Law shown Venice Commission differs from that tabled in parliament


Last week the Justice Ministry stated that it had received the Venice Commission’s report on the draft law prepared by the ruling majority and even posted the Commission’s Opinion on its website. Radio Svoboda invited Yevhen Bystrytsky, Director of the International Renaissance Foundation and Oleksandr Chernenko, Head of the Committee of Voters of Ukraine to provide their comments.

Mr Chernenko warns that people are inclined to exaggerate the role and significance of the Venice Commission in creating Ukrainian legislation.  The Commission provides expert recommendations which may or may not be heeded.

In the case of the current draft law, Mr Chernenko says that the Opinion dealt with a number of previous recommendations. If one looks at the number, then even a majority of the technical points were taken into consideration.

However, he says, if you look at their quality, then certain technical, very general things have been taken into account, but the crucial issues, at least in the draft law tabled in parliament have been ignored. We will see, he adds, what happens in parliament.

“Yet if we look at it, then the draft law which was tabled by Oleksandr Yefremov and four other deputies, the draft law of the majority and that which was passed to the Venice Commission, which was written in the working group that we took part in, they are remarkably similar draft laws. Regarding most, 90% of the norms, they really are identical. Yet there are some norms which pertain to registration of candidates, cancellation of this registration, observers from NGOs, procedure for preparing ballot papers, the draft law in parliament has quite different things, which the Venice Commission did not consider.

He says that in the draft law written by the Working Group, there were strict requirements regarding the possibility of cancelling candidates’ registration, solely those which are restricted by the Constitution.  Yet in the draft law tabled in parliament yet again they propose that if a candidate under the majority system has received two warnings, the third constitutes grounds for an electoral commission to cancel his or her registration.

He points out that during last year’s local elections, large numbers of candidates had their registration revoked on the last day before the Elections and nothing could be done.

Oleksandr Chernenko, asked if he was saying that the law before parliament is not that which was drawn up by the Working Group and shown to the Venice Commission, replied by saying that there is a difference, and that in some provisions the difference is considerable.

The interviewer pointed out that there is also another part of parliament, the opposition. At present one is hearing from members of the opposition that in view of what is happening with Yulia Tymoshenko and Yury Lutsenko, and because of the sentence handed down to Ms Tymoshenko, the opposition could simply boycott the elections. She asked Yevhen Bystrytsky whether this would have positive sense. He believes that in the present situation where there is no political force which would have sufficient popularity to carry the country with it to rebuild it on a real democratic basis, the idea of a boycott is not sensible.  It will mean only that some parties and some voters do not take part in elections which will nonetheless take place, with those who do take place getting proportionately more of the votes. They will effectively only hurt themselves through the boycott.

The interviewer notes that boycotts can be effective where there has to be a minimum turnout for the election to be valid. 

Oleksandr Chernenko explains that there is no such mechanism, with a minimum turnout having been rejected a long time ago.   He also believes that a boycott would be counter-productive, although he does not expect the issue to move beyond talk.

“We have the experience of Belarus when in the middle of the 2000s the opposition boycotted the local elections. And nothing – the elections still took place. And instead of at least isolated points of resistance you have totally loyal local councils. Therefore from the point of view of legal legitimacy, no boycott will make the elections illegitimate”.

On the civil campaign to ensure discussion of the electoral law

Oleksandr Chernenko explains that the organizations who joined together to form a Consortium of Electoral Initiatives, - OPORA; the Laboratory of Legislative Initiatives; the Ukrainian Independent Political Research Centre and the Committee of Voters of Ukraine [CUV] – have tried to take part in each stage of the Working Group’s activities, as well as to formulate public opinion.

They are running a broad campaign of public discussion taking place in Kyiv and in each region, and are trying to involve all concerned experts at local and central level even if the authorities have proved unable to ensure public discussion and openness. 

From a much longer interview with questions also from listeners at:

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