Electoral slaves
How Ukrainian politicians use the prisoners
Imagine the elections with over 90% turnout. And everyone is humble, fearing the punishment. And everyone votes for the same candidate or party. It's not a dystopian fiction. It's how the voting process happens in Ukrainian prisons.
- "Animals do not vote, – we decide for them," — that's how they treated us. Those, who called themselves "the people", in contrast to the prisoners, were serving the officials in Kyiv in hope for the benefits," — says Pavlo Panych, former prisoner of the Kharkiv Colony #25. He participated in 2002 and 2004 elections while being in prison.

Civil Network OPORA has analyzed the voting results in prisons for parliamentary and presidential elections held in 2010-2014. It was revealed that the voter turnout in prisons was extremely high, and the results were unanimous.
Animals do not vote, – we decide for them," — that's how they treated us. Those, who called themselves "the people", in contrast to the prisoners, were serving the officials in Kyiv in hope for the benefits.
Pavlo Panych, former prisoner of the Kharkiv Colony #25
The facts in numbers
Different types of prisons, — pretrial detention centers, educative and penal colonies etc., — have around 150 election precincts for an election. Each oblast has at least one prison. The majority of prisons are concentrated in Dnipropetrovsk, Kharkiv and Zaporizhia oblasts.

OPORA has analyzed how the imprisoned voted in four election campaigns: 2010 and 2014 presidential elections, and 2012 and 2014 parliamentary elections.

It turned out that over 90% of prisoners voted in each election. Such activeness is quite different from an average national turnout in Ukraine reaching around 50-70% in these four campaigns.
Besides that, the unanimity of voters is striking: most of the prisoners voted for the same candidate or party.

You may see infographics displaying the percentage of such polling stations, and how the situation had changed in different campaigns.
The majority of prisoners voted for the Party of Regions in 2012 parliamentary elections. Two polling stations, where the UDAR party had won, were rather an exception.

However, the situation has changed on 2014 parliamentary elections. Only 44% of polling stations almost unanimously gave their votes to the certain political party.

However, there were some such parties in 2014. Here are some examples:
Petro Poroshenko Bloc had gained over 80 percent of votes at nineteen precincts
— у 43 of 44 votes in Prylutska Juvenile Detention Centre (Chernihiv oblast) were given for the People's Front
— 18 of 22 votes in Melitopolska Juvenile Detention Centre (Zaporizhia oblast) were given for the People's Front. It's 90% of the total number.
— 38 of 40 votes in Kovelska Juvenile Detention Centre (Volyn oblast) voted for the Peoples Front (95%)
As you can see from the data, the parties in power receive more votes in prisons. Thus, over 52% of prisoners supported the leader of Batkivshchyna Yuliia Tymoshenko in both rounds of 2010 presidential elections. She was holding the position of prime-minister at the time. However, the influence of a candidate and his/her party had also played a significant role. For example, Viktor Yanukovych gained the majority of votes at 24 colonies, while he had not been in power yet. Most of these prisons were located in Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts.

There were 62 precincts in 2010 presidential elections, where the majority of prisoners gave their votes for Yuliia Tymoshenko; and 24 precincts, where 50 and more percent of votes were given for Yanukovych.
In 2012, when the Party of Regions was in power, it received 67% of votes in prisons during parliamentary elections.

On the eve of 2014 presidential elections, the power vertical hadn't been functioning. Thus, 50% of prisoners voted for Yuliia Tymoshenko. Over 30% of votes were given for Petro Poroshenko. These two candidates were major competitors for the votes in prisons, — all the others received no more than 4% of votes.

In 2014, Petro Poroshenko Bloc received the majority of votes in parliamentary elections (40.3%). We may assume that the power vertical had started working again, based on the analysis findings, showing the correlation between results. "If the majority of votes in the certain prison was given for the Petro Poroshenko Bloc, the votes for the People's Front decreased, and vice versa. However, there is no such dependence between the Batkivshchyna and the People's Front," — affirm OPORA's analysts.

