Ukraine will have to search for its own solutions to organization and conduct of local elections in case of having them under the quarantine, to think up a number of measures intended to minimize the risks, but all of it will bump into finance which resources are largely limited today.

The opinions was expressed on Thursday, April, 16, by the head of Central Election Commission Oleh Didenko, during the live stream by OPORA as moderated by Olha Ayvazovska, chair of the board of the Civil Network OPORA.

According to him, changes to Electoral Code provide for the finance of primary activities to enforce the code, such as to modernize the “Elections” IAS, to unfold the network of regional offices, to improve the SVR. The new electoral system also provides for the increase of funds for local elections.

“Thus, according to our estimates, about 97 mln. was lacking, because the new electoral system provides for other type of funding. When the budget request was being filed and the funds were allocated in the amount of about UAH 2,1 bln., it was under the old law, and the amount, therefore, was different. As far as I understand, no funds will be provided for local elections since the finance has been cut, and the question is still open as to the law setting certain areas that shall be funded. The funds in the budget are not allocated for these areas. In this scenario, I am not able to undertake the responsibility to claim some things are more important than others. Central Election Commission cannot do it this way. The legislators will have to decide either to change the Electoral Code and allocate that certain budget entries shall change or shall be deleted, or to introduce amendments to the Law on State Budget and plan the finance for all the areas established by the Electoral Code,” says he.

Oleh Didenko also expressed his concern as to the possible reduction of the budget to cover salaries to election commission members and to the engaged staff, fearing whether the commissions are going to be stablished at all, and whether they are going to perform efficiently.

“As to changing the approaches to compilation of commissions, there is a question how to combine it with the finance. Talking about their formation by the resources of the authorities and local self-governments, one would immediately face the issue of administrative resources abuse. When the Central Election Commission used to submit proposals suggesting at least three persons on the DEC level, at least to have the management on the professional scale, on the basis of CEC territorial offices or units of Register keeping, it provoked the outcry of MPs and the civil society as they interpreted it as the risk of abuse of administrative resources. We would certainly wish to have the entire vertical of election commissions to be largely independent, and operate in line with professional principles. It all leads to the questions about central finance,” states the CEC head.

Oleh Didenko also revealed that the working group on implementation of the CEC regional offices has been established, the respective draft resolutions are under way. The documents will determine their functions. Specifically, there may be a need to suggest changes to the Law on Central Election Commission.

“We plan to establish them on the basis of administration bodies of the State Voter Register. The processes are somewhat aggravated by lack of understanding as to what is going to happen to the reform of administrative territorial order, as it shall be related. The major challenge in establishing the regional offices at least, as we planned to do still this year, is about the finance. In fact, we allocated these costs, among others, into the resolution on the need to finance priority activities, and we do realize they are not going to take place,” says he.

The CEC head commented on the request from the Verkhovna Rada Committee on the organization of state power, local self-government, regional development, and urban planning to the Commission on filing the list of Issues that might develop during the appointment, and conduct of local elections on October, 25, 2020:

“As to the committee’s letter, I saw in the media that the committee submitted a request to us. I take as the committee’s step as their concern about elections. The request rather intended to understand the problematic issues according to the Central Election Commission, and to join the efforts to understand how to address them. The first thing we need is a certainty in Electoral Code, so that we could understand that this electoral system is not going to be as it is, and we shall prepare further steps in line with it. Another point is about changing the procedures, improving technicalities in Book 4 of the Electoral Code. In fact, there are many shortcomings and controversies. Therefore, this vector is of importance: we would like to include there the maximum simplification of election procedures, to reduce the number of documents to be considered by election commissions, in order to make people’s life easier. That is why we expect that this election is going to be rather complicated.”

The major challenge, he believes, for the Central Election Commission this year, in the context of flawed Electoral Code and the epidemiological situation, is to take all due measures to have local elections at all polling stations without exceptions, to avoid situations when the voting results are not established for various reasons.