Election Detector. Shtepa, Palchevskyi, Liashko, Popov, death and other troubles. The main trends in the coverage of the 2020 election campaign
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The results of the elections are uncertain, their coverage is inaccurate, the discussion about them is lacking ideas, and everyone brags about winning, although in reality, everyone lost. Brief results of the local election campaign. Election Detector 2.10.
Election Detector is a weekly analytical review which timely captures the main topics, trends, manipulations, and changes in the information space, related to the local election. Read more detailed analysis in our regular (television news, political talk shows, information channels, Russian propaganda etc.) monitoring studies.
In this (hopefully, last until 2023) issue of Election Detector, we strike the balance of the election campaign in the nationwide media space. It should be noted that due to the specifics of Detector Media monitoring research, our main “window” into the media space is television – television news, talk shows and election marathons, although in the Election Detector, we also took into account other media and trends of social networks. Television remains the main source of information for most Ukrainians, and in our understanding it is a kind of filter that allows you to see the main political signals conveyed by the media to voters.
The main trends of the first week after the elections – October 26-30, 2020
Journalists significantly lacked a single source and a user-friendly interface for obtaining reliable election results. In the first days, the media discussed the uncertain results of exit polls and initial counts, many of which were eventually adjusted. Because of this, for example, journalists managed to announce the “victory” of Olexandr Popov before it became known that there will be no second round in the mayoral election in Kyiv. By the time the election commissions began to sum up the real results of the election, the media were already immersed in a new scandalous topic – the decision of the Constitutional Court – and paid little attention to the election. Talks about mass violations and falsifications were concentrated mainly in the Opposition Platform – For Life media and soon came to naught. The presidential poll drew a barrage of criticism of the head of state and his team, but its results were not sensational – the media perceived them relatively indifferently.
The most important events related to the election, which were covered in the media in the period from October 26 to November 1, 2020
According to the exit poll in Kyiv, there should be a second round of mayoral elections, according to a parallel count — no;
Bohdan Dubnevych announced that he had won the election for head of united territorial community;
In the Kirovohrad region, Viktor Lozynsky, who served time for murder, became the head of a united territorial community;
A People’s Deputy from the People’s Servant party resigns from parliament to head a united territorial community;
The re-elected mayor of Boryspil died of coronavirus;
The President’s Office conducts local elections analysis with the “servants”;
Nataliya Korolevska’s son became a deputy of the City Council;
Ukraine banned two Hungarian officials from entering the country due to campaigning;
The People’s Servant party published the preliminary results of the president’s poll;
The second round of local elections may be postponed to December;
The Constitutional Court canceled electronic declarations of officials – the West is outraged and says that visa-free travel can be taken away – Zelenskyi will introduce new laws to restore everything – the National Security and Defense Council held a meeting because of the Constitutional Court ruling and made an emergency decision;
Sociologists found out why voters did not vote;
The European Solidarity party supported the Voice party candidate in the Cherkasy mayoral election;
The President submitted to the Verkhovna Rada a draft law on the dissolution of the Constitutional Court – the Constitutional Court called it a constitutional coup, and the opposition called it an attempt to usurp power — in Zelenskyi’s circles it is said, that a new anti-corruption law cannot just be adopted – the SBI investigates treason of the Head of the Constitutional Court;
A mass protest rally took place at the Constitutional Court;
The president’s office is preparing to dismiss the heads of regional state administrations.
Big changes are often not immediately apparent. A major event in Ukrainian history – the first elections of councils and heads of communities, created as a result of decentralization and changes in the administrative-territorial system – also passed without excitement: with low turnout, a moderate amount of media manipulation and weak attention of the nationwide media to both the process and the consequences.
Some episodes were widely discussed in the media, but mainly because of the odiousness of their characters. In particular, the election in the Pidvysoke united territorial community, which was won by Viktor Lozynskyi – a former Fatherland party people’s deputy, whose conviction for murder was one of the loudest negative stories during the 2009 presidential election campaign. During the week, a number of media outlets – Radio Svoboda, 1+1, Hromadske and others – sent reporters to Lozynskyi’s foothold to find out what had happened to the villagers and why they had voted for the “murderer” (although the man who had served his sentence could no longer be called that). Voters, as expected, provided journalists with comments in the style of “well, so what that he killed, but he is doing something for people.”
