional bodies and their officials. It determined the necessity of applying the principle of institutional continuity when making changes to the Constitution of Ukraine. According to the CCU, this principle had been followed when the “highest institute of judicial power” was reformed, and “the removal of the word ‘Ukraine’ – the name of the state – from the word combination ‘the Supreme Court of Ukraine’ did not affect the constitutional status of this public authority”. The constitutionality of provisions of Law 1402-VIII regarding the establishment and commencement of activities of the SC, the beginning of the contest, and the appointment of SC judges was confirmed. The CCU also stated that the legislator “acted within the limits of its constitutional powers” when determining the necessity for judges whose five-year tenure had expired to participate in the contest. It emphasised that such requirements result from the transitional provisions of the Constitution of Ukraine.

Considering the issue of termination of the activities of the SCU and higher specialist courts and their liquidation, as well as the participation of these courts’ judges in the contest for SC judges, the CCU set aside a small aspect of these issues relating to the SCU and its judges, and found these provisions to be unconstitutional in part. In particular, the CCU referred to the unconstitutionality of SCU “liquidation” and the right of SCU judges to participate in the SC contest – as, in its opinion, “the body specified in the Constitution was renamed” and SCU judges should have been transferred to the SC, as “there is no difference between the legal status of judges of the Supreme Court of Ukraine and judges of the Supreme Court”. It is interesting to note that, in parallel, the CCU confirmed the need for SCU judges to pass a qualification evaluation, albeit one based on a special procedure and criteria. The CCU did not develop this position further, so it is not clear what is meant by “special” or the “criteria” of such a procedure, beyond subparagraph 4 of paragraph 16 of the Transitional Provisions of the Constitution of Ukraine.1 In addition, as expected, given its previous practice, the CCU approached the issue of a differentiated approach to the calculation of a monthly allowance for judges depending on how well they performed in the qualification evaluation. The CCU noted that the establishment of “different approaches to the procedure for calculating lifetime monthly allowances for judges violates the status of judges and guarantees of their independence”, and it recognised this provision as unconstitutional.

The simplification of approaches and the absence in the final text of the in-depth analysis of the full range of issues faced by the CCU in this case caused six judges to write separate opinions expressing additional arguments or partial disagreement. For example, Judge Oleh Pervomaiskyi spoke explicitly about the fallacy of the CCU’s methodology of constantly reducing the text of its analysis, which results in “a kind of ‘gap’ in the legal reasoning of the Constitutional Court”. To minimise the risk of an erroneous interpretation of the content of this decision, Judge Pervomaiskyi proposed, in particular, a clearer approach to solving legal problems concerning the liquidation of the SCU and the establishment of the SC. He stressed that the decision ignored the problem of termination and liquidation of the SCU as a constitutional body and legal entity of public law, and emphasised that it was not possible to go beyond the qualification-evaluation criteria established by the Constitution of Ukraine. Judge Ihor Slidenko, the rapporteur in the case, denied the entire basis of the CCU decision, seeing a continuation of the 2014 lustration discourse in the 2016 judicial reform, thus aimed at resetting the judicial system. In his opinion, the constitutional conflict lies in the way the SCU was transformed. Judge Serhiy Holovatyi argued that there were no legal grounds to find the provisions of Law 1402-VIII unconstitutional.[2] He stated that the SCU was not liquidated as a constitutional body, and that issues relating to the termination (liquidation) of the SCU as a legal entity “are not subject to constitutional regulation, and the fact that the legislator solved them by adopting an ordinary law cannot contradict the Constitution of Ukraine”. In addition, he referred to Clause 12 of the Transitional Provisions of the Constitution, which provides for the establishment of a new judicial system, emphasising that it is possible to clearly define a time reference for termination of the “old” SCU and commencement of activities of the “new” SC, and thus that there are no “legal grounds” for questioning the constitutionality of the provisions concerning termination of the SCU. Judge Holovatyi also disagreed with the position regarding the inalterability of the legal status of the SCU and found this status to be fundamentally new.

2. The decision regarding the attempt to carry out new judicial reform

2.1. Background

On 29 August 2019, President Volodymyr Zelensky submitted numerous draft laws to the new Ukrainian Parliament. Among them was draft law No.1008 “On Amendments to the Law of Ukraine on the Judiciary and Status of Judges and Some Laws of Ukraine on Activities of Judicial Authorities”. Within a very short time the relevant law (Law No. 193-IX) was adopted and entered into force, establishing new rules regarding the structure and role of the High Council of Justice, and the new status and procedure for establishing the High Qualification Commission of Judges of Ukraine (HQCJU). It reduced the number of judges in the new SC and put in place a new procedure and new rules for judges’ disciplinary responsibility.

Already at the stage of the parliamentary procedure of adoption of the draft law, the High Council of Justice approved the “Advisory Opinion regarding Draft Law No. 1008” on 5 September 2019, providing thorough comments on it. On 16 September 2019, the Plenary Meeting of the Supreme Court (SC), in its opinion regarding the draft law, insisted that the proposed changes in the law would pose a significant risk to the independence of the judicial branch. Once the law was adopted, the SC went to the CCU to challenge the constitutionality of the provisions regarding the reduction in the number of SC judges; the reduction in judicial remuneration; the change in the number of members of the HQCJU; the creation of the Integrity and Ethics Commission and the scope of its competency; the simplification of procedures for holding judges disciplinarily responsible; and the change in the grounds and procedure for dismissing a member of the High Council of Justice.

2.2. Decision No.2-r/2020

In this decision, the CCU addressed the risks related to the independence of the judicial branch, which not only raised concerns among representatives of the judicial community and professional legal associations, but also became the subject of critical statements issued by representatives of Ukraine’s civil society, business community and international partners. The Venice Commission had issued a critical opinion, CDL-AD(2019)027, in which it underlined the strategic drawbacks and risks of Law 193-IX. Based, inter alia, on the principle of institutional continuity set out in Decision No.2-r/2020, the CCU defined a legislative reduction in the number of judges in the SC and technical issues related to the new “selection” of SC judges as an organisational tool, one that should be preceded by consultations between the President of Ukraine and the High Council of Justice. The CCU also confirmed its repeatedly stated position on the unconstitutionality of legislative attempts to “arbitrarily set or change the amount of remuneration for judges, using its powers as a tool to influence the judicial branch”.

