IN less than a week, Mississauga’s Aaron Joshua Pinto will fan out across Ukraine along with hundreds of Canadian election observers to monitor the integrity of the embattled country’s early Verkhovna Rada parliamentary elections.
Pinto has been selected through CANADEM, commissioned by the federal government, to join the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (OSCE/ODIHR) Election Observation Mission (EOM) in Ukraine.
The EOM supports transparency and democracy by undertaking electoral analysis and stakeholder engagement. Pinto and other observers will be there to monitor the election process and by their presence, encourage a fair and democratic election.
In early September, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine invited the OSCE/ODIHR to observe the early parliamentary elections scheduled for 26 October 2014.
Canada, an OSCE participating State, is sending 90 short-term observers (STOs), including Aaron, to observe voting, counting and the tabulation of results for two weeks. There will be 60 long-time observers (LTOs) joining the OSCE/ODIHR EOM, as well as 12 Canadian parliamentarians who will join the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly Election Observation Mission delegation.
International Election Observers are deployed throughout the country in multinational teams of two to assess the close of the campaign, voting, counting and tabulation of results. Observers are strictly impartial and they work to bring irregularities to the attention of election officials and the Central Election Commission of Ukraine.
Upon arriving in the capital Kyiv on October 21st, Aaron will attend a pre-election briefing. The briefing will cover all parts of the election process, as well as logistical and security information Specific topics include: general information, country-specific information, findings so far (interim reports), political background including parties and candidates, election and legal aspects of the process, media landscape, info regarding the political participation of women and national minorities (i.e. Roma and Sinti), election day procedures and reporting, code of conduct, security situation, and logistical information, including deployment.
After a day and a half of briefings, Aaron will be deployed to his Area of Observation in Ukraine and will have a chance to attend a regional debriefing and familiarize himself with the assigned observation region and polls before Election Day.
OSCE observers will be present in all ‘oblasts’ or provinces in Ukraine, except Crimea, the strategic region on the Black Sea which Russia took over in March.
Election Day on October 26th will be a long day for Aaron. He will observe the opening, polling and closing of an average of 10 polling stations during the day. He will have to witness every aspect of the election process, from the formal unsealing of the ballot boxes to the demonstration that they are empty. He will also witness the tabulation process and the physical transportation of the ballots.
After Election Day, Aaron will travel back to Kyiv and attend a debriefing. This will provide an opportunity for him and other observers to discuss major findings and share conclusions with other observers and EOM members.
The EOM will hold a press conference on the day after the elections to present its preliminary findings and conclusions. A comprehensive final report will be issued by the OSCE/ODIHR approximately two months after the election process has been completed, taking into account Aaron’s findings as well as those of other observers.
The OSCE/ODIHR last observed the parliamentary elections in Ukraine in 2012 and the early presidential election in May 2014. This will be the eleventh OSCE/ODIHR election observation activity in Ukraine.
Aaron is a recent graduate of the Honours International Relations and French programme at Western University. He is currently the Co-Chair of the Mississauga City Youth Council, an international trade intern at the U.S. Consulate in Toronto and is Canada’s OSCE Youth Ambassador.
Aaron said: “I am very honoured to be selected as an International Election Observer. It is with pride that I have the opportunity to join fellow Canadians and others from the OSCE to play a role in fostering democratic principles of freedom and good governance at such a challenging time in Ukraine.
“Civic engagement and democracy are a passion of mine. I am excited to be putting my academic background in international relations and my experience volunteering, studying and working abroad to good use. Being a part of the Mission will provide an opportunity for me to learn as much as I can about electoral processes and observation.
“Many Ukrainians have been waiting for these upcoming elections since the Maidan protests. They believe the elections are a chance to restart the government and help President Poroshenko make systematic democratic reforms to propel the country forward.
“This is an important election for the people of Ukraine, and an important election for national and geopolitical stability. If there is going to be forward progress, then the October elections need to be viewed as legitimate by the people. This is why the work of the International Election Observation Mission is crucial. We are going as observers to make sure that the election that will be held is free and fair.”