Still No Public Discussion on Electoral Amendments

On 28 September the Civic Consortium of Electoral Initiatives held a press conference in Kyiv to consider whether the Working Group on Improving Electoral Legislation had taken into consideration the preliminary recommendations of the Venice Commission, OSCE and IFES.  It was attended by Olha Aivazovska from OPORA; Denis Kovryzhenko from the Laboratory of Legislative Initiatives; Svitlana Kononchuk from the Ukrainian Independent Political Research Centre and Oleksandr Chernenko from the Committee of Voters of Ukraine [CUV].


The participants noted that at the session of the Working Group on 27 September, a number of recommendations from the Venice Commission on particular procedural points were taken into account, however fundamental issues regarding the electoral system, the criteria and time limits for determining constituency boundaries, the rules of procedure for forming electoral commissions were not considered and no decisions were taken.


Olha Aivazovska, Head of the OPORA Board:


“Announcing broad expert discussion, the President took electoral reform beyond parliament, yet there has still been no discussion as such of the proposed majority-proportional system. This tendency undermines the legitimacy of the process and arouses distrust in its results. The official conclusions from the Venice Commission will not be available before the middle of October, so at the last meeting of the Working Group, the reassessment of the draft bill’s text was carried out hurriedly and on the basis of a “rough draft”. The Venice Commission experts have on a number of occasions stated that the final document will only be prepared after broad consultation in Ukraine.  Taking part in the [Working Group] meeting, I got the impression that positive statistics were being offered: a considerable percentage of technical and minor suggestions taken into account while the key issues were totally ignored”.


Oleksandr Chernenko, Head of the Committee of Voters of Ukraine


“The amendments made on 27 September by the Working Group to the technical draft law are of a cosmetic nature. The issue of the electoral system was again left out of the discussion, although the recommendations from the Venice Commission indicate the advisability of introducing a proportional system of open regional lists. In Ukraine there has not been public dialogue regarding the electoral system. They again want to foist a system which was discredited during the previous electoral campaigns”.


Denis Kovryzhenko, the Laboratory of Legislative Initiatives pointed out that the Working Group had not considered the report proposed by the International Foundation of Electoral Systems [IFES].

“The IFES Report is far broader than the Venice Commission opinion although similar issues are raised. At the meeting of the Working Group no specific problems which could distort the outcome of the elections were resolved, i.e. the criteria and time limits for determining constituency boundaries; the rules of procedure for forming electoral commissions; changes to the voter lists on Election Day; the impossibility of declaring the elections in a constituency invalid, as well as a number of other things which present scope for rigging of the electoral process”.


Svitlana Kononchuk, the Ukrainian Independent Political Research Centre


“It is highly likely that the suggestions and arguments presented by IFES and the final opinion from the Venice Commission will not be given consideration by the Working Group. Judging by yesterday’s meeting, the draft law will already have been prepared for the President’s approval and submitted to parliament.  Yet no progress in electoral legislation has been achieved. The draft law in part reflects a model of closed candidate lists, and partly creates a system of single-mandate constituencies which is susceptible to administrative control.”


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