Electoral law in Ukraine has been changing quite often. That is why some of the most popular arguments in favour of codification was the possibility to stabilize legal framework and enhance the quality of electoral practices. A key consequence of the electoral reform was to consolidate the mechanisms and guarantees for the exercise of suffrage for citizens, such as equal representation of women and men in election process, or expanded accessibility of election procedures for people with disabilities, ensuring electoral rights for internally displaced persons and for labour migrants. Based on the 2020 Democracy Index, the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) included Ukraine in the category of “election processes and pluralism” among countries with full-fledged democracy level (8.5 of 10 possible points). The ranking shows the actual situation as to the quality of the recent national election campaigns and shows the capacity for improvement of electoral practices on the basis of the updated electoral law. However, even the recently adopted Electoral Code has been substantially altered several times, both in a session room, and in several parliamentary working groups. It is a reminder to us all that the successful reform does not have the point of no return but there is always a chance to safeguard the most important achievements and correct the mistakes. Find below the description of the process evolution. We hope it will help track the points that shall be revisited in the future.

 UPS AND DOWNS OF ELECTORAL REFORM

Top Gains

Codification of electoral law and harmonization of procedures. Upon the adoption of the Electoral Law, all types of elections in Ukraine are now regulated by one legal document. Nevertheless, the legal basis for activities of the Central Election Commission and the State Voter Register remains the same, such as the dedicated laws (“On Central Election Commission” and “On State Voter Register”). The codification of legislation offered more transparency and unification to the rules of the game. It sophisticated any prospective hasty revision or frequent change of procedures for different types of elections. It was the first time in many years of independent Ukraine that the implementation of a new electoral system for parliamentary elections into the legal framework (proportional, with open lists) took place in advance, even though the risk of revising the key provisions of the Code before the parliamentary elections has stayed.

Ensuring more inclusion and the exercise of equal suffrage. Electoral Code expanded the accessibility to elections for people with disabilities and stipulated the gender quotas within all election systems provided by the Code (also for a majoritarian system of relative majority with voting in multi-member constituencies). Due to the simplification of procedures for changing the voting location, internally displaced persons and internal labour migrants have been eventually enabled to easily exercise their suffrage, such as to vote at the place of their actual stay rather than at formal registration address.

It is expected that abandoning the majoritarian election system, the most discredited part of election rules in Ukrainian context, that is usually associated with such negative phenomena in the history of Ukrainian elections as bribery (“seeding time for constituencies”), administrative resource and the distorted expression of will (“wasted votes”), will have a positive effect on resuming people’s trust to the parliamentary elections in general. Furthermore, when combined with the efficient system of sanctions, it will reduce the incentives for electoral fraud or manipulations. Another achievement will be the introduction of proportional system with preferential voting (for certain candidates) that could compensate for the major advantage of a majoritarian system, such as the possibility to choose among different persons and vote for a certain candidate.

Inescapable punishment for electoral fraud. People’s expectations from successful electoral reform included not only the qualitative legal changes but also the conditions to enforce the law. In practical terms, it implies the guaranteed inescapable punishment for electoral fraud and proportional sanctions for the violations. The changes introduced to the Criminal Code of Ukraine and the Code on Administrative Offence helped create favorable conditions to investigate the crimes, and incentivize voters to cooperate with investigators.

Top Losses

Limited openness of election system. The proportional system with open lists introduced by the Code for the parliamentary and local elections included internal barriers (such as the 25% threshold for electoral quota). They largely restricted voter influence on the distribution sequence of mandates and the order of succession of candidates in party lists.

Non-democratic procedure for withdrawing deputies. Electoral reform has not tackled the legal provision enabling the withdrawal of elected officials from local self-government upon the popular initiative. Application of the mechanism along with conducting the elections is deemed unacceptable in developed democracies as it contradicts the principle of free representative mandate. In addition, the practice will lead to reinforced control from party leaders (rather than voters) over the elected persons, any breach of guarantees for their independence, and creating risks for political corruption.

Non-transparency of electoral financing. At local elections, the system of analysis of financial statements from parties and candidates by territorial election commissions turned out to be inefficient for the lack of organizational capacity and effective powers of commissions, and also in the context of their politically biased composition. Inefficiency of the control system over electoral finance is aggravated by the problem of excessive financial expenses for election campaigns and the lack of justified limits for expenses from election funds.

Unregulated pre-election campaigning. During the election campaigns, it was predictable to see the abundant de-facto pre-election campaigning beyond the statutory terms (prior to the start of candidate registration), i.e. with no transparent and clear requirements to the rules for sharing and financing it on this stage. The issue of conducting and financing the campaign on social media remained unregulated in the Electoral Code, despite the huge increase of the scale of such activities.

ELECTORAL REFORM BEFORE 2014: PREACHING TO THE WINDS

Election systems in independent Ukraine have replaced one another, and it usually occurred shortly before the start of election campaign. The short-term revision of the rules of play for elections to the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine happened four times: first, a majoritarian system of absolute majority was introduced; in 1998, it was changed to the parallel system (proportional majoritarian system); in 2006, a fully proportional system was introduced; in 2012, there was another recourse to the parallel election system.

Ukrainian elections have been continuously recognized nationally and internationally but the practice of holding them and the rules for legal regulation raised numerous concerns and criticism from the specialized observation organizations. Recommendations suggested by domestic observers and international organizations about key aspects of election reform were usually ignored. The falsification of elections in 2004 undermined the trust to the electoral law as a set of provisions that guaranteed equal rules of play, and also dented the hopes of citizens for any possible free and fair elections.

During frequent and hasty changes, electoral framework grew too much; it became over-regulated and accumulated controversies and redundancies. All election types, presidential, parliamentary, and local, were regulated by distinct laws with random changes introduced that did not synchronize among themselves or produced different procedures about identical processes. By 2010, the regular local elections in Ukraine took place simultaneously with the national elections, on the basis of a unified system of precinct election commissions, but under different laws.

Proposals to unify the electoral framework started to be actively discussed in expert and political circles after the Orange Revolution. However, the actual attempts to codify the electoral law took place in 2010, when the Verkhovna Rada registered a draft Electoral Law (authored by Yuriy Kliuchkovskyi, Serhiy Podhornyi, Viktor Sinchenko, a.o.).

