Civil Network OPORA calls on the Committee for Organization of Public Administration to summon an additional meeting in order to eliminate critical shortcomings in the text of Electoral Code before its second review in the Parliament. The provisional voting for the document is planned in the Verkhovna Rada during the plenary week of December, 3 - 6.
The Committee of Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine for Organization of Public Administration, Local Self-Government, Regional Development and Urban Planning applied significant efforts to provide for inclusive discussions of proposals to the Electoral Code. However, the drafting of their final version took place without engaging members of the intersectoral working group. That is why the parliament needs finalize its position both on progressive innovations, and on highly risky proposals. Under these conditions, the Parliament of Ukraine shall firmly follow the requirements of the Regulations when considering the issue of Electoral Code and provide for full-fledged discussion of all the suggested changes by the MPs.
Civil Network OPORA calls on al parliamentary subjects to make use of the procedures and improve the text of the document. In particular, a parliamentary committee could conduct another meeting before the consideration of the Code by the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine. The objective of such meeting would be to discuss controversial provisions of the document, to take into account positions of deputy factions and groups, and the public; and to officially adopt the final version of the proposals to the Code. The steps of the committee will allow to provide for legality and inclusivity of the process of preparing the Electoral Code for the second review.
OPORA will insist on further immediate review of a series of provisions from the Electoral Code.
Approval of the Electoral Code is a long-term obligation of the Ukrainian parliament, also pertaining to the MPs newly elected in July, 2019. Social legitimacy of election reform can only be reached through consistent actions by legislators, fulfilment of political commitments in terms of providing for quality of procedures, and exercise of citizens’ voting rights. It is unacceptable to block the final adoption of the Code, or to aggravate certain provisions after the second review.
As to progressive approaches, for example, the final version of changes to the Code includes provisions to secure the voting rights to internally displaced persons, labour migrants, and other mobile groups of population. In addition, changes to the Code introduce the electronic format to obtain applications and other documents from voters and candidates by the CEC and the SRV. The changes provide for the establishment of expert groups at the CEC, obligating the Commission to take their decisions into account. It is the first time that we have a legal framework to control financial expenses of candidates and parties in social media, and interaction of the National Council for Television and Radio Broadcasting with global platforms. Changes to the Law of Ukraine “On Advertising” suggest the option to ban early campaigning by parties and potential candidates, while currently significant financial resources are uncontrollably spent therefor. OPORA supports such changes in the area of voting rights of citizens, accountability of election campaigns, and improved operations of election administration authorities.
Unfortunately, though, parliamentarians will also consider dubitable Code provisions in terms of their compliance with democratic standards of elections and the Constitution of Ukraine. Among such initiatives, OPORA lists the right of the CEC to reject candidates’ registration on the grounds of the letter from the SBU on their possible involvement into crime against the state or into terror crimes. In addition, granting powers to the CEC to resolve issues with their own decisions is not regulated by the Electoral Code. Besides, official observers, the same as before, will not be able to run a full-fledged observation over CEC operations or attend their meetings without its prior authorization. They also introduce working sessions of the Commission where observers, journalists, and other persons could only attend upon the Commission’s invitation. Moreover, the Code ignores remarks made by the President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyi on protecting voting rights of people with disabilities. There are no efficient guarantees for equal representation of two genders in election process. For instance, there are no sanctions stipulated for failing to follow gender quota by political parties when compiling their electoral lists at the parliamentary and local elections.
Therefore, Civil Network OPORA suggests a summarizing recommendation to the Committee of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine on Organization of Public Administration, Local Self-Government, Regional Development and Urban Planning – to conduct an additional session preceding the review of the Code at the plenary session. It will help eliminate critical shortcomings in the proposals to the Code drafted by the Committee, to duly take into account positions from the deputy factions and groups, and the public, as well as provide for compliance with the Regulations when approving the final version of the comparative table to the Electoral Code.
The full text of the statement of the Civil Network OPORA on approval of the Electoral Code based on the results of the second review can be found at the link: https://www.oporaua.org/en/statement/vybory/zayava_codeks
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