Parliament flouts views of Ukrainian NGOs and international bodies over electoral law
On Thursday evening, the Verkhovna Rada passed in full the Law on the Elections of National Deputies of Ukraine. The law received 366 votes from the 404 Deputies registered (187 votes from the Party of the Regions; 62 from BYUT-Batkivshchyna; 36 from Our Ukraine – People’s Self-Defence; 24 from the Communist Party; 19 from Reform for the Future’s Sake; 20 from Volodymyr Lytvyn’s Narodna Party and 18 non-faction MPs.)
The Law has the 50-50 mixed system favoured by the Party of the Regions: This is described in the Venice Commission Opinion as a mixed proportional-plurality (majoritarian) electoral system, where 50 percent of the MPs (National Deputies) are elected through political party lists in a single nationwide constituency and the other half are elected in single mandate constituencies (first past the post, one round).
Only political parties may take part in the elections, not blocs
A party must now receive 5% of the votes to get into parliament, this having been raised from 3 percent.
A person can be put forward both according to a political party’s candidate list, and once in a single mandate constituency.
The option on the ballot paper “against all (candidates)” has been removed.
The BBC Ukrainian Service reports that earlier on Thursday it was learned that a compromise had been reached by the committee which was supposed to be agreeing a bill which satisfied all factions.
It is not clear where the compromise lay since the opposition was not in support of a mixed system, and had at least wanted 75% to 25% in favour of proportional representation. It had also been insisting that blocs should be able to take part in the elections.
Candidates for district electoral commissions can be put forward by political parties whose factions are registered in the Verkhovna Rada as well as all political parties taking part in the elections.
The law goes against key recommendations from the Venice Commission of the Council of Europe.
“The electoral system chosen in the draft law is not the one discussed by the Venice Commission representatives during their meetings with the Ukrainian authorities and not the one recommended by the Resolution 1755 (2010) of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. Moreover, the choice of the mixed system, the threshold for gaining mandates and the banning of electoral blocs was made by the majority unilaterally and without consultations with the representatives of the other political parties and civil society. These different changes do not facilitate the access of different political forces to parliament. The Venice Commission and OSCE/ODIHR would like to remind that trust in the fairness of the electoral rules is essential for conducting democratic elections.”
The increase in the threshold will reduce the number of parties which can get into parliament at the next elections. This will most hurt the Ukrainian opposition. According to a Korrespondent opinion poll at the beginning of November, if the elections took place according to a proportional system, the majority of mandates could be won by candidates in opposition to the party of Viktor Yanukovych. With a mixed system, the Party of the Regions and its satellites have more chance of gaining a majority.
One of the BYUT Deputies called the bill adopted the lesser of two evils, saying that if the opposition had not voted for it, the ruling majority would have voted in a system which allowed for more opportunities to rig the election results. The opposition say that 17 proposals were taken into account.