On December 19, 2019, the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine adopted into law the Election Code of Ukraine. Its adoption and the entering into force of most of its provisions already in January 2020 marked an important step towards the harmonization of the legal framework for elections in Ukraine in line with the recommendations of international and domestic election observer missions.
At the same time, there is room for improvement of certain provisions of the Election Code, in particular with regard to regulations for the preparations and the conduct of local elections. Since there are less than seven months until the next regular local elections, which under the Constitution of Ukraine must be held in October 2020, changes of the most problematic provisions of the Code should be introduced as soon as possible.
Therefore, the Verkhovna Rada should renew its work on improving the Election Code with the aim to ensure its compliance with the requirements of the Constitution of Ukraine and bring it in line with the international standards and best practices in the field of elections, as well as addressing the recommendations of international and domestic election observers.
In this connection, the International Foundation for Electoral System (IFES), the OSCE Project Coordinator in Ukraine and Civil Network OPORA call upon the Verkhovna Rada:
The Parliamentary Committee on State Power, Local Self-Governance and Regional and Urban Development should immediately renew public consultations regarding the directions for improving the Election Code with all stakeholders, including the CEC, representatives of parliamentary factions and groups, local self-governance bodies, the expert community and civil society activists. Given the emergency situation regime across Ukraine, such consultations should be conducted using the available on-line platforms complying with the principles of transparency and inclusiveness and terminate no later than by the end of April 2020.1
According to Art. 7.5 of the 1990 OSCE Copenhagen Document independent candidates should be guaranteed the possibility to take part in all local elections (including through self-nomination of lists of independent candidates).2
Ensure mechanisms for balanced representation of women in elected bodies (including the enforceable gender quota in national and local elections which envisages that no less than two persons in each group of five candidates on the party list for elections are of the same gender). Any reduction or change in the proportions of the gender quota would be a step backward in facilitating women participation in the election processes.3
Considering the complexity of conducting elections to different local self-government bodies simultaneously sufficient financial means should be allocated in the budget, in particular for the remuneration of the work of election commission members.4
The existing measures to facilitate the exercise of electoral rights of persons with disabilities and the electoral rights of internally displaced persons and other internally mobile groups of citizens should be extended.5
When reviewing the campaign finance provisions of the Election Code, the recent amendments to the regulation of financing of political parties, introduced in the Law on Political Parties in Ukraine should be taken into account, as well as recommendations of the Group of States against Corruption (GRECO), the Venice Commission and the OSCE/ODIHR regarding enhanced transparency of election campaign finance.6
In the discussions about determining electoral system for elections to local councils, the representational specifics of the councils in question should be taken into account, especially the constitutional nature of oblast and rayon councils, which have to represent the common interests of the territorial communities. The feasibility of applying the open list proportional system to elections at more than one local council at the same time should be reconsidered taking into account the essential additional workload this will put on the election commissions, the complexity of this system for voters considering also that Ukraine does not have any experience with the application of the mentioned system.
This document was developed jointly by International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES), the OSCE Project Coordinator in Ukraine and Civil Network OPORA and made possible with funding from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Global Affairs Canada, and UK aid. The opinions expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of USAID, nor the governments of the United States, Canada, or the UK.
1“The [electoral] reform process should be inclusive and completed well in advance of the next elections” – priority recommendation 1 of the OSCE/ODIHR Election Observation Mission to the 25 October and 15 November 2015 Local Elections in Ukraine. See the OSCE/ODIHR EOM Final Report.
2”Independent candidates should be allowed to stand for elections at all levels of local councils in line with the OSCE commitments and other international obligations and standards (…)” – priority recommendation 6 of the OSCE/ODIHR Election Observation Mission to the 2015 Local Elections in Ukraine.
3“Consideration should be given to establishing a mechanism to enforce the gender quota requirement. Additional special temporary measures to promote women candidates (…) could also be considered” – priority recommendation 6 of the OSCE/ODIHR Election Observation Mission to the 2015 Local Elections in Ukraine.
4“(…) remuneration of election commissioners should be commensurate to the workload. Authorities need to take necessary measures to adequately fund the costs associated with the organization of election.” – priority recommendation 4 of the OSCE/ODIHR Election Observation Mission to the 2015 Local Elections in Ukraine.
5“To further promote universal suffrage, authorities need to take necessary measures to facilitate unrestricted access of voters with reduced mobility to polling stations” – priority of the of the OSCE/ODIHR Election Observation Mission to the 2015 Local Elections in Ukraine.
6See Group of States against Corruption (GRECO) of the Council of Europa Fourth Round Compliance Report on Ukraine published on March 26, 2020.