On the questions of the HQCJU  the Court found that “no other body or institution is authorised to perform constitutional functions of selecting and evaluating judges, including the High Court of Justice” and it noted that changing the order of establishment and the number of members of the HQCJU “without introduction of an appropriate transition period has resulted in the suspension in implementation of constitutional functions”. This change was therefore declared unconstitutional. Turning to the Integrity Commission, the CCU found that its powers to control the activities of members of the High Council of Justice and SC judges “have no constitutional basis”.

The CCU carefully considered the grounds and procedure for holding judges disciplinarily responsible and agreed with the position of the SC that such changes are unconstitutional. The CCU stressed that they “do not provide for a reasonable, commensurate (proportionate) and predictable procedure of disciplinary proceedings against a judge, [or a] fair and transparent way of holding a judge disciplinarily responsible”.

The judges’ separate opinions included a number of critical remarks. Judge Oleksandr Kasminin drew attention to the participation of representatives of the international community in the establishment of the Integrity Commission in the context of “constitutional sovereignty”. Judge Ihor Slidenko emphasised the lack of analysis of the legitimate purpose of the amendments in the CCU’s decision, treating this as “legislative fraud” aimed at “hiding [the] true motives of the so-called ‘2019 judicial reform’”. Judge Oleh Pervomaiskyi focused on the incomprehensibility of the motives and reasons for the hasty introduction of the disputed changes and the absence of proper public and professional hearings, or of proper communication between the branches of government. He drew attention to what he considers to be an artificial concept of “choice of judges” which was meant to replace the constitutionally defined concept of “selection of judges” and be used to reduce the number of SC judges. Judge Vasyl Lemak outlined the difference in approaches to changes in the judicial sector, making a comparison between the 2016 reform, which was carried out both at the constitutional and the legislative level, and the 2019 reform, which proposed changes only at the legislative level and “was not implemented in practice”. He also pointed out that there was no justified reason for the 2019 reform, and discussed a violation of the constitutional procedure of the legislative initiative as attempting to reorganise the SC. Finally, he offered other arguments regarding the violation of the principle of institutional continuity and integrity by the Parliament when terminating the powers of HQCJU members.

Conclusion

In the first case to deal with the 2016 judicial reform, the CCU did not fully seize the opportunity to provide proper answers to the deep-rooted constitutional problem of interaction between various branches of government during the implementation of strategic reforms. The judges’ need to compromise, for the sake of a positive vote did not allow for deeper answers on some questions. The vote is therefore somewhat formalistic and overly positivistic. By contrast, in the second case, concerning the judicial reform attempted in 2019, one can agree with Judge Oleh Pervomaiskyi, who described the Court’s approach as a “not ideal but quite conscious and necessary attempt” to stand up for judicial independence, eliminate risks to the autonomy of the judicial branch, and provide constitutional guarantees for the functioning of the judiciary.[3]

The general impression from the two decisions analysed is that the Constitutional Court of Ukraine, despite some shortcomings, is gradually moving towards its true role as a constitutional arbiter, as set out in the 1996 Constitution of Ukraine and emphasised by the 2016 judicial reform.

[1] As rightly noted by Judge Oleh Pervomaiskyi in his separate opinion to Decision No.4-r/2020, “as a subject of legislative initiative, the President of Ukraine did not qualify these changes to the legislation as a ‘judicial reform’”, and Judge Ihor Slidenko in his Votum Separatum to the same decision referred to “manipulations aimed at legislative changes” within “the so-called 2019 judicial reform”.

[2] It is noteworthy that the text of the dissenting opinion of Judge Serhiy Holovatyi, in which he analysed arguments presented in the constitutional motion and determined that they were groundless, extends to 54 pages, while Decision 2-r/2020 itself contains only 18 pages.

[3] A separate opinion of Judge Oleh Pervomaiskyi in Decision No.4-r/2020.

Photo credit: Maria Osipowa/Flickr

Youth in Action: Strengthening Youth Engagement in Local Governance

Over the summer of 2019, 19 people between the ages of 18 and 35 from the Lviv and Luhansk regions got to work with local governments as part of the “Strengthening Youth Engagement in Local Governance” programme. Participants took part in a four-month internship in the Lviv Regional Council and the Regional State Administration, attended five training sessions, took part in public discussions in Kyiv and Lviv and carried a study tour to one of the amalgamated communities of Ukraine.

DRI experts and partners from the Centre for Perspective Initiatives and Studies advised and guided the participants throughout the internship.

Programme Overview

In addition to the four-month internship, participants engaged in five training sessions of 2 to3 days each, which were held in Lviv and Kyiv. The training sessions were an attempt to initiate discussions on pressing issues in different areas of public administration and to find a way to solve them efficiently.

DRI experts explored important topics related to the activities of government agencies, public policy, key soft and hard skills to be efficient agents of change. We discussed Ukraine’s political system, the competences of local governments, the development and management of public budgets, and how to improve interactions between regions. Participants also learned how to work with open data on the ProZorro public procurement system. In addition, we talked about the decentralization of power and its components.

Much time was devoted to understanding the intricate details of the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement, beyond the ideological decision to focus on  European integration. Participants talked with leading experts about the essence of these reforms, the state and the prospects of their implementation.

Every speaker emphasized the difficulties and the amount of time that will be needed to implement these reforms.

The trainers also noted that civil servants should not underestimate the importance of communication, both internally and externally. Without an effective communication strategy, coherence is difficult within a unit and makes communicating with the public that much harder.  The effectiveness, perception and success of changes directly depend on the involvement of the general public and people’s awareness of specific topics.

Challenging Negative Perceptions

The first step to motivate young people to engage with local government is to challenge the many stereotypes that stick to Ukraine’s public sector. It did not take long for our participants to challenge and change their views of local government.