It's interesting that the precincts, which supported Yuliia Tymoshenko in presidential election, didn't vote for her party in parliamentary elections.

Here are some examples:
Synelnykivska Penal Colony #94, Dnipropetrovsk oblast:
  • in 2014 presidential election: 1259 voters, 234 votes for Petro Poroshenko, 743 for Yuliia Tymoshenko.
  • in 2014 parliamentary election: 885 voters, 746 for Petro Poroshenko Bloc, 27 for Batkivshchyna.
Kharkivska Penal Colony #43, Kharkiv oblast:
  • in 2014 presidential election: 1065 voters, 167 votes for Petro Poroshenko, 777 for Yuliia Tymoshenko;
  • in 2014 parliamentary election: 885 voters, 747 for Petro Poroshenko Bloc, 28 for Batkivshchyna.
Solonianska Penal Colony #21, Dnipropetrovsk oblast:
  • in 2014 presidential election: 1410 voters, 220 votes for Petro Poroshenko, 902 for Yuliia Tymoshenko;
  • in 2014 parliamentary election: 1206 voters, 719 for Petro Poroshenko Bloc, 144 for Batkivshchyna.
Red and black stories
The people who had to deal with elections in prisons tell that the colonies are unofficially divided into red and black. In red colonies, the prisoners are totally dependent on the administration (a warden and superintendents). The administration controls the voting process and can influence it. The majority of such colonies are locate in big cities, mainly in eastern Ukraine.

In black colonies, according to former convicts, the voting process is not that unanimous. The administration doesn't have a strong influence to force morally or physically to vote. These stories echo OPORA's data, showing that there are prisons (less than 40%), where the voters vote for different candidates.
....assistants stood next to the prisoners giving their votes, watched and wrote down who voted for whom.
Human rights activist Ruslan Yaremenko was imprisoned in Oleksiivska Correctional Colony #25 in Kharkiv. It was 2014 parliamentary election when the man was in prison. He says that the colony's administration ordered the prisoners on the eve of election to vote for a representative of Petro Poroshenko Bloc.

I was one of those, who refused to obey, — tells Yaremenko. — Administration assistants stood next to the prisoners giving their votes, watched and wrote down who voted for whom. Such assistants were also prisoners, the "hands of administration". Those who voted not the way they were told to, were placed in solitary confinement cells, and one was even humiliated (raped).

One of the prisoners was beaten when he refused to vote. Two days after the election, the man hanged himself in the industrial area.

Besides that, employees of the colony were bribed, — added Yaremenko. — They counted whose shift was going to be on the election day and added 200-300 UAH to the salary.

...loud would end up in the punishment cell, beaten up for 15 days
Pavlo Panych, who voted in this colony in 2002 and 2004, tells similar stories:

— Anyone who had different opinion and said it out loud would end up in the punishment cell, beaten up for 15 days. We called it "the storm" (ranging from physical violence to psychotropic injections, – author), which happened three times a day. In 2004, almost everyone in punishment cells was beaten up. Everyone, who was not going to vote for Viktor Yanukovych, was beaten up in advance. I was in a punishment cell of the 25th colony myself. I saw in 2004 how a prisoner, who told he doesn't see where to put a mark in a ballot without his glasses, voted with a colony's employee present. There was also an operative officer in each cabin, who saw each given ballot. Everyone who refused to vote was tortured."

Head of the unit was standing next to the cabin and we showed for whom we had voted
On the moment of publication of this text, the interviewed Andrii Poiasnyk had died of tuberculosis. In 2012 parliamentary elections, Andrii voted in Drohobytska Penal Colony #40.

— We were told to vote for the Party of Regions, — told Andrii. — Head of the unit was standing next to the cabin and we showed for whom we had voted."

However, according to Andrii, those who voted not the way they were told to, were not punished.

Another former prisoner, who asked to remain anonymous, voted in May 2014 on presidential elections in Lukianivskyi Investigation Isolator (Kyiv).

