Sunday, October 23, 2011

Ukraine's proposed electoral laws under review

The Venice Commission on October 13 published its initial review of Ukraine's proposed changes to the electoral law and representational model in the lead-up to the 2012 parliamentary elections . for those interested in democratic representation, it is a paper worth reading. The Commission's review has highlighted many of the perceived problems with the proposed model.

A number of points of criticism worthy of being noted include:

  • Limitation on the right to stand for anyone convicted of a deliberate crime, regardless of the severity of the crime committed, which is contrary to OSCE commitments, numerous recommendations of OSCE/ODIHR and the Venice Commission in the electoral field, good practice and other international standards. The Venice Commission and OSCE/ODIHR are aware that such limitation is based on the Article 76 of the Constitution of Ukraine and hope that this problem will be considered when the Constitution is revised;
  • Lack of clear criteria and deadlines for defining boundaries of electoral districts;
  • Lack of clarity on the possibility of challenging election results;
  • Lack of full disclosure, before and after elections, of sources and amounts of financial contributions and the types and amounts of campaign expenditures, as well as independent monitoring of the funding of political parties and electoral campaigns. The draft also lacks effective, proportionate and dissuasive sanctions for violation of campaign funding provisions;
  • Deadlines for registration of candidates in the constituencies;
  • Removal of the right of parties to form electoral blocs;
  • Certain provisions limiting the right to freedom of expression that are contrary to OSCE commitments, recommendations and opinions of OSCE/ODIHR and Venice Commission and other international standards;
  • The maximum number of voters allowed per precinct is maintained at 2,500;
  • Observers are allowed to “take all necessary measures to stop illegal actions during voting and vote counting at the PEC”;
  • Two or more international observer groups wishing to co-ordinate their activities must seek prior approval of the CEC;
  • PEC members have to sign the ballot before giving it to the voter in order for it to be valid;
The draft contains provisions allowing the PECs [Precinct Electoral Committees] to declare the results invalid based on arbitrary standards of impermissible abuse, which may establish an acceptable level of fraud.

The main concern expressed during the visit is the lack of consultation with opposition parties and civil society on the change of the electoral system, the setting of the threshold for gaining mandates and the banning of blocs. Making these fundamental changes in the electoral system without broad public discussions and consultations can compromise the legitimacy of the draft law regardless of how it is implemented

Historical outline

Before 1998 all members of the parliament were elected in single-seat constituencies;

In 1998 a mixed system was introduced with half of the 450 deputies elected by proportional representation and the other half in single-seat constituencies.

In 2004 a party list proportional representation system using closed lists was introduced. It was applied in the 2006 regular and 2007 early parliamentary elections.

After the 2007 early elections the authorities of Ukraine were engaged in a dialogue with different international institutions on possible improvements of the electoral system in Ukraine, including the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, the Venice Commission and OSCE/ODIHR. During the discussions on electoral reform, the Venice Commission proposed to introduce a proportional system based on multiple regional constituencies which could avoid the disadvantages of both the single constituency proportional system and the mixed system used in the 1998 and 2002 elections.

The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe in its Resolution 1755 (2010), paragraph 7.1.1. recommended that “electoral reform should not only entail the adoption of a new election code, but also of a new electoral system, and reiterates its recommendation that an electoral system be adopted that consists of a proportional system based on open lists and multiple regional constituencies”.

The draft law represents a return to the mixed electoral system in use in Ukraine in 1998 and 2002. The draft law provides for a mixed proportional-plurality (majoritarian) electoral system, whereby half of the members of parliament are elected on political party lists in a single nationwide constituency and the other half are elected in single mandate constituencies (first past the post, one round).


As advocated on this site a preferred representative model is to establish 45 or 50 local electorates with each electorate electing 9 members of parliament on a 10 % quota using a system of Single Transferable Proportional Representation voting system (Meek or Wright method of counting the vote).

The above model meets the expectations of the Venice Commission's recommendations and if implemented would put Ukraine at the forefront of Representative democracy. Each electorate is equal not only the number for constituents (+/- 10%) but more importantly equal in the mandate percentage applied to each electorate. It provides for accountability at a local level and at the same time provides effective representation of Ukraine's diverse population in proportion to the support given in each region without any political bias or distortion in the results.

It is a model worth Ukraine considering.