Ukrainian 'vacation' for Cayman resident

Jacqueline Carpenter will help monitor local elections in Ukraine

Perhaps Jacqueline Carpenter has just seen too much sun, sea and sand since arriving here in November. 

The American-born Cayman Islands resident began a three-week “vacation” Thursday taking her to Ukraine, which boasted a high of 36 degrees Fahrenheit (2 degrees Celsius) that day.  

During her stay in the “breadbasket” of the former Soviet Union, she will be one of dozens of international representatives monitoring what are likely to be tumultuous and confusing local elections as central and western Ukraine struggle to find their footing after a break with their eastern countrymen last year. 

Euromaidan Revolution 

The Ukrainian revolution occurred in early 2014 and resulted in the ouster of the country’s pro-Russian former President Victor Yanukovych. The event, sometimes called the Euromaidan Revolution, occurred after several shooting incidents in Kiev, the capital city, which led to clashes between groups of protesters and Ukrainian police forces. 

Following Yanukovych’s removal from power, presidential elections and, later on, parliamentary elections were held in 2014. This latest round of elections, set for Oct. 25, will be for local village, district council and mayors’ races across most of Ukraine.  

Eastern Ukrainian rebel separatists are seeking to host their own elections later this year, which are not being recognized by international organizations. 

So much for fun in the sun. For Ms. Carpenter, a public relations professional who speaks Russian, this is an important trip and not a vacation at all. 

“While [former Soviet Union countries] are nominally independent, they still have some very real connectivity to Russia that impacts how they deal with Russia politically,” Ms. Carpenter said. “Russian is still the language of business, the language of money in the region. The Ukrainians are still struggling to establish their own national identity.” 

Election observer 

Prior to moving to Cayman, Ms. Carpenter worked with the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), a non-governmental organization representing 57 member states, including the U.S. and Russia. She has done both field work and statistical analysis for a number of election observation missions around the former Soviet socialist republics. 

“I was in Azerbaijan from 2009-2011, Moldova in 2011 until 2014. Last year, I was in two missions to Ukraine after the hostilities started,” she said, adding that she did election observation work in both the Ukrainian presidential and parliamentary elections in 2014. “These places require Russian language skills … not a lot of Americans have that.” 

The election observer group for the Oct. 25 local government elections is made up mostly of Europeans, but Ms. Carpenter’s former experience in the region made her a logical choice for this trip. 

She expects this visit to Kiev will be somewhat less uproarious than last year’s work with the OSCE in Ukraine in that she will mainly be attending meetings and compiling data from OSCE teams working in the villages and districts. Her specific area of expertise is in analyzing reports on the protection – or lack thereof – for minority rights during elections within the voting booths and for any candidates participating. 

However, the voting process could end up being quite complex, with three different types of democratic election methods being used to determine the fate of settlement/village (first past the post), district/regional (proportional representation) and mayoral votes (simple majority – 50 percent plus one). 

“People are going to be handed four ballots when they go to vote,” Ms. Carpenter said. “The perception is that it’s going to be a very complex elections process and that the election commissions are not prepared. I guess we’ll see how they do. 

“I think it’s important to look at these countries not as places of hot spots of confusion and violence. These countries are struggling on the path toward independence and self-realization. These issues that they’re dealing with are very big issues, national identity, trying to build an economy.” 

Jacqueline Carpenter
Jacqueline Carpenter on the Maidan Nezalezhnosti (Independence Square) in Kiev, Ukraine, last spring before the presidential election. The yellow and blue flag in the background says ‘One Ukraine’ in both Ukrainian and Russian.