Nobody told us for whom to vote, — he told. — I don't remember, before or after the election day, but we received Roshen candies. The voting went quietly: polling booths were placed in the office of operative commissioner. We took ballots, went behind a curtain, voted and went out. There was no pressure and nobody checked anything.

The results at this election precinct are in line with the story of the former prisoner. 2098 voters, turnout 96%, the majority of votes were given for Petro Poroshenko (667) and Yuliia Tymoshenko (689).
Костянтин Ходаковський розповідає, що президентські вибори 2014 року були єдиними, де його не закрили в карцер і не говорили, за кого голосувати
According to the former prisoner Konstiantyn Khodakovskayi, who served the sentence in Starobabanivska Correctional Colony #92 (Cherkasy oblast), 2014 presidential elections were the first elections, when no one was closed in a punishment cell or told for whom to vote.

The Party of Regions usually gave the prisoners 500 gram of tea and 5 packets of cigarettes, and the administration ordered to vote for Yanukovych and Co. If only you could see the colony's administration, when nobody called from Kyiv in 2014.
How the politics sneaks into the jails
Ruslan Yaremenko visits prisons in Kharkiv oblast to watch over the fulfillment of the rights of prisoners. He told us how politicians influence on the election process in prisons. In some prisons, entrepreneurs order the goods that prisoners make. At the same time, businessmen have ties with representatives of political elites:
A party communicates with prisoners through an entrepreneur, promising them remuneration (cigarettes etc.), and some money to a warden, — said Ruslan.
Analyst of Civil Network OPORA Oleksandr Kliuzhev has been observing elections since 2004. He told that administration at colonies may put prisoners under the pressure even without the corresponding order from higher authorities, fearing to loose the position.

Besides that, higher officials of the penitentiary system, heads of oblast state administrations etc., may also have the influence upon the administrations, says the Analyst. They give the prisons the certain tasks and colonies have to implement the "plan".

Another example, says Mr. Kliuzhev, is when a candidate personally has contacts in prisons, and can arrange cooperation.
Benefits from the pressure upon prisoners
Voting in prisons is only a small part of one big result, gained through the administrative resource
According to OPORA's data, the turnout in prisons comprised 0.37% of the total number of voters in 2014 parliamentary elections. It seems to be too small gain to risk the reputation or violate the law. However, according to Oleksandr Kliuzhev, the prisons are rivets in a machine.

— Voting in prisons is only a small part of one big result, gained through the administrative resource, – he said.

When we talk about parliamentary elections in single-member districts, the votes of prisoners may become decisive. There were two such examples from 2012 parliamentary elections, according to the analysis findings. There are more examples, in fact, but the results of some districts were considered void due to the vote rigging on a massive scale.

What to do
In 2017-2010, Oleksii Tsymbaliuk had been working at an enterprise, which rented the premises and hired the prisoners on the territory of Kotsiubynska Colony. He says he saw how the presidential elections were organized there.
– If you want to bribe an granny, you give her a pack of buckwheat. If you want to bribe a prisoner, a promise in enough. You promise a pre-term release to one prisoner, and a reference to another. Finally, sometimes all you need to promise is to leave them alone, – says Oleksii. – A prisoner doesn't care for whom to vote, in such situation.
Oleksandr Kliuzhev believes the problem can be countered by improvement of the legislation and drawing attention of the public to the election process in prisons. As soon as political parties and candidates understand that such unanimous results cause more harm than good to their reputation, this problem will disappear.
Pavlo Lysianskyi, the Head of Eastern Human Rights Group, believes a campaigning in prisons and awareness programs covering electoral rights could become a solution.

The prisoners sometimes don't know that status quo is not okay, and it's possible to vote how you wont, not how you've been told to.
Text — Maryna Vereshchaka, Nataliia Shymkiv
Data analysis — Robert Lorian, Civil Network OPORA
Illustrations — Tetiana Kabakova

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