IFES Ukraine Election Bulletin #87 (June 8 – June 21, 2019)
Constitutional Court Delivers Decision on Constitutionality of President’s Decree Dissolving Verkhovna Rada. Early Parliamentary Elections Set for July 21. On June 20, the Constitutional Court ruled the Presidential decree calling for early parliamentary elections to be constitutional. Preparations for the Verkhovna Rada vote next month will continue.
The long-awaited decision is the result of a petition filed by 62 Members of Parliament on May 24 opposing the President’s decree scheduling early parliamentary elections in July.
The Court ruled the procedure for terminating a governing coalition in the Verkhovna Rada is not specified in the Rada’s Rules of Procedure as required by the Constitution. The current parliament failed to include such provisions in its Rules of Procedure which led to the constitutional conflict between the President and the Rada. The Court said in the absence of a legal framework governing termination of coalitions and, according to Article 5 of the Constitution which states that the people of Ukraine are the sole source of authority directly exercising power through direct democracy, including elections, the only solution to the ongoing constitutional conflict is early parliamentary elections as called for in the President’s decree.
The lack of a governing coalition in the current Rada was indirectly confirmed on June 19, when the Kyiv District Administrative Court ruled against MP Andriy Derkach who filed a lawsuit in March claiming acting Minister of Health Ulana Suprun illegally occupies her position. In the course of the proceedings, the court requested a list of MPs who signed the 2014 Coalition Agreement. Because a list was not provided to the court, it determined Derkach’s claim is unsubstantiated, arguing existence of a ruling coalition in parliament is a precondition for upholding his claim. The legal rationale of the Kyiv District Administrative Court for rejecting Derkach’s claim is in line with the Code of Administrative Adjudication.
As IFES has noted, there can be found arguments both for and against the constitutionality of the President’s decree. Two Ukrainian courts have now come to the same conclusion – there is no proof of the existence of a legal ruling coalition in the Rada. The Constitutional Court let the President benefit from the doubt created by parliament for no having put in place a clear procedure for entering and exiting a ruling coalition and hence deemed his decree constitutional.
The Constitutional Court ruling is a welcome decision. As IFES has stated, cancelling an ongoing election in the middle of the electoral process would have been unprecedented in Ukrainian history and would have challenged the principle of legal certainty. It could have resulted in unwelcome demands, including from political parties and candidates requesting the government to reimburse already accrued campaign expenses.
Preparations for Early Parliamentary Elections. The Central Election Commission (CEC) continues the preparations for the July 21 Verkhovna Rada elections. June 10 was the deadline for candidate nomination on party lists by political parties for the closed proportional element of the elections. Nomination of candidates in single-mandate majoritarian districts was completed on June 20.
As of June 23, the CEC registered 1,743 candidates from 12 political parties nominated on the party lists. The CEC also registered 1,593 MP candidates in single-mandate districts. Out of them, 1,319 were registered by self-nomination and 274 by political parties. CEC Chair Tatyana Slipachuk said that on the last day before the legal deadline for running in the single mandate districts, the CEC received documents from over 1,200 MP candidates. The CEC must process candidate documents and finalize all candidate registration by June 25.
Following the formation of District Election Commissions (DECs) on May 31, the CEC continues to respond to requests from qualified political parties for replacing their DEC members. A party qualify if it has a fraction in parliament and/or if it took part in the last parliamentary elections. To date, the CEC has approved the replacement of 832 members out of 3,582 appointed – or, more than 23 percent. Parliamentary election law allows a nominating party or DEC member discretion to request such replacements at any time before election day. This practice has been repeatedly criticized by international observers for undermining the professionalism of the election administration, especially if the replacements continue after DEC members have received training about their role and responsibilities. On DEC trainings by the IFES CEC training center see more below.
