While Russia’s all-out war of aggression continues and martial law is in force, holding elections in Ukraine is not allowed by its legislation and presently unfeasible. However, though elections are on hold, electoral reform should advance as soon as possible.
Considering the scale of the challenges for Ukraine’s next elections, the Verkhovna Rada and other parties involved in decision-making should re-start the inclusive format of expert work on finalizing reforms and develop the necessary draft laws in a timely manner. According to recommendations of the Council of Europe’s Venice Commission, or VC, and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, or ODIHR, significant changes to electoral laws should be adopted no later than one year before the date of the next election in Ukraine.
The Civil Network OPORA and International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) in Ukraine and offer this roadmap for the consideration of legislators, election management bodies, other election-related institutions, and all stakeholders to remind them of the need for and guide the process of electoral law reform, taking into account the urgent priorities stemming from war and other more long-term electoral reform priorities, some of which have already been mentioned in the reports of international election observation missions.
Along with electoral reform priorities, it is crucial to complete the reform of the Constitutional Court as soon as possible and renew its composition. This should lead to an independent and effective court that can deliver important decisions on electoral challenges including, for example, on establishing the date of the first nationwide post-war elections.
In parallel, Ukraine should consider introducing a transitional period of at least six months between the conclusion of martial law and the start of the first electoral process. This will allow the Central Election Commission (CEC) and other electoral stakeholders to prepare for the post-war elections, including an update of the State Voter Register, addressing challenges related to destroyed voting infrastructure and organizing comprehensive voter education outreach to millions of forcibly displaced persons in Ukraine and abroad. This period would also allow for a period where free political speech, debate, and media access are fully restored, critical to any election.
The list below is not exhaustive, it does however prioritize issues based on critical, timely needs and the potential sequencing of future elections. For additional recommendations, please see ODIHR recommendations for presidential, parliamentary, and local elections. The Rada is urged to continue its good practice of sharing significant draft changes to electoral legislation with the VC and ODIHR for their review and comment.