The term of office of most of the members of Ukraine’s Central Election Commission (CEC) expired two years ago. With seven parliamentary by-elections scheduled on 17 July, the legitimacy of this holdover from the Yanukovych era appears dubious. Although the President suggested new CEC members to the Parliament, the political parties have shown no urgency to renew this crucial body. The status quo serves the political parties, suggested participants at a public discussion organised by Democracy Reporting International (DRI) in the Ukraine Crisis Media Centre on 11 July 2016.
Discussing a way forward the experts discussed whether the CEC members should be appointed based on their professional background or on the basis of political quota (partisan composition)
Olha Aivazovska, coordinator of the electoral and parliamentary programs of the Civil Network OPORA, stressed that undergoing a political transition Ukraine should not rely solely on a selection based on professional background. She believes that the CEC can be independent by being internally “politically balanced” due to quota-based representation of different political groups and fractions.
This view was challenged by Oleksandr Chernenko, a parliamentary deputy and legal specialist, who is convinced that “even the strictest quota-based selection will not resolve the impartiality issue”.
Andriy Magera, a current CEC member, proposed to tighten the professional requirement for candidates to the CEC and specify in the law the need for MA-level degree as well as practical experience in the legal field.
The experts agreed that the transparency of the selection process is another important question. They suggested that candidates should discuss with party representatives and civil society and that such debates should be broadcast live. Mr Magera believes that such debates do not require any legal changes and could be introduced immediately by the President. He also indicated that a competitive selection of the CEC candidates would contribute to the transparency of the process.
Quick fixes to the law on the CEC
The participants shared the opinion that the constitutional formula for the appointment and dismissal of the CEC candidates needs no change: Under Article 85 para. 1 item 21 the Parliament appoints and dismisses the CEC members upon the nomination by the President. Yet, this formula can be elaborated further in the law on the CEC to prevent any tinkering with the nomination procedure. As quick fixes to the law on the CEC they suggested the following steps:
- Re-enact the provision prohibiting the members to participate in the Commission sessions when their 7-year term of office has expired. In this event, any extensions should be ruled out.
- Introduce a clear representational distribution formula: According to Denys Kovryzhenko, Senior Legal Advisor of the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES), such a formula “should determine what ratio of representation the political fractions should expect in the CEC corresponding to the proportion of their seats in the parliament”.
- Remove the provision on the vote of no-confidence in the CEC by two-thirds of the Parliament. Mr. Magera finds this provision unconstitutional and contradictory to European standards, “as a no-confidence vote can be arranged for purely political reasons”.
For more information about the composition of Ukraine’s CEC see our fact sheet.
The open discussion: “Reloading the Central Election Commission: a step forward, but in which direction?“ was organized by Democracy Reporting International (DRI) within the framework of the Project “Going beyond Kyiv: Empowering Regional Actors of Change to Contribute to Key Political Reforms in Ukraine”, implemented by DRI in cooperation with the Institute of International Relations of the National Taras Shevchenko University of Kyiv. The Project is funded by the German Foreign Office. 30 participants from civil society, political parties, and international organisations participated in the discussion.