Sunday, March 15, 2009

Open Vote. Ukrainian authorities want to change the electoral law: to use it at the early parliamentary poll, combined with the presidential election.

Viktor Baloha, a Head of the Secretariat of the President of Ukraine, informed on Wednesday, 11 March that the Secretariat’s legal services are drafting proposals to change the electoral legislation in country. The objects of change are parliamentary and local elections. In particular, the Secretariat is going to propose to switch to the open party lists (in frames of proportional system). The relevant projects of law will be tabled in Parliament soon.

“Due to a current election system, we have the Parliament, which is considered by the majority of experts as the most unprofessional. Yesterday massage therapists, office-girls, guards, and drivers of party bonzes are working now as People’s Deputies (Members of Parliament. – T.V.). I am sure that they are exactly not the people Ukrainian voters wanted to delegate to power. Ukrainians want to know, whom they are electing”, Mr. Baloha emphasized.

One day before – on 11 March 2009 – the President of Ukraine Viktor Yushchenko released the Member of Parliament of Ukraine Sergiy Holovaty (the oppositional Party of Regions) from his duty as a Member of the European Commission for Democracy through Law (Venice Commission), the advisory body of the Council of Europe. Starting from this week, Maryna Stavniychuck, the Deputy Head of the Presidential Secretariat, is representing Ukraine at the sittings in the Scuola Grande di San Giovanni Evangelista in Venice.

The dismissal of Sergiy Holovaty, a lawyer, who is very respected in Europe, and in the Council of Europe in particular, was not a coincidence: the Venice Commission has examined two documents concerning elections in Ukraine on 14 March. Unfortunately, I still have no information about the decision of the experts of the Venice Commission on a Draft law of Ukraine amending the Constitution of Ukraine, initiated by Members of Parliament of Ukraine Viktor Yanukovych (Head of the Party of Regions) and Oleksandr Lavrynovych (Vice-Speaker of Parliament, member of the Party of Regions), and a Draft law amending the Law on Election of People’s Deputies of Ukraine, initiated by Oleksandr Lavrynovych and Andriy Portnov (Block of Yulia Tymoshenko). I know only that the Venice Commission is not over-enthusiastic about the ideas to cut off dramatically the presidential powers in Ukraine. Anyway it is clear that the current President wanted to have a bit of influence on this decision.

The amendments to the electoral law may be used earlier than expected. The Speaker of the Parliament of Ukraine Volodymyr Lytvyn mentioned on 12 March that after the presentation of a mew electoral system, the call for the simultaneous presidential, parliamentary and local elections is quite possible. A Member of Parliament from Our Ukraine – People’s Self-Defence block Vladyslav Kaskiv also thinks that the early parliamentary election may be held as “the most easy way out”. Viktor Yanukovych also said he’s in favour of the simultaneous parliamentary/presidential poll in his televised interview.

Another news of the expiring week is that the leader of the Communist Party Petro Symonenko said he has already prepared the motion for the impeachment of the President of Ukraine. “Serving President has not ever infracted the Constitution and laws of Ukraine”, answered the Head of the Presidential Secretariat in the newspaper interview. “It is easy to explain the words of a member of democratic coalition Petro Symonenko. He is so inspired by Tymoshenko’s instructions that voters may not understand, whether he is a member of her party or the Head of the Communists”. According to Mr. Baloha, the presidential election will be held on 17 January, 2010. The Head of the Secretariat did not inform journalists, whether President is going to take part in the election.

Meanwhile, we had a very interesting public event here in Kyiv on Friday: around 350 people gathered near the building of Parliament, demanding to introduce the direct presidential rule in the country. “Crisis is a right time for the presidential rule”, their slogans said.


elmer said...

Could you please explain what "open party lists in the proportional system" means, and what effect this might have on elections in Ukraine?

Ukrainian parliamentary elections, based on a party list system right now, make no sense.

People don't vote for individual candidates - they vote for a complete list of 450 candidates for all of the seats in parliament. Most people know only the top 5 names in each list, and each bloc or party uses "name" candidates, such as boxers or singers or people with some fame, to attract votes.

What result does this have?

Well, in the Party of Regions, Yanukovych's son is a member of parliament.

But whom does he represent? Who is his constituency?

The answer is - Akhmetov, and the Party of Regions.

And this is true of every single party or bloc that makes it into the Ukrainian Parliament.

