On May 31, the official working group held its sixth meeting, dedicated to consideration of amendments to the Election Code. The meeting was attended by: Olena Boiko, Ostap Yednak, Nataliia Novak, Ruslan Sydorovych, and Oleksandr Chernenko. Besides that, there was present a co-author of other versions of the Code Viktor Zalizniak, representatives of the Central Election Commission and the State Voter Register, particularly Oleksandr Stelmakh, some assistants to MPs, and NGO representatives. The meeting was also attended by MPs and civic activists, who had participated in the development of draft law #6240 on electoral rights of internally displaced persons and migrant workers.
The working group has considered 10 articles and 112 amendments to them on today's meeting. All the issues concerned the State Register of Voters, particularly: public register, forms of its maintenance, SRV maintenance bodies, access to the Register database, maintenance and grounds for maintenance, the procedure of submitting the documents to a register maintenance body, sending a voter inquiry to a register maintenance body and the procedure for making a personal appeal.
According to Legal Advisor of the Civil Network OPORA Olha Kotsiuruba, the working group has considered today amendments which concern the publicity of State Register of Voters, voter registration and changing the election address. “The outdated regulations are being brought in line with the effective Law of Ukraine on the State Register of Voters. There is an innovation, allowing to apply to the Register electronically. However, consideration of the change of election address by internally displaced persons and migrant workers was factored out. These issues will be considered on a separate meeting, which hasn't been scheduled yet,” – she stated.
There was also a discussion concerning voting rights of IDPs. Here are some statements made by major discussion participants.
Oleksandr Chernenko suggested “to factor out the issue of internally displaced persons – let the committee and the Parliament consider it. There is a proposal to consider it in transitional regulations. We are going to spend time here in the working group on this issue, and the Committee will consider it again, as well as the Parliament. We are not taking the decisions in working group by majority of minority, because not all the participants attend. We are taking decisions by consensus. We had discussions on various issues and reached an agreement. However, I don't believe it's possible to reach agreement on this issue. The Committee and the Parliament will raise the topic again. Thus, here we are now.”
Ostap Yednak: “Do really human rights should be discussed? If we don't take the decision here in the working group, together with representatives of internally displaced persons and human rights activists, it will be much harder to consider the issue in the Committee. We were supposed to consider 800ths amendments, and I came specially to consider them. If they are not going to be considered today, – lets choose a date and time and inform all the participants of the working group, all the coordinators of these issues in various factions, hold a meeting and finally take a decision. I suggest to schedule a special time for this block of important issues. I didn't attend the previous meeting, and I don't know who supports it and who is against. Let's share opinions, to understand who of us in the working group is against or holds a special position.”
Olena Boiko: “There was no consensus on the previous meeting, everyone just expressed their opinions. And members of the working group, who are all professionals, have the right to express their opinions. However, there is a situation with no consensus, and we decided to factor it out. Why is it a problem to consider this issue separately? Why are you making this topic so acute now?”
Ruslan Sydorovych: “There are some blocks, which concern the structure of the whole document. In particular, they concern disabled persons, IPDs, migrant workers, and some issues about the presidential election. We may say we have factored them out or, on the contrary, put them in brackets. However, I personally believe that the issue with IDPs should be resolved in conclusive regulations, taking into consideration that this problem is temporary and should be eliminated. When it is going to be eliminated, in a year, two, five, ten or twenty, is another question. If we don't refuse from those territories and believe they must be returned to Ukraine, than we say this problem is temporary. If the problem is temporary, than we must remember that temporary issues are not included in the law itself. Not to come back to these issues in each amendment, while there are many such things in the text, we have suggested the following: to factor out the issue and come back to it in the end of discussion. It will be a global philosophic block with, hopefully, a wider membership of working group, which will manage to reach a consensus. I don't know how it is going to happen. Maybe I will support it, maybe not. But if we will try to take this decision now, we will have to come back to it each time it occurs in the text.”
Analyst of the Civil Network OPORA Oleksandr Kliuzhev has stated: “I think it's not right to avoid any disagreements in consideration of the Code, justifying it by the fact that the Committee will consider it anyway. Maybe it is our primary task to find non-standard solutions, remembering that the Committee takes the final decision. For example, we have factored out a decision concerning displaced persons, internally displaced persons, and other categories of citizens. It seems that we are here like “old believers”, who want to preserve everything regardless of all the existing problems in the electoral matters. Perhaps we, as professionals having various opinions, should better aim at an approach, which is acceptable for at least those members of group, who really work in it. However, if we are not able to reach a compromise, let's provide the Committee with a list of pluses and minuses, our suggestions regarding ways out of the situation. There are many people in both the Parliament and the Committee, who support such approaches to IDPs and disabled persons. To say that we are not able to find a solution is not a way out. Therefore, I suggest to find the time and speak openly. We all can criticize the approaches, used in amendments to the Code, but nobody has proposed any new approaches since 2014. So let's start with the existing algorithm, good or bad, but let's base our discussion on it, and determine our position. If there is a need, we may indicate there are disagreements concerning the certain positions, but let's give the Committee at least some alternative solutions instead of escaping. Let's find non-standard solutions.”
