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Statement of non-governmental organizations on need to codify electoral legislation

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Statement of non-governmental organizations on need to codify electoral legislation

Improving the electoral legislation remains an important issue on the political agenda. The progress made with respect to the Electoral Code is an integral part of preparations to signing the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement. The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, OSCE/ODIHR, Venice Commission and other influential organizations repeatedly emphasized the need for adoption of the Electoral Code. Furthermore, codification of electoral legislation is one of the trends in its development throughout the European and NIS countries.
For the last 15 years, the presidents of Ukraine, Victor Yushchenko and Victor Yanukovych, as well as the representatives of the Party of Regions, Batkivshchyna, Communist Party, UDAR, Svoboda and other political parties have declared their will to contribute to drafting the Electoral Code and its adoption by the Parliament.
In November 2010, President Victor Yanukovych established the Working Group for improvement of electoral legislation tasked to bring the election laws in compliance with the international standards and accelerate their codification. The Working Group, however, failed to come up with any proposals to change the Presidential Election Law and the Local Election Law. Discussions of election law reform in the context of Ukraine’s preparation to signing the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement is limited to discussion of the possible changes to the Parliamentary Election Law, while other election laws are left unmentioned.
The draft Election Code was submitted to the Parliament in 2010. This draft was prepared in cooperation with all political parties represented in the Sixth Convocation of Parliament, as well as domestic and international experts. It received a positive response from the Venice Commission; however, it has never been adopted. Moreover, the politicians periodically suggest questionable arguments against harmonization of the legal framework governing elections, something that contradicts to the previous statements regarding the need to harmonize the election laws.
The adoption of the Electoral Code could contribute to harmonizing the legal framework governing all election-related procedures, to ensuring the comprehensiveness and legal certainty in regulation of the elections, as well as to a more convenient use of electoral legislation by the election commissions, courts, etc.
Therefore we recommend:
1. One year prior to the 2015 general local elections, the government should prepare and adopt changes to the Local Election Law, which currently falls short of generally accepted standards, and fails to provide a basis for holding the local elections in line with international norms and practices. These changes should be aimed to unify all election laws.
2. To ensure without delay transparent, open and inclusive discussion of changes to all three Ukrainian election laws, that should be targeted at reaching consensus on the electoral systems to be applied to the national and local elections, as well as on the procedures under which those elections should be held.
3. Once political consensus on the electoral systems and procedures is reached, to restart work towards the preparation and adoption of the unified Electoral Code. We believe that the draft Electoral Code, which received generally positive response from the Venice Commission, can constitute a sound basis for further work, especially with regard to the election procedures.

OPORA Civic Network
Electoral Law Institute
Committee of Voters of Ukraine
Ukrainian Center for Independent Political Research
Center for Political and Legal Reforms
Center for Political Studies and Analysis