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Electoral Monopoly. How the Choice of a Quarter of Ukrainians is Being Ignored


Roman Marchenko , Attorney at Law, Senior Partner

Source: Ukrainian Pravda

Ukraine has developed a new political tradition – amend legislation just before the elections. Perfect example of this is the legislation on local elections. The corresponding election rules were approved three months prior to the election day.

And the People’s Deputies have recently passed the draft of the Electoral Code (No. 3112-1) in the first reading, which was approved by 226 votes.

Judging by the voting results (only the minimum voting threshold was scaled) the sitting deputies are very reluctant towards the essential change of the voting rules. And based on the author’s “insider” information the Code will not likely pass the second reading, i.e. will not be passed at all.

The willingness to leave the voting rules untouched, which is demonstrated by the political factions, is not without reason. The 5 % barrier makes it possible for the big (first and foremost, parliamentary) factions to seize the votes cast by the supporters of political parties which did not make it to the Parliament.

Just for your consideration: at the early elections, which were held in 2014, those parties which entered the Verkhovna Rada gained 77.5 votes of their supporters. But, as long as many parties failed to scale the 5% barrier the remaining votes were proportionally distributed among the successful six parties. And these distributed votes were equivalent to as many as 50 seats in the Ukrainian Parliament (which equaled the level reached by the winning party “People’s Front”).

Following the simple mathematical manipulations “BYuT” (The Yulia Tymoshenko Bloc) received four additional deputy’s seats, “Radical Party” – five seats, “Opposition bloc” – six seats, “Samopomich” – seven seats, and “People’s Front” and “BPP” (“Petro Poroshenko Block”) received 14 seats each!

The said means that the existing 5% voting barrier considerably distorts the result of the real declaration of will of the Ukrainian people.

For example, in 2014 the political party “Svoboda” (which receives votes of more than 742 thousand of Ukrainians, i.e. 4.71%) was unable to enter the Parliament. Behind the Parliament’s doors found themselves the “Communist Party of Ukraine” (612 thousand votes), the Political Party of Sergiy Tygypko “Strong Ukraine” (491 thousand votes), the Political Party of Anatolii Grytsenko “Civil Position” (489 thousand votes) and Political Party “Zastup” (418 thousand votes).

There is one obvious question: why the opinion of millions of Ukrainians, who are actually denied of the opportunity to have their representatives in the legislative body, is being ignored?

The situation looks even more paradoxical if we analyze the voting results and the election process in certain single-member districts.

The utmost spectacular example was the election of a former member of the “Party of Regions” – Efim Zviagilskiy – who got votes of only 1 452 voters and it was quite enough to beat the competitors in his single-member district.

As a result fifteen hundred voters of the of the election district No. 45in Donets Region have their representative in the Ukrainian Parliament, but almost 4 million voters of small political parties have been left without representation.

It is evident that 5% voting barrier to enter the Parliament is of the discriminatory nature.

Not so long ago, in 2014, the electoral preferences of almost a quarter of Ukrainian citizens were ignored. And the situation repeats itself each election cycle.

An optimal solution for this would be total rejection of any barriers for the parties. Such novelties may obviously result in having a dozen of populists in our Parliament. But, frankly speaking, we must admit that the said also happens pretty often nowadays. To make sure it would suffice to look through the lists of the current deputies elected as party members or as representatives of single-member districts.

My logic is simple: according to our Constitution the Verkhovna Rada has 450 seats. Simple calculation shows that if 225 people’s deputies (members of the political parties which enter the Parliament on a proportional basis) represent all the voters, then one people’s deputy holds 0.44%.

Consequently, only the mentioned barrier (0.44% = 1 people’s deputy) would comply with the requirements of the Ukrainian Constitution.

In the Netherlands, for example, such barrier is 0.67% – all the votes are simply divided by the seats in the House, i.e. the electoral threshold is exactly one deputy. Should we have applied such an approach our Parliament would have one deputy from such political parties as “5.10” and “Solidarity of Women of Ukraine”.

I am asking myself a question: why would it be bad? It is crystal clear that “small” parties also must be provided with an opportunity to show themselves and, possibly, tomorrow they will come from the margins of Ukrainian politics and will be much more useful than the current political “heavy-weights”.

It needs to be noted that according to the recommendations of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe the election threshold for the parliamentary elections must not exceed 3%. Its no wonder that Turkey (one of the countries with low level of democracy) has one of the highest election thresholds – 10%.

It is interesting that Germany, as Ukraine now, also used to have a 5% election threshold to get to the Parliament. But in 2011 the Constitutional Court upheld a decision on its invalidity after which the threshold was decreased to 3%. But in 2014 this new barrier was also acknowledged by the court as unconstitutional.

This is why among one of the tasks which is to be solved by new electoral legislation is lifting barriers for entering the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine.

In this case the Ukrainians will be able to pump “new blood” into the Parliament by ending the monopoly of top political forces which, as a matter of fact, have not brought much good.

But, unfortunately, the current people’s deputies are not hasting to nullify the discriminatory provision stipulating 5% barrier for the Parliamentary parties. The draft law No. 3112-1 is proposing to lower the barrier to 4%.

It means only one thing: the monopoly of several political parties in the Parliament will remain, and the Central Electoral Commission will still ignore the electoral preferences of millions of Ukrainians.

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