Denys Kovryzhenko, Senior Legal Advisor at the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES), said: “It seems to me that the number of problematic issues will increase. Especially when we will focus on local elections, electoral systems, campaigning etc. We should discuss them somewhere in the middle. We will now consider general procedures, but as for the disabled persons, we should gather the experts and discuss all the issues to prevent their accumulation.”
Nataliia Novak: “I suggested to base the working group on the committee when it was being created. However, there was an opinion that the working group should represent each political faction, as long as the issue is political. So now, the suggestion to factor out the issue because it's political is not reasonable. Excuse me, but this is the very reason this group was formed, – to consider all the issues and provide the Committee with propositions. We must give some alternatives.”
Executive Director of Hrupa Vplyvu Civil Holding Tetiana Durnieva: “To reach a consensus, we should understand that there are no temporarily displaced persons. This problem is not temporary. If we take a look at the Law of Ukraine on the Rights of Internally Displaced Persons, it concerns not only the people fleeing from the war. It also concerns man-made disasters, and natural phenomena, etc. Thus, we should not say the problem will vanish by itself in a few months or years. According to sociological polls, the longer the conflict is, the less people are plan to come back. These people will constantly need new approaches, because they have been put in special conditions. Thus, we must not say that it's a temporary issue, and let's consider it somewhere in the future.”
Oleksandr Chernenko has summarized that the working group will consider amendments to the book on presidential elections first, and then will hold a special meeting for problematic issues.
The next meeting of the working group is scheduled for 4 July, from 1:00 PM to 4:00 PM. It will consider the Article 149 on the update of personal data in the State Register of Voters (amendment #879).
We would like to remind that this working group doesn't have a regulation for its activities and, therefore, there is no quorum or voting. However, it is important that each member attends the meetings, to consider all 4400 as soon as possible and further the consideration of Election Code.
Based on the consideration results, the working group will provide its recommendations to the VRU Committee on Judicial Policy and Justice. The Committee, for its part, will consider on its meeting the recommendations and give its opinion on the draft Election Code for the second reading in Parliament.
It should be mentioned, that 251 amendments were considered by the group of Sub-committee on Elections and Referendums of the VRU Committee on Judicial Policy and Justice. The previous consideration of amendments in this group started on 21 December. On 28 February, VRU Committee on Judicial Policy and Justice had approved the working group to prepare draft Election Code of Ukraine for the second reading (#3112-1). On the second meeting, held on 4 April, the membership of this official working group was approved. It has 24 persons, including 22 current MPs and two experts, who participated in the development of other draft Election Codes.
We remind that the bill #6240 was registered in the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine on 27 March 2017. This document suggests amendment of the Law of Ukraine on the State Register of Voters, Law on the Rights and Freedoms of Internally Displaced Persons, and Law on Local Elections, goaled to guarantee voting rights of internally displaced persons and other mobile groups in the country.
The draft law was developed by experts of the Civil Network OPORA AUNGO, Hrupa Vplyvu Civil Holding NGO, International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES), MPs of Ukraine, and with participation of representatives from NGOs Donbass SOS, Human Rights Information Center, Crimea SOS, the Right for Protection Charitable Foundation, and East-SOS Charitable Fund. Besides that, members of the Interdepartmental Working Group on improvement of IDPs human rights legislation under the Ministry of Temporarily Occupied Territories and IDPs Affairs (including representatives of UN Refugee Agency and the Council of Europe) also participated in discussion of the draft law.
24 MPs have put their signatures under the draft law, namely Hryhorii Nemyria, Mustafa Naiiem, Svitlana Zalishchuk, Refat Chubarov, Mustafa Dzhemiliev, Ostap Yednak, Hanna Hopko and others. There are both unaffiliated and faction representatives among co-authors of the bill: Petro Poroshenko Bloc faction – 11 MPs, People's Front – 2, AUU Batkivshchyna – 3, Opposition Bloc –2, Radical Party of Oleh Liashko – 1, Samopomich –1, unaffiliated or non-group – 4. Thus, the bill has more chances to be adopted since it is already widely supported by MPs. It should be mentioned, that regional representation of MPs who signed it is also quite wide: city of Kyiv, Donetsk, Lviv, Zakarpattia, Chernihiv, Vinnytsia, Rivne, Cherkasy oblasts and the AR of Crimea.