Despite the expectations for positive changes, virtually all attempts to change election rules were considered unjustified and partly failing. It was not a rare case that façade of some of the bold decisions obscured people’s understanding that politicians were trying to keep the status quo. The best scenarios of electoral reform were repeatedly presented under the disguise of recourse to the previously tested options of election systems (that had discredited themselves), but slightly facelifted.

The Revolution of Dignity built a demand and gave an impetus to dramatic change in the functioning of public institutions in Ukraine. In this context, the election reform was a key political priority on the agenda of the newly elected authorities (President and the Parliament); and its prioritized implementation was part of public commitments of parliamentary political parties.

One important administrative and technological solution that preceded the integral election reform was to create and get on the track the State Voter Register (in 2009). However, its implementation enabled initiatives to improve opportunities for voting access. In fact, it is a single automated database used to store the data and take account of Ukraine’s citizens empowered to vote.

KEY PLAYERS

Electoral reform covered a long distance. The outcome of this hurdle race mostly depended on political motifs and coordination of positions of parliamentary political parties of the two recent convocations of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine.

The intention on the comprehensive improvement of electoral system was declared and formally enshrined in the Agreement on the Establishment of the Deputy Factions Coalition “European Ukraine” in the Verkhovna Rada of the 8th convocation (in November, 2014). The parliamentary agreement was signed by five political parties: “Bloc of Petro Poroshenko,” “Batkivshchyna” AU, “People’s Front,” Radical Party of Oleh Liashko, and the “Self-Reliance.” The final stage of the reform was implemented by the parties that entered the parliament of the 9th convocation, with such new players as the “Servant of the People,” “Holos,” and the “Opposition Platform – For Life.”

Verkhovna Rada of the 8th Convocation (2014-2019)

“European Solidarity” (“Bloc of Petro Poroshenko”) as a key political force of the parliamentary coalition in the 8th Verkhovna Rada coordinated the process of reforming the electoral law on the first stage. Although the party did not have a unanimous position about the end format of electoral reform (which was manifested during the voting for Electoral Code in the first reading) but the need for codification of electoral law and introduction of preferential voting were seen as key public priorities that have been declared since 2014 by the incumbent President and the faction leaders. The poor efforts in lobbying and adopting the Electoral Law (with the new election system) could be seen as betrayal of voters and personal defeat for party public leaders. It was often a key motivation for reform promotion on the critical stages. The “People’s Front” party was in alliance with the BPP in drafting legislative proposals and voting for the electoral reform in the parliament of the 8th convocation.

In a public debate around the electoral reform, the “Batkivshchyna” spoke on behalf of supporters of the open lists system but they always maintained a distinct position about the reform format and would often practice unique approaches to the interpretation of the open lists system. “Batkivshchyna” criticized the majoritarian system and advocated for the enhanced party role in candidate nomination, advancing of candidates, and control over the distribution of mandates. Specifically, the draft law on elections of people’s deputies submitted by the faction to the Verkhovna Rada in 2014 suggested holding elections under the proportional system where parties would be entitled to independently assign the order of sequence of candidates on the list upon their election. The position upheld by the “Batkivshchyna” stood in stark contrast to the general approach of open lists initiators who considered preferential voting as a means to overcome party monopoly. The discrepancies were the most difficult part to handle, and challenged the compromise about the final version of Electoral Law. Eventually, “Batkivshchyna” declared the need to introduce the open lists system and supported the format of Electoral Law that kept the profound effect of parties on the mandate distribution, along with personal voting for candidates.

As to the “Opposition Platform,” in Verkhovna Rada of the 8th convocation it was not part of the parliamentary coalition and they have not formally undertaken to introduce the proportional system with open lists, although they were consistently criticizing the acting parallel election system (the majoritarian component). As we can see from the legislative initiative for a draft law on election of people’s deputies authored by Yuriy Miroshnychenko, deputy from the “Opposition Bloc” (registered in 2014), the party originally supported the introduction of a proportional election system with closed lists. In 2017, though, during a public discussion about the future election system, the then faction leader of the “Opposition Bloc,” Yuriy Boyko, publicly spoke in favour of introducing the proportional system with open lists. The party stayed loyal to this position during the further considerations and voting for the Electoral Code in the parliament.

The “Self-Reliance” Union was one of the most active advocates (also through street campaigns) for the rejection of the majoritarian election system and the introduction of open party lists at the parliamentary elections as a precondition for successful electoral reform. As a parliamentary coalition member, the party was consistent in their votes for the Electoral Code. Notably, they have never initiated any alternative draft laws to change the election system. It is not infrequently that the alternative draft laws were used as a tool for political bargaining, and hindered the consideration of some most important legislative initiatives.

The promises to adopt the law on elections under open lists were included into the election agenda of the Radical Party. That is why the political force of Oleh Liashko supported the allies in the coalition in the voting for Electoral Code. The party’s public position was mostly to criticize a majoritarian system; they also advocated for its repeal.

Verkhovna Rada of the 9th Convocation (since 2019)

“Servant of the People” party burst into the political process on the wave of the 2019 national elections, and played a key role on the second stage of electoral reform. The position encouraging to finalize the electoral framework reform and introduce the open lists system was part of election agenda of Volodymyr Zelensky.

“Dear Members of Parliament! I hereby ask you to pass the long-suffering Electoral Code and make the lists open,” Volodymyr Zelensky.

Upon his election as a President, the implementation of the idea was included into priorities of the President and the parliamentary majority composed by the “Servant of the People.” In search for a political compromise with the parliament of the previous convocation about the rapid change of election rules and rejection of a majoritarian system, President Zelensky was ready to accept the proportional election system with closed lists. However, after the scenario failed major effort of the government party shifted towards the promotion and capturing in the Electoral Code a system of preferential voting (for specific candidates). The intentions and aspirations of the mono-majority parties were to have the Electoral Code voted following the coordinated efforts and supported by other factions.

The Holos Party combined the role of a promoter and lobbyist of the proportional system with open lists. On the other hand, they actively criticized the drafts of electoral laws which suggested any compromise solutions for election systems that restricted direct influence of voters of the composition of lists. During the vote for electoral reform, Sviatoslav Vakarchuk’s party acted as a situational ally of the parliamentary majority, and selectively voted for the changes to electoral framework acceptable for them. The Holos Party was the only party that did not support the Electoral Code in the final version.

