Ukraine urged to improve Electoral Legislation
Members of a Council of Europe monitoring delegation have expressed concern at a "hastily drafted" electoral law for local and regional elections passed by the Ukrainian Parliament.
The Congress of Local and Regional Authorities group claimed that the law, passed several weeks before the elections were held.led to shortcomings with regard to the registration of candidates, the composition of electoral commissions, the organisational and the counting of votes on election night.
"Those who passed a law allowing for a politically unbalanced composition of election commissions, and providing, for example, that candidates can be removed from the lists at the last moment before the elections, should accept that the voting was not of a standard we would wish to see, namely, fully in line with the requirements of the European standards for fair, transparent and professionally organised elections,” said the Head of the Congress delegation Gudrun Mosler-Törnström.
"Voting day has exposed the weaknesses of the new electoral law, passed just three months before these local elections," added Teet Kallasvee, on behalf of the EU Committee of the Regions.
"We witnessed that those polling stations, where the information about de-registration of candidates arrived at the last moment, just opened their doors one or two hours later for the voters. We observed how voters, because of overcrowded polling stations, had to form queues at the polling booths which could put in danger the secrecy of the vote. There were between five and eight different ballots to be filled-in with dozens of parties and candidates, and, as a consequence, overlong voting procedures"
The delegation members also expressed their concerns about reports that faked and incorrect ballots could have been put into circulation. Also, because of the complicated vote counting that is only vaguely described by the electoral law and due to the fact that decisions could be taken by a quorum of 3 out of the 18 members of election commissions, lawsuits are to be expected after the announcement of the results.
"Surveys showed that before the elections around 60 percent of the population expected fraud and manipulation. The credibility of the political system in Ukraine has suffered again. This we can say already before we know the final results, which will be the case only in a couple of days,” underlined the Congress Rapporteur, Nigel Mermagen.
The delegation called on the Ukrainian authorities to improve the electoral legislation.
"The Congress welcomes the fact that Ukraine has held local elections for the first time without carrying out a national ballot at the same time. We are also pleased that, with the exception of some incidents at certain location, voting ran generally smoothly. This shows that efforts have been made to give local self-government a high priority. It is therefore only logical to create a legal framework for electing local and regional self-governmental bodies fully in line with European standards. This requires the weaknesses of the existing legislation to be remedied as quickly as possible,” stressed Gudrun Mosler-Törnström.
She added: "Ukraine has already shown it can do better - for example, in the presidential elections earlier this year. With the Council of Europe and its experts in the various institutions, such the Congress or the Venice Commission, Ukraine has a dependable partner at her side to achieve what is, according to President Yanukovich himself, at the top of the agenda, the creation of a unified electoral code for the country to ensure genuinely democratic elections.”