CSO statement of concern over draft law that may remove oversight provisions over campaign finance
on the change of provisions of election legislation on the functioning of election funds and exercise of state control over them in local elections
September 28th, 2020
The signatories of this statement express their concern about the possible changes in the provisions of the election legislation regarding the functioning of election funds and the exercise of state control over them during local elections.
On September 18th, 2020, a draft Law “On Amendments to the Electoral Code of Ukraine and Certain Legislative Acts of Ukraine on Organization of Preparation and Conduct of Elections during Quarantine, Established to Prevent the Spread of Particularly Dangerous and Dangerous Infectious Diseases, and Improvement of Certain Provisions of the Election Legislation” (Reg. 4117) was registered in the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine.
We understand that issues of harmonizing certain electoral procedures and filling legislative gaps still remain unregulated and may jeopardize the proper organization of the local election process. At the same time, the draft law №4117, in addition to regulating the preparation and holding of elections during the quarantine period and coordination of certain election procedures, suggests the following innovations:
- abolish the provision that territorial election commissions (TEC) analyze financial statements of party organizations and candidates, and in case of detection notify relevant authorities to ensure that perpetrators are brought to justice. The obligation of the subjects of the local election process, who have opened election funds, to submit financial reports and publish information on these reports is an important rule, but it may lose its significance without any state control. If the subjects of the election process know that their financial statements will not be analyzed and that information about violations in the reports will not be passed on to the prosecuting authorities, there is a risk that such entities will conceal their true campaign funding and expenditures, and will not report on them at all.
- transfer authority to establish the form of financial reports from the Central Election Commission (CEC) to the National Agency on Corruption Prevention (NACP) on agreement with the CEC. This norm is incomprehensible and illogical, specifically in the context of time constraints. As the election process has already begun, the CEC has apparently already prepared a draft report form, while for the NACP development and approval of financial report forms is an unusual task and will require significant time.
- grant permission in case of nomination by an oblast political party organization of candidates for deputies of oblast, district, city, district in the city, village, settlement council and candidates for the position of a village, settlement, city mayor to open one election fund of the oblast party organization with a single savings account to finance election campaigns in the relevant local elections. This innovation will complicate public control over the financing of election campaigns, as it will be very difficult to understand from the party’s financial report how much money and where it was spent, for example, on television advertising, billboards in a particular community on local elections to a particular council. In addition, this provision threatens to reduce the financial independence of lower-level party organizations and weaken their ability to conduct effective fundraising for campaigning.
The aforementioned provisions are aimed at changing the rules of election funds operation during the election process and may lead to abolition of any state control over financing of election campaigning in local elections. Introduction of these changes could significantly reduce the level of transparency in financing of election campaigns in local elections, as well as negatively affect the level of public confidence in the fairness of the election process.
In this regard, we call on the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine and its responsible committee to ensure the proper revision of draft Law #4117 and remove from it the provisions on weakening the transparency of election funds in local elections and abolish of state control over them.
International Foundation for Electoral Systems
Civil Network OPORA
Civil Movement Chesno
Center of Political and Legal Reforms
All-Ukrainian non-governmental organization “Committee of Voters of Ukraine”
Odesa Regional Organization of All-Ukrainian non-governmental organization “Committee of Voters of Ukraine”
Cherkasy Regional Organization of All-Ukrainian non-governmental organization “Committee of Voters of Ukraine”
NGO “Integrity UA”