Elections in Slovyansk where exit polls predicted the second round for Nelia Shtepa, the former mayor, who welcomed Girkin’s terrorists with open arms and spent several years behind bars, also attracted attention of the media. However, as a result, two other pro-Russian candidates will compete in the second round instead of Shtepa. That is despite the fact that reports of “Shtepa in the second round” circulated on social networks for a long time. The media noticed the victory in the first round of Hennadiy Kernes, who has not been seen by anyone for two months, which led to rumors on social networks and in kitchen conversations that the re-elected mayor was no longer alive. The deaths of re-elected heads of Boryspil, Novhorod-Siverskyi and Murovane united territorial community from coronavirus disease were also reported. But, of course, Oleksandr Popov’s supposed participation in the second round of the Kyiv elections together with Vitaliy Klychko made a lot of noise. However, also here, the sensation ended in nothing – the counting of votes showed that Klychko wins in the first round. Although Popov was almost declared as the winner in the Opposition Platform – For Life party’s media, he himself said on the air of Inter that he was “celebrating the victory.”
These elections – with a big number of candidates, ballots, a complex system and a long counting period – proved to be inconvenient for the media. At a time when public attention was most focused on the question “who won?” – that is, during the evening of and the night and morning after the election day – only exit polls were available. And exit polls were not even held in all regional centers, and, in addition, their results, as we see, sometimes substantially differ from the results of the count (this caused a number of misunderstandings and false sensations like with Popov in the second round).
The television channels that organized the usual election marathons (Detector Media looked at them closely and described them carefully), had to deal with exit polls, assumptions and subjective assessments. Later, when at least the real results of the parallel vote count started to appear, the national media were dragged into a whirlpool of a new scandal that made everyone forget about the election: it was the ruling by the Constitutional Court to repeal anti-corruption laws. Voters had a chance to find out about the election results only in the local media. Good work was demonstrated by the branches of the Public broadcaster which closely monitored the in-between stages of the count in almost all regions. The uncertainty of the election results allowed all politicians, who had nothing to brag about, to say “let’s wait for official data” in response to awkward questions from journalists and opponents. Of course, official data will appear when public interest in the election results subsides.
Actually, another factor that has made this election extremely inconvenient for the media was the lack of a single electronic resource with up-to-date results during the counting. It turned out that we were all so used to the diagrams on the website of the Central Election Commission that we completely forgot how to call somewhere or to listen to briefings in order to find out new numbers. The elections in the 208th majority election district, the results of which were displayed on the CEC website, were a beam of light in the realm of uncertainty and elusive numbers.
In addition, this is where one of the biggest election wonders of this year took place: Oleh Liashko, despite the desperate support of Rinat Akhmetov and Yulia Tymoshenko, despite all his charisma and singing in Shuster’s studio, lost this election to a “people’s servant”. Of course, he declared the results to be rigged, and the support of the “servant” Hunko to be the result of voter bribery. This was despite the fact, that in general the police, observers and even the opposition which shouted loudly about the preparation of mass rigging and “the dirtiest election in the history of Ukraine” did not deny after the vote that there were relatively few violations. Those candidates who had to find excuses for their voters with the banal evasion about “ballot-stuffing and manipulations” have done so, but no one seems to have taken such things seriously since Yulia Tymoshenko’s defeat in the 2010 presidential election.
The second high-profile failure of this election which attracted a lot of public and media attention was the Palchevskyi’s Victory party which did not pass the threshold to the Kyiv City Council, and its leader did not justify the false predictions, and did not even come close to second place in the Kyiv mayoral election. In the previous review, we wrote about a sharp change in the rhetoric of the media, which for months promoted Palchevskyi and lied by promising him victory in the election, and in the last weeks before the vote, they began to ignore or even slander him. In particular, Palchevskyi, who was always present in the talk show studios on Medvedchuk’s channels for at least a year and a half, suddenly became a persona non grata there. After the election, Palchevskyi was silent for a few days, and then appeared in a completely new territory – on the Nash channel, owned by pro-Russian politician Yevgeniy Murayev.