The “Opposition Platform — For Life” actively joined the public discussion about changes to election system at the final stage of electoral reform. They criticized its majoritarian element. Eventually, the parliamentary faction voted for the Electoral Law in its final version.

In the process of implementing the electoral reform, there have been three offices of the Central Election Commission. The commissions chaired by Mykhaylo Okhendovskyi (2013 – 2018) and Tetiana Slipachuk (2018 – 2019) stayed aloof of the discussions for recommendations on the draft Electoral Law. The composition of the current CEC chaired by Oleh Didenko also tried to keep a distant and independent position in the inter-party discussions about the peculiarities of election systems, and disengaged from public debate of any issues from the political domain. At the same time, the Commission was actively promoting the proposals for improvements of certain legal procedures and some novel ideas within the CEC’s competence (such as the use of e-services or operations of the Commission’s territorial offices).

Civil Society Organizations acted as the engines in promoting changes to the electoral framework. Besides, they criticized the non-democratic electoral practices, electoral manipulations, and abuse that have been captured in the regulations. Promotion of electoral reform required the synchronization of efforts of many CSOs and groups, and assumed a format of developing and support to legal regulatory solutions, of running awareness campaigns and public diplomacy activities.

In their activities promoting electoral reform, the Civil Network OPORA focused on the interaction with the dedicated committee of Verkhovna Rada in order to develop a set of proposals to regulate key issues and shortcomings of the Electoral Law text. Jointly with partners, the organization was advocating for the proposals. Most key regulatory recommendations submitted by OPORA have been taken into account in the laws’ final text version. OPORA was the only specialized organization being systemically engaged in the work of all working groups, preparing the analytical reports, and providing for media and information coverage of the process. OPORA conducted theme-based public discussions in a format of expert consultations that took place in Ukraine’s regions and focused on the concept of electoral reform (for example, in different years, there was a series of events ran jointly with the Ukrainian Independent Center for Political Research, Internews Ukraine, the International Foundation for Electoral Systems).

The “Chesno” public movement organized civic control campaigns, awareness activities, and public campaigns to support the electoral reform (also in coordination with certain political forces such as the “Self-Reliance,” “National Corps,” “Ukrainian Galician Party”), they supported the rejection of the majoritarian system, and promoted open lists.

The “Center UA” NGO ran the information campaign that included the production of explanatory materials and news stories; they engaged celebrities to sign the appeal for the President (Petro Poroshenko) requesting to support the adoption of the Electoral Law.

International organizations and partners, including the Venice Commission, OSCE/ODIHR, Council of Europe, the European Commission, G7, NDI, ENEMO, CANEOM, IFES, highlighted the importance of the continued effort and adding urgency to the improvements of electoral framework. Furthermore, they prioritized and issued recommendations for focus areas and vectors in electoral framework that would bring it closer to the international democratic standards.

REFORM’S WHEEL: Drafting Changes to Electoral Framework in 2014-2021

DEVELOPMENT OF ELECTORAL FRAMEWORK WITH CONTRIBUTIONS FROM CIVIL SOCIETY

The experience of electoral reform in Ukraine shows the need to enhance transparency and publicity of drafting changes to electoral framework, to reinforce the procedures for participation of expert and civil society organizations in the discussion of legal acts. By 2019, the practices of engaging the public and experts to the parliament’s work and its committees on electoral framework have not usually resulted in any significant specific achievements. It was related to the insufficient motivation of Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine to account for positions of the non-governmental sector, and also because of the low intensity of electoral reform. In this context, it was notable to see the developments around the draft Electoral Law approved as late as in the end of office of the parliament of the 8th convocation. The working groups established by the dedicated parliamentary committee to prepare the Electoral Law for the second reading had 34 meetings. However, although it invested much effort into the systemic and meaningful work on the text of the Code, it failed to be the actual tool to impact the final decision of the parliament and the dedicated committee.

The efficiency of interaction between the non-governmental sector and the parliament increased after the extraordinary elections of people’s deputies of Ukraine in 2019. The formats of consultations, public discussions, and working groups turned regular, and their outputs were partially implemented on the level of laws covering a wide range of topics related to political rights that used to be seen by political actors as risky or sensitive. The process is still lacking any clear procedure for the parliament to account for developments of intersectoral working groups; there are no procedures for approving the viewpoints; the process of making the final version of amendments is non-public. The statement of the issue does not imply that the parliament and its committees have to be restricted in freedom of action and policy making. However, in our view, the rules for communication between the Verkhovna Rada and experts, accounting for their joint outputs can significantly enhance the quality of electoral law.

SLEIGHT OF HAND AND THE LAW ON LOCAL ELECTIONS: DESIGNING THE RULES FOR THE 2015 CAMPAIGN

It would be an overstatement to claim that the coalition agreement of factions in the parliament of the 8th convocation incentivized people’s deputies of Ukraine to tackle the electoral law.

The people’s representatives were necessitated to address the law on local elections because of the impending local election campaign.

On February, 03, 2015, the Chairperson of Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine, Volodymyr Groysman, assigned the sectoral Committee of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine to establish a working group to draft amendments for electoral framework.

The speaker’s statement was voiced during his meeting with the President of the European Commission For Democracy Through Law (Venice Commission), Gianni Buquicchio. As informed by the website of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine, the parties discussed the need to develop a new electoral framework within a short time, with regard for the local elections due in autumn 2015.

On February, 18, 2015, Volodymyr Groysman, a Chairperson of Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine, issued the resolution on expert group for drafting the law “On Elections of Deputies to the Verkhovna Rada of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea, local councils, and heads of villages, townships, and cities.”

The working group included 37 persons from 7 entities: from Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine — 16 MPs, Parliament’s Executive Office — 3 persons, Presidential Administration — 1 (Vitaliy Kovalchuk), central executive authorities — 1 (Minister of Justice of Ukraine Pavlo Petrenko), associations of local self-government bodies — 3, CEC — 1 (deputy head of Commission, Andriy Mahera), experts — 12 persons. The Chairperson’s resolution is available at: https://zakon.rada.gov.ua/laws/show/225/15-рг#Text

The bureaucratic decision to create the working group was promising for electoral reform. Its official status approved by the resolution of the parliament’s chairperson looked farsighted, too. The provisions on the expert group empowered its members with the right to initiate proposals for the parliament’s agenda, to interact with committees and deputy factions, to invite representatives from public authorities to their meetings. In other words, the group could potentially become a political and expert platform to inclusively furnish the draft law coordinated by all stakeholders.

