Supporting democratic progress in Ukraine.

IFES Ukraine

The International Foundation for Electoral Systems

Election Bulletin #102 (January 25 – February 7, 2020)

Rada Approves Resolution to Continue Work on Amending the Constitution to Reduce the Number of MPs to 300 and designating the Proportional System for Future Parliamentary Elections. On February 4, the Verkhovna Rada, with 236 MP votes in favor, passed a resolution in support of the President’s earlier proposal enshrined in Draft Law no. 1017 to amend the Constitution of Ukraine reducing the Rada membership to 300 and institutionalizing the proportional electoral system for Rada elections. The Rada Resolution comes after the Constitutional Court in December 2019 issued its conclusions on draft law no. 1017.

The Constitutional Court stated that reducing Rada membership can be considered overall in line with the Constitution, but warned that it may restrict the rights of MPs to file a constitutional petition. The current requirement is that a constitutional petition must be supported by 45 MPs; the Court is of the opinion that the number of petitioners should be reduced accordingly – to 30 MPs or 10 percent of the Rada membership – when the overall number of MPs in the Rada is reduced.

There are no specific international guidelines on the number of MPs in a parliamentary body although a general rule is the number of MPs should correspond to the overall legislative workload.

On the second proposal – to fix a proportional electoral system for future parliamentary elections – the Constitutional Court found that doing so would be an unprecedented move and recommended the Parliament itself to determine what electoral system is politically the most adequate and expedient for the country.

According to Civil Network OPORA, there is no standard international practice to write the choice of electoral system in a country’s constitution. OPORA also warns that the constitutional amendment proposed by Draft Law Number 1017 leaves room for interpretation as the particular type of proportional electoral system is not specified: his ambiguity is not a good sign as, under the guise of a proportional electoral system, there is the possibility of introducing an unconventional system which contradicts international standards and good practice.

The Rada’s approval of the resolution gives the MPs seven days to amend the draft law in line with the conclusions of the Constitutional Court; the Rada’s Profile Committee must provide its consideration within 30 days and after another seven days, the revised bill must again be put to a vote in the Rada, as required by Article 149 of the Rules of Procedure.

Third Meeting of CEC-led Accessibility Working Group. In December 2019, the Central Election Commission (CEC) convened the inaugural meeting of its new working group on ensuring rights of persons with disabilities. The working group will provide a permanent consultative forum for the CEC, civil society and disabled persons organizations to discuss, review and provide input to legal acts, voter information, educational materials and other CEC initiatives.

On January 28, IFES participated in the third meeting of the working group hosted by the IFES-CEC Training Center. The meeting assembled representatives of civil society, disabled persons organizations and the President’s Ombudsman on the rights of people with disabilities. It discussed and adopted recommendations for improving the newly adopted election code to enhance accessibility of the entire electoral process for people with disabilities. The final set of recommendations was sent to the CEC legal department for further processing.

IFES was represented by IFES Gender and Inclusion Manager Oleksandra Palagnyuk and IFES Legal Officer Serhii Savelii.

Election Commissioners Trained Ahead of Parliamentary By-Election in Kharkiv region. On February 6, IFES conducted procedural training for district election commission members ahead of the parliamentary by-election in the Kharkiv region’s single-mandate district Number 179, scheduled for March 15. The training took place in Krasnohrad, Kharkiv region, and covered adjudication of election complaint, results tabulation and election day operations.

The parliamentary mandate held by Servant of the People MP Oleksii Kucher was terminated due to his appointment as the new Head of the Kharkiv Oblast State Administration (Governor).

Mock Polling Station installed at the Lviv National University of Internal Affairs. As part of law enforcement electoral trainingCivil Network OPORA and the Lviv State University of Internal Affairs equipped a classroom for National Police representatives at the University to imitate a real polling station. The classroom contained materials and equipment needed to reproduce the operations of a precinct election commission prior to and on election day. The mock polling station and the new curriculum for National Police’s response to electoral violations was presented on January 28. Students gave a demonstration of how to respond, use investigatory equipment and properly document electoral violations in the setting of the mock polling station.

In advance of the 2019 presidential and Verkhovna Rada elections, Civil Network OPORA conducted training on electoral violations for law enforcement. IFES issued a sub-award grant to Civil Network OPORA to maintain project result sustainability and continue cooperation between civil society and law enforcement agencies. The grant supports activities that increase National Police capacity to impartially and successfully perform its duties in future elections.

Guests providing remarks at the training’s opening ceremony included Deputy Head of Mission at the British Embassy, Helen Fazey; Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs, Tetyana Kovalchuk; Central Election Commissioners Andriy Hevko and Viktoria Glushchenko; Rector of the Lviv State University of Internal Affairs Roman Blahuta; and, Civil Network OPORA Board Chair Olha Aivazovska. IFES was represented by International Senior Adviser Harald Jepsen and Civic Education and Electoral Justice Manager Yuriy Piskalyuk.

IFES and Partners Presents Political Finance Reform Priorities. The 2015 Law on Political Finance and the establishment of the National Agency for the Prevention of Corruption (NAPC) raised expectations for higher levels of political finance transparency and accountability in Ukraine. Yet, the 2019 elections indicated that procedures and control measures put in place are insufficient to ensure the desired level of transparency and minimize political parties’ dependency on large corporate donors. And, the quality of NAPC’s work and its political independence came into question.

