Kyiv, October 18, 2016. Communities-pioneers who first started creating capable communities have proved with their own example that the game is worth the candle as it results in profit and further development. However, reform is currently blocked by a recent decision of the Central Election Commission (CEC) that refused to appoint local elections in 28 united communities. During a roundtable in Ukraine Crisis Media Center communities representatives and experts discussed how communities can stand for their rights and what are their chances to succeed, as well as other challenges.
Central Election Commission stand and trial
On October 17, Kyiv District Administrative Court held the first hearings on appeal that Central Election Commission provision by which it refused to appoint election in Voyutychi Village Council (Lviv region) be recognized illegal. According to Anton Sobolivskyi, attorney of Voyutychi Village Council, assistant to MP Yuriy Derevianko, Central Election Commission motivated its decision by a regulation prescribing that administrative borders of districts must be changed before appointment of elections. CEC has also referred to its provision adopted in February 2016. “Their stand is illegal as there is no such regulations. The article of Ukrainian Constitution to which CEC referred in fact prescribes that the power to change district limits is in competence of the Verkhovna Rada. Is there grounds for a conclusion that first districts limits should be changed and only then local elections can be held?” he emphasized.
According to Anton Sobolivskyi, CEC has no right to refer to its provision that prescribes additional conditions to comply with in order to hold elections. “In October 2015 they organized elections in 159 united communities according to the law “On Local Elections”, and then they introduced additional requirements for others”, he explained. According to him, these problems are purely technical (such as what District Commission should organize elections in commutities from various districts) and the CEC provision aim was to fix them. Moreover, according to the law “On Local Elections”, CEC should appoint elections in the manner and on the grounds prescribed by the law, there is no mention about any additional provisions. Anton Sobolivskyi believes that the only way for community to stand for its rights is court action. The final hearings on this appeal will be held on November, 1 where the court has to come to a final decision.
One of possible solutions may be a draft law 4676 on amendments to several legislative acts prescribing conditions of modifying districts borders in the process of voluntary creation of united territorial communities. It has already been adopted by the Parliament in the first reading and is waiting for the second reading. According to Mykola Antoshyk, Mayor of Pomichna city (Kirovograd region), this bill will bring the solution as it removes obstacles for elections to which the CEC referred to. However, said Anton Sobolivskyi, cannot solve the main problem: the CEC refers to the Constitution as well, so these legislative amendments are not sufficient.
Yuriy Ganuschak, director of the Institute for Territories Development, mentioned two more draft laws No. 4772 and 4773 on voluntary merging of communitites. “It should boost the process. Without it, nearly 80 per cent of those who are going to hold elections will be left behind. Only 20 per cent comply with perspective plans”, he emphasized. According to Mr. Ganuschak, the CEC demands that communities borders should be changed, however, there is no regulating documents defining those borders. “Technically, they don’t exist, so how they could be changed?”, he said.
People are disappointed by CEC decision
Anatoliy Martyniuk, Mayor of Krasnopilka village (Vinnytsia region) said that 90 per cent of people in his local community voted in favor of joining Krasnopilka community. “This provision broke all our hopes. People don’t know what they shall do now. However, we are not in the era before 2014: people have chosen their way and they will go on and stand for their rights”, he said.
“There is will of local people, there are economic grounds, CEC should be nothing but instrument. However, they interfered with some political motives and complicated the whole matter. When united, communities would have promising opportunities. Now, instead, they have to start court action to protect their rights”, said MP Ostap Yednak. He reminded that there are problems with the Central Election Commission itself: the term of the mandate of most of its members is over, however, there is no appropriate decision. Mr. Yednak stressed that it is time to address this issue on international level. Mykola Antoshyk, Mayor of Pomichna city (Kirovograd region), shares this opinion. “CEC is not legitimate since June 2015. They cannot adopt decisions on future of 350 000 people”, he stressed.
“In decentralization process, will and common interest on grassroots level are the most important. If a number of communities have made a conscious decision to merge into one, it should be implemented through a purely technical process and end with a decision on creation of a new community. The Central Election Commission actions are nothing but political maneuvers. Now we are in a strange situation when the strongest communities cannot hold elections”, added Yuriy Ganuschak.