IFES Ukraine Election Bulletin #94 (September 23 – October 4, 2019)
Parliament Appoints 17 New CEC Members. On October 4, the Verkhovna Rada voted to appoint a new Central Election Commission based on a petition from the President. The 17 candidacies were voted on one by one and supported by all parliamentary fractions. They replace the previous Commission which was dismissed on September 13.
Before the vote, Batkivshchyna faction deputy leader Ivan Krulko supported the CEC renewal and called for the institution to be a technical organization that administers elections. Holos faction member Roman Lozynskyi, noting that this party voted against terminating the previous CEC, supports a professional CEC without political bias. Oleksandr Kachura of the governing Servant of the People stated the need for an improved electoral legal framework to provide the CEC with clear guidance. European Solidarity’s Iryna Herashchenko thanked the outgoing CEC for administering well-regarded, internationally-recognized elections and criticized the dismissal of the previous CEC as a purely political act.
On October 3, President Zelenskyi submitted the 17 CEC candidates to the Rada, of which 12 have affiliations to the Servant of the People, 2 to Batkivshchyna, 1 to Opposition Platform For Life, 1 to European Solidarity, and 1 to Holos. Under the Law on the Central Election Commission, CEC decisions require at least nine votes to pass, thus Servant of the People will have a dominating position on the new CEC. There are fewer women on the new CEC. Only five will serve, down from nine on the previous Commission.
The Servant of the People faction submitted 18 nominees for CEC membership of which 12 made it onto the President’s slate of candidates. Among the 12 are 4 members of the previous CEC: Andrii Yevstigneiev, Iryna Yefremova, Oleh Didenko and Vitaliy Plukar. Yevstigneiev was nominated by the Servant of the People; but, is considered to be de facto affiliated with Batkivshchyna. Batkivshchyna and the Servant and of the People political party factions had voted to dissolve the previous CEC; Holos and European Solidarity supported the previous CEC.
Between September 13-17, other Rada party factions also nominated candidates for the CEC and some were included in the President’s final list of nominees.
- Opposition Platform For Life nominated Yuriy Miroshnychenko and CEC Secretariat deputy director Serhii Dubovyk who also has served as a commissioner in the past;
- European Solidarity nominated Oleksandr Chernenko and Yurii Buglak. Buglak was included in President Zelenskyi’s list of recommendations submitted to the Rada;
- Holos Party nominated Andriy Hevko who was included on the President’s list; and,
- Batkivshchyna nominated Zhanna Usenko-Chorna and Viktoria Hlushchenko. Hlushchenko was also included on the President’s list.
The For the Future parliamentary group is the only political force in parliament not represented on the renewed CEC. It did not propose candidates for the new Commission to the President.
Civil Network OPORA has launched a Ukrainian-language resource with biographies of all the current CEC nominees. Most nominees have a legal background and some have election-related experience, including the four members of the previous CEC proposed by the Servant of the People and candidates nominated by Batkivshchyna, the Opposition Bloc and Holos.
IFES hopes the renewed CEC will build on progress made by the previous CEC in strengthening Ukraine’s elections. IFES anticipates the new CEC will demonstrate independence, transparency, inclusiveness and a willingness to implement necessary structural and operational reforms which had not been fully implemented by the previous CEC due to time constraints and two nationwide elections in 2019. IFES stands ready to provide the new CEC with technical assistance and support at this time of democratic progress in Ukraine.
Oleh Didenko elected new Chairman of the Central Election Commission. On Friday October 4, the 16 new CEC members took their oaths and assumed office. Later the same day, the Commission convened their first meeting and elected its new leadership.
As reported by Civic Network OPORA, Oleh Didenko was elected as Chair of the CEC by 16 votes of the 16 attending members. Serhii Dubovyk and Vitaliy Plukar became Deputy Chairs of the CEC with 15 and 16 members supporting their candidacies, respectively. Olena Hataullina was elected CEC Secretary with 15 members supporting her candidacy. The first session of the CEC was attended by 16 of 17 members; Yurii Buglak was away on a business trip. The vote was secret.
Rada Reboots the NAPC. On October 2, the Verkhovna Rada adopted legislation that changes the leadership of the National Agency for the Prevention of Corruption, or the NAPC. The bill calls for current NAPC members to be dismissed immediately and the Cabinet of Ministers to appoint an interim Chair of the agency. President Zelenskyi has still to sign the legislation for it to become law.
Meanwhile, a six-member selection committee comprised of three individuals appointed by the Cabinet of Ministers and three international anti-corruption specialists will be established. The committee must choose a permanent NAPC Chair within 60 days. The new NAPC Chair will replace the current five-member management structure of the NAPC in an initiative to increase the anti-corruption organization’s effectiveness and accountability.
The new law would introduce two changes related to public funding of political parties. First, the annual amount of public funding would be halved from UAH 565 to UAH 283 million (approximately $22.6 million to $11.3 million). Second, only political parties in the Rada that have passed the vote threshold would be eligible to receive public money. That threshold is now five percent of the vote.
Electoral Code Update. Following the President’s veto of election code legislation passed by the previous Rada, the Parliamentary Committee on State Building, Local Self Governance and Regional and Urban Development established a Working Group to consider the President’s criticisms and proposals. The Working Group’s membership consists of Members of Parliament, the Central Election Commission’s Secretariat, civil society, election experts and representative of the international community.
In advance of the Working Group meeting, IFES and the civil society organization OPORA proposed amendments to the election code.
