The Verhkovna Rada Committee on the organization of state power, local self-governance, regional development and urban planning recommends to the parliament to adopt the draft law 3485 “On Introducing Amendments to Certain Laws of Ukraine on Improving Electoral Law” that introduces changes to the Electoral Code.
The respective decision was adopted by the Committee during the meeting on June, 3.
According to Alina Zahoruyko, a deputy head of the committee, head of the subcommittee on elections and referenda, it is suggested to unify the dates for the special, interim, and additional local elections and to schedule them twice a year, which structures the electoral processes.
“We raised this question to introduce innovative electronic technologies, as we are heading towards the digitalization. It is being discussed in detail by the public. In the Code, we are introducing the option. It is not an alternative to classic voting but a parallel opportunity to use innovative technologies in electoral processes. It is a very progressive provision that enables introduction of e-services into electoral processes. They imply the services to submit the documents, and reduce the amount of papers sent to the Central Election Commission. For example, the documents to submit the candidate registration and their proxies provide that you may apply via an e-service. Also, the changes to Electoral Code detalize the powers of regional and territorial offices of the Central Election Commission,” – says she.
“We are reducing the level of electoral threshold to elect the councils. Village, township, city and district councils in cities, district level councils with up to 15,000 voters – they follow the one-mandate majoritarian system. Cities with the number of voters over 15,000 to elect members to oblast councils use the proportionate system with open electoral lists. We suggest shrinking the deposit to a quarter. In addition, we finalized the provision on the parallel nomination. Currently, candidates are able to simultaneously apply for the position of a city mayor, and run for the people’s deputy, and even for the two levels of councils. Moreover, candidate registration has been improved; rejection of candidate registration; and many gaps and inconsistencies were removed in the entire text of the Electoral Code, and in part of the vote count,” – adds the deputy.
One author of an alternative draft law 3485-1, Roman Lozynskyi, the first deputy head of the Committee, told that the suggested changes include also positive provisions that unify the law, or rather simplify it. However, the alternative draft law has certain differences that need to be taken into account.
“Electoral barrier set to date is 25%. It shall be changed to 5%. Much has been mentioned about the partyzation. Do we need it? It is obvious that we do. Party as an institute shall work otherwise, rather than in the recent decade in our country. But before that, we need to establish such political parties. We need to have the parties win people’s trust. We need people to become candidates from the parties upon their choices; and after they trust the parties, they will be in the same teams. It cannot be done by forcing them in with the bats, if I may. Reducing the threshold for the right to self-nominate is the de-facto artificial partyzation. We do not support it. That is why in our alternative draft we insist on the 90,000 threshold. The suggested draft law does reduce the deposits. However, in our opinion, 4 times is not the level that would change the situation, and enable young, professional, competent teams to enter local councils,” – stressed Roman Lozynskyi.
According to Oleksandr Korniyenko, a Committee member and co-author of the draft law 3485 , the text of the document has been thoroughly elaborated jointly with the civil society.
“We conducted the consultations with such organizations as OPORA, IFES, all who are actually engaged in the process. It is clear that some proposals have been taken into account. As to others, we had our own opinions. Secondly, it is a compromise between several deputy factions and groups. That is why it deserves to be adopted in the first reading and to be further elaborated. The discussion is ongoing on the so called limit, and various numbers are quoted. We shall have the discussion and we shall take it to the logical conclusion. To mention some positive achievements of the draft law, I need to talk about the increased liability for bribery, and a reviewed approach to the definition of bribery. Reformatting the provisions in the criminal procedural law would allow us to better fight the disgraceful phenomenon during local elections,” – says Korniyenko.
According to Olga Aivazovska, chair of the board of the Civil Network OPORA, part of the Code on changes to the Criminal Code and the Code of Ukraine on Administrative Offense, suggested by the civil society, has been discussed and debated multiple times, but no changes have taken place yet.
“However, in addition to the political block, please, pay attention to the part about the contesting decisions, actions, or inactivity of the commission, other violations of electoral law. In fact, in our opinion, the right to appeal against the decision, such as for electoral subjects, will be limited. We conducted consultations with the Central Election Commission and with the participants of the process to elaborate changes to Electoral Code. We would like to ask the deputies to think how to balance the contestation. Because it is about protecting lawful interests of election participants. Specifically, one such idea is to reduce the court charge for election participants. Because currently, instead of 5 days they would have 2 days to contest the respective actions or to make decisions related to electoral process, or inactivity of election commissions. There will be a mandatory form for appeals on certain categories of cases to courts only, rather than to higher level commissions. In our opinion, we need to think how to protect lawful interests of election participants, and the contestation part shall be finalized on a systemic level. There is a second request – between the first and the second reading, a working group shall be established or revived to deal with amendments. In fact, there are many of them. Certain remarks from the Chief Expert Board are absolutely relevant and compliant with the position of expert community. We would hate to miss any changes before the second reading, which could be experienced by each electoral participant in part of securing their own rights or conformity with the procedures,” – says she.
The deputy head of the Central Election Commission, Vitaliy Plukar stated that the CEC submitted complex proposals in terms of their vision to improve the electoral law and electoral reform, taking into account the practice of having elections and recommendations of international institutions.
“At the same time, we submitted a number of things that we deem necessary and that are related to technical features and some things we would like to suggest for discussion, in order to find a consensus solution for certain issues currently in question. I would like to express my gratitude to civil society, to OPORA, to representatives of an international segment for their support and understanding of the proposals submitted by the Central Election Commission. On many things, we managed to find the agreement. We also support the statements that some things need fine-tuning,” – says she.
The Committee recommended to the parliament to adopt the draft law 3485 in the first reading, with the amendment to delete the subparagraph 2 of paragraph 3 chapter 1. It provides the addition of a new paragraph for part 7, Article 3 of the Law of Ukraine “On Central Election Commission.” In case the draft law is adopted, it is suggested for the Committee to finalize the document in the first reading, and submit it to the second reading. They also took into account the proposal on corrections, clarifications, controversies, eliminating errors in the text of the draft law that have not been considered in the first reading. The respective decision was voted in favour by 19 Committee members.
At the same time, the recommendation to decline the alternative draft law 3485-1 was supported by 14 MPs.