It is a very sick, twisted system, designed for only one thing - not to represent voters in voting districts, but to represent oligarchs and their business interests.

On top of that is the unbridled political gamesmanship that goes on in Ukrainian politics.

Case in point - the Parliament declared pre-term regional (oblast) elections in Ternopil, in Western Ukraine. Then, when it became clear that the Tymoshenko bloc stood a good chance of losing, Parliament "cancelled" its declaration.

The Tyahnybok Party, challengers and possible winners in the upcoming elections, went to court in Lviv to nullify Parliament's cancellation of elections. In the meantime, Tymoshenko went to Court in Kyiv to nullify the Lviv court.

The Kyiv court recently reversed itself.

So the elections in Ternopil are on.

But wait, there's more - Tymoshenko's bloc declared that it was "withdrawing" from the elections, which are being held now!!!

Except that one can't simply "withdraw" from an election after the ballots have been printed and the election is taking place.

So the people get to vote in the Ternopil region after all - despite all of the shenanigans of the Tymoshenko bloc.

And it's not just limited to her bloc.

So, if you please - what's an "open party list"?

Thanks in advance.

Tetyana Vysotska said...

Thank you very much for your comment! I agree with your point (as almost always), and I think I'll dedicate my next topic to the electoral law reform to tell more about, what I'm thinking.
Talking about "open lists", I'll check the terminology, maybe, I used a cliché from Ukrainian, and there is another word in English.

elmer said...

Thank you very much. I look forward to it.

UkrToday said...

The current two round Presidential voting system should be abolished.

Putting aside the question of direct election versus a appointment by a constitutional majority, Ukraine would be better off adopting a system of preferential voting.

The cost to hold each round of voting is in excess of $100 Millions dollars. Money that could be better spent else where.

A single round Preferntialvotings system would produce the same result at half the cost and instead of waiting months for an outcome Ukraine would know the result within days providing greater stability and certainty.

The other advantage of a Preferential voting system is that it limits the effect of "Spoiler candidates".

Victor Yuschenko, if he runs, will take votes away from Yatseniuk which in turn will deny him any chance of success. Under a preferential voting system supporters of minor candidates votes are redistributed according to the voters nominated preference. Votes for a minor candidate on exclusion are redistributed and reallocated. the process is repeated until one candidate has 50% or more votes

One round same result - Better representation at a fraction of tne cost

UkrToday said...

Elmer you are wrong

Proportional Representation only applies to Multi-Member electorates. Such as Ukraine's does not apply to the Presidential single member election.

Under the current closed Party list system people vote for parties/blocs and based on a formula the number of seats are allocated according to the registered party list and the percentage of the vote each party that exceeds the 3% representation quota.

There are other forms of proportional representation that cater for open lists and a system of preferential voting.

Preferential voting can also be used for single member electorate and is by far more preferable then the two round Presidential voting system currently used in Ukraine. (see previous comment)

When you design a system you should not consider what the outcome will be, and it should not be designed to favour any single party or political outcome. It should not discriminate in any way where possible. Any system adopted must be fair and based on sound principles of equal representation.

The proposal and suggestion to create 450 singe member electorates would be a backward step. rather then get into the details and semantics of the various voting systems a single member electorate system would disenfranchise up to 60% of the state and create a distortion in any representative model based on geopolitical regional and considerations disproportionate to the electorate its self.

The best solution for the parliament is to create a number of smaller local based multi-member electorates (ideally each electorate would elect nine members of parliament on a 10% quota by a system of preferential proportional voting. under such a system more then 90% of the electorate would be represented by a candidate of their choice as opposed to less then 50% with single member electorate. Geopolitical economic considerations would not play a major role in a multi-member constituency as it would in a single member electorate

Ukraine would be better off. Multi member local electorates allow for more direct campaigning without the need to sacrifice representation levels. Your get the best of both worlds.

Both parties and individual candidates are better off.

UkrToday said...

"Yanukovych's son is a member of parliament.But whom does he represent? Who is his constituency?"

The correct answer is he represents the party who included him on their list and the voters who supported and voted for the party.

There should be no distinction made as to who is the son of or not. Your question reallyhas no merit and should not form part of the design of any politcial system. if anything it shows your extreme bias in your assessment.

A political system should not favour the rich or the poor and it should not exclude them either. the same goes for profession, gender, religion or race.

The goal of any electoral system is to reflect and provide representation of the electorate.

