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07.05.2012 | Halya Coynash

Resolutions incompatible with Democratic Choice

   

Central Election Commission

The trials of former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko and members of her government are widely seen as aimed at neutralizing political opponents.  Outrage is understandable since such methods have no place in a democracy. 

Nor, however, do the logic-defying decisions on the creation of single-mandate electoral districts seen in the Central Election Commission’s Resolution No. 82 from 28 April 2012. 

This is not the first decision with grave ramifications for October’s parliamentary elections.  Response is needed now.  Not only will this Resolution make observing the elections in two major regions – the Luhansk and Donetsk oblasts – more difficult, but it could also render observing in those regions a formality.

In both the Luhansk and Donetsk regions the divide up has prompted accusations that the electoral districts have been formed in order to hinder popular candidates and / or assist the Party of the Regions candidates.  Both Alchevsk and Stakhanov have been divided up into electoral districts which seem impossible to explain in terms of geography or commonsense.  Most of the changes are, however, likely to damage the electoral chances of Serhiy Shakhov. 

To state the thoroughly obvious, electoral districts which entail ballot papers being carried from polling precincts to the district electoral commission via other electoral districts (sometimes over long areas) are not conducive to fair and honest elections and will cause enormous problems for monitors.   

It is equally apparent that none of this needed to be spelled out to the members of the Central Election Commission who nonetheless passed their resolution so dividing the two regions. While it is easy to understand the difficulty the CEC would experience in explaining the changes, explanation was, nonetheless, required and not forthcoming.

At least three civil suits were lodged last week with the Kyiv Administrative Court of Appeal under Article 172 of the Code of Administrative Proceedings.  The latter covers decisions by electoral commissions, yet the civil suits were all returned without being examined.   CVU has lodged an appeal with the High Administrative Court.  It seems likely that this will also be rejected, leaving only the European Court of Human Rights, however even if the Court in Strasbourg fast tracks the case, time is extremely limited..   

More details about the extraordinary feats of geographic apportioning can be found in Electoral Zigzags and the links below it.  The following are just key points from two of the civil suits.

The suit lodged by CVU on behalf of a woman in Alchevsk argues that the sudden change in electoral district has not taken socio-economic factors into account, and also infringes her rights as a voter since the new Electoral District No. 110 has been created out of two enclaves which do not border one another.  This runs counter to all previous Laws on the Parliamentary Elections and can therefore be seen as a violation of Article 22 of the Constitution since it narrows the scope of existing rights. While conceivably this would not matter when party lists are in question, in single-mandate electoral districts candidates should be proving to potential voters why they should vote for them.  In areas which do not even adjoin each other, this will basically only be possible for the party in power.  Stakhanov, which had been a single electoral district since 2002 has now been split up and voters are quite likely to be baffled as to who their candidate in fact is.

Citizens’ constitutional right to stand for office is also compromised by the new arrangements with only those from the party in power realistically able to campaign in widely dispersed locations.

For these and a number of other reasons, organizations defending voters’ rights are sounding the alarm and insisting that the resolution in its present form is quite unacceptable.

These elections are vitally important and attention is surely crucial to all measures which place the fundamental principles of democratic choice and equal opportunities in jeopardy. 

The first map below reflects the actual geographical layout of the Luhansk oblast, the second  - the way it has been divided up by the CEC

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