Latest Opinion Polls. According to the Rating Sociological Group opinion poll on June 19, 47.1 per cent of Ukrainians who intend to vote in the Verkhovna Rada elections in July support the Servant of the People political party of newly-elected President Volodymyr Zelenskyi. Around 11 percent of voters support the Opposition Platform For Life. Sviatoslav Vakarchuk’s party, Holos, or Voice, is now polling third with 8.1 percent support. Just under seven and a half percent support Batkivshchyna while five percent, just above the proportional list threshold for election to the Rada, favor former President Petro Poroshenko’s European Solidarity party.
Just below the five percent threshold is the Syla i Chest (Strength and Honor) party affiliated with former intelligence operative Ihor Smeshko at 4.1 percent. Civic Position is at 2.2 percent support; and, Oleh Lyashko’s Radical Party and Svoboda are at 2.1 percent each. All other parties rate less than two percent support.
According to the survey, half of Ukrainians polled are satisfied with the performance of President Zelenskyi, while 14 percent of respondents are not. Another 38 percent of poll respondents have yet to develop an opinion about the new president.
The survey was conducted from June 8 through June 12 by face-to-face interviews with some 2,000 respondents aged 18 years or older. The margin of error does not exceed 2.2 percent.
International Election Observation Missions Arrive in Ukraine. On June 10, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s (OSCE) Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) fielded a 19-member core team in Kyiv. The ODIHR Election Observation Mission (EOM) was joined by 96 long-term observers (LTOs) deployed across all regions of Ukraine. The ODIHR EOM has requested OSCE participating countries to contribute 750 short-term observers (STOs) for election day observation.
On June 12, Mission Canada announced the arrival to Kyiv of a 10-member core team and 40 LTOs. The European Network of Election Monitoring Organizations has also arrived and will conduct its opening news conference on June 25. IFES Ukraine met with all EOMs, shared briefing packages with updated translations of election laws and other documents with the various core teams and addressed LTOs of all international missions during pre-deployment briefings in Kyiv. As election day approaches, delegations of short-term observers from the Council of Europe and OSCE parliamentary assemblies and the European Parliament are expected to join efforts with the ODIHR EOM to deliver a joint post-election day statement. All international EOMs will assess the Rada elections for compliance with international standards, best electoral practices and Ukrainian law.
Training of Trainers on Electoral Procedures in Advance of the Rada Elections. From June 14-16, IFES and the CEC Training Center organized and administered a Training of Trainers program for seven regional coordinators and 119 trainers who will subsequently conduct over 100 trainings on electoral procedures for DEC members from June 20 through June 30 and approximately 350 trainings for Precinct Election Commission (PEC) members from July 7 through July 18 across Ukraine.
The training addresses electoral legislation and procedures with educational materials, training and presentation techniques and interactive teaching. In addition, a separate session on logistics was conducted for seven regional coordinators. The training was conducted by eight election experts and facilitators who have been involved in multiple IFES-led electoral development initiatives.
IFES’ Electoral Training for Judges. To address problems identified by the IFES’ Electoral Justice Assessment in February 2018, IFES is designing and implementing training to support electoral justice in the July 21 parliamentary elections. In partnership with the National School of Judges, on June 19-21 IFES organized and administered a three-day Training of Trainers in Yaremche. Seventeen judges were trained on material and procedural law related to the Rada elections as well as interactive training techniques. These judges will now conduct training for judges in district administrative courts in Kharkiv, Lviv, Kyiv and Odesa in the weeks leading up to election day. The training program will help judges better adjudicate election-related cases and address long-standing problems plaguing Ukrainian elections since independence.
UK Electoral Commission Chair Visits Ukraine. From June 10-13, IFES hosted Sir John Holmes, the United Kingdom’s Electoral Commission chair. During his visit, Sir John met with the CEC’s leadership, including CEC chair Tatyana Slipachuk, to discuss electoral administration and possibilities for future cooperation and exchanges. Among other perspectives, Sir John shared remarks on the electoral system and electoral administration approach used in the UK. This meeting was part of IFES’ efforts to strengthen the CEC’s exposure to international standards and good electoral administration practices.
Sir John also met with students in IFES’ civic education course at Taras Shevchenko University of Kyiv. Students shared their experiences of taking the course and discussed civic education in the UK.