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Friday, 02 November 2018 11:47

A MUST-WIN FOR DEMOCRACY IN UKRAINE: RIGHT TO VOTE OF REFUGEES FROM RUSSIA'S INVASION

Michael MacKay, Radio Lemberg, 02.11.2018  
 
One and a half million Ukrainians have been made refugees in their own country by the invasion from the Russian Federation. Putin’s War has made these Europeans “Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs)”. Deprived of their homes and jobs by Russian aggression, Ukrainian citizens who are IDPs must not be deprived of their right to vote by the Ukrainian government.
 
In presidential and parliamentary elections which are to take place in Ukraine in 2019, Ukrainian citizens who are normally residents of now-Russian-occupied Crimea or Donbas must be granted the right to vote, no matter where they live now. Anything less than an unrestricted democratic franchise for IDPs would create two classes of Ukrainian citizenship, and that is completely unacceptable for a Ukraine that aspires to take its place at the heart of the European and the Western civilized world.
 
German Chancellor Angela Merkel is on a working visit to Kyiv. On November 1, she spoke to students of the Kyiv National Taras Shevchenko University. Answering a question about part of the territories of Donbas which temporarily are beyond the effective control of the Ukrainian authorities, Chancellor Merkel said: “Of course, all the parties must take part in those elections, and internally displaced persons must be given an opportunity to take part in the vote. Even those who no longer live there and have left.”
 
The Ukrainian Canadian Congress (UCC) prepared a briefing note for Canadian Members of Parliament to encourage the deployment of a large bilateral election observation mission from Canada to Ukraine in 2019. Canada sent substantial numbers of observers to Ukrainian elections in 2004, 2010, 2012, and 2014, and the UCC urges the Government of Canada to do it again next year. In particular, the UCC recommends that Canada provide expertise and support to ensure that IDPs vote.
 
Ensuring the right to vote while Ukraine is subject to violent, destructive Russian aggression is essential for the survival of the Ukrainians as a free, independent, and united nation. The UCC recommends the Government of Canada “explore opportunities to provide support to the Government of Ukraine and relevant election administration bodies to ensure the effective access of the right to vote of over 1.5 million Internally Displaced Persons.”
 
The Central Election Commission of Ukraine must make every effort to conduct presidential and parliamentary elections throughout Ukraine, including Russian-occupied Crimea and Donbas. Given that the Russian Federation’s invasion-occupation army is unlikely to be ousted before 2019, Ukrainian elections won’t be conducted in Crimea and in part of Donbas. The Putin regime is at war with the Ukrainian people partly to crush their democratic aspirations and human rights.
 
The Russian Federation invaded Ukraine on 20 February 2014, stopping the participation of Ukrainian citizens who reside in Crimea and in the south-eastern part of Donbas from voting in the presidential elections of 25 May 2014 and the parliamentary elections of 26 October 2014. Putin has never fought a free and fair election in his life, and he will never allow genuine democracy to survive anyplace that falls under his dictatorial rule. Denial of the right to vote by the foreign occupation regime must not be allowed to happen again in 2019 – don’t give Putin another victory.
 
It isn’t the fault of Ukrainian citizens who are Internally Displaced Persons that they are not present in the place where they are legally registered to vote. They have been made refugees inside their own country by the foreign aggressor from Muscovy. They have been made homeless and jobless by the evil Putin regime. Ukrainian citizens who are IDPs should not also suffer as a result of the Ukrainian government denying them the right to vote. The Ukrainian government has a duty either to defeat the Russian invaders and liberate all Ukrainian territory before the elections, or to guarantee the right to vote for IDPs wherever they happen to be. It cannot do neither.
 
When all Ukrainian citizens vote, including those normally resident in Crimea and Donbas, democracy wins and Putin loses.
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