The line Committee, along with Members of Parliament, and with involved experts modified the Electoral Code to meet the challenges of the time. However, there is still much room for future developments, on such aspects as election system, gender quota, voting rights, campaigning on social media and in traditional mass media, open data, accessibility of polling stations, and elections in the government-controlled territories of Donetsk and Luhansk regions.
It was presented by Olga Aivazovska, a chair of the board at the Civil Network OPORA, during her input at the meeting of the Committee on the Organization of State Power, Local Self-Government, Regional Development, and Urban Planning.
According to her, in addition to a global block on the exercise of voting rights for certain categories of citizens and groups, a very important aspect in the system of passive and active suffrage, there is much more progress in changes on sanctions, or in clear definition of what electoral fraud is, and what liability it entails. Decriminalization of some violations enabled the liability for persons illegally interfering with the election process but with no criminal elements behind their actions. The 1,500 protocols have been drafted, the persons have been brought to justice – which is not altogether bad in the outcome.
However, there are still some issues that shall be addressed when fine-tuning the electoral framework.
Find below the statement by Olga Aivazovska divided into topical units.
The 25% Electoral Quota to be Promoted Up the List
I cannot be sure that deputies have the political will but, regardless, the councils have been rather updated: 70% of the newly elected local council deputies have not worked in local self-governments before. Consequently, the system was rather competitive and conducive to a significant upgrade of local governments, either through party organizations, or through self-nomination, in hromadas under 10,000 voters. However, in terms of election system openness, such as declared by the President within his veto, and in line with the general ideas of implementing this reform, I would like to hereby list some numbers.
Specifically, the 25% quota to move up the candidate lists enabled only 40.1% of candidates to progress up. 50.5% of the deputies elected under the proportional system reached the required quota for promotion, 42.2 % of candidates would have reached from 5 to 24.99% if the quota was lower. Under 5% of electoral quota was reached by 7.3% of candidates. In fact, if the quota was lower, not 25% but 5% (as voted by the parliament of the previous convocation, and you, dear Members of Parliament, in December, 2019) the system would have been 92.7% open.
Party System in Hromadas Under 10,000 Voters
Much has been debated about the relevance of applying the party system in hromadas under 10,000 voters. The key aspect to be highlighted, in my opinion, is that no party managed to fully implement the strategy. In hromadas where the principle of using legal entities was applied, and the quasi-parties were running for elections, the party progress was much complicated by this system. That is why we encourage you to review the issue of proportional system in hromadas with 10,000 voters and above. It is illogical and does not enable any competition between the independent candidates and the party-nominated candidates.
Two-Round Election System
We estimated that 43% of cities in the country, of all the hromadas (above 10,000 and above 75,000) had the 20% gap between candidates. In other words, with regard to two rounds at elections of local mayors, additional barriers shall be applied to prevent extra spending from the budget to conduct the second voting round, to set the single day for second rounds, rather than extending the elections for 5 weeks; and not to apply the principle if, for example, the gap between the front-runners is 15 to 20%, then the second round shall not be reasonably needed, since the public opinion has been made clear. Moreover, in hromadas with above 75,000 voters, the gap turned out to be much bigger between the number one and the number two. That is why the two round system has not worked there at all.
Gender Quota in the Lists of Candidates
Of the 8,000 lists registered by political parties, 1,151 lists within the election process failed to meet the gender quota because candidates withdrew from the ballot, or when they have not assumed the mandate upon winning it. Thus, the gender quota was compromised. That is why we shall suggest some innovative approaches to tackle this issue.
First, we have police officers not voting at the special polling stations because they cannot be included into voter rolls. Regretfully, at the special polling stations located in pre-trial detention centers we do not see their work organized, thus, citizens cannot have their voting rights.
Campaigning on Social Media and in Traditional Media
Election campaigning is not properly regulated with us at all. Campaigning on Internet and in mass media calls for a closer attention from the people’s deputies and the parliament – I believe it shall be a separate topic to address by the Working Group. 81 parties used the ads on social media, specifically on Facebook. USD 1.5 mln was spent for 50,000 posts (or UAH 38 mln). The resources have not been duly reported in the interim and final financial statements. On the silent day alone, on October 24 and 25, parties and candidates spent USD 90,000 for the prohibited campaigning. As to me, it shall not be overlooked. The State Committee for Television and Radio Broadcasting referred to the court only three cases on violations in the media.
May I draw your attention to the fact that we have had a huge number of compromised ballot papers. The situation is not consistent around the country. It is obvious there is a fact of interfering or deliberate damaging of the ballot papers. I would like to encourage the people’s deputies to make use of their parliamentary control powers – they could establish a group to run an experiment. In fact, why did one constituency in Chernivtsi Oblast have 17% of the compromised ballot papers of the total number, whereas the overall picture in the region is 7%? There have been Transcarpathian and Chernivtsi Oblast councils that had 13% of compromised ballot papers, each. It is by all means an abnormal situation.
Elections in 18 Hromadas of Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts
There are hromadas that did not have the elections. It is a dire topic for discussions. Because no civil-military administrations shall be empowered to restrict voting rights for half a million citizens on Ukraine’s territory with just a letter. The aspects have been included in reports of all international organizations, which is highly important to note. I would like to hereby urge you to review the definitions of safety/unsafety at elections, on the level of the Electoral Code. What is more, it shall be done to prevent any do-it-yourself approaches during elections coming from a stakeholder with a conflict of interests in this matter, whereas the CMA does have the conflict of interests.
We do not have trust to the results, when the Central Election Commission has not been able to collect all the data from territorial election commissions for the entire month. People do not have the trust, and it does not go without reasons, as certain data are not true to reality. In other words, the data the TECs transfer to the CEC contain mistakes, either unconscious or intentional. Thus, it is a major concern.
Accessibility of Polling Stations
In our papers, we provided the information on the accessibility of polling stations. When of the 500 accessible polling stations, there are only 15 sites with the absolute accessibility, according to the State Construction Standards and criteria considered by the CEC and NGOs, then we are the totally barrier-full country. A mom with a baby stroller also finds it difficult to get to school to pick up her older child. That is why it is the matter of interest of a broader range of persons, not only voters.