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How open party lists and breakaway from the single-member districts can change the country’s political landscape

Kyiv, June 15, 2017.

Representatives of several political forces call to join the action outside of Ukraine’s Parliament (Verkhovna Rada) on June 21 demanding to reform the actual voting legislation. Based on the article by “Novoe Vremya” UCMC familiarizes the readers with the arguments of those who are calling for a change as well as explains what it is that they are asking to change.

Why the voting legislation needs to be reformed

Organizers of the action emphasize that without the political reform considerable changes in the country are impossible. The actual election system adopted in Yanukovych times leaves too much space for artificial increase of rankings, “buying” seats and leaves no chance for new political forces to get into the Parliament. “Ukraine that went through Euromaidan can’t hold elections in accordance with the Yanukovych laws,” said Svitlana Zalishchuk, MP, member of the Democratic Alliance party at a press-briefing at Ukraine Crisis Media Center. “Single member districts equal to a ‘bought’ mandate, unlimited [political] ads – to winning elections by means of ‘hypnotizing’ TV influenced by key oligarchs. The five per cent election threshold means the new political forces are not capable of competing on equal terms with the forces that have monopolized the power,” the MP explained.

Key demands: Getting rid of the first-past-the-post system

About one third of the MPs of the current convocation were elected in single-member districts. It was exactly in this type of districts that Opora civil network – an independent election monitor registered 70 per cent of all violations during the 2014 election campaign. “In Ukrainian realities the first-past-the-post component [of the election system] leads to massive bribery, abuse of power and decreases importance of ideology for a candidate. Same people are casting their votes for a party [according to the proportional system] while in the single member districts they are choosing an opposite political figure basing their choice on the benefits or infrastructural improvements offered by the candidate,” said Oleksandr Kliuzhev, Opora analyst.

Limiting political ads

In the last election campaign the candidates spent a total of UAH 650 million (approx. EUR 22 million) according to the data of the Opora civil network. The experts claim that it’s only part of the actual expenses, the overall amount is much higher. They also say that unlimited political advertising during the election campaign alters the conscious choice of the citizen. Despite the fact that Ukraine has official limitations on financing of elections: parties and blocs are not allowed to spend more than UAH 2,5 million, candidates – more than UAH 170 thousand. In practice all these years in Ukraine no one has neither checked the actual expenses of parties, nor held them liable for the abuse. According to the reform supporters, limiting political advertising on television is key for the new “anti-oligarch” parties to come to power.

Opening party election lists

Experts say that unlimited political advertising on TV and lack of ideology often lead to the situation when Ukrainians cast their votes for the bright leaders without paying attention to the top-ten candidates in the party list. Party leaders use this situation and either put on sale the places on the list or place their allies without considering their popularity or professionalism. Open party election lists will change the situation. It means that the voter will be both choosing a party and particular candidates who will have seats in the Parliament.

“Recent local elections held in accordance with these principles demonstrated that much more decent people had a chance to become deputies of local councils […] and are now active members of local self-governance,” said Yehor Soboliev, MP, Samopomich faction.

Decreasing election threshold

The actual five per cent election threshold places the new political forces into the situation of unequal competition with the forces that have “monopolized the power”. According to the parliamentarians – participants of the press-briefing, decrease of the election threshold up to two-three per cent will allow for a qualitative renewal of the Parliament.

Renewing the Central Election Commission

Mandate of the Central Election Commission ended four years ago, while seven of its 12 commission members represent the old regime. Majority of the members are subject to lustration [purification of authorities] and have assets the origin of which they have not yet explained. Some experts are of the opinion that the Parliament will appoint new members of the Central Election Commission before the summer break.

Reform’s status

“Almost all political parties that made it into the Parliament and became part of the first coalition in 2014 promised to change the election legislation, same as all the candidates to the presidential post. The actual President also promised to change it. However, we still see no changes,” said Yehor Firsov, independent MP. The draft law no.1068-2 “On elections of MPs” that is supposed to set the legal basis for the reform, is being considered by the parliamentary committees.

On June 21 representatives of factions Samopomich, Democratic Alliance, Movement of New Forces (Rukh novykh syl), Civic Position (Hromadianska Posytsia), Alternative as well as of Khyvlia (Wave) and Diya (Action) civic movements will rally outside the Parliament calling to reform the election legislation.

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