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17.10.2011

Venice Commission has doubts over fairness of future parliamentary elections

   

The Council of Europe’s Venice Commission on Friday, 14 October adopted its Opinion on the draft Law on the Election of National Deputies (on the parliamentary elections.).  The Commission’s members still hope that Ukraine’s government will heed their recommendations and the comments of the opposition.

The Venice Commission had on a number of occasions earlier placed in question the adherence to European standards of the draft Law, in particular the return to a mixed electoral system. They warn that the formula 50-50 where half the deputies are elected according to party lists, and the other half in majority constituencies can give great scope for election-rigging and is basic only advantageous to the pro-regime forces.  The Secretary of the Venice Commission, Tomas Markert spoke about this in an interview to Deutsche Welle. “The greatest fears are caused by the fact that the amendments to the electoral law have ended up there at the initiative of the majority in a one-sided manner. This was not preceded by consultation with the opposition”. Nor, he added, have the amendments been the subject of wide debate in Ukraine.

“A change in political system must take place where this is broad consensus and not in order to suit the parliamentary majority’s interests”.

The Commission’s main reservation was that fundamental changes to the electoral system without broad public discussion in advantage could undermine the very legitimacy of the draft law on the elections. Mr Markert says that for this reason a clause was added to the Opinion stressing that electoral legislation must not give an advantage to any of the political parties.

Participation in the elections of the leader of Batkivshchyna {Yulia Tymoshenko] remains in question

The Verkhovna Rada Working Group did not fully take into account comments which its members consider “directly breach norms of Ukraine’s Constitution”. The Working Group, for example, refused to remove the requirement that candidates have been resident in Ukraine over the last 5 years and that people may not stand for office who have been convicted of a crime. Does this pertain to the leader of Batkivshchyna, Yulia Tymoshenko?  Tomas Markert noted that although the Venice Commission had not dealt directly with the former Prime Minister’s case, it was difficult to not notice the clear parallel. “I think, nonetheless, that if Tymoshenko is acquitted through decriminalization of the case, there will be no obstruction to her taking part in the elections”. Mr Markert added that if needed, it would be worth making amendments to that part of the Constitution.

“From our point of view this paragraph could be narrowed, so that only people convicted of grave comments should be prohibited from taking part in the elections.”

Tomas Markert noted that representatives of the Party of the Regions and Batkivshchyna had taken part in the Venice Commission Session. Their views, he added, remained diametrically opposite. Batkivshchyna are calling for the retention of the present electoral system.

He says that the litmus test will not be technical details, but the overall ability of the Ukrainian authorities to ensure the holding of  fair and open elections.

“In the past, Ukraine succeeded, however we have certain doubts with regard to the coming elections.  Honest and open elections are what would move Ukraine a step forward”.

Slightly abridged from the report at http://www.dw-world.de/dw/article/0, , 15461877, 00.html

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