The “underwater” part of this story was told by Sonia Koshkina, LB.ua editor-in-chief, in her telegram channel: saying that the “shareholders” of Palchevskyi’s campaign tried to drag his “Victory” party to the Kyiv City Council at the expense of votes for the Opposition Platform – For Life party. The Opposition Platform – For Life party did not support this idea so much that they issued a statement about falsification — however, without specifying in whose favor. In the end, the scheme did not work, and Palchevskyis Victory party with the result of 4.4% remained outside the Kyiv City Council – despite the fact that they counted themselves a 5.6% result. On October 29, Palchevskyi held a rally in front of the Kyiv City State Administration demanding re-election to the Kyiv City Council, but this post-election agony no longer interested anyone but his extras.
Palchevskyi’s path – just to declare oneself as a winner and to hope that no one will understand the nuances – went the party of the parliamentary majority. The foundations for post-election manipulation were laid long before the election with the help of opinion polls, which counted the “nationwide result” of political forces in local elections. And although sociologists probably did it without any second thoughts, the result was a distorted picture of the political preferences of voters in the scale of the whole Ukraine and seemed to be “victorious” for the People’s Servant party. The party reports, that it won the relatively largest number of seats in local councils – from 17.5% in city councils to 24% in village councils, as well as 15% of heads in territorial communities. Party leaders propose to consider this number as an achievement, because the People’s Servant party is a “young party”; however, it could be compared to last year’s results in the parliamentary elections.
In addition, the People’s Servant party boasts with victory in the election of the mayors of Smila, Yahotyn, Ochakiv, Izmayil,, Pokrov, reaching the second round (second place) of their candidate in Kryvyi Rih, Brovary, Nikopol, Poltava and Uzhgorod. This goes without emphasizing that neither in cities with a population of over one million, nor in most regional centers and cities with the largest population (except for Kryvyi Rih – Zelenskyi’s hometown) candidates from the People’s Servant not only did not win in the first, but did not succeed to get to the second round. And the party itself – even where it receives a relative majority of votes in local councils – is in the minority and it is by no means a fact that it will be able to form a majority and not remain in opposition. Not to mention the important city councils where the People’s Servant party will not be represented at all. Long story short, the arithmetic twenty percent “majority” is like the average temperature in the ward.
However, the “servants” made a lot of media efforts to present their mediocre results under the winning sauce. In particular, in the Svoboda Slova [Freedom of Speech] on ICTV on the day after the election, the head of the People’s Servant party Oleksandr Korniyenko was in high spirits and said that the party was satisfied with the results. In addition, the “servants” called the relatively small number of violations and the fact that democratic elections were held in Ukraine to be their merit. Soon new information bombs, such as the appointment of esoteric expert Oleksiy Arestovych as speaker of the Minsk group and the war between the Bankova and the Constitutional Court, finally diverted media attention from the failures (or successes, if you take the party’s version) of the People’s Servant party. And the leader of the “servants” in the Kyiv region, Oleksandr Dubynskyi explained the party’s failure in the elections in some regions by “flirting with the Soros boys”.
It is unlikely that we will ever know whether – as experts and observers had warned – Volodymyr Zelenskyi’s poll really influenced voters’ motivation and mobilized his potential supporters. But we know for sure that the results of the survey had a much smaller impact on the information space than the fact of its preparation and conduct. Speakers of Bankova and the People’s Servants party further apologized in different television programs during the days following the election arguing that the president wanted to “just ask” and not to influence anyone. It remains unclear (and few were interested in the light of new high-profile events) how the survey results will be used and especially what they will do with the answer to the question that divided respondents in half – about the free economic zone in Luhansk and Donetsk regions. However, the opposition media managed to criticize the organizers of the poll, in particular for the involvement of minors – this was discussed in particular at Inter. In general, it can be stated that the poll initiative became a successful information special operation, which refocused the discussion in the media in the last days before the election.
