Behind the judges’ elections and scandals in the National Agency on Corruption Prevention (NACP), the Prime Minister’s reformative promises to the Ukrainians and IMF creditors, it is difficult to discern the process of reforms less interesting to ordinary people than, for example, healthcare or pension reform. One of the projects in the shadow is the electoral legislation reform, which, among other important changes, was solemnly promised the Ukrainian people after the Revolution of Dignity.
The electoral legislation reform exists only on paper, it’s the law, and it all starts with the law (or ends with it). As of today, the Verkhovna Rada registered key draft laws: 1068, 1068-1 and 1068-2 – on deputies’ elections, two drafts of Electoral Codes – 3112 and 3112-1, and the bill on the All-Ukrainian referendum. These draft legislations contain all the reform.
The draft law 1068 provides elections by proportional election system with closed lists and 1% barrier. The bill 1068-1 – is a project of Yulia Tymoshenko and the “Batkivshchyna” party, which also suggests closed lists, but the candidates on the list can be changed after the election. That is, the political party itself can change the list of candidates. In its turn, this kind of system was criticized by international organizations, although not in the context of Ukraine.
As for the bill 1068-2, it provides the people’s deputies elections with open party lists in the regional constituencies. Whereby, it entails real open lists without substitution of notions. It is worth to remark that exactly this draft law complies with the international obligations of Ukraine and the Coalition Agreement “European Ukraine.”
3112 – is an electoral code draft, by Valeriia Pysarenko, which provides an electoral system, at least for parliamentary elections, similar to the one used for local elections. This system is quite difficult to classify. It can be considered as proportional, but without open lists. In fact, this system has already had quite negative consequences for Ukraine in terms of local elections. However, this draft law is registered.
Another bill – 3112-1 – provides a proportional system with open lists in most elections, both parliamentary and local, except for to rural, settlement and district councils elections.
In 2014-2015 these bills were registered in Parliament and referred to the parliamentary committee, and despite being fully ready and having the conclusions of the Juridical Directorate, they laid up on the table for a long time. And according to the Coalition Agreement, the electoral reform actually should have been ended a long time ago, but nothing happened. And suddenly in early March the committee, without setting the agenda and announcements, reviewed draft laws and sent them all to vote in the first reading, without providing any conclusions or suggestions. Formally, a parliamentary committee has the following explanation: according to the Constitutional Court decision, the choice of electoral system – is a matter of political expediency, which should be solved by the entire Parliament, not the committee alone.
Now, experts forecast two scenarios.
According to the first scenario, the deputies will not reach any consensus: bills to be put to the vote, however, none of them will get 226 votes required for adoption in the first reading. Thus, people’s deputies will have a whole session ahead, because according to the regulations they cannot initiate new draft laws. It means that the reform is launched on a new circle and the discussion starts again. It can become an endless story.
By the second scenario: the Presidential Administration or key individuals in the fractions decide that open lists do not fit anyway, and the reform will be bungled once again. And any attempts to re-introduce legislation and re-start the discussion will be invalidated to leave an old legislation, which allows electing a half of the Parliament with closed lists, and another half – by majority districts.
Such actions of the committee and the parliamentary hall will mean that the Coalition agreement is not just broken, but cynically rejected. And in its turn, it will freeze most of the political relationships in the country. And the state financing of parties, without changing the electoral system, restrictions or political advertising bans, proper transparency and political parties’ accountability, will not have any sense but result in a waste of public funds.
Soon we’ll see the actual situation with voting on election bills. Let’s hope.