Early dissolution of the Central Election Commission is expected to happen in the coming days, given the informal presence of 300 votes in the Parliament. OPORA states that the highest election administration body has become a hostage to political situation over the last 15 years, when the regular and extraordinary rotations in the CEC took place, regardless of whether there are grounds to recognize it guilty in systemic gross violations or unlawful actions. Such practices are unacceptable and can permanently discredit the CEC as an institution and, as a result, any election process or its outcome. The law regulating activities of the CEC establishes 7-year term of office for commission members, to guarantee impartiality of this body. The President or parliamentary majority must not adjust the CEC to current political configuration. Any unjustified reduction or extension of CEC members' cadence put in question its neutrality and ability to act only in line with the law, but not party interests.
Moreover, developed democracies form the CEC not only with proportional representation of parties, but also with representatives of expert NGOs, court administrations, law-enforcement bodies, which are competent in a wide circle of topics concerning the election process and its stages.
In 2014-2018, when the previous composition of the CEC was not renewed properly, confidence in the CEC was significantly undermined. However, reputation of the highest election administration body was partially recovered after two electoral circles, trusted by the absolute majority of Ukrainian citizens.
At the same time, on September 9, 2019, the President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyi registered in the Parliament a proposal for early termination dissolution of the CEC, elected by the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine VIII convocation less than a year ago. Having carefully examined the document, OPORA came to the conclusion that it contains an extended motivational component with reference to court decisions cancelling CEC decisions on refusal to register candidates. At the same time, OPORA has discovered that court decisions are not the same. Thus, the Sixth Administrative Court of Appeal considered CEC decisions legal and justifies, while the Supreme Court of Ukraine canceled the decision of first instance court. As a result, plaintiffs were restored to their rights. The CEC executed all court decisions in this category of President's claims. At the same time, OPORA agrees with the subject of the proposal that decision on de-registration of candidate O.O. Kunytskyi (single-mandate district #169) was based on another approach than when it considered claims from another three candidates with similar circumstances (M.S. Zuieva, A.I. Kholodova, and L.V. Rusalina). However, not all members of the CEC were unanimous when taking decision on subject of the complaint, what should be taken into account when considering President's proposal in Parliament.
Court decisions concerning inaction of the CEC when it indicated false information in biographic information of the certain candidates, particularly their affiliation in the Servant of the People party, state the current legislation doesn't establish an obligation and procedure for verification of data reliability by the CEC. At the same time, the CEC applied to the National Police of Ukraine under Article 157 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine concerning obstruction to electoral rights through deception. OPORA has repeatedly emphasized that nomination of technical candidates and misuse of electoral rights must be regulated by the law, and suggested proportional sanctions against such violations in amendments to the Criminal Code of Ukraine (Draft Law #8270, registered in VIII convocation of the Verkhovna Rada).
The President’s submission also included assessment of CEC’s actions in tabulation of election results in DEC #210, and no such actions in DEC #198. However, there is the difference between these two instances. It the first case, the CEC realized functions of the DEC because there was no protocol from a lower-level commission, and calculates the votes at the certain polling stations again as a part of its field meeting. As for district #198, the DEC submitted all the protocols, but their content or compilation procedure was challenged in courts of different instances. The CEC had also appealed to the Supreme Court of Ukraine for interpretation of court’s decision
Thus, OPORA is convinced that claims concerting actions of the CEC did not result in violation of electoral rights of citizens. However, gaps in the legislation, which our organization had repeatedly criticized, must be eliminated by the Parliament in a comprehensive way. Composition of the Central Election Commission should be constant to avoid distrust to this body and put any conflicting elections in question.
Civil Network OPORA calls to consider CEC’s actions in pair with the legislative framework and practices of both first instance court and court of appeals. The Parliament, for its part, must give not only formal, but a meaningful assessment to President’s claims concerning actions of the CEC. Consultations with stakeholders, particularly competent NGOs and international expert organizations concerning changes in legislation, principles and forms of CEC’s functioning, assessment of its actions or inaction, would demonstrate the absence of pure party interest in the rotation process, and it’s focus on pure political will – to improve the election process, procedures, and reform the election administration.