Ukraine: Amendments to Election Law Needed
The election process remains the most efficient and legitimate way for solving crisis. The confrontation between local political elites, electoral and social groups should be stopped. However, only fair elections can be a solution, with procedures and results trusted by all citizens.
Today, the major goal is making technical amendments to the Law of Ukraine on Election of the President of Ukraine and securing efficient work of the CEC. Qualitative law and transparent activities of commissions at all levels, proper and wide civic watch, political will of government bodies regarding exclusion of the administrative resource abuses, and efficiently functioning law-enforcement system called to prevent voter bribery, are major challenges of the election campaign.
Besides rewarding the law, it's also important that the public together with MPs and the VRU Committee on State Building and Local Self-Government created a comprehensive plan to reform the electoral legislation. It should include the adoption of the Election Code, wide discussion and agreement on the type of electoral system to be used during Parliamentary and local elections, as well as improved procedure of formation and transparent functioning of the CEC.
The effective Law of Ukraine on Elections of the President of Ukraine needs urgent technical amendment, in order to avoid abuses during the electoral process and secure its transparency, as well as efficient functioning of election commissions, and equal opportunities for the candidates.
The law contains a number of drawbacks, which can hinder holding democratic elections. These drawbacks are:
- Election commission have the right to take decisions by the majority of present members of election commission during voting day and vote count process (it actually can be the third part of the commission);
- Non-governmental organizations don't have the right to conduct civic observation, and therefore cannot secure comprehensive watch over the election process;
- PECs have the right to amend updated voter lists till and during the voting day;
- Absence of distinct requirements for providing citizens the right to vote at the place of residence;
- Absence of the right to vote for citizens who are temporarily residing outside their place of residence during the voting day;
- Obscure definition of the election campaigning, confusion of concepts “election campaigning” and “informing of voters”;
- Unsatisfactory regulation of procedures for repeated voting: changing membership of election commissions, compilation and updating voter lists;
- Only those voters who voted few times at the same polling station are criminally liable. Thus, such regulation of the Criminal Code doesn't impose liability for those voters who voted few times at different polling stations.
Taking into consideration that draft amendments to the Law of Ukraine on Election of the President of Ukraine have already been registered in the Parliament (bill #739-VII, drafted by R. Kniazevych), which provides a number of innovations, it can be taken as a basis with the following changes in the technical wording of the transient law:
To establish the maximum membership of district and precinct election commissions. The Law of Ukraine on Elections of People's Deputies of Ukraine provides only minimum membership of these commissions (12 persons). The experience of previous Presidential elections has shown that the large membership of DECs and PECs destabilizes the voting process and preparation to it. Similarly to the Parliamentary elections, large representation of presidential candidates in election commissions can be secured by drawing of lots in every commission separately. According to OSCE/ODIHR recommendations, based on results of observation during 2010 Presidential elections, election commissions should be smaller in order to secure qualitative organization and conduct of elections. Besides that, synchronization of regulations of the laws on Elections of People's Deputies of Ukraine and on Election of the President of Ukraine, which concern the membership of election commissions, will contribute to securing decision-making practices and observance of the quorum by commission members.
To allow Ukrainian non-governmental organizations to officially conduct observation and widen their powers. To harmonize the institute of civic observers with the effective Law of Ukraine on the Elections of Deputies, and add the following regulations: 1) to provide the registration procedure for observers, both in the CEC and in DECs, in order to simplify the logistics of documents to the capital, ease the CEC, and, simultaneously, give representatives of civic organizations the official status for attending meetings of the CEC, in contrast to Parliamentary elections; 2) to civic observers the right to sign and express a dissenting opinion in both vote count protocols of PECs and DECs, and results protocol of the CEC.
In order to increase the transparency of electoral financing, introduce the interim reporting of electoral fund managers of presidential candidates, and secure publication of reports on official site of the CEC. Harmonization of similar norms of the Law of Ukraine on Election of the President of Ukraine and the Law of Ukraine on Elections of People's Deputies will strengthen the control over the use of funds and facilitate the unification of electoral procedures in Ukraine.
In order to avoid the excessive restriction of passive electoral rights of citizens, to decrease the amount of monetary pledge for presidential candidates from two to one thousand of minimum wage. Liberalization of passive electoral right should include the returning of monetary pledge to all presidential candidates, who received more than 10% of votes during elections.
Include candidate's refusal to participate in TV debates to the list of reasons for issuing warnings by the CEC, as long as it hinders realization of conscientious chose of citizens.
To establish prohibition on and provide administrative responsibility for election campaigning, spreading campaigning materials, calling to vote "for" or "against" the certain candidates or parties during events, which are organized by state authorities and local self-government, communal enterprises establishments, organizations etc.; The proposed regulation is aimed to detailing the restriction for intervention of officials into the electoral process, and is already included into the effective Law of Ukraine on Elections of People's Deputies of Ukraine.
Besides making technical amendments to the Law of Ukraine on Election of the President of Ukraine, the Parliament should urgently consider the formation of the CEC in new membership, or prolong authority of the effective commission to the end of the electoral process.
Thus, the effective CEC, powers of 13 members of which terminate on 1 June 2014, will be able to establish and announce the voting results in the first and maybe the second round, and announce the winners. As long as the election process is about to start officially, the risks of changing members of the CEC during the election process are significant. Thus, MPs should openly discuss in the session hall the possibility of prolongation of the commission's powers till the end of election process, or urgently appoint new professional members. During the preparation of the Election Code, the principle of CEC's formation should be considered: a commission of technocrats or a commission created according to the principle of quotas.
Civil Network OPORA, Committee of Voters of Ukraine, Media Law Institute, and a number of other NGOs will control and assist to a valuable reform of the electoral legislation. Unfortunately, we have witnessed a number of imitations when the laws were adopted on motives of political expediency. Today, it's extremely important to conduct Presidential elections democratically, to elaborate the electoral system for potential conduction of extraordinary Parliamentary elections, prepare new wording of the law on local elections, and start creating the Electoral Code. It's greatly important that the legislative framework efficiently realize active and passive electoral rights in Ukraine. The Election Code should be adopted till the end of this year.
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