On February, 19, the first meeting took place of the expert group on the development of the law on local elections.

“We have to create the election system that would meet the demand of people,” Volodymyr Groysman.

After the first meeting of the expert group on the development of the draft Law of Ukraine on local elections, Volodymyr Groysman radiated optimism.

The speaker urged members of the expert group to work as a consolidated team and develop the draft law by the end of April, to be approved in May, 2015. Following the first meeting, the expert group has not convened in full before April, 16, 2015.

The next expert group meeting to develop the draft law on local elections taking place on April, 16, 2015, set the vector for the parliament in local elections framework. As to prospects for electoral reform, after the meeting the signals from politicians were ambiguous.

As proposed by the Chairperson of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine, it was decided to create a small group to work on contested concepts for the new electoral framework, chaired by Oleksandr Chernenko, a head of a subcommittee on elections and referenda of the Verkhovna Rada Committee for Legal Policy.

Electoral Reform’s Eleven

The “small” group included people’s deputies of Ukraine: Oleksandr Chernenko, Vadym Denesenko (Bloc of Petro Poroshenko «Солідарність»), Olena Boyko (“People’s Front”), Ihor Popov (Radical Party of Oleh Liashko), Andriy Mahera (deputy chair of the CEC). Besides, there were members of expert organizations: Yuriy Kliuchkovskyi, Olha Aivazovska, Yevhen Radchenko, Denys Kovryzhenko, Oleksiy Koshel.

“Electoral reform’s Eleven,” Volodyyr Groysman commented on the final group membership. However, what came under notice was the absence in the group of Ruslan Kniazevych, a person in charge of the furnishing of the final version of the draft law by May, 12, 2015, a head of the Verkhovna Rada Committee for Legal Policy and Justice, responsible for electoral reform. The other group members treated the fact as a risk for self-withdrawal of the parliament leaders from a joint and public work with experts on the draft law on local elections.

At the same time, the Chairperson of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine informed that the parliament had another draft law registered about local elections, and the parliament would be considering several documents. He expressed regret about failing to have one document as people’s deputies started registering their draft laws. Volodymyr Groysman emphasized that the new law would have to provide for open lists and the possibility for voters to vote not only for the lists of local party organizations but also for the specific candidate. The briefing by Volodymyr Groysman is available at: https://www.rada.gov.ua/news/Novyny/110342.html

Product No 3: how the trick up the sleeve became a game changer

In his briefing after the final meeting of the Expert Group, Volodymyr Groysman stated the fact. The people’s deputies of Ukraine started registering their draft laws despite the work of the established inter-sectoral group. It meant that the idea to develop one unified draft law based on the deputy and expert compromise failed.

On May, 13, 2015, the first draft law No 2831 was registered. It was authored by a group of people’s deputies of Ukraine from the “Batkivshchyna” AU faction chaired by the leader, Yuliya Tymoshenko. The document implied the introduction of a proportional election system with preferences at local elections (except for villages and townships). The suggested model was not a system of open lists as the top 5 candidates on the list did not rank-ordered but the final distribution of other mandates occurred after the election day, upon the party’s decision at the convention.

On May, 27, a people’s deputy of Ukraine from the “People’s Front” party faction, Mykola Fedoruk, registered the second draft law (No 2831-1). It envisaged elections under the proportional system with open lists only for deputies in cities of Oblast center status and cities with over 300,000 voters. All other local councils had to be elected under the majoritarian system of the absolute majority.

On May, 28, a draft law No 2831-2 was registered. It was developed by the members of the “small” working group as commissioned by the Chairperson of Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine, Volodymyr Groysman. It was officially submitted to the parliament by 19 MPs, including Andriy Parubiy, Oleksandr Chernenko, Olena Boyko, Ruslan Sydorovych, Leonid Yemets, Svitlana Zalishchuk, Mustafa Nayem, Taras Pastukh, Ivanka Klympush-Tsyntsadze, a.o. The draft law was best complying with the provisions of the Coalition Agreement on the introduction of open lists at national and local elections.

On the same day, the fourth draft law was registered, No 2831-3, authored by 5 people’s deputies of Ukraine: Vadym Denysenko, Serhiy Alekseyev (Bloc of Petro Poroshenko), Ihor Popov, Yuriy Chyzhmar (Radical Party of Oleh Liashko), and Olena Ledovskykh (“People’s Front”). The authors of the draft law (of whom two were included into the expert group chaired by Volodymyr Groysman) suggested a proportional election system “with preferences” for Oblast, district, city district and city councils; for village and township councils — a majoritarian system of the simple majority was suggested.

At elections under the proportional system, local party organizations could nominate one candidate from the list in the territorial constituency, whereas the first number on the list was not assigned to any constituency. Parties were not obliged to assign a candidate to each district, whereas voters did not have a chance to choose between several candidates from one political force. In fact, it was about keeping the proportional election system with closed lists. At the same time, the draft implied a peculiar format for the final distribution of mandates. Candidates were compared by the party’s share of the total number of votes cast for all passing parties in different territorial districts. It meant that a candidate with a higher rate in a smaller constituency had an advantage before their fellow party members assigned for a bigger constituency.

It shall be mentioned that the authors of the draft law did not call the suggested system by open lists in the explanatory note but they widely used this term during the promo campaign in the media and in the parliament.

Is the draft law 2831-3 a Jack in the Box?

The draft law alternative to the one by the parliament’s expert group and successful by the results of the future voting in the Rada, authored by the group’s members Ihor Popov and Vadym Denysenko, raised a wave of assumptions on the document’s political motivation and origin. It is not our objective to go into detail on that but the below comment by Oleksandr Chernenko, a head of the parliamentary subcommittee, could serve as an illustration.

 “I would not relate the “Popov draft” to the Presidential Administration. It was written in the Rada’s subcommittee,” Chernenko commented the discussion to the BBC Ukraine.

