Despite there is too little time to complete a comprehensive electoral reform and change the rules of play before a number of election campaigns, experts forecast the victory to pro-European political parties in Ukraine. This was discussed on a yearly conference “Kyiv Dialog” in Berlin on October 16.

According to journalist Serhii Rakhmanin from “Dzerkalo Tyzhnia”, 2019 election campaigns will be fundamentally different from the previous ones, because the parliamentary campaign will be decisive.

“2019 will show how determined is Ukraine’s way towards Euro-Atlantic integration. The situation is the following:  any conditionally or openly pro-Russian candidate is not able to become the President of Ukraine. The best possible result is entering the second round. However, there is 90% certainty that the next president will not be openly focused on Russia. Russia understands it very well and, therefore, will invest money and influence (organizational, financial and media) in the parliamentary campaign,” – Mr. Rakhmanin said.

Deputy Head of the Central Election Commission Yevhen Radchenko raised the issue of electoral system. According to him, such things as voter bribery and illegal campaigning are easier under the law on parliamentary elections, which contains a majoritarian component with small districts.

“Will there be a new law? I sincerely doubt it, but I am cautious optimist for now. I have doubts because the working group, which considers amendments to the Election Code is not really active not, unfortunately. […] What will happen with the Parliament, if it is elected under the old electoral system? Nothing will happen. We will get almost the same membership we have now, with the same approach to decision-making and agenda for Ukraine. We will face a stagnation,” – Mr. Radchenko said.

According to Head of the Board of Civil Network OPORA Olha Aivazovska, adoption of the Election Code is not a complete solution. “Electoral reform or open lists is not everything Ukrainians expect from changing the rules of election. It is quite infantile to think that adoption of a single law will change the situation. There is a great law, namely the Bible, which says “You shall not murder” and “You shall not steal”, but each state chose to specify the rules and procedures. It would be immature to expect that adoption of the Election Code will change the rules of election in Ukraine once and for all,” – she stated.

Besides that, representative of the OPORA told about low efficiency of the Working Group on Election Code. “Unfortunately, in contrast to many representatives of Ukrainian non-governmental sector, we participate in every meeting of this working group. It has been considering almost 4400 amendments to a document on 800 pages comprising three electoral laws and two laws regulating activities of the Central Election Commission and the State Register of Voters. Although non-governmental organizations advocated for the creation of such group almost a year ago, it was created only in spring last year. Thus, it has managed to consider 49% of amendments over this time,” – Ms. Aivazovska said.

The expert had also reminded that there is little time left until the election starts. The official presidential election campaign starts on 31 December 2018, and the following parliamentary elections will be held on the last Sunday of October 2019. “According to the Code of Good Practice in Electoral Matters, it is not recommended to change the rules in a year before the election, particularly the election system, territorial organization and formation of election commissions. This is the answer to a question which arguments political elites will use to answer if it is reasonable or not, if there is still a time to change the election system. Of course no, because the time has been lost, as well as the opportunity. Thus, it is vitally important to amend the legislation to guarantee the certainty of punishment for electoral crimes, and protect voting rights of IDPs and other mobile groups of Ukrainian citizens,” – Olha Aivazovska summarized.

Member of European Parliament Rebecca Harms, who represents Germany, said that EU and Monetary Fund made little put pressure upon Ukraine concerning electoral reform.

“The success in anti-corruption efforts became a reality thanks to the pressure from EU, MF, and civil society. However, we made little efforts towards reforming of election law. EU should demonstrate its pressure in this regard, too. Thus, we should put our Ukrainian partners, the Rada and the Government, under pressure in the nearest future. We should make the pressure strong enough to realize this reform in time, I mean before parliamentary elections,” – Rebecca Harms said.

She had also supported the opinion of previous speakers saying that pro-European, but not pro-Russian forces are going to win Ukrainian elections.

DGAP's (German Council on Foreign Relations) expert on Ukraine Wilfried Jilge told about political elites in the regions.

“Money is flowing now to target cities in eastern and southern regions. However, the parties in power there are the same, because the forms of political culture are the same. Political elites at local level have not changed, the legal state is partially absent at sites. The citizens are not involved, and do not care. Thus, the powers are not widened and citizens do not get involved in oversight of regional governments,” - he said.

Wilfried Jilge also stated that European partners should not only make some pressure, but also assist Ukraine in introducing of transparent changes.

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