The naive joy of the European Solidarity party because in the Kramatorsk City Council election the meager percentages of the party turned out to be higher than the meager percentages of the People’s Servant party were immortalized in the parody of the Television of Toronto. Representatives of the European Solidarity party also reported on their victories over “servants” in political talk show studios, in particular on ICTV‘s Svoboda Slova [Freedom of Speech] and Pravo na Vladu [Right to Power] on 1+1. In the 1+1 studio, Iryna Herashchenko reminded that Vitaliy Klychko owes his success to the European Solidarity party. Matviy Hanapolskyi in the “Echo Ukrainy” [Echo of Ukraine] talk show on Priamyi channel announced the results of only the European Solidarity party, and even that was according to the count of the party. And he flavored it with Poroshenko’s video address. However, like any decent Ukrainian opposition, the European Solidarity party’s representatives from time to time supplemented their victorious communiques with hints: if it were not for the falsifications, it would have been even better.
The main post-election show of European Solidarity party – the broadcast of Oleksiy Honcharenko’s program with Petro Poroshenko in a car – was first announced and then postponed due to unclear technical problems. In the end, Honcharenko Rulyt [Honcharenko is Driving] with Poroshenko came out on Channel 5 on November 1 — Detector Media will soon share our impressions.
Representatives of the Voice party, which made it to a number of local councils and even to the second round of the Cherkasy mayoral election, were also glad. “We have shown that it is possible to participate honestly in elections. And to win honestly“, People’s Deputy Yaroslav Zheleznyak said on this occasion in Pravo na Vladu [Right to Power] show. Candidates for mayor of Cherkasy Viktor Yevpak from the Voice party and Anatoly Bondarenko from the For the Future party even arranged mini-debates on 1+1. A small scandal broke out during the week due to mutual claims of representatives and supporters of the Voice and the European Solidarity parties: Poroshenko’s party supported Yevpak in Cherkasy and apparently hoped for a similar gesture of support in Lviv, where People’s Deputy Oleh Syniutka advanced to the second round with incumbent mayor Andriy Sadovyi. The mayor of Lviv played proactively – his Samopomich party (insignificant in Cherkasy and everywhere else except Lviv) also supported Yevpak, giving the Voice party a formal reason to remain neutral in the Lviv elections.
Serhiy Prytula did not fit into the positive tone of the Voice party’s speakers, stating a number of problems – low turnout, high results of pro-Russian political forces, etc., as well as acknowledging the mistakes of his campaigning team. Quite unusual behavior for a Ukrainian politician.
Representatives of the Fatherland and the For the Future parties which were obviously counting on greater achievements than they had were much less optimistic about the results of the elections. In particular, Ihor Palytsia, who even after the election was invited to every Pravo na Vladu [Rights to Power] program on 1+1, complained about “dirty technology and accusations” during the election. Not surprisingly, it was the 1+1 channel that paid the most attention in the news of the first post-election days to violations in various regions. The unique rhetoric of the For the Future party, which for one audience (for example, in Ivano-Frankivsk region) boasted of the achievements of the Great Construction project, and for another played the role of persecuted opposition, allowed it to write off failures for falsification (as in Lviv). 1+1 channel helped to inflate these local scandals, in particular, by reporting in an unbalanced form of “theft of 12% of votes” from the candidate for mayor of Berdyansk from For the Future party. It is obviously too early to talk about the completion of the 1+1 channel’s mission as a platform for PR by the For the Future party, as the party’s candidates will run in the second round of elections in several cities, and as talks about a new majority in the Verkhovna Rada and a new government with Ihor Palytsia as prime minister were not in vain too.
The Fatherland party did not have its own powerful all-Ukrainian administrative resource in this election, although Rinat Akhmetov’s media showed support for it, and other large holdings at least gave the floor to Yulia Tymoshenko and her colleagues on the talk shows and mentioned them in the news. The Fatherland party’s achievements in the election did not arise enthusiasm among party speakers, and the opposition-pro-government uncertainty of the party’s rhetoric – the Fatherland party criticizes some actions of Zelenskyi and the People’s Servant party and situationally defends other ones, offering own comprehensive solutions, which the government has traditionally ignored – has made it the least expressive part of the political spectrum during the election campaign.