Stanislav Letsyk, who interned at Lviv Regional State Administration’s Department of Internal and Information Policy, challenged his view of the civil services: “What I liked the most was that I could see the results of my work and measure in practice the experience I gained. The internship was very useful for me as I received a lot of new knowledge and defied my stereotypes towards civil service. As for the people in the department, they encouraged me to work and develop myself. There is a widespread opinion in the society that the civil service is difficult for young people to join or there is nothing for them there. I proved myself wrong.”

What participants took away from the programme

We asked participants about their impressions from their internships in government agencies and for their advice to those who hesitate about getting involved in public service. The experience was much richer than they had initially thought it would be.

Oleksandr Husliakov, who interned at Lviv Regional Council’s International Department shared his thoughts on the programme: “Now I sometimes laugh when I hear that everything is outdated in the public administration and that their employees accept nothing nor anybody new. For example, in my department, almost all employees are young people. All of them know at least English, and some speak German or Polish as well. Communication between employees is at a high level, we use messengers to communicate quickly with each other. It is very pleasant that there is absolutely nothing Soviet in the department – neither in the relations between employees nor in the working practices.”

“I was involved in tasks that can be only be performed by those with the relevant background or experience – for instance, I distributed Treasury Account Statements. Of course, to do this, I was supposed to know the Budget Code of Ukraine very well. Sometimes it was necessary to work on making some information public. For example, to take care that the department’s website always contains data on budget implementation,” added Andrianna Bilash, who interned at Lviv Regional State Administration’s Department of Finance.

Daily work would also involve much more than making copies or fetching coffee. “I was given very diverse tasks. For example, to find development programmes for entrepreneurs offered by banks in the Lviv region,” said Sviatoslav Moskaliuk, who interned at Lviv Regional State Administration’s Department of Economic Policy. “To do this, I had to analyse programmes for entrepreneurs from all the banks registered in the region and make it all into one database. I also spent a lot of time looking for companies that are not quite transparent with paying wages to their employees.”

The skills they applied ranged from analysis to communications. This was the case for Nadia Bavoliak, who interned at Lviv Regional Council’s Department for Computer-based Information Support and Access to Public Information. “I was entrusted with the ‘Lviv Region Tourism’ project. My department prepared the material for the website with the same name: we looked for content, reviewed the state of historical monuments and the potential of touristic attractions, designed the website, etc. It was a very interesting, useful and cognitive task. I also had to work a bit with legislation to write a feasibility study for various projects.”

Encouraging others to follow in their footsteps

Participating in the programme direct results many of the young people involved. Five participants were offered jobs in the departments where they interned, while four launched their own local initiatives that will be implemented in cooperation with the local council.

They also had recommendations for other young people who are interested in changing Ukraine for the better. “I sincerely wish that future civil servants realise that this work is a very good opportunity to help others and the country, the opportunity to realise that you are doing something really important. Whatever the situation, we should not forget our humanity, should not behave as if we were superior to others. This feeling of superiority is what everyone in this country should try to get rid of today,” said Nadia Bavoliak.

This was echoed by Uliana Yazhyk: “If you are young, active, open and ready to change, then you should definitely try yourself in the role of a civil servant. Over time, you will understand that you can influence and change things. First at the local level, and then nationally. However, we must always remember that changes start within you and your thinking.”

Meet the participants

The role of civic and media activism in Ukraine

For the first time since independence in 1991, Ukraine’s president and the majority in parliament are from the same political party without the need for a coalition. Assessing the challenges and opportunities provided by this situation was at the centre of an event held on 19 November in Brussels co-organised by DRI and the European Endowment for Democracy (EED). The event was attended by over fifty participants from civil society, government and EU officials.

Panellists discussed the impact activists have had in civil society and in public life, something of increased relevance as many of them entered parliament after the July 2019 elections in which three-quarters of the legislature was replaced. The governing majority has introduced a great number of proposals and reforms to parliament as it rushes to meet electoral promises. In addition to this intense legislative rhythm, notable emphasis was placed on challenges in implementing reforms across the country, the importance of tackling the economy and the conflict in eastern Ukraine.

This was complemented by a session on the role of media in the new political landscape. The first challenge that was highlighted was the fact that while the political players might have changed, their communication techniques have not and there is still too little accountability to journalists. In addition, most Ukrainians continue to get their information through television, an old medium that is dominated by vested business interests. Panellists highlighted the need to clean up the media landscape through, for example, the use of anti-trust law. Some of the solutions proposed focused on media literacy, ensuring strong quality standards for journalists, strong local, community-based, media and support to public broadcasting.

DRI’s Ukraine country office focuses on helping grassroots initiatives monitor and advocate for reforms and engage with local policy and decision-makers. The EED is an independent, grant-making organisation, established in 2013 by the EU and its member states as an autonomous fund to foster democracy in the European Neighbourhoods and beyond.

Ukraine: new players, old game? (DRI event)

Join us for a panel discussion on the new Ukrainian reality

Tuesday, 19 November 2019 from 9:30 – 13:30 (registration at 9:00)

EED, Rue de la Loi 34, 1040 Brussels

RSVP: [email protected] by Thursday, 14 November

 

Ukraine has entered a new political era since the election of President Volodymyr Zelensky. The recent parliamentary elections have meant that new faces have joined politics, including a number of civil activists. While reform is very much on the agenda, democratic accountability remains challenging. Civil society and the media are now reviewing their role within this new status-quo.

Panel 1 | From activists to politicians and back? Re-thinking the role of civic activists

Speakers:

  • Valerii Pekar, Co-founder of the New Country Civic Platform, lecturer of Kyiv Mohyla Business School
  • Yuliy Morozov, Co-founder of the Union of Responsible Citizens and local deputy from Syla Liudey party
  • Halyna Yanchenko, Member of Parliament of Ukraine and Deputy Head of the Verkhovna Rada Committee on Anti-corruption Committee

Panel 2 | Find the politics behind the PR: The role of media in the changing political landscape

Speakers:

  • Andriy Kulykov, Co-founder, Hromadske Radio
  • Diana Dutsyk, Media expert and Executive Director of CSO Ukrainian Media and Communications Institute
  • Roman Kulchynskyy, Founder of Texty.Org

The panels will be moderated by EED and DRI representatives.

This event is co-organised by DRI and EED.