This is best done under a system or multi-member constituencies ideally with an open list structure as outlined above.

Attempts to engineer the structure of the system to produce a particular outcome will always fail.

Having done some modeling analysis based on the last three elections in Ukraine I can assure you you would not like the outcome of a the proposed single member model. You should seriously think twice before you advocate such. It is wrong both on outcome and in principle. The later should always take precedence.

UkrToday said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
UkrToday said...

On the question of the President's impeachment. There is more then enough grounds that would warrant his ousting from office not the lest being his illegal interference in Ukraine's judicial process. The so called "separation of powers" issue.
In the end Impeachment as much as it is justified is subject to political will not Justice. If it was the later he would have been impeached long ago.
Venice Commission: I highly recommend the reading of the Venice Commission reports on Ukraine's constitution.
The Venice Commission should have been called on to make a submission ion the legality of the president's actions in 2007. Whilst I understand in part the decision taken by the European Council to refrain from "taking sides" and calling on Ukraine to take responsibility for their won governance. The EC Executive failed to protect the rights of Ukrainians by remaining silent whilst Yuschenko illegally and unconstitutional interfered with Ukraine Constitutional Court. The PACE report was critical of this BUT they stood by and turned a blind eye on this obvious denial of human and constitutional rights. In doing so they have contributed to the instability and conflict that Ukraine now faces. Made worst by the fact that confidence in the democratic process has been seriously undermined as a result of both the President's actions and the "Turn a blind eye" capitulation of the European Council executive.


I am not so sure The Venice Commission would reject the removal of power of the President. PACE has previously stated that it would be better for Ukraine to adopt a full parliamentary model in line with European Standards.
Europe after all is a collection of parliamentary democracies (all except France and Cyprus)
The Venice Commission should have been called on to review the actions of the President in 2007.
Obviously the Yuschenko felt it important that he has a voice and influence on the Venice commission as it has been, to their credit, some what more impartial and critical of events.
Maryna Stavniychuck's, goal will be to try and silence or tone down criticism of the Venice commission.
Imperative Mandate

To change the electoral laws you also need to change the constitution.
If you are to implement a "Open list" system you would need to abolish the Imperative mandate provisions.
A point that the Venice Commission was highly critical of back in 2003.
Yuschenko used the Imperative mandate provisions to try and justify his dismissal of the parliament back in 2007.
Ukraine's constitutional Court has never rules on the implementation of the Imperative mandate requirements.
The Venice Commission in its condemning reports have rightly pointed out the problems and inconsistencies of the "Imperative Mandate".
A move to an Open list system would have to see the Imperative mandate removed. Ukrainian Deputies would be free to cast a free vote independent from faction policy.
Yuschenko's inconsistent policy

What's interesting and amusing is that whilst Yuschenko denied the right of a free parliamentary vote back in 2007 his own sub-faction headed by Baloha have stood aside from the main faction, locked in to a coalition that they do not want to participate in.
So the imperative mandate provisions, as supported by Yuschenko, only apply when it suits his political wishes but plays no role in determining the functioning of the democratic process.
The Majority of Our Ukraine-Peoples Self Defence movement have agreed to the governing coalition BUT Yuschenko's sub faction do not consider they are bound by the decisions of the faction as a whole. In 2007 Yuschenko strongly opposed individual members of parliament voting right to support constitutional change. You can not have it both ways.
The Venice Commission address all these issues in its previous reports.
The reports of the Venice commission also expose the myth that the Constitutional changes that were implemented in 2004 were "rushed" through.
Yes the compromise was reached in haste but the issues of reform has been well and truly debated.
The changes in 2004 were a step in the right direction.
Anders Aslund recently commenting on the 2004 reforms stated
"On April 1, the Ukrainian parliament voted by an overwhelming majority to hold the next presidential election on Oct. 25, which will help the country to clarify the political situation.
The fundamental political problem, however, lies in the confusing constitutional compromise of December 2004, which was one of the most significant results of the Orange Revolution

Ukraine now needs to take the next step forward and remove power from the head of state and as recommend by PACE in its report
"It would be better for the country (Ukraine)to switch to a full parliamentary system with proper checks and balances and guarantees of parliamentary opposition and competition."
In line with European standards and democratic values.

UkrToday said...


Learn h9ow Ukraine can save 100 Million dollars plus in the conduct of its Presidential elections.