Friday, September 11, 2009

Parliamentary reform: What Ukraine should not do

Back in June the Venice Commission reviewed a draft legislation on Parliamentary Elections proposed and submitted by the Ukrainian Parliament Committee on State Building and Local Self-Governance.

The system proposed in the draft law provides for 450 parliamentarians to be elected under a form of proportional representation that uses territorial election districts, including a foreign territorial election district where ballots are cast by out of country voters. Under the proposed system, most members of parliament will be elected from national lists, with the mathematical possibility for individual political party candidates to be elected within an in-country territorial election district from a territorial list.

The proposed model, as commented in the Venice Commission's report, is very convoluted, complex and over engineered. It seeks to reinstate a "hybrid representative model" which is extraordinary and unnecessarily complex in its implementation.

Under the proposals put forward Ukraine's parliament would be made up of a representatives elected from a single party list but with the allocation of a proportion of the list being determined by local regional elections (the exact boundaries and composition not yet decided) . The system is so complex I do not think it is worth trying to unravel and explain in detail. It is a good example as how Ukrainian politicians try to manipulate the system to deliver a solution that is not a solution.

Hybrid systems do not work. They create a distortion and inequality of the representative model which in turn distorts the balance of representation by creating super-sets and sub-sets of mandates. Those elected on a National List will hold a separate and significantly different mandate then those elected by the regional local list. This system did not work in the old parliament prior to the reforms of 2004. The proposed system, as complicated as it is, will also fail.

The temptation to try and manipulate and over engineer Ukraine's parliamentary model must be resisted - its a fools paradise and in the long run will not work

Yes there is merit in adopting and establishing local multi-member proportional representational electorates - but the hybrid mix of different mandates in a single house Parliament has no merit or justification. If Ukraine believes they need National representatives to complement local representatives then they are best to adopt a bicameral system with one house elected on the basis of local representation (preferable the lower house) and the second house (Senate) elected on a national basis.

The main criteria in assessing any representative model is that each elected position MUST be equal in representation and must be based on sound democratic principles. Each local electorate MUST return the same number of representatives elected on the same quota percentage and where possible have the same number of constituents (+/- 5%).

Ideally each local electorate would return either 5, 7 or 9 members of parliament and be elected by a system of "Single Transferable vote" preferential proportional representation using the Meeks method of counting the vote. What ever number they settle on each electorate MUST be the equal and on the based on the same quota percentage for the system to work at its best. (See previous post - Principles of a good, workable and democratic representative Parliamentary model)

The proposal of creating a "Foreign representational" electorate is another foolish reaction to a problem that does not exist. The number of Ukrainian foreign voters is marginally small. If need be foreign voters should be able to cast a vote for the local regional electorate in which they were previously registered or lived, there is no need to create a special electorate to accommodate their needs.

Need to fix the date for elections

The other change that must be made and has been overlooked is the need to fix a set date for elections. This provision of having elections set for the last Sunday of the last month of the term of office of the Parliament, as we have seen with the current presidential elections, is not effective or desirable. A fixed date say last week in October would be a better option. Any preterm election could have their term cut short to ensure that the October date is the cut off point. Presidential elections if they are to continue should also be brought into line with the adoption of a similar fixed date.

Hopefully the legislation as proposed will not see the light of day and Ukraine will stop trying to over-engineer the outcome of elections and concentrate more on winning public support based on a fair and equal electoral model.

1 Comment:

UkrToday said...

I have done some modeling of the projected outcome of various options based on the principles of local electorates as outlined above and on the published results of the past Parliamentary (2006 and 2007) and Presidential elections (2004) results.

They have produced what I consider to be a accurate reflection of Ukraine. I would be pleased to consider doing more models on request. In order to do so I would need the anticipated preference flow of each party/candidate and the percentage of votes for each preference distribution.

Its not difficult to undertake as each local electorate is essentially determined by the boundaries of the existing 225 districts that are already established. Where possible I have tried to also match in with the regional Oblast boundaries.

The results do not change that significantly and it needs to be noted that with a shift towards a more localised electorate system the voting patterns will undoubtedly change and be influenced by the local campaign and candidate(s) preference recommendations.