The Democracy Reporting International (DRI) is a Berlin-based NGO that promotes the political participation of citizens and accountable democratic institutions around the world. DRI’s Ukraine country office focuses on helping grassroots initiatives monitor and advocate for reforms and engage with local policy and decision makers.

The European Endowment for Democracy (EED) is an independent, grant-making organisation, established in 2013 by the European Union (EU) and its member states as an autonomous fund to foster democracy in the European Neighbourhoods and beyond.

DRI зустріч випускників 2019: Зростаємо разом

Sorry, this entry is only available in Ukrainian. For the sake of viewer convenience, the content is shown below in the alternative language. You may click the link to switch the active language.

27-28 вересня 2019

Київ

А Ви після того, як закінчили один із тренінгів DRI (школа, дебати, тренінг, воркшоп) не бідкались, а з новими навичками та знаннями намагались вплинути на розвиток громади, лобіювали рішення певних проблем, ініціювали громадські обговорення, шукали шляхи взаємодії з органами влади, створили свою організацію чи проект? Ви не боялись брати відповідальність на себе? І хочете поділитися історією успіху чи провалу Вашого проекту чи ініціативи? Якщо Ваша відповідь ствердна на більшість з цих питань, тоді ми запрошуємо Вас на зустріч випускників програм DRI, яка проходитиме у Києві 27-28 вересня 2019 р.

Під час дводенного інтенсивного курсу Ви дізнаєтесь про шляхи фінансування громадських ініціатив, познайомитесь з досвідом громадських активістів з різних регіонів, навчитесь, як ефективно організувати роботу організації чи проектної команди та як вести бухгалтерію організації та бюджет проекту, а також отримаєте навички з комунікації. Реєструючись на зустріч та вказуючи, які теми та навички Вам цікаві, Ви маєте можливість вплинути на програму зустрічі випускників DRI.

Що необхідно для реєстрації?

  • Бути учасником одного із заходів DRI.
  • Зареєструватися за посиланням: https://bit.ly/2SmF4Eg. Дедлайн: 10 вересня 2019 р.
  • Чекати підтвердження Вашої участі від організаторів.

Constitutional Talk «ГРУШЕВСЬКИЙ ТА КОНСТИТУЦІОНАЛІЗМ»

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29 вересня 2019 | Київ, Паньківська, 9

Музей-садиба Михайла Грушевського

DRI запрошує українських конституціоналістів та всіх, хто цікавиться історією української державності та конституціоналізму на зустріч, присвячену працям Голови Української Центральної Ради (1917-1918 рр.) Михайла Грушевського, з нагоди святкування його дня народження.

29 вересня у приміщенні музею-садиби імені М. Грушевського разом з сучасними українськими конституціоналістами ми обговорюватимемо доробки М.С. Грушевського та їх значення та застосування сьогодні. На учасників теж очікує жвава екскурсія музеєм  та презентація збірки праць «Михайло Грушевський та український конституціоналізм».

Просимо Вас до 20 вересня заповнити реєстраційну форму та направити на адресу організаторів статтю на актуальну конституційно-правову проблематику, з посиланням на праці М. Грушевського. Стаття має подаватися до друку уперше. У разі, якщо Ви бажаєте взяти участь у Constitutional  Talk! у якості слухача, Вам достатньо буде заповнити реєстраційну форму.

ПРОГРАМА

 

14:30 – 15:00 | реєстрація та кава

15:00 – 16:00 | екскурсія музеєм-садибою

Годинна прогулянка колишніми кімнатами М. Грушевського для кращого заглиблення в його світобачення

16:00 – 16:45 | вітання та розмова про історичний час та постать М. Грушевського

Секція ознайомлення з історичним контекстом роботи та формування конституційного світогляду Михайла Грушевського

16:45 – 17:00 | презентація видання «Михайло Грушевський та український конституціоналізм»

17:00 – 18:30 | обговорення

Виступи учасників Constitutional Talk! по заздалегідь заявлених темах та дискусія

18:30 – 19:00 | чаркування

Невелика перерва в очікування вечора, присвяченого значенню музики в житті М. Грушевського та сучасних конституціоналістів

19:00 – 21:00 | вечір «Грушевський та музика»

Вечір, підготовлений музеєм-садибою для учасників заходу та не тільки

За додатковою інформацією звертайтесь до координаторів:

Альберта  Єзерова ([email protected]) та Коваля Дмитра ([email protected])

 

How Ukraine’s Leading Presidential Candidates run respectable and dodgy Facebook pages in parallel

Jekyll and Hyde Campaigning – How Ukraine’s Leading Presidential Candidates run respectable and dodgy Facebook pages in parallel

Summary

Analysing official and unofficial political advertising for former President Poroshenko and for the new President Zelenskyy during the presidential election campaign we found the following:

  • Official campaign pages did not use manipulative strategies to discredit electoral competitors and maintained a moderate tone when criticising their opponent;
  • Zelenskyy’s campaign used more micro-targeting techniques and generated more engagement, while Poroshenko’s content was less engaging despite the use of bigger budgets to promote each post;
  • However, unofficial campaign pages by both sides used defamation against their competitor. The Anti-Zelenskyy pages spent 20 times more budget than Anti-Poroshenko pages;
  • Direct and indirect connections were found between unofficial pages and the official headquarters of the two candidates;
  • In some cases, Facebook delayed the removal of advertisements marked as ‘Doesn’t meet Facebook advertising rules’. By then, more than $1000 had been spent and many users had seen the ads, which is a significant amount considering that most posts are removed before $100 has been spent.

Given the upcoming Ukrainian Parliamentary elections on 21 July, these recommendations follow from the analysis:

  • Facebook should remove flagged inappropriate advertisements faster – before many users see problematic ads;
  • In its Ukraine Ad Library Facebook should provide further details regarding advertising funding sources, as seen in the US Ad Library, to maintain transparency and maintain standards across country operations;
  • From the side of candidates and parties, there should be a list of pages that they are officially operating under their campaign – whether they are doing the official campaigning or spreading problematic content aimed at attacking or spread false information about the opponent.
  • They should not engage in such underhand campaigning and authorities should enforce electoral rules better on social media, such as electoral silence.

