Speech of the Electoral and Parliamentary Programs Coordinator of Civil Network OPORA

Speech of the Electoral and Parliamentary Programs Coordinator of Civil Network OPORA

Brussels, 1 March 2016

I don't want to discuss today the friendship between Ukrainian Parliament and civil society. If Ukraine is not Russia, then non-governmental organizations are neither friends nor enemies to the legislative branch. We may be only partners on the way to reforms. Partners who criticize, and not usually achieve easy communication, but still partners.

Today, Ukraine is expected to achieve the certain progress in the reforming process, and display the accountability for promises made by state authorities to Ukrainian society and international partners. Of course, the Government and Parliament can't realize everything in a short period of time, but the window for reforms is about to close, unfortunately. There are a few reasons for that: Parliamentary political crisis, unstable work of the Coalition, and low level of trust in the Government followed by a demand for its reload. The other problems are military aggression of the Russian Federation in Eastern Ukraine and annexation of the Crimea. Taking this into consideration, fast reforms and irreversible changes in various public sectors become even more pressing.

I can speak on behalf of my organization about parliamentary institutional reform and electoral reform. We are not only analyzing the situation, but also actively working for changes.

Electoral legislation should be developed in a transparent manner with participation of the public and goaled to codify organizational procedures in a long-term perspective.

In 2015, Chairman of Ukrainian Parliament Volodymyr Hroisman initiated the corresponding work group, and I was one of its members. We developed a draft law on local elections based on open-list proportional representation system, but it wasn't adopted by the Parliament. Thus, although the group was authorized to develop the draft law, attracted representatives of all parliamentary factions, and took into consideration international expert opinions, its work was wasted. At the same time, another draft law was being developed. This draft law was aimed to change the legislation only formally. It kept unchanged all the preferences that big parties had, avoided internal party competition, provided poor campaign regulations, and didn't contain any efficient prohibition of administrative resource misuse etc.. As for the positive changes brought by the effective Law on Local Elections, I should mention the two-round electoral system introduced for election of mayors in big cities, and gender quotas. The latter, however, was not implemented as it should have been.

Besides that, Members of Ukrainian Parliament ignored the need to take public decision on voting rights of internally displaced persons, reaching 1,7 million for today as a result of war. OPORA and a number of other organizations had developed a special draft law, which was not even included into agenda of the Parliament, and was blocked by the corresponding committee in 2,5 weeks before the elections. We consider such inaction and politicization of citizen voting rights as discrimination.

Further elaboration of the law on parliamentary elections may start soon. Thus, we must take into account all the mistakes and manipulations that took place in 2015. Firstly, parliamentary factions should consult with public experts and take an internal political decision concerning the type of open-list proportional representation system to be adopted. Secondly, an official platform must be created, so that MPs could develop the law on a par with independent expert. We must avoid a situation when many draft laws are developed simultaneously but none of them gets adopted. Thirdly, development, consideration and adoption of the law should happen before the current session of the Parliament finishes, in order to eliminate the factor of short-term political expediency.

The next should be a development of the Election Code in a transparent and inclusive manner.

I would also like to draw your attention to the fact that legitimacy of Ukrainian Central Election Commission, which is the highest administrative body organizing the election process, is in question today. According to the legislation, members of the CEC are appointed by the Parliament for 7 years. However, 12 of 15 current members have been holding their positions for already 9 years. Although this situation is satisfactory for a part of political elite, it undermines trust in both the CEC and the election process itself. The President has already received the list of nominees from parliamentary factions, and should submit them for consideration of the Parliament. However, he says that the Parliament will vote successfully only on withdrawal of commission members, but is not going to secure appointment of new ones and, as a result, Ukraine will be left without the CEC. I'm convinced that the issue of new CEC members appointment must be raised at all levels, as long as not only commission members are the hostages of this situation but, what is more important, the society is.

Ukrainian Parliament must become more transparent, open and accountable. On 5 February, the Chairman of the Verkhovna Rada has approved the Open Parliament Action Plan, and Civil Network OPORA was among its developers. If all objectives of this work plan are realized in 2016-2017, we will have a chance to see a more predicted parliament, with a more open decision-making system.

However, adherence to the Rules of Parliamentary Procedures remains the most pressing issue for today. The laws creating space for corruption or securing short-term interests of the certain factions are usually adopted in violation of the procedure rules. The main problems are nontransparent decision-making process, no time and opportunity for a high-quality examination, violation of the law-making process consistency. At the same time, laws that are hazardous for democracy are put to vote a dozen times and, eventually, get adopted under the pressure. For example, a so-called “law on party dictatorship and MPs” (#3700) was adopted on the 25 attempt.

I have a dream that Ukrainian Parliament becomes one day a representative, institutionally independent, open, transparent and accountable.

It is a time of changes for us, a complicated period for both the public and the politicians. The citizens are undergoing challenges to test their readiness to become mature, adopt non-paternalistic model of development; their readiness to take unpopular decisions to preserve the state sovereignty of Ukraine and gain the potential for growth. At the same time, politicians and statesmen are undergoing a crash-test for their ability to gain public trust and grow from post-soviet party nomenclature to the political elite. We will know they succeeded if they will be able to sacrifice their business, party, and political interests for the sake of this country and its citizens.

I want to believe that we all are able to overcome these challenges with dignity. Therefore, I choose to think that every problem is not a verdict, but an opportunity for growth. 

Video of the meeting:

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The Civil Network OPORA - is a non-governmental, non-political and financially independent all-Ukrainian network of activists. We united to enhance public participation in the political process by developing and implementing models of citizen participation in the activities of state and local governments.