The Opposition Platform – For Life party’s media surprisingly reacted passively to the election results – little has changed here: the rhetoric, the set of pro-Russian messages, and the personalities remained unchanged. For example, in the Ukrainskyi Format [Ukrainian format] on the NewsOne channel, the quarrels of the representatives of the single-party majority in social networks and chats were ridiculed, and presented as a sign of the decay of the presidential party. They also promoted Viktor Medvedchuk, who opposes the “rewriting of history,” and stated the “nationalization of society,” which is opposed by no one but the Opposition Platform – For Life party. Obviously, if the Opposition Platform – For Life party’s media intend to change their rhetoric, it will happen after the second round of mayoral elections, in which a number of candidates from this party will take part. As early as Sunday evening, the topic of election violations was dominating on Inter (80 criminal proceedings, 5,000 allegations of violations and other impressive figures), and NewsOne spoke of rigging as a sign of despair by the authorities. However, in the following days the topic somehow subsided by itself. On the third day after the election, Yuriy Boyko on Inter was not blaming, but quietly complaining about the excessive number of ballots and the complexity of the electoral system, accusing the authorities.
In public speeches on television, representatives of the Opposition Platform – For Life presented the election results as a victory of the Opposition Platform – For Life over the People’s Servant party. Another interesting touch: In election marathons and post-election talk shows on the Opposition Platform – For Life party’s channels repeatedly mentioned the successes of the Shariy’s Party in several local councils, interpreting them as a “sentence to Zelenskyi.” (At the same time, the pro-Ukrainian segment of Facebook sprinkled ashes on the head for the same reason – so to say, how did it happen that Shariy gets representation in the councils?)
Disproportionately little attention was paid in the media to the main reality of this election, the triumph of regional political projects, which turned out to be even more total than sociologists had predicted. We are talking about the transformation of once all-Ukrainian parties into local ones (UDAR – Kyiv, Samopomich – Lviv, Svoboda – Ivano-Frankivsk and Ternopil), and the emergence of new projects that have a chance to form a majority in the local councils of Mariupol, Chernihiv, Zaporizhzhia, Kharkiv, Dnipro, Zakarpattia, Rivne, Vinnytsia and many other regions. It can be stated that contrary to the idea of developing national parties at the grassroots level, which was the basis of the proportional system for local elections, in Ukraine, regional parties united around local elites, rather than all-Ukrainian popular brands emerged. And if one can intuitively guess about the Kernes Bloc, the situation, for example, in Chernivtsi, where two local political forces took first places in the City Council, is hardly clear to anyone outside the region. Journalists should focus on finding out and explaining to their audience what political forces they are, who influences them, how their relationship with the central government is likely to develop (most “mayoral” parties are at least in moderate opposition to Zelenskyi), and what further development of the tendency to regionalization of Ukrainian politics may be. This was mentioned a little – but mostly by guest politicians but not experts – during election marathons. There were also some stories in the news, in particular on 1+1, where Anatoliy Bondarenko was portrayed as the winner of the election, although the candidate from the For the Future party will still have to compete in the second round. However, this was more about personalities than about the newly created political forces.
Brief results of coverage of the entire 2020 election campaign
The election campaign started rather late – at the end of August we watched relatively clean news and calm talk shows – so the campaigning and pre-election polemic was relatively short and quite concentrated. This period coincided with a period of rapid growth in the number of patients with coronavirus disease, which contributed to the neuroticism of society, dissuaded a significant part of voters from voting and gave some politicians a reason for publicity.