Introduction

The online political campaigning landscape has changed since the last Ukrainian elections. Now tech companies have more rules to ensure a degree of transparency and avoid manipulation attempts from extreme groups and external actors in national elections. The most relevant change has been the establishment of archives of online political advertising (called ‘Ad Library’ by Facebook). For such type of ads (that are different from ads selling commercial goods), Facebook requires more information from those intending to run them. The library allows for tracking of who paid for the ads, how much, and what the targeted audience is.

In Ukraine, Facebook launched the Ad Library on 18 March 2019, two weeks before the first round of presidential elections. The Central Election Commission registered 39 candidates for the elections, which is the largest number of presidential candidates in the history of Ukraine. The incumbent Petro Poroshenko and the newcomer Volodymyr Zelenskyy came in on top in the first round of the elections. In the run-off on 21 April Zelenskyy won, gathering 73% of the votes to become the 6th President of Ukraine. The elections led to a significant increase of polarisation amongst the Ukrainian public, which was reflected in social media content before and after the presidential elections.

The elections were held  based on the Ukrainian Constitution and the Law on Elections of the President of Ukraine, adopted in 1999 and last amended on February 2019. Even though the Law regulates media activities and media involvement in electoral campaigns and elections, there are no specific regulations that take into account the specifics of social media activities.

The study analyses the use of political ads by official and unofficial campaign pages during the presidential elections, shedding light on how political advertising online was used in this electoral cycle. This analysis recommends how to analyse social media campaigning for the upcoming early parliamentary elections – scheduled only two months after the presidential elections on 21 July – and provides a more comprehensive look into this phenomenon.

Methodology

This report looks into the data from the Facebook Ad Library in Ukraine during the active campaign period of 18 March to 21 April 2019. The report includes digital campaigns of presidential candidates Petro Poroshenko and Volodymyr Zelenskyy. The monitored sample includes 14 Facebook pages, divided into two categories: official pages (run by the candidate’s campaigns) and unofficial/false pages (pages created or specially used with the objective of discrediting the opponent). The second group is not an exhaustive list, but altogether the analysis provides an overview about the tools and tactics used by official and unofficial pages in the context of the 2019 presidential elections.

All the posts assessed were manually collected from the Ad Libraries for further qualitative analysis. To identify the main narratives we conducted visual, semantic and linguistic analysis of posts. We also examined advertising promotion budgets and post’s targets in order to be able to assess the techniques used by each candidate’s team and distinguish differences between them.

Official Pages. Poroshenko vs Zelenskyy

The team of Petro Poroshenko used two pages as platforms for election campaign.

The first one is the official page of Poroshenko, which was registered in July 2014. A second page ‘Poroshenko2019’ was created in February 2019, specifically for the purpose of mobilising Poroshenko’s electorate for presidential elections. This page aimed to deliver tailored campaign messages to different audiences, which will be described below.

Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s team used only one Facebook page called ‘Zelenskyy’s team’ which was launched for election campaigning and addressed audiences with diverse content.

The official campaign pages did not use manipulative strategies or emotionally coloured posts to discredit electoral competitors. While Poroshenko’s use of political ads on the official page was more formal, Zelenskyy used more entertaining campaign strategy (building on his reputation as a comedy actor). The second Poroshenko page, “Poroshenko2019”, aimed at a younger audience (according to a poll in January 2019, only 7% of voters in an age under 29 supported Poroshenko) and the content was adopted accordingly.

Main messages

Poroshenko focused on positive campaigning and reminding voters about his Presidential achievements: the development of the army, granting of Tomos to establish an independent Ukrainian Orthodox Church and success in the promotion of the Ukrainian language. Poroshenko’s pages promoted his strategy to overcome poverty in the country, which was part of his electoral programme.

His messages also focused on geopolitics and the promotion of Ukraine’s pro-European position. One of the ads (dated 9 April) used an antithesis: ‘21 April’s choice: Europe or Russia’. In the context of the election, ‘Europe’ represented Poroshenko, while ‘Russia’ represented Zelenksyy. Being positioned behind Zelenskyy in all opinion polls, Poroshenko’s team tried to appeal to voters through the fear of Ukraine drifting into Russia’s control.

Zelenskyy’s team promoted the message that ‘the current Government will do everything it can to win in an unfair way’ (without mentioning Poroshenko directly). Subscribers were instructed to take several actions: to take their pens to avoid falsifications with disappearing ink, to become observers or members of election commissions, and to document cases of violations at the polling station and send them to the head office.

A large part of Zelenskyy’s supporters in the age from 18 to 24 never voted before, hence among other content, his page provided information on how to vote: listing required documents for the polling stations, or the voting procedure for those not voting at their place of registration.

For the younger audience group ‘Poroshenko2019’ posted videos where opinion leaders expressed support to Poroshenko. The following leaders were involved in the campaign: Yuriy Shukhevych, a Ukrainian politician, member of the Ukrainian Helsinki Group and political prisoner: ‘now it is the time to leave all emotions behind and unite’ – within the framework of the campaign ‘Think’; the publisher Ivan Malkovych; theatre actress Ada Rohovtseva; showman Dmytro Chekalkin and others. Thus, the influence of famous Ukrainians was linked to Poroshenko’s name.

Overall, official campaign pages had a moderate tone when it comes to advertising their platforms and criticising their opponent, focusing mainly on positive campaigning. Being under the scrutiny of electoral laws and voters, such official pages tended to not share false information or any sort of inflammatory speech.

Targeting

The main differences among the candidates’ advertising messages were found in the targeting strategies.

Zelenskyy’s team used more micro-targeting in their campaign. 16 of 135 unique posts (a comment, picture or other media that is posted on the Facebook page) each targeted a set of different regions and age categories. For example, a post dated 8 April had eleven different advertising audiences. The content of the post did not change depending on the targeted region, age and gender.

The largest number of promoted ads posted only for a short time (not longer than one hour) occurred on 20 and 21 April. We counted more than a thousand of such posts. The posts targeted a very narrow age and regional audience. They were unique and contained different text, video and images for each of the groups.

The overwhelming majority of posts were countdown-videos for elections encouraging residents of different regions and cities to go out and vote with the message that they can change their future.

