MLA Michelle Mungall in Ukraine

Nelson-Creston MLA enthuses about Ukraine experience

Michelle Mungall says observing last month’s election in Ukraine was “wonderful” — even if the overall results have been called unfair.



Nelson-Creston MLA Michelle Mungall says scrutinizing last month’s parliamentary election in Ukraine was  “wonderful” — even though international observers have denounced the overall results as unfair.

“It was a great experience,” she said in an interview. “I definitely feel we had a positive impact, especially at the rural, community level.”

Mungall spent close to two weeks in the country as part of a 430-member Canadian delegation, arriving October 20 and departing Thursday.

She spent the first few days in Kiev being briefed on the Ukrainian electoral process — a combination of proportional representation and first-past-the-post — as well as the political landscape. They were told any problems on the ground would be subtle, so they had to know what to look for.

Mungall was sent to the riding of Drohobych in western province of Lviv province. The university town has a population of about 35,000 and is surrounded by many rural villages.

For three days, along with a driver, translator, and colleague, she toured precincts to see if ballots arrived in appropriate numbers and were handled properly. Mungall says at times there weren’t enough or more of one type than another, but election officials tried to sort out these discrepancies.

Come election day October 28, Mungall says voting was conducted efficiently at the 10 polls she visited, although some things seemed suspicious.

“At one precinct I felt something was going on that may have not been completely above board, but I did not observe anything specific,” she said. “All I could do was report that ‘Four men came out of a car, they had a list, they were on the phone, they never voted, they noted our presence, and left.’“

Other than that incident, Mungall says election workers appeared to be doing everything they could to ensure a free and fair election, and she felt “incredibly welcomed … People running that level of the election were appreciative of the opportunity to show us the job they were doing.”

Once the polls closed, the manual count also went smoothly. But then things fell apart: vote tabulations had to be filled out for the district election commissions, but there were no pre-printed forms.

Every candidate and party had to be written out — 22 of them in the poll Mungall observed. “Five hours was spent writing these things out,” she says. “By the time they were done, everybody was exhausted.”

Results were delivered in the middle of the night to the district commission.

“There was an incredible amount of confusion, disorganization and difficulty in this part of the process,” Mungall said. “From here, the commission would go into a room and input everything into a computer. Very few observers were allowed to observe that process … This is where unfortunately we can’t say if everything went smoothly.”

Official results saw the governing Party of Regions retain the largest number of seats, 187 of 450. Ballots are still being counted, but international observers have noted irregularities and discrepancies at higher levels of the electoral process.

Electoral authorities this week called for recounts in five disputed districts, and hundreds gathered in Kiev to protest what they claim was vote rigging by the ruling party.

“At the end, the will of the Ukrainian people was not respected, and there was considerable intimidation against media freedom,” Mungall said, adding the ruling party was criticized for overusing government resources to bolster its re-election chances.

For all of that, Mungall, who previously served as an election observer in Zambia in 2006, says she would encourage others to try it.

“It was a wonderful experience,” she said. “Being on the ground and seeing what it meant to people on the local level provided me with the understanding that sometimes we take it for granted here in Canada. Most of us never knew what it’s like not to have the right to vote.”

Just Posted

Maglio Building Centre sold to RONA

The stores in Nelson and Trail will remain open

Nelson singing teacher leads Bigby Place in song

“It was a lovely afternoon with them,” says Kathleen Neudorf

NELSON BUSINESS BUZZ: Baby, you’ve come a long way

Judy Banfield has sold Mountain Baby, and other business news from Bob Hall

The Hillties throwing launch party for new single

The Nelson band will debut “Moving On” on March 2

National Energy Board approves Trans Mountain pipeline again

Next step includes cabinet voting on the controversial expansion

Sledder dies near Fernie

Fernie Search and Rescue was tasked by the RCMP to respond to a sledder in medical distress

Girl heard saying ‘Help my Dad’ in suspicious radio message on Vancouver Island

Police asking for help following mysterious signals from somewhere between Comox and Sayward

Reports of rashes prompt closure of all Harrison Hot Springs pools

Public pool available after Fraser Health shut down all five mineral pools until further notice

No treatment for highly infectious measles, says doctor

10 cases of measles confirmed in Vancouver as of Friday

Two more measles cases confirmed in Vancouver

It brings the number of total cases within the city connected to the outbreak to ten

B.C. Special Olympics officially underway in Vernon

Athlete’s Oath: “Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.”

Vancouver Aquarium wants your help to name a baby killer whale

The public helped name Springer’s first calf, Spirit, and is being asked to help with the second

Guards protest firing of fellow officers charged with assault at B.C. prison

Corrections officers demonstrated in Maple Ridge on Friday afternoon

Most Read