Chernenko evaluated the draft law No 2831-3 in the following manner: the draft law signed by Ihor Popov is not bad, it is easier for implementation and it is a step forward compared to the old law. However, the draft law, in Chernenko’s view, can hardly be described as a full-fledged open lists system. Available at: https://www.bbc.com/ukrainian/politics/2015/05/150529_local_election_law_vc

The Moment of Truth

The moment of truth for all four draft laws came on June, 18, 2015.

At the plenary session, the draft laws on local elections were considered under the following algorithm.

First, authors of the draft laws had an opportunity to present them. The first to present was Serhiy Sobolev, from the “Batkivshchyna” AU who announced that the authors had withdrawn it from consideration.

After the presentations of authors, the chair of the Verkhovna Rada Committee for Legal Policy, Ruslan Kniazevych, announced the committee’s stance. Essentially, the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine had to decide about supporting one of the four draft laws. Ruslan Kniazevych explained the lack of a unified opinion in the Committee by the political connotation of the discussion. According to him at the time, the discussion of 4 draft laws in the parliament meant that it was very hard to get to a common denominator on the matter of electoral framework. The politician also referred to a decision of the Constitutional Court of Ukraine of 1998, that termed an aspect of changing the election system and its key elements as a matter of political relevance that shall be considered solely by the Verkhovna Rada.

Further discussions showed that the factions of the ruling coalition were inclined to support the draft law No 2831-3 (Vadym Denysenko, Ihor Popov). Those were only several individual MPs who drew attention to the fact that the expert group chaired by the Chairperson of Verkhovna Rada, Volodymyr Groysman, developed a crucially different draft law.

Volodymyr Groysman who chaired the meeting suggested the deputies administer a pilot vote on all draft laws. According to him, the format for identifying the draft to be further elaborated by the parliament had been decided by the council of the parliamentary coalition.

Pilot voting results for 3 draft laws on local elections

No 2381-1 (Fedoruk)

88

No 2381-2 (Parubiy, Chernenko)

182

No 2381-3 (Denysenko, Popov)

222

Oleksandr Chernenko’s speech was instrumental for the parliament’s final decision. As the author of one of the draft laws, No 2381-2 with open lists, he was given the floor following the pilot voting. Having voiced that the results were evidently manifested on the screen, he encouraged MPs to support the draft No 2381-3. In his view, the worst thing to do after the vote was to keep the old law “Lukash-Yanukovych-Portnov.” Following the Chernenko’s position, MPs from the ruling coalition focused on the input from the “Self-Reliance” faction who had to decide about the vote as to the Popov-Denysenko draft (2381-3). Oleh Bereziuk said that the “Self-Reliance” faction decided to relate to the “fears” experienced by the colleagues (allegedly, the fear for open lists — auth.). At the same time, he said that the parliament did not manage to reject the protective elements for political forces that are not mature enough.

The draft law No 2381-3 was supported as a basis on June, 18, by 271 MPs. No votes came from the deputies from the “Opposition Bloc” faction as they promoted the introduction of a proportional system with open lists, and they gave a negative evaluation to the draft law. As little as 2 of 19 MPs from the “Will of the People” group supported the draft law. Thereat, its member, Volodymyr Lytvyn, claimed the consideration procedures were broken. According to him, the draft laws with over 100 Articles shall be considered under the full procedure. 1 of the 22 votes of the “Vidrodzhennia” group was given to the draft law which leader, Viktor Bondar, supported the majoritarian system at local elections. Thus, the parliamentary coalition announced a shared position on approving the Draft Law of Ukraine on Local Elections as a basis.

Voting results for the draft law No 2381-3 about local elections on June, 18, 2015

Faction / Group

Number of votes in favour

Number of members in a faction / group

Bloc of Petro Poroshenko

119

144

People’s Front

69

81

Opposition Bloc

0

43

Non-affiliated

18

42

Self-Reliance

26

41

“Vidrodzhennia” Group

1

22

Radical Party of Oleh Liashko

19

21

“Batkivshchyna” AU

17

19

“Will of the People” Group

2

19


The draft law on local elections No 2381-3 approved as a basis was prepared for the second reading under an abridged procedure and was finally approved on July, 14. Between the first and the second readings, 65 people’s deputies of Ukraine submitted 1,548 proposals that have not been considered at a plenary session. The draft law was approved under the ad hoc procedure, without considering amendments from deputies. At the same time, by the second reading, the text included the conceptual ideas from people’s deputies of Ukraine, said Ruslan Kniazevych.

“...There is another piece of joy in our room — these are women deputies. Whatever the faction, they all ask us to support the European-style amendment on the mandatory 30% representation of women (…) and girls nominated as candidates for deputies of the respective levels,” Yuriy Lutsenko.

Upon Yuriy Lutsenko’s proposal (Bloc of Petro Poroshenko), in the final text, the parliament took into account the provisions on “gender quota” in party candidate lists at local elections. Furthermore, upon proposals from MPs announced at the meeting, the draft law deleted the provisions disabling the participation of parties registered under a year prior to the election day.

The Law on Local Elections (2381-3) in the second reading and in whole was voted by 257 people’s deputies of Ukraine.

Voting results for the draft law 2381-3 on local elections in the second reading and in whole

Faction / Group

Number of votes in favour

Number of members in a faction / group

Bloc of Petro Poroshenko

106

144

People’s Front

69

81

Opposition Bloc

0

43

Non-affiliated

17

42

Self-Reliance

30

41

“Vidrodzhennia” Group

0

22

Radical Party of Oleh Liashko

18

21

“Batkivshchyna” AU

17

19

“Will of the People” Group

0

19

The Chairperson of Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine signed the Law of Ukraine “On Local Elections” on July, 24, 2015. On August, 06, it was endorsed by the President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko. At the time, it was only 30 days prior to the start of local elections. The resolution of Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine was approved by the parliament on July, 17, 2015, or before the signing of the Law of Ukraine “On Local Elections” by the Parliament’s Chairperson and the President of Ukraine. One did not exclude the other (in formal terms) but the fact as well illustrated the parliament’s habit to adopt electoral law shortly before the start of campaign.