For example, a specific target set for the residents of Odesa addressed them in the text. For the age categories ’25-34′ and ’35-44′, who might be parents already, a focus was made on the ‘future of children’, which depends on their choice. If the post targeted an elder audience, the text also mentioned grandchildren.

Zelenskyy’s page targeted mainly woman. They saw ads, on the average, two to three times more often than men. The exceptions were the posts on stereotypically male topics (related to football, cars). In total, the page spent $84,278 on ads. For more than half of the posts (134 out of 225 ads, but some of them were promoted several times with different targeting) the budget was less than $100 per post.  Only in 20 cases did the budget ranged from $500 to $999. Spending did not exceed $1000 for promotion per post. It is noteworthy that for the 1,500 short-term promotional posts, the amount did not exceed $100 per post.

Comparably, Poroshenko’s team posted less content and it was less engaging (meaning that it generated a lower number of likes, shares, comments).  They spent more money promoting each post to reach a wider audience.

The two pages promoted significantly less posts: 56 from the two groups with a total expenditure of $64817 ($24529 first official page, and $40288 ‘Poroshenko2019’ page). Unlike Zelenskyy, Poroshenko’s team promoted posts with the budget of $1,000 – $5,000 for fifteen times and $5,000 to $10,000 for three times. Such budget was spent for the electorate mobilisation post (the video of the campaign ‘The most important is not to lose the country’ with a caption reading ‘We choose our future on 31 March’).

The three main regions where promotional posts were shown were Lviv, Kyiv and Dnipro regions. Lviv region was ranked first in terms of promotional posts coverage, and this region was the only one that gave preference to Poroshenko in the second-round of 2019 presidential elections – he was supported by 63% of voters against 34% who voted for Volodymyr Zelenskyy. However, Poroshenko did have support in this region prior to the elections which would have helped maintain his percentage of votes in the second round.

On both Poroshenko pages micro-targeted ads were rarely used. As an exception, in the video of the advertising campaign ‘Think’ (the ad dated 26 March) with a commentary done by Yuriy Shukhevych, only Central and Western parts of Ukraine were targeted, namely six regions – Lviv, Ternopil, Rivne, Kyiv, Volyn and Chernivtsi regions.

In a similar fashion to Zelenskyy’s pages, the main targets were women. Men were targeted in rare cases, for example in posts related to military equipment (the ad dated 23 March about Turkish combat drones).

Official pages: Conclusion

Candidates did not focus on discrediting their opponents. The main difference was in how the messages were targeted. Poroshenko’s team used bigger budgets to promote each post, but their content was less engaging.

Comparing to Poroshenko’s more official messages, Zelenskyy’s page made use of a more modern and targeted campaign strategy. Efforts were focused on creating video content and using short, catchy messages. The content was engaging and had the potential to go viral, supported by hashtags (e.g. #let’sshowhimtogether) or calls for comments and shares.

Zelenskyy’s campaign used voters in micro-targeting. Two days before each round of the elections, it targeted specific cities or even universities. Zelenskyy’s strategy seemed to focus on mobilising his electorate to vote again in the second round, as the same turnout would be enough for him to ensure his victory. Therefore, the largest portion of his social media budget was spent in the period of 19-21 April.

Meanwhile, Poroshenko’s pages spent quite a significant budget of more than $40000 in February, focusing on two age groups of 18-24 and 25-34 to mobilize younger voters. Ultimately, the focus of both candidates’ pages in the election campaign was on the female audience.

Zelenskyy’s team seems to have violated the electoral law by publishing ads on the Day of Silence and on the day of the elections – 30-31 March and 20-21 April. In accordance with Article 212-10 “Violation of restrictions on conducting election agitation, agitation on the day of referendum” of the Code of Ukraine on Administrative Offences – conducting election campaigns outside the terms established by Law for the Election of the President of Ukraine – may result in a fine. However, it seems that no steps were made to enforce the law. Pages of Poroshenko did not run electoral ads on the Day of Silence.

Unofficial campaign pages

Aside from campaigning on official pages, a significant part of campaigning on social media during last elections were implemented through other pages. Such pages are not officially run by candidate’s headquarters, but their narratives and communication resonated with the main messages of the candidates. These pages spread misleading and compromising information about other candidates. The goal of such pages was to discredit the opponent’s reputation and electoral chances. The pages we chose to analyse had either clear Anti-Zelenskyy or Anti-Poroshenko agenda.

Anti-Zelenskyy/ pro-Poroshenko

In this analysis we looked at five pages. ‘Zhovta Strichka’ , Boycott the Party of Regions , Ministerstvo Baryh [Ministry of Hustlers], ‘Batya, ya starayus’ [Dad, I try] , Zrada_Peremoha [Betrayal_Victory], Tsynichnyi Bandera [Cynic Bandera].

Defamation

One of the Anti-Zelenskyy themes was defamation and denigration through false information, without confirmed facts or with loose interpretation of facts. One popular theme of the ads identified Zelenskyy as a drug user: “Many thanks for screen inhabitants for the candidate-drug user” (6 April); “Polling Ukrainians whether the President can use cocaine” (7 April); “It is sure that Ukraine does not need the President – drug user” (8 April). A video posted on 8 April stated that “Zelenskyy’s secret has been disclosed”, implying that Zelenskyy did not take tests and the conclusion was that he is a drug user with something to hide.

Another defamation message was that Zelenskyy has criminal relations with the Ukrainian oligarch Ihor Kolomoyskyi. The page of ‘Zhovta Strichka’  posted about this many times: ‘The choice is really simple: Putin’s personal enemy Poroshenko or Yulia’s puppet Kolomoyskyi who can’t wait to ‘dupe’ Ukrainians out of money’ (18 March) and ‘Does anybody still believe him?’ (8 April).  A video was also posted in which it is declared that Kolomoyskyi’s money from nationalisation of PrivatBank was transferred to offshore accounts of ‘Kvartal 95’ (8 April).