News by central television channels played a smaller role than in the last parliamentary and presidential elections. The “PR digest” format, previously common to all major nation-wide channels, actually appeared before the election only on Inter. The number of materials with signs of advertorial has increased compared to “peaceful” times, but not as much as during last year’s campaigns. We see this in the diagrams of the results of monitoring the news on central television channels (taking into account the prime time newscasts of Inter, 1+1, Ukraine, STB, ICTV, UA: Pershyi, 112 and Channel 5):
This growth started late and concerned mainly “parties’ ” television channels – Inter, Channel 5 and 112, while the number of dubious materials on Pinchuk’s and Akhmetov’s channels grew more slowly or almost imperceptibly. The public broadcaster remained clean of pre-election PR in the news.
It can also be noted that massive PR on some television channels did not bring the expected results – in particular, Oleh Liashko, who was advertised daily on Rinat Akhmetov’s channels, and Andriy Palchevskyi, whose “victory” was prepared by Medvedchuk’s television channels for almost two years.
Promoting only or almost only “one’s own” is a characteristic trend for this election campaign. 1+1 focused on the PR of the For the Future party, Channel 5 on the European Solidarity party, Inter and Medvedchuk’s television channels on the Opposition Platform – For Life party, and Ukraine channel put a lot of effort into the PR of Oleh Liashko . The PR of other political forces and candidates on these channels was either completely absent or sporadic, such as the hidden agitation for Vitaliy Klychko on Inter in the last weeks before the election.
A boycott of certain political forces or extremely infrequent mentions of them in the news and talk shows of central television channels is another typical phenomenon that became obvious during the 2019 elections. The Opposition Platform – For Life party suffered the most from such a boycott. Ukraine channel and TV channels belonging to Pinchuk’s holding did not mention the existence of such a political force at all (except for Savik Shuster’s talk show, where the Opposition Platform – For Life party representatives are traditionally invited), and 1+1 mentioned it extremely rarely and mostly in a negative context. The Opposition Platform – For Life party had to compensate for this by using its own media resources extremely intensively to promote the party and its individuals. Moreover, the central television channels almost never mentioned the Shariy’s Party (except for the Public broadcaster) during the campaign period. There was no mention of this party even in the news of Medvedchuk’s channels, although Anatoliy Shariy regularly appeared on these channels with pro-Russian messages.
The People’s Servant had a losing position in the media space: in fact, the only source of positive PR for the party was President Zelenskyi, while its candidates and program promises were rarely mentioned in the national media. In all discussions on television, the “servants” had to defend themselves, criticized by both the pro-Russian and pro-European opposition, and by representatives of Kolomoiskyi’s For the Future party and local political projects. In addition, representatives of the People’s Servant party and the President’s Office made a number of scandalous statements and decisions, that led to well-founded criticism. Authorities were forced to justify, revoke, or explain their own decisions, which apparently damaged the party’s image. The only successful maneuver was the president’s poll, which imposed a topic for discussion in the last weeks of the campaign.
The European Solidarity party conducted a rather aggressive campaign, which was marked by an increase in PR on channels from Poroshenko’s pool, and devastating criticism of the authorities in general and President Zelenskyi in particular. The weak point of the European Solidarity party’s media strategy was the election in Kyiv, where the party supported incumbent mayor Vitaliy Klychko without receiving responsive support. Unlike the Opposition Platform – For Life party, which was boycotted by half of the large television holdings, the European Solidarity party was present in the news and talk shows of almost all central television channels.
The system of spreading pro-Russian propaganda in the Ukrainian media space has finally been formed, and the main role in it is played by the media resource of the Opposition Platform – For Life party. At the same time, the television channels of Medvedchuk’s group play a triple important role in this process: they distribute pro-Russian messages themselves, provide “raw materials” for the party’s press service, and produce content for distribution in regional media and social networks. These media were united not just by a common agenda, but by literally the same rhetoric. Less important in this process is the Inter television channel; there is also a galaxy of media outlets associated with Yanukovych’s circles in exile – Strana, Vesti, Echo of Kyiv, Klimenko Time and other resources. Their information activity and the content of their messages are somewhat different from the ones by resources of the Opposition Platform – For Life party, but with the approach of the elections, the promotion of this party and especially of Viktor Medvedchuk on these resources became more active. Read more about this soon in the results of monitoring of (pro)Russian disinformation narratives.
