Monitoring of the reforms progress based on the analysis of the implementation
of the recommendations of sectoral analytical brief for URC 2021
Section 1. Monitoring of the implementation of recommendations on reform priorities for 2020–May 2021
1. To revise certain provisions of the Electoral Code that apply to both national and local elections. To review the levels of local elections which qualify for an exclusively proportional electoral system. Party monopoly is not natural for local self-government and the right to nominate oneself can be retained through lists of independent candidates.
The Electoral Code of Ukraine entered into force on January 1, 2020, but during the last year it has been amended several times: June, July and September. Both the Electoral Code and the Code of Administrative Offenses, the Criminal Code and other legislation underwent the most significant changes in July 2020 on the eve of the local elections (October 25, 2020). In particular, the electoral system has been changed and a proportional electoral system has been introduced in all local councils with 10,000 or more voters - introducing changes of such significance months before the election is contrary to international standards and creates difficulties for enforcing the law. Moreover, such a change deprived self-nominated candidate of access to these elections and made candidates dependent on parties.
As of today, no amendments to the Electoral Code of Ukraine have been adopted that would relate to the revision of its provisions on the use of different types of electoral systems in national and local elections. Despite significant criticism of the current model (in particular, the use of the proportional system in local elections without the possibility of self-nomination for independent candidates), the relevant changes have not been approved. The officially established working group at the relevant parliamentary committee continues its work.
2. To ensure the openness of party electoral lists, namely and direct influence of voters on the determination of the order of obtaining a mandate by candidates, regardless of the number assigned by the party in the electoral list.
In July 2020, a few months before the local elections, the Parliament amended the Electoral Code, which increased the number of votes that a candidate had to gain in order to change his order in the electoral list from 5% to 25% of the electoral quota. Under the current model, although voters have the opportunity to influence the order of candidates on the list, in practice candidates often do not have enough votes to overcome such a barrier. The barrier (25% of the electoral quota) is too high and needs to be lowered. In the last local elections, 40% of candidates were able to pass it.
3. To abandon the current form of imperative mandate, which should not create opportunities for a party dictatorship.
4. To settle the issue of agitation on the Internet, social networks.
5. To establish a fair and adequate maximum size of party/candidate election funds for all types of elections, as well as proper control over the financing of electoral campaigns. The issue of early campaigning, which allows one to hide the real costs of the campaign needs to be addressed. Moreover, the work of party headquarters and such issues as remuneration of agitators and members of electoral commissions from parties are in the grey area.
Today, the Electoral Code sets the maximum size of the electoral fund of candidates in both presidential and parliamentary elections, but there are no limits for the electoral funds of candidates/parties in local elections.
The issue of de-shadowing of expenses during electoral campaigns has not been resolved yet. In particular, regarding the payment for agitators and members of electoral commissions. No measures have been taken to address the problem of early campaigning. The issue of transparency in the financing of election campaigns remains one of the key issues and concerns both the proper reporting of expenditures by candidates and parties, as well as the real and full control of such expenditures by public authorities.
6. Information and educational campaigns for voters and election administration bodies should become a separate area of activities in the field of electoral reform.
7. To reform the CEC and ensure transparency and openness in decision-making, as well as the ability to ensure the security of voters' personal data, and countering cyberattacks against information and analytical systems.
Central Election Commission made significant efforts to hold local elections under the new rules and in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, ensuring professionalism, openness and transparency. In addition, for the first time in history, the CEC Strategic Development Plan until 2025 was approved, which is observed by the Commission very carefully.
8. To improve the functioning of the State Register of Voters and ensure the accessebility of its data.
Section 2. The current major challenges in implementing the reform (at the time of monitoring)
The main challenge is to ensure the priority of electoral reform issues in the post-election period, without waiting for the next elections, to develop proposals for improving electoral legislation and its implementation in the framework of active cooperation between state bodies, the public and international partners.
To this end, on February 17, 2021, the Committee on the Organization of State Power, Local Self-Government, Regional Development and Urban Planning established a Working Group to develop comprehensive changes to the electoral legislation in order to unify the mechanisms of legal regulation of the electoral process. The result of the work should be presented as a draft Law on Amendments to both the Electoral Code and other regulations, which will eliminate existing conflicts and resolve a number of problematic issues.
It is important to protect the process of amending the Electoral Code from excessive political influence and attempts to create convenient electoral rules for the political forces. Creation of a high-quality Electoral Code that would have been based on the conclusions of experts in the field of suffrage and real practice rather than the interests of a particular political forces, remains to be a challenge. The precaution against such a situation should be the adoption of amendments to the Code in advance, and not before the start of the new electoral campaign.
Section 3. Recommendations on reform priorities for 2021-2022 (next annual period, until URC 2022)
To a greater extent, the recommendations for the next period remain unchanged. The main recommendation is to complete the electoral reform and improve the electoral legislation in the near future, without postponing the issue until the next election, in particular:
Improving the electoral system in national and local elections by waiving the imperative mandate in local and 9 imperative mandates in parliamentary elections.
Increasing the influence of voters on determining the order of candidates in determining the election results. Reduction of the electoral quota from 25% to 5%.
Ensuring the right of citizens to run by self-nomination regardless of the electoral system used in certain elections.
The settle the issue of agitation on the Internet and social networks and introduction of effective mechanisms of responsibility for violating the rules of agitation, including early and covert agitation.
Improving the rules of election financing, including, in particular, the need to unify the rules of financing of both national and local elections, the introduction of effective mechanisms for monitoring election funds, ensuring access to financial reporting, establishing a clear division of powers of supervisory authorities. Thus, the 2020 local elections have shown that entrusting the territorial electoral commissions the authority to analyze candidates' financial statements is completely ineffective.
Ensuring the accessibility and inclusion of the electoral process: in terms of production of ballots, as well as all campaign and information materials, and ensuring the accessibility of polling stations and electoral processes for people with disabilities.
Introduction of electronic services, simplification and automation of procedures both for voters, for candidates, and for election administration bodies.