The reboot of the NAPC actualizes the need for identifying key priorities of political finance reform. IFES, in cooperation with Ukrainian civil society organizations, including the Center of Policy and Legal Reform, the Chesno Civic Movement and the Committee of Voters of Ukraine, prepared an analytical paper that outlines barriers for effective implementation of political finance reform in Ukraine and the measures needed to remove these obstacles.

Authors of the paper outline necessary legislative efforts and recommend a working group that includes the NAPC, the Central Election Commission, political parties, civil society organizations and international experts to facilitate substantive and inclusive discussion of political finance reform legislative initiatives.

Political finance reform priorities include the following:

  • Restoring the right of non-parliamentary political parties to receive public funding and consider increasing their share of total public funding;
  • Limiting the annual ceiling on donations from persons and companies and ensuring amounts are consistent with contributors’ incomes;
  • Legally obliging third parties to state their intentions in making financial donations to political parties;
  • Allowing political parties to use public money for election-related activities and abolishing reimbursement of campaign expenditures to parties;
  • Defining a list of items on which political parties cannot spend public money;
  • Defining topics for an independent external audit of political parties’ financial reporting;
  • Providing the NAPC real time access to registers and databases necessary for effective oversight;
  • Introducing restricted rights to contest elections for political parties that systematically violate laws governing parties, especially if they fail to submit financial reports;
  • Simplifying the procedure for drawing up administrative protocols for campaign finance violations and strengthening law enforcement capacity to investigate criminal cases; and,
  • Introducing effective, proportional and dissuasive sanctions for campaign finance violations and empowering NAPC representatives with participant status in court cases.

The paper reinforces the role of civil society and journalists in achieving transparency and greater accountability in political finance and concludes with a call for regular consultations and effective cooperation between civil society, the media and the NAPC to achieve these shared goals.

Read the full analysis of IFES Political Finance Reform Priorities here.

Latest Opinion Polls Show Ukrainians Remain Hopeful. On February 4, the Rating Sociological Group published research showing an expectation of change (50 percent) and hope (42 percent) from Ukrainians. The poll also indicated that if Verkhovna Rada elections were held in the near future, 42.2 percent of Ukrainians would vote for the Servant of the People party; 13.5 percent would support the Opposition Platform – For Life Party; 9.5 percent would vote for European Solidarity; and, 8.1 percent for Batkivschyna. Other parties would receive less than four percent support, while 16 percent of potential voters are undecided. According to poll results, four political parties would overcome the five percent voter support threshold to enter the Rada if parliamentary elections were administered in the near future.

The Rating Sociological Group polled 2,500 adults from January 22-26 via face-to-face interviews. The statistical margin of sampling error does not exceed two percent.

OPORA Presents Research on Voting Accessibility. On February 6, Civil Network OPORA presented a report dedicated to voting premise accessibility. Report author Katerina Zhemchuznykova emphasized that voting accessibility affects persons with disabilities, seniors and parents with strollers. It recommends governing authorities adhere to the principle of universal polling station design.

During the two election campaigns of 2019, Civil Network OPORA public election ombudsmen monitored the accessibility of polling stations for people with disabilities and other groups with reduced in all regions. Two elements were considered in the analysis: the location of voting premises and their availability of ramps at the entrances of buildings housing polling stations.

From February to July 2019, Civil Network OPORA’s public ombudsmen identified 4,887 polling stations with accessibility problem – just over 16 per cent of all polling stations in Ukraine. Of these inaccessible polling stations, 1,518 are located above the ground floor and 3,369 are not equipped with ramps and are inaccessible to people with disabilities.

The ombudsmen said that despite the new election code regulates part of the architectural accessibility of voting facilities that house election commissions, there is still room for improvement. Other parts of the electoral law that affects the voting of people with disabilities have not changed. For example, people with disabilities are automatically assigned a status of homebound voters unless they express their will to vote at the polling station.

The Civil Network OPORA emphasizes there is a need for additional discussions.

IFES Civic Education Course Alumni Establish NGO to Engage Citizens in Democracy. IFES Ukraine works with over 20 universities across Ukraine to provide students with state-of-the-art civic education through a course titled, “Democracy: From Theory to Practice”. Developed with the support of the United States Agency for International Development, Global Affairs Canada and UK aid, the course strengthens understanding of democratic government, builds practical skills and encourages exercise of responsible citizenship outside the classroom.

Eleven course alumni have combined their efforts to establish a nongovernmental organization called, “Youth Democratic Association”, or YODA. The students officially announced registration of the NGO on February 3, declaring their purpose is promotion of principles and ideas of democracy and protection of human rights and freedoms through youth-targeted public education activities.

The students developed the concept of the NGO at a three-day summer school organized by IFES for the most active alumni of the course which was initially designed to encourage students to share their course experience and deepen their knowledge on topics such as gender equality, inclusion, media literacy and peaceful conflict resolution. IFES provided additional institutional support, organizing a strategic session and advising them on NGO registration in Ukraine.

This year, YODA plans to implement two projects in Lviv:

  • A civic education extracurricular course for high school students, using knowledge they acquired during the “Democracy: From Theory to Practice” course; and,
  • A video production depicting different electoral situations to increase citizens’ awareness of elections that will be administered in the autumn.

IFES will continue to support YODA’s organizational development in fundraising and project management to ensure the organization’s autonomy and future expansion.

Read more about YODA on via the link.