Manipulation of the results of sociological surveys on central television channels was sporadic and mainly focused on “party’s” channels. We recorded the most such cases on the Inter channel. Here, results of dubious polls conducted by a structure affiliated with the Nova Ukraina institute belonging to Serhiy Lyovochkin one of the leaders of the Opposition Platform – For Life party were used. All reports using these results stated the leadership of the Opposition Platform – For Life party in the rankings, including in the Donetsk region, where no general regional elections were held, so the announcement of such results was a pure manipulation. The media from Petro Poroshenko’s pool used the results of polls conducted by Socis, a company owned by the European Solidarity party’s political technologist Ihor Hryniv. At the same time, most of the results of opinion polls conducted by reputable companies were either not covered at all (the Public broadcaster explained that they refrain from announcing these results because no company names their clients ordering them), or were occasionally covered selectively without mentioning specific political forces, candidates and percentages. It can be stated that television – the most popular type of media in Ukraine – did not give its viewers full access to the results of pre-election polls. Not to mention ordering own polls, which is the norm for large media in many countries, but for some reason is not practiced in Ukraine.
The central media failed to fully cover the election results due to a complicated electoral system, long-lasting counting, and absence of a centralized resource where numbers could be seen during the counting process. Discussions about exit poll results, parallel counts, and interim results often only misinformed and disoriented the audience. And the real results of the election began to appear when other topics dominated in the media space.
The media came to their senses late and began to explain the peculiarities of the election – the system, the organization of voting and the special regime of participation in elections for patients with coronavirus disease. Such material appeared on central television channels mainly in the last two weeks before the election day. In addition, the audiences of most media were not explained the importance of the first elections to the councils of the newly formed United Territorial Communities and enlarged districts. Sociologists have found out the reasons for the non-participation of two thirds of Ukrainians in the elections, and there is no unskillful work of the media among them of course, but the lack of motivation, information about the candidates and understanding of the importance of local elections is, at least in part, due to unsatisfactory media performance.
The media did not cover sufficiently the changes on the political map of Ukraine: noting the victory or success of the incumbent mayors of large cities, they did not focus on did not pay enough attention to the triumph of regional political forces in most regional centers. Among the central television channels, only Public broadcaster did not cover the pre-election situation in the largest Ukrainian cities. While the access of candidates from the regions to the news and talk shows of the central commercial channels was sporadic and gives grounds to speak of a biased and selective approach, probably related to the interests of the owners of the channels. In particular, the mayor and candidate for mayor of Dnipro Borys Filatov appeared on ICTV and STB relatively more often, and in the last week before the election it was the mayor and candidate for mayor of Lviv Andriy Sadovyi. Inter promoted candidates for mayors of Odesa, Mykolayiv and several cities of Donetsk region from the Opposition Platform – For Life party, and 1+1 did it for representatives of the For the Future party, Ukraine for candidates from the Opposition Bloc party to local councils of Donetsk region and Dmytro Shevchyk the candidate from the People’s Servant party and top manager of Rinat Akhmetov’s enterprise in Kryvyi Rih. At the same time, it is safe to say that balanced coverage of the elections in these cities and regions was not the goal of these media. Among commercial channels, only ICTV made such an attempt, but limited itself to a few regional centers.
Allegations of mass violations and rigging, which began long before the election day, became an instrument of the election campaign. Already on the third or fourth day after the voting, the topic of election violations among the central TV channels was of interest only to the Public broadcaster; also some mentions of “vote theft” were allowed by the media, which support the participants of the second round of mayoral elections, in particular by Inter and 1+1 channels. However, the sudden change in the rhetoric of the Opposition Platform – For Life party’s media from the proclamation of “the dirtiest election in the history of Ukraine” to soft complaints about certain rigging indicates that such statements are not based on real facts and do not reflect the real scale of the problem.
Read more about the election and their coverage in the media in the Detector Media Elections and the media project.
This material was prepared by Otar Dovzhenko, Yaroslav Zubchenko, Zoya Krasovska and Oleksandr Krumin.