- Improve parliamentary elections by replacing the Code’s open list proportional representation system under which most seats are allocated to regions based on voter turnout and some of the seats are distributed under closed proportional representation through a nationwide list. The system proposed by OPORA and IFES would be open list proportional representation where seats are allocated between regions in proportion to the number of eligible voters in those districts;
- Ensure electoral rights of internally displaced persons and economic migrants in all elections by simplifying the procedure for changing a voter’s electoral address in line with Draft Law Number 6240 which was introduced in the previous Rada;
- Strengthen election accessibility for voters with disabilities;
- Enhance campaign finance transparency and conform regulation of money in elections to international standards. Specifically, impose restrictions on candidates’ donations to their election funds and allow candidates on nationwide political party lists in the open list proportional representation system to establish individual election funds;
- Learn lessons from the 2019 presidential and parliamentary elections by establishing regulations preventing so-called “clone” political parties and candidates from running in elections, clarifying the procedure for verifying compliance with residency requirements by parties and candidates and reduce the possibility of arbitrary rejection of candidate registration documents by the CEC;
- Specify media oversight and regulation, including online media and social media, during elections; and,
- Expand nongovernmental organization observers’ rights and change the accreditation procedure of NGO observers to allow them to effectively monitor an entire election process.
The parliamentary Working Group conducted three meetings on September 25, 26 and 27 to discuss proposals aimed at improving the election code. There was consensus among Working Group members on the following:
- The procedure for changing voters’ addresses must be simplified to ensure that internally displaced persons and labor migrants are able to vote in all elections;
- Election accessibility for voters with disabilities should be strengthened through convenient access to polling stations and campaigning, voting and election information;
- Gender quota effectiveness should be strengthened by prohibiting political parties from withdrawing their candidates – including women candidates – when candidate lists are registered by the relevant election commission;
- Election campaigning, particularly social and online media campaigning, should be thoroughly regulated;
- The CEC should be required to check candidates’ residency compliance and other legal requirements by sending requests to state agencies which possess information confirming election eligibility for each candidate. The state agencies must inform the CEC in writing about circumstances preventing a candidate from running in elections;
- Political parties and candidates should be allowed to submit their registration documents electronically;
- NGOs should be accredited by the CEC to observe elections for a two-year period on the condition they issue election reports. NGO observers should have the right to observe all aspects of an election from the very beginning of the electoral process, including candidate nominations and CEC meetings;
- CEC membership should be distributed between parliamentary factions in proportion to the number of seats each faction has in the Rada. CEC membership should be reduced to 15;
- Citizens should be allowed to electronically submit applications to change voter registration data or place of voting; and,
- Campaign finance regulations should be aligned with international standards and recommendations proposed in 2015 and 2016 by the Council of Europe’s Venice Commission and Group of States Against Corruption (GRECO) and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Office of Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR).
The Working Group did not reach a consensus on issues such as: the electoral systems for parliamentary and local elections, the number of election constituencies under the open-list proportional representation system; the format for the parliamentary election ballot paper; and, the date for the new election code or certain provisions thereof to enter into force.
Servant of the People MPs insisted that in most local elections the first-past-the-post electoral system should be used, to ensure that each community is represented on oblast councils by at least one councilor and Verkhovna Rada elections should be held under an open list proportional system.
On October 1, the Rada’s Committee on State Building, Local Self Governance and Regional and Urban Development recommended parliament extend consideration of the proposed election code and the President’s veto of the code for 90 days beginning from September 14. The Rada supported this decision
IFES was informed by the Committee’s Chief of Staff that following the expected Rada decision, the Working Group will continue to finalize new electoral legislation. Servant of the People MPs will discuss previous Working Group meetings and suggest recommendations to reach a consensus on what should be in the final version of the new electoral code. Working Group deliberations will be based on results of these internal discussions; the Working Group will conduct weekly meetings to draft necessary consensus amendments to the code and bring it to a vote on December 5.
IFES will continue to provide assistance in improving the election code. Since many provisions of the existing code will be changed, IFES believes the work will be finalized late this fall before the Code is ready to be forwarded to the Rada for final consideration and approval.
Legislation on Kyiv’s Governance Status is Approved on First Reading. A bill on Kyiv city governance was passed on first reading in the Verkhovna Rada. Submitted by Servant of the People party MPs, the legislation proposes self-government in Ukraine’s capital consist of 80 city council deputies elected through open regional lists, and the establishment of rayon councils. The bill – Draft law Number 2143-3 – was backed by 244 MPs out of the 387 registered in the Rada session hall.
Kyiv city will in addition have mayor with three deputies. Since 25 June 2014 the post of mayor of Kiev and Head of Kiev City Administration have been held by the same person, but under the new bill the positions will be split. The Kyiv city state administration will be limited to oversight functions for the benefit of the community and the state. The executive body of the city council will be the magistrate of the city of Kyiv as it has been historically.
The draft law was criticized during Rada committee hearings. Aliona Shkrum of Batkivshchyna said the bill has numerous technical flaws and contradicts other laws and the Constitution. Establishing a separate type of local self-government for Kyiv, according to the criticism, the draft goes against the country’s unity as it would mandate Kyiv operate under separate electoral rules. It is expected that amendments will be introduced before the draft is adopted on the second and final reading in the Rada.
Approval of the legislation means that early local elections in Kyiv rumored for December 8 are unlikely. Local elections in the capital will most likely be held next year as part of the nationwide local elections.
IFES releases Gender Analysis of Ukraine’s Electoral and Political Process. In September, IFES published a comprehensive gender analysis of Ukraine’s electoral and political process. The analysis’ objective is to better understand the electoral process’ effect on women and men and propose recommendations on how to address inequalities that privilege one gender while hindering the participation of others in public life. It examines the legal framework, election administration, voter registration, women’s political participation, public information and voter education and political parties to understand how gender affiliation affects political participation.
The analysis is available in the English and Ukrainian languages.