LA-LA-LAND. HOW THE PARLIAMENT “MATURED” FOR ELECTORAL LAW (2015 – 2017)

The Law of Ukraine “On Local Elections” 2015 had not resulted from the full-fledged inclusive electoral reform but reflected the non-public agreements between factions of the parliamentary coalition in the Verkhovna Rada of the 8th convocation. The non-governmental organizations and independent experts were excluded from discussing the draft law supported by the people’s deputies of Ukraine, whereas the parliament did not have any real discussion on relevant issues of electoral framework. Regardless of creating a special group, deputy factions showed their incapacity to publicly build a shared vision, and chose to register individual draft laws. On the one hand, the practice indicated to the fragile mechanisms for coordinating different positions in the ruling coalition. On the other hand, submitting alternative draft texts signified the failure on electoral promises to introduce proportional election system with open lists.

The period before adopting the Electoral Law in November, 2017, shall not be considered as the time wasted. Non-governmental organizations and certain people’s deputies of Ukraine ensured a minimum dialogue about the electoral framework and developed changes, whereas the parliament would institutionally join from time to time. However, in terms of the parliament’s role, the process could be described by the term “stagnation.”

Flashes of Light Amidst Electoral Stagnation

In 2016, an interest in electoral reform was taken by Andriy Parubiy, who was elected as a Chairman of Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine in April, 2016. The new speaker co-authored the draft Law of Ukraine on local elections No 2381-2. At that point, he was the initiator of the draft Electoral Code registered in Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine in October, 2015. The draft Code initiated by Andriy Parubiy was prepared back in 2010 by a prominent Ukrainian expert Yuriy Kliuchkovskyi. The need to register in the end of 2015 was provoked by the submission of the first initiative about the Electoral Code by a people’s deputy Valeriy Pysarenko (a deputy group of the “Vidrodzhennia” party). To the best of the memory, in May, 2016, the speaker first officially prioritized for the parliament to create a working group to develop the legal framework.

As initiated by Andriy Parubiy, an unofficial working group was established in the parliament that included people’s deputies of Ukraine and experts. The group was not approved by any resolution of the Parliament’s Chairperson, as it was explained, in order to avoid bureaucratic complications. During their meetings, the group listened to the presentations by authors of the registered draft laws on election of people’s deputies of Ukraine.

Three draft laws were registered back in November-December, 2014. The Draft Law No 1068 (Yuriy Miroshnychenko, “Opposition Bloc”) envisaged a proportional system with voting for closed lists from parties and blocs (with the 1% threshold). The draft law No 1068-1 (deputies from the “Batkivshchyna” AU, including Yuliya Tymoshenko) promoted a proportional election system with voting for closed lists and assigning candidates by territorial constituencies. At that, voters would not influence any order of sequence of the mandate distribution between candidates on the list. Draft No 1068-2 (Viktor Chumak, Bloc of Petro Poroshenko, other MPs) suggested a shift to a proportional election system with open lists. The approach is also reflected in the above-mentioned draft Electoral Law No 3112-1.

In July, 2016, the Chairperson of Verkhovna Rada Andriy Parubiy stated the lack of consensus among the members of the expert group he created. According to him, proposals were discussed to keep in the election system a majoritarian component, to introduce closed party lists, and to apply open lists approach. Available at: https://cutt.ly/5c5Os5y

In parliamentary terms, the history ended at that point to be further resumed in 2017.

A forgotten reform. It is how the reporters from the “Deutsche Welle” described the reform when covering the forum “Electoral Reform: the Agenda” conducted in October, 2016 by OPORA, IFES, and other NGOs. The video of the forum is available at: https://cutt.ly/Mc5Oxoe

RISEN FROM THE ASHES: PARLIAMENT STARTS CONSIDERING THE ELECTORAL CODE

The first reading of the old-timer draft law

In about a year following the big conference of CSOs “Electoral Reform: the Agenda,” the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine adopted the Electoral Code in the first reading. The draft law No 3112-1 supported by deputies was composed on the basis of the Electoral Law developed in 2010 by a working group under the auspices of the then deputy, Yuriy Kliuchkovskyi. It was initiated by people’s deputies of Ukraine, including Andriy Parubiy, Oleksandr Chernenko, Leonid Yemets, who also used other outputs from 2010-2015. A key peculiarity of the draft Electoral Law was the introduction of a proportional system of open lists for the parliamentary elections and certain types of local elections.

The draft law competed with the Electoral Code by Valeriy Pysarenko that suggested a variant of a proportional system with closed lists.

The Parubiy-Chernenko’s draft Electoral Law was positively voted on November, 07, 2017, in the first reading, by 226 MPs. In case at least one vote were missing the codification of electoral framework could have failed. The Electoral Code supported as a basis unified the framework about all national and local elections, Central Election Commission, and the State Voter Register. At the plenary session, the draft law was presented by an MP Oleksandr Chernenko (Bloc of Petro Poroshenko). He also announced the opinion of the key Committee for the Code – the Committee on Legal Policy and Justice. The committee assumed an identical position, the same as in case with the Law of Ukraine on Local Elections 2015, — the parliament had to decide between the two draft laws.

In the discussions of the draft Electoral Law, one highly resonant speech was delivered by Ruslan Kniazevych, a head of Committee for Legal Policy and Justice. According to him, he had an impression that most speakers have not read the codes. Kniazevych reiterated that they were written in 2007-2008 on a different constitutional basis and legal basis, whereas Ukraine has largely advanced in the recent 10 years. The MP believed that the parliament regressed to the previous decade and the documents should not be adopted.

Voting results for the draft of Electoral Law No 3112-1 as a basis

Faction / group

Number of votes in favour

Number of members in a faction / group

Bloc of Petro Poroshenko

68

138

People’s Front

56

81

Opposition Bloc

26

43

Non-affiliated

26

50

Self-Reliance

20

25

“Vidrodzhennia” Group

1

26

Radical Party of Oleh Liashko

14

20

“Batkivshchyna” AU

13

20

“Will of the People” Group

2

19

 

Working Group and Political Reality are Like Apples and Oranges

Following the first reading, the draft Electoral Law received over 4,400 amendments and proposals from people’s deputies of Ukraine.

A subcommittee for elections and referenda of the Committee for Legal Policy and Justice started considering the amendments for the first time at their meeting on February, 21, 2019.

