Verkhovna Rada adopts changes to the Electoral Code
Verkhovna Rada adopted the draft law No. 3485 “On Introducing Amendments to Certain Laws of Ukraine on Improving Electoral Law,” in the first reading. It introduces changes to the Electoral Code. The decision was supported by 292 MPs. The draft law also took into account certain proposals from the Civil Network OPORA.
On June, 4, during its session, the parliament supported the draft law that introduces changes to the electoral framework. 292 people’s deputies voted in favour, 6 MPs voted against, 54 MPs abstained, 29 deputies have not voted. In terms of factions and groups, the legislative initiative was supported in the following way: “Servant of the People” - 219 votes in favour, 9 have not voted; “European Solidarity” - 25 in favour, 1 has not voted; AU “Batkivshchyna” - 17 “in favour”, 1 has not voted; “For Future” - 9 “in favour”, 3 abstained, 8 have not voted; “Dovira” - 16 in favour, 1 has not voted; plus 6 non-affiliated MPs supported, too.
On the other hand, the draft law faced disapproval from the deputies of the factions “Oppositional Platform – For Life” (6 against, 26 abstained, 5 have not voted), from the “Holos” (16 abstained, 2 have not voted), and also from some non-affiliated MPs (9 abstained, 2 have not voted).
Alina Zahoruyko, the document’s co-author and deputy head of the Committee of the Verkhovna Rada on the Organization of State Power, Local Self-Governnance, Regional Development and Urban Planning, stated the following when presented the draft law: “Adoption of the Electoral Code of Ukraine last December was an important progress on the road to consolidate and deepen the democratic change in Ukraine. However, the adopted document includes a series of controversial provisions. They aggravate the entire process for all the actors. That is why a team of authors suggested changes developed in order to eliminate certain debatable points and to provide for a technical legal review. It would enable a simplified electoral process, unification of the norm of the Electoral Code of Ukraine, and protection of citizens’ voting rights. It shall be noted that the draft law took into account the opinions of people’s deputies representing our faction of the “Servant of the People”, as well as from other factions. Moreover, the draft law presents a shared position of experts and civil society. On the other hand, we do realize there are certain provisions that need further elaboration”.
Accroding to her, the draft law reflects the following proposals:
- setting a point in time when a type of electoral system is decided and stipulated as a norm not to be changed;
- managing the terms for announcing all types of local elections;
- improving the regulations for territorial organization of local elections;
- elimination of inconsistencies in the procedures for TEC memberships;
- extending the term for composing the commissions, and bringing them outside the electoral process;
- reducing requirements for documents to be submitted to election commissions to receive the status of an electoral subject;
- specification of certain provisions on candidates’ nomination and registration at local elections;
- to add legal certainty to the parallel nomination of candidates at the respective local elections;
- to improve a mechanism to reject candidate registration;
- the procedures have been improved to produce and transfer ballot papers, to transport electoral documentation;
- gaps and inconsistencies in the vote count procedure have been taken into account.
In addition to clarifying certain provisions of the Electoral Code, such as dividing the application of different electoral systems on the level of cities with 15,000 registered voters, legislative changes will also impact the Law of Ukraine “On the Central Election Commission”, the Law of Ukraine “On the State Register of Voters”, the Code of Ukraine on Administrative Offense, the Criminal Code of Ukraine.
A deputy Roman Lozynskyi stated that the “Holos” faction advocated for reducing the electoral barrier from 25% to 5% to move a candidate on the list, for shrinking the deposit and for the possibility to self-nominate for candidacy in cities with the number of voters under 90,000.
A deputy from the “European Solidarity” faction Ruslan Kniazevych added that a number of changes are of higher quality than in the previous version. Thus, the proposals developed by the working group in the previous convocation have been taken into account. He emphasized that the draft law will lead to rising costs for elections, and suggested considering options to use a deposit to conduct and organize the elections. The deputy also criticized the novations of the draft law on the possibility for deputy groups in the parliament to be engaged in the composition of territorial and polling station commissions by signing the agreements with local party organizations.
According to Oleksandr Korniyenko, a deputy from the “Servant of the People,” a new approach has been introduced to the liability for voter bribery, jointly developed by the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the National Police, and the Civil Network OPORA.
Oleksandr Puzanov, a deputy from the “Oppositional Platform – For Life,” stated that the draft law offers too broad powers for the Central Election Commission, that is why the faction is not going to support it.
Pavlo Bakunets, a deputy of the “Dovira” parliamentary group, said that the draft law empowers anyone to run for candidacy and be elected, but the group insisted on shrinking the electoral deposit by 9.
Ivan Krulko, a deputy from the AU “Batkivshchyna”, stated that the draft law shall be adopted but additionally fine-tuned before the second reading. Specifically, he suggested fixing the number one on the party list, and also not forcing candidates in villages into filling in the declaration before being elected to the council.
A deputy Taras Batenko from the “For Future” deputy group, supported the idea to lower the partyzation levels of the society to settlements with the number of registered voters of 15,000, and also advocated for further lowering of the threshold down to the level of township communities.
It shall be pointed out that yesterday the Committee of Verkhovna Rada on the Organization of State Power, Local Self-Government, Regional Development and Urban planning recommended to the Parliament adopting the draft law 3485.