On the page Ministerstvo Baryh [Ministry of Hustlers] an ad dated 29 March was shared with a video, which uses a compilation of Zelenskyy’s and Kolomoisky’s statements and the Poroshenko campaign slogan ‘There are many candidates but only one President’ and the end. Another example: a promotional video dated 1 April, in which they associate Zelenskyy with the money of the oligarch Kolomoisky, which was allegedly took out to offshore accounts of ‘Kvartal 95’.

The second theme was the “incompetence” of the candidate Zelenskyy.

A post on the page ‘Zhovta Strichka’ from 8 April said: ‘We imagine the meeting of the National Security and Defence Council and it makes us already scared’: the message of the post is that Zelenskyy will not cope with the role of the Commander-in-Chief at a crucial moment when the whole country will be waiting for him to make an autocratic decision.

Similar messages were tracked on the page “Boycott the Party of Regions”. Several videos with a message about candidate Zelenskyy’s incompetence was spread within the framework of a conventional advertising campaign ‘Not ready to be the President’. For example, in a video involving actors, which simulates the situation when a full-scale war with Russia has allegedly begun, all the soldiers are waiting for a decision from the Commander-in-Chief of the army Volodymyr Zelenskyy and at the crucial moment he is nervous and does not know what to do. Another example is a video, which compares the candidate Volodymyr Zelenskyy with the ‘chef who is afraid of food’: ‘The Commander-in-Chief who is Afraid of War’.

A particularly egregious example included an ad video in which Zelenskyy is hit by a truck. It included the message ‘Everybody must walk his/her own path’ and had an image of a path with cocaine (a hint to the message ‘Zelenskyy is a drug user’). Later this video was removed by the page administrator but remained in the library of advertising. Facebook did not consider this video as violating Facebook’s rules. This video was posted on the page Zrada Peremoha [Betrayal_Victory].

Anti-Poroshenko/pro-Zelenskyy

For the analysis we have identified five pages: ‘Petro Incognito’, ‘AntiPor‘, ‘Vybory 2019’ [Elections 2019], ‘Stop Poroshenko’, ‘Karusel2019’

Defamation

On the page ‘Petro Incognito’ a post, dated 8 April accused Petro Poroshenko of copying elements of the election campaign of ex-President Leonid Kuchma.

‘Poroshenko is fawning over the youth, monkeying twenty-five-year-old techniques!  Petro’s ratings go down catastrophically and he is catching at a straw hoping to attract the youth. Before the first round he didn’t think about it at all, and Poroshenko’s bots ‘soaked’ those young people who wanted to vote for Petro Poroshenko’s opponents.’

9 ads of the group involve micro-targeting to specific regions. For example, a post from 18 March, which criticised the head of the Transcarpathian regional state administration Hennadiy Moskal (who is considered to be the person of the President Petro Poroshenko), targeted exclusively the Carpathian region.

Criticism of Poroshenko’s environment. On the same page there were posts arguing about Poroshenko’s connections to Russia. A post dated 27 March said: ’15 facts about how Petro Poroshenko and his allies are closely related to Russia! Fact No. 1. Poroshenko’s daughter-in-law Yulia Poroshenko (Alikhanova) is Russian, her parents live in St.-Petersburg, the husband of the sister is a top official in the government of Leningrad oblast and relatives in Crimea declare in public that they voted at the pseudo-referendum for separation of the peninsula from Ukraine…’.

Videos with supposed investigations on Petro Poroshenko were published on ‘AntiPor’ group. As an example – post, dated 11 March with an Investigation by ‘Ukrainian Sensations’ of 1+1 TV channel (owned by oligarch Ihor Kolomoisky associated with Volodymyr Zelenskyy) named ‘Poroshenko’s Black Cash’.

There was another video claiming that economy of Ukraine declined during Poroshenko time according to world recognised ratings without backing this information with the respective ratings data. The video features also a part of Deutsche Welle report about state of economy in Ukraine. The video text caption encourages Poroshenko’s supporters to watch it.

In this case the communication is based on references to various media that criticise Petro Poroshenko. A reference to popular media in Ukraine is one of the communication strategies, when the presidential candidate is criticized not only by the page itself, but also by reputable media.

Another theme in the Anti-Poroshenko-campaign is the allegation that he pays for votes. For the first time this topic started to be ‘spread’ in media on the site strana.ua in January 2019. On Facebook it was communicated through the page ‘Karusel2019’ (the accusation of ‘carousel voting’[1]).  The creation of this page coincides with active release of publications on the website.

Unlike the topics listed above, the communication of the ‘Karusel2019’ page appealed to the most specific features of Petro Poroshenko’s election campaign.

Praising Zelenskyy and refuting accusations against him. On the page ‘Vybory 2019’ [Elections 2019] The first promotional post was published on 27 March. In a promoted video called ‘Is Zelenskyy the President?’ television presenters do their best to defend Zelenskyy. For example, they say that the accusations of ties with Russia will help mobilise the pro-Russian electorate. They believe that the label ‘Kolomoisky’s puppet’ is not negative, explaining that this oligarch is the most positive among all other Ukrainian oligarchs. They stated that not participating in a direct debate would not have a negative impact on Zelenskyy’s rating.

The second promotional post was published on 29 March. In the promoted video, television presenters discuss visual advertising of some presidential candidates. Yulia Tymoshenko was accused of plagiarism of 2004 Viktor Yushchenko’s message and Poroshenko of plagiarising a Russian party’s ‘United Russia’ message. At the same time, they call Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s advertising ‘cool’ and show scenes from the TV show ‘Servant of People’ where Zelenskyy plays a president, namely the scene with execution of deputies of the Verkhovna Rada by president’s shooting.

Unofficial pages conclusions and findings

Promotional posts in the unofficial pages category mostly used videos and sometimes text and graphics pages supporting Poroshenko existed long before the election campaign and were used to spread messages against political opponents. Pages against Poroshenko/for Zelenskyy were mostly created during the electoral period (except of group ‘Stop Poroshenko’, created in 2014).

We noticed similar content on different Anti-Zelenskyy pages – the same actor appears in various advertising game videos (videos in which actors portray politicians) on different pages and the same videos are shared by different pages.