On February, 28, at the meeting of the Committee for Legal Policy and Justice, a decision was made to create an official working group to prepare the draft Electoral Law for consideration in the second reading. On the other hand, the group’s official composition chaired by an MP Oleksandr Chernenko was approved as late as on April, 04, 2019. The delayed process for the official preparation of the group was most likely related to the ongoing issue with the lack of quorum at the Committee’s sessions.

The official working group of the Committee of Verkhovna Rada for Legal Policy and Justice included 24 MPs from all deputy factions and groups. The group launched their operations prior to its formal endorsement, and conducted 43 sessions. They completed the consideration of amendments and proposals from MPs on March, 11, 2019.

The operations of the parliament’s Working Group ensured full participation of representatives of national and international expert organizations that had the actual opportunity to present and justify their visions of electoral issues. At the same time, sadly enough but the parliament’s working group failed to act as a full-fledged platform for discussions among the MPs. For one, the attendance of MPs at the group sessions was extremely poor, as confirmed by the data collected by OPORA. 11 out of 24 people’s deputies of Ukraine who were official members of the working group have never attended any of its sessions. For more details on MP attendance, check the link: https://cutt.ly/ic5PIGf. Secondly, because of the non-attendance of MPs the group’s work failed to ensure the representation of positions from all factions which downgraded the actual practical value of the compromise reached and decisions made before. Thirdly, there was no transparent procedure for the Committee for Legal Policy and Justice to account for the working group’s outcomes. Eventually, the dedicated parliamentary committee had not defined its position about the amendments from MPs and decisions from the WG. The Electoral Code came for the parliament’s consideration without any specific Committee’s conclusions.

Outcomes of the Working Group did not coincide with the political reality in the parliament.

Curtain Falls for the Parliament of the 8th Convocation: Electoral Code Adopted but Delayed

On June, 06, 2019, the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine started considering the amendments for the Electoral Law; whereas the process completed on July, 11. In the period between the first and the second reading, 4,296 amendments had been submitted to the draft Electoral Law. At the same time, the committee had not had any specific opinions. The Committee chose not to consider the amendments at their sessions. They explained the decision by their intention not to protract the time to submit the draft law to the plenary session room. The scope of amendments was supplemented with 387 amendments developed by the working group.

No decision of the Committee about the proposals and amendments from MPs made the parliament vote for each of them. In fact, the consideration of amendments to the Electoral Law became a primary work for the parliament that was preparing for the extraordinary elections and found itself in a conflict with the new Head of State.

The parliament’s final decision on adopting the Electoral Law was approved on July, 11, in breach of Rules and Procedures of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine. Firstly, Andriy Parubiy, a speaker of Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine, had 17 times put to the vote an issue of resuming the consideration of amendments submitted by the Committee specifically at the plenary session. The item failed to get the necessary votes from MPs. Secondly, upon the productive decision to resume the consideration of amendments, the speaker put to the same vote the amendments and the Code as a whole. Therefore, the Electoral Code was adopted in breach of rules and procedures which might lead to its positive contestation. Promptly after the vote, Ruslan Stefanchuk, a representative of the President of Ukraine, publicly claimed the breach of procedure by the Parliament.

People’s deputies of Ukraine of the 8th convocation gave 230 votes to support the Electoral Code, thus adopting it prior to their early termination of office. The Code was supposed to be enforced on December, 01, 2023.

The decision on the Electoral Code was an outro for the previous parliament. However, it was obvious that the Code’s journey was just beginning because the new President and the Parliament would want to have their say on electoral reform. It was especially true to expect because the new legal framework was postponed by the end of 2023.

Everyone on Vacation

Andriy Parubiy, a Chairperson of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine, signed the Electoral Code as late as on August, 27, 2019. As he explained, he was not able to sign the document without an endorsement from the chair of the dedicated committee who stayed on vacation leave. Thus, he only managed to submit the document to him on August, 27.

On the level of the parliament of the 8th convocation, formalities were completed on the last day of the office.

Voting results for the draft Electoral Law 3112-1 in the second reading and in whole

Faction / group

Number of votes “in favour”

Number of members in a faction / group

Bloc of Petro Poroshenko

67

127

People’s Front

43

79

Opposition Bloc

20

39

Non-affiliated

40

68

Self-Reliance

25

25

“Vidrodzhennia” Group

2

25

Radical Party of Oleh Liashko

17

21

“Batkivshchyna” AU

14

21

“Will of the People” Group

2

17

Volodymyr Zelensky Did Not Like It

On September, 3, 2019, the President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyi returned the Electoral Code of Ukraine to the Parliament through the veto. The Head of State expressed 17 remarks, most of which were justified and concerned the enhanced guarantees to protect suffrage for citizens and efficiency of election procedures. Specifically, the President of Ukraine highlighted the need to ensure suffrage for internally displaced persons. A fundamental shortcoming of the Presidential proposals was that they lacked any precisely formulated legislative amendments. The format of the presidential veto suggested complications for the dedicated committee, on the one hand. On the other hand, it de facto allowed the committee to go beyond the presidential proposals.

The Committee of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine for the Organization of State Power, Regional Development, Local Self-Government, and Urban Planning was actively and diversely communicating with NGOs and the CEC in matters addressing the veto of the President of Ukraine. The experience of the interaction was useful in enhancing democratic practices of parliament’s consultations with the civil society and other stakeholders. However, similar to the previous stages of electoral reform, there as an issue of non-transparent building of the final proposals for the Code. NGOs have not been informed about including to the changes for Electoral Law the sensitive, or even risky proposals, related to voting rights of citizens or to important election procedures. Specifically, in case of considering the proposals from the President of Ukraine for the Electoral Code, the dedicated committee included a possibility to reject candidate registration or cancel it on the grounds of a justified claim from the Security Service of Ukraine, some excessive powers of the CEC, risky approaches to professionalization of election commissions, etc.

Although the parliament is certainly independent in such decisions, the efficiency of interaction between the parliament and experts is falling, for the lack of clear procedure to implement their joint outcomes or arguments proving the need to refuse from them. In particular, shortly before considering the proposals from the President of Ukraine for the Electoral Code, OPORA urged the parliament’s specialized committee to have an additional session to consider the controversial proposals for electoral framework.

Herewith, it is important to state that the interaction between the Committee on the Organization of State Power, Regional Development, Local Self-Government, and Urban Planning with non-governmental organizations ensured the legislative regulation of voting rights for internally displaced persons and labour migrants through the change of electoral address.

