Most top positions on electoral commissions go to Party of the Regions
Most of the leading posts in territorial electoral commissions [TEC] have been taken by 6 parties out of the 47 taking part in the distribution. The largest number of heads, deputies and secretaries of TEC went to the parliamentary coalition which in total received 1,042 posts. Opposition parties represented in parliament received only half that number.
The reason for such an uneven spread came in norms of current legislation (the law passed by the ruling coalition has been severely criticized for this by both Ukrainian and western analysts – translator). These allow the appointment of the heads of TEC by the Central Election Commission without convincing and clear criteria for their choice. In view of the fact that the territorial commissions will over the next 5 years establish the results of voting at ordinary, as well as possibly snap, local elections, the civic network OPORA is concerned by such lack of balance.
The Central Election Commission [CEC] formed the territorial electoral commissions on 15 September. The basic function of the TEC is to organize the local elections scheduled for 31 October.
74 political parties have representatives on the TEC. 15 of them lodged their applications from parliamentary factions, while the other 59 took part in a draw.
(According to this new law, there are 18 members – 15 chosen from candidates proposed by parties presently in parliament, the other 3 take part in a draw from the number of political parties submitting candidates. The law has also been criticized for not allowing candidates to put themselves forward, without party support – translator).
Since parties like the Party of the Regions, the Communist Party and the People’s Party [Speaker Lytvyn’s party] have deputy factions in the Verkhovna Rada, they had the right to put forward for each TEC three candidates. According to OPORA’s information, this meant that members of the ruling coalition automatically received the possibility of controlling half of the makeup of all TEC. This was while the parties within Yulia Tymoshenko’s bloc [BYuT] had to compete for places in the TEC. Each of these parties put forward three candidates for each TEC, and then the CEC itself chose which parties’ representatives would be on the commission. There were conflicts also among representatives of the BYuT faction. For example, candidates to the TEC for the Kyiv and Lviv regions were put forward by two regional branches, supposedly, of the organization Batkivshchyna (Tymoshenko’s party). The CEC decided at its discretion which of these organizations to choose in forming the commission.
Another type of conflict arose with applications for the TEC in the Kherson region. Here representatives of the Ukrainian Social-Democratic Party [USDP] became members of many commissions under the BYuT quota although the actual organization does not function in the region. According to OPORA observers, a fair number of these people were even appointed to leading posts in the TEC. The leaders of the local branches of the USDP say that they did not make any application to the CEC. Furthermore, there have been cases registered where such an application was signed by a now deceased head of the branch.
There is a more complicated situation in the bloc Our Ukraine – People’s Self-Defence which at the 2007 elections was made up of as many as nine political parties which are virtually not cooperating with each other. Here there is a far greater level of competition. After reviewing the candidates put forward by these party members of the bloc, the CEC at its own discretion appointed members of the TEC.
The makeup of the local commissions is decisive for the electoral process. It is now not only the organization of the commission’s work and holding of Election Day that is dependent on the leadership of the TEC (the head, deputy and secretary), but also the official announcement of the results of local elections over the next 5 years.
Number of posts of head of a TEC:
Party of the Regions 210
Lytvyn’s Party 99
Communist Party 55
Our Ukraine 45
The same political forces received the majority of positions of secretary and deputy head of a TEC
Party of the Regions 123/115
Lytvyn’s Party 123/88
Communist Party 93/96
Our Ukraine 59/49
All other parties received less than 20 secretary posts.
669 TEC were formed in all. Despite considerable competition for places on the commissions, almost half have less than 18 members.
OPORA highlights the following dangers for the democratic course of the electoral process:
The Law on the Local Elections in its current version contains discriminatory norms which provide some parties with an advantage in putting forward candidates for membership of TEC. Others – mainly opposition – forces are less represented in the commissions.
The present selection procedure for candidates from parties which are members of blocs has led to a disproportionate divide in places in TEC. This also applies to parties not represented in the Verkhovna Rada.
The lack of any clarification in the law regarding the appointment of people to leading positions in the TEC has in practice led to a fairly considerable domination of parties from the ruling coalition in the leadership of commissions.
The CEC did not do all it could to inform voters and participants in the electoral process about the decisions taken and the approval of the makeup of local commissions. As a result, many local party branches did not know whether their people had been included, and when to begin work.
The reduced deadlines for the campaign are leading to an accumulation of procedures which may lead in future to non-implementation of all obligatory norms of the Law on the Local Elections.