Same content has been promoted on 5 of 6 researched pages (except ‘Batya, ya starayus’ [Dad, I try]), which indicated an existing coordinated communication strategy behind such pages. We found out that they are connected between each other. These pages have the same phone number and address in the block ‘Funding source’. Moreover, this phone number and address was listed in the official pages of Petro Poroshenko.

This could mean that same communication team was responsible for creating content not only for official pages, but for unofficial pages. This indicates an often common strategy when it comes to the use of social media during elections: official candidate’s pages tend to keep a lower profile, moderate language and official positions when it comes to the candidate’s agenda, while more questionable techniques are spread using pages that are not directly associated with any of the campaigns.

On the anti-Poroshenko page, ‘Petro Incognito’, most of the posts were accompanied with short edited videos.

The ads targeted the West of Ukraine, where Petro Poroshenko had the highest level of support (Vinnytsia, Lviv, Rivne, Ivano-Frankivsk). Thus, the purpose of the group was to influence Poroshenko’s electorate and to cause negative emotions in relation to the incumbent President.

Unlike Anti-Zelenskyy/pro-Poroshenko pages, we did not see same information in the block ‘Funding source’ on official Zelenskyy Group and unofficial pages.

Pages working against Zelenskyy spent way more money, than their electoral rivals (hyperlinks below lead to Ad libraries with the sums).

Anti-Zelenskyy page Budget Anti-Poroshenko page Budget
Zhovta Strichka $41418 ‘Petro Incognito’ $241
‘Batya, ya starayus’ [Dad, I try] $1000 to $5000

apx. $2500

‘AntiPor’ $7708
Boycott the Party of Regions $17134 ‘Vybory 2019’ [Elections 2019] less than $100

apx. $50

Ministerstvo Baryh [Ministry of Hustlers] $58573 ‘Stop Poroshenko’ less than $100

apx. $50

Zrada_Peremoha [Betrayal_Victory] $25150 ‘Karusel2019’ $534
Tsynichnyi Bandera [Cynic Bandera] $45559
Total spent Apx. $190334 Total spent Apx. $8583

The promotion budget for Anti-Zelenskyy pages is more than 20 times more than for Anti-Poroshenko pages. Moreover, it is larger than on promotion of official pages.

Effectiveness of Facebook political ads policy

As we saw above, neither team used questionable communication on their official pages but did on unofficial pages. Direct connection was found between official pages of Petro Poroshenko and unofficial pages working against Zelenskyy.

In this case the newly launched Facebook policy provides instruments to expose the source of political advertising. Additionally, a high number of ads were removed by Facebook with the mark ‘Doesn’t meet Facebook advertising rules’ (31,7% from Anti-Zelenskyy pages and 14,2% from Anti-Poroshenko pages). As an example, on the page Zrada_Peremoha [Betrayal_Victory] half of the promoted ads were removed.

But before such inappropriate ads were deleted, they had been already shown to many people and promotion budgets spent on some of them were above $1000.

Some of the questionable ads have not been deleted entirely. As an example, shown in this report is the advertised video with a fragment edited where Volodymyr Zelenskyy is hit by a truck. This video was removed by administrators of the page, but not by Facebook.

Looking ahead at the Parliamentary elections

Currently it appears easy to sneak around campaign finance rules by paying for ads with false company information. Facebook gives details about the sources in the US ad library, but not in Ukraine, which shows different standards when it comes to transparency in different countries.

A new election campaign already started in Ukraine. On 21 July the country will go to the polls again to choose the new Parliament, and campaign strategies will likely follow the same patterns identified by this study. Thus, Facebook needs to implement necessary changes and upgrade their standards to avoid political advertising to be used as a tool to spread lies and false information to voters. Inappropriate content should not be part of paid political advertising.

Despite of the fact that political campaigns have historically rely on lies and defamation, they have a choice to allow this to be featured on their platforms or not. Facebook has been struggling with the decision to take down problematic content, such as the recent case of a manipulated video of the US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi[2] shows. However, in the case of political ads, differently from content from users that go viral, they have the choice to not run them in the first place.

We have now much more transparency than in 2016, when political advertising was a channel used by foreign manipulative actors to influence the 2016 elections. Such tool allowed for a greater transparency and reduced the problems associated with political advertising, if we take the recent European parliamentary elections as an example. The Code of Conduct enforced by the European Commission in cooperation with tech companies increased transparency and reduced the scope for manipulation via political advertising.

It does not mean that there is no work to be done. With the Parliamentary elections approaching, having the same transparency standards applied to other elections would be a good starting point. During the 2018 US Midterm elections, the ad library contained a list of how much money was being spend online in the campaign and who were the actors spending that money. This list does not exist for Ukraine as of now, which makes analysis on the use of political ads more difficult to be done.

Methodology Application Table

Platform studied Facebook
Number of ads collected Ads from 14 pages
Criteria for inclusion in the search (query applied at the Twitter public API) The 14 pages were divided into two categories: official pages (run by the candidate’s campaigns) and unofficial/false pages (pages created or specially used with the objective of discrediting the opponent). The second group is not an exhaustive list.
Type of analysis All the posts assessed were manually collected from the Ad Libraries for further qualitative analysis. To identify the main narratives we conducted visual, semantic and linguistic analysis of posts. We also examined advertising promotion budgets and post’s targets in order to be able to assess the techniques used by each candidate’s team and distinguish differences between them.

 

Source of data Facebook Ad Library
Timeframe of study Ads captured between March, 18th and April, 21st
More questions on methodology? Contact: [email protected]

 

Cover image: Animated Heaven/Flickr


[1] Carousel voting is a method of vote rigging in elections. Usually it involves “busloads of voters [being] driven around to cast ballots multiple times”

[2] More information on: https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2019/may/24/facebook-leaves-fake-nancy-pelosi-video-on-site

DRI Annual Report 2018

Our Annual Report 2018 is out. It gives an overview of our activities and our organisational development.

In 2018 we continued our work on local governance, constitutions, human rights, rule of law and human rights. Social media monitoring during elections has become an important part of our activity across the countries we work in. Last year we worked with different actors, including government, civil society, election administration and universities.  We regularly consulted and engaged them in discussions to identify their needs and support them in their work to strengthen democracy.

Download the DRI Annual Report 2018

Read the 2018 annual audit report here.