On December, 19, 2019, the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine considered a draft law in the Committee’s version, and supported the proposals from the President of Ukraine. Alina Zahoruyko, a deputy head of the dedicated Committee of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine, proposed to the parliament to vote for all amendments to the Electoral Code as a whole since they enjoyed the consensus-based support from all factions. Indeed, during the consideration, only two MPs joined the discussion. The amendments were supported by 330 votes. All deputy factions and groups gave their votes for proposals to the Electoral Code that was repeatedly considered upon the Presidential veto, while the decision was approved by the constitutional majority.

Results of the repeated consideration of Electoral Code with proposals from the President of Ukraine

Faction / Group

Number of votes in favour

Number of members in a faction / group

Servant of the People

223

248

Opposition Platform — For Life

44

46

European Solidarity

21

27

“Batkivshchyna” AU

10

24

“For the Future” Group

11

23

Non-affiliated

9

20

Holos

18

20

“Dovira” Group

12

17

The Parliament’s consensus was facilitated by the readiness of Dmytro Razumkov, a Chairperson of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine, to organize a dialogue between the leaders of parliamentary forces, as well as proper communication between MPs on the committee’s level. Specifically, on December, 05, 2019, the issue of Electoral Code was postponed, as suggested by Razumkov, which empowered representatives of different factions and groups to reach the consensus.

Consistently Inconsistent Law

Approving changes to the Electoral Code on the basis of the presidential proposals in December, 2019, was not a finale for the electoral framework. Approving the December decision, MPs agreed to resume to legislative regulation of local elections in February, 2020.

On March, 10, 2020, the Committee of Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine on Organization of State Power, Regional Development, Local Self-Government, and Urban Planning had a round table on “Reforming the Legal Framework Regulating Local Elections.” Here, it is important to underline that despite the previous issue with lacking publicity for the finalization of changes to the Electoral Code, consultations with experts have become a sustainable practice of the specialized committee. The discussion showed that one of the most important legislative issues in the future process of local elections was a high amount of a monetary deposit.

The start of pandemic affected the work of the parliament and its institutions. It caused the delay in the work on further changes to the Electoral Law. After the public discussion held by the Committee, the work on changes to the Electoral Law slowed down.

In March and April, 2020, OPORA twice called the parliament to resume a dialogue on future changes to the Electoral Law that eventually continued in May.

While the Committee of Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine in charge of the electoral reform was preparing for resuming the work on the Code, on April, 30, the parliament passed in the first reading a draft law on reducing a monetary deposit at local elections. The draft law was later withdrawn from consideration, with account for the preparation of comprehensive changes to the Electoral Law.

On May, 12, 2020, the Committee of Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine held an online discussion of critical changes to the Electoral Law on the basis of the draft furnished by MPs. Following the discussions, OPORA expressed the fundamental remarks that would affect the exercise of voting rights of citizens and the democracy of the election administration process.

Further discussions on the level of consultations between the Committee of Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine and NGOs allowed to resolve certain remarks and include changes to the available draft law about ensuring the inescapable punishment for electoral fraud.

In the first reading, the draft Law of Ukraine “On Introducing Changes to Some Laws of Ukraine to Improve the Electoral Framework” that introduces changes to the Electoral Law (3485) was approved by the parliament on June, 04, 2020. The decision was supported by 292 MPs; but the factions of “Opposition Platform — For Life” and “Holos” parties did not support it. The people’s deputies from the “Opposition Platform — For Life” spoke against the expanded powers of the CEC; the “Holos” insisted on reducing the threshold for promotion of candidates on regional lists.

Voting results for the draft Law No 3485 in the first reading

Faction / Group

Number of votes in favour

Number of members in a faction / group

Servant of the People

219

247

Opposition Platform — For Life

0

44

European Solidarity

25

27

“Batkivshchyna” AU

17

24

“For the Future” Group

9

22

Non-affiliated

6

21

Holos

0

20

“Dovira” Group

16

17

The draft Electoral code passed in the first reading received 3,906 amendments from MPs. To elaborate the proposals, a working group was established that also included representatives of non-governmental expert organizations. The Working group had several meetings but it managed to cover only 40% of proposals submitted by MPs. Other amendments were processed by the Committee and the subcommittee without engaging any civil society representatives or experts. At the time, OPORA said that the Committee should clearly identify the procedure for the joint work with stakeholders and not let any non-public changes for the electoral framework.

As soon as on July, 09, the Committee for the Organization of State Power, Regional Development, Local Self-Government, and Urban Planning had a session where they considered amendments to the Electoral Code. On the other hand, on July, 16, 2020, the parliament voted with 308 votes for the changes to the Electoral Code. The factions of the “European Solidarity” and “Holos” did not vote for the Law, in full benches.

Voting results for the draft Law No 3485 in the second reading and in whole

Faction / Group

Number of votes in favour

Number of members in a faction / group

Servant of the People

225

248

Opposition Platform — For Life

31

44

European Solidarity

0

27

“Batkivshchyna” AU

18

24

“For the Future” group

14

24

Non-affiliated

6

17

Holos

0

19

“Dovira” Group

14

20

The final version of Electoral Code prior to the local elections included advantages and shortcomings, too. The pros covered the changes to the Criminal Code, the Code on Administrative Offense on enhancing the guarantees to inescapable punishment for electoral fraud. The Parliament has crucially cut the amount of a monetary deposit at local elections that used to jeopardize the competitiveness of electoral process. A key shortcoming in the changes was the application of a proportional election system in communities with over 10,000 voters, as the innovation has significantly restricted the possibility for self-nomination at local level.

The prospects for new changes in electoral framework

On March, 11, 2021, a statutory meeting took place of the Working Group to develop comprehensive changes to electoral framework. It included 80 experts. The group was established by the Committee of Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine on the organization of state power, regional development, local self-government, and urban planning. It plans to work in mini-groups on topical units of electoral framework and produce the solutions for its improvement to be presented to deputy factions and groups. In addition, the working group plans to lay a special focus on the legislative regulation of electoral process in Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts that should ensure voting rights for citizens and account for security factor with no political bias.

 

The publication was made possible due to support of American people provided by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). Any opinions and statements expressed in this publication may not coincide with the official position of USAID and US Government.