We have actively discussed yesterday the decision of VRU committee concerning the increased party influence of local self-government (in communities over 10,000 voters). Although this problem has many sides, the violations of international standards for fair and free elections did take place.
International documents, which guide professionals, experts, and MPs, are focused on a frame. Sticking to this frame allows to protect political rights and freedoms of citizens, equal opportunities for candidates, and proper election administration. The following documents are the most topical for European countries: the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights, OSCE Copenhagen Document, Venice Commission's Code of Good Practice in Electoral Matters. The latter explains in simple language common European principles in the field of elections, and conditions for adherence to these principles.
One of the most important conditions for already 18 years is the following: "The fundamental elements of electoral law, in particular the electoral system proper, membership of electoral commissions and the drawing of constituency boundaries, should not be open to amendment less than one year before an election, or should be written in the constitution or at a level higher than ordinary law." The requirement to write in the Constitution, or "superlaw", is about the basic guarantees of stable legislation before elections, when a good understanding of processes and procedures creates equal opportunities for the government/opposition, majority/minority, and systemic parliamentary/extra-parliamentary forces.
So, what is wrong with the yesterday's decision taken by the competent parliamentary committee on electoral matters?
The electoral system is being changed for the vast majority of communities only 4 months before the election day. When the system is changed, it's not a formality, it restricts citizen right on self-nomination in most of communities. Thus, this approach favors parties, which deliberately withdrew politically active but unaffiliated citizens from the election campaign. It is a form of political engineering that relies solely on political technology. The code was passed in July last year, and again in second reading in December after the President's veto. Such non-interference into the system has definitely facilitated the political certainty, for real, not formally.
I really don't like the phrase "rules of the game" when it comes to electoral law. Election is not a game, not a lottery, not a card game, a realization of human rights, an instrument for peaceful transfer of power. Unfortunately, if the parliamentary parties that made this decision had too low rating, we would see another change in the system - towards a majoritarian one with mainly self-nomination.
However, the problem is not only in nomination, but in a total control of national and oblast party cells over everythingwhat happens, from the approval of candidates to the commissions. There is not even a smell of democracy here, as well as of conditions for proper development of party cells.
The OSCE Copenhagen Document requires participating States to respect the right of citizens to hold political and public office in person or through political parties and organizations without discrimination. Sounds like an alternative, but not really, if we read further and pay attention to paragraph 7.6 "respect the right of individuals and groups to establish, in full freedom, their own political parties or other political organizations and provide such political parties and organizations with the necessary legal guarantees to enable them to COMPETE WITH EACH OTHER on a basis of equal treatment before the law and by the authorities." What is it about? It says thatparties should not have a monopoly on elections.
Thus, in my humble opinion, by lowering the system to 10,000 voters at all levels of communities, we violate the rights, freedoms and standards of free and fair elections.