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Online Petitions: in Tune with the Times or “I Will Hear Everyone-2”?

Date of publication: 1 October 2015

Mykola Burtovyi, Attorney at Law

Source: Ukrainska Pravda

In July this year Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine supported the President’s draft law “On introduction of amendments to the Law “On the people’s appeals” regarding electronic circulation and online petitions”. The Law was amended with a regulation on new form of making electronic applications, as well as introduced was an instrument of filing petitions to the President of Ukraine, Verkhovna Rada, the Cabinet of Ministers, as well as to the local self-governance bodies – online petition.

In general the Law will come into force from October 28, 2015 but provisions related to online petitions entered into force from 28-th of July.  In this connection by its Decree No. 523/2 as of July 28, 2015 the President approved the procedure of examination of online petitions and from the next day it became possible to file petitions to the President of Ukraine from the special web-page of the Presidents web-portal. From this moment a lot of petitions have been being registered every day. It is notable that some of them have accumulated over 25 000 votes required for such petitions be examined.

In this regard mass media and internet communities were quite agitated by almost decided matter of “customs clearance” and new candidate for the post of the Prime Minister. The Deputy Head of the President’s Administration – Mr. Dmytro Shymkiv – has somewhat eased the situation stating that “petition” is not an instruction to be followed and is not a definite “yes” or “no” – it is a beginning of democratic discussion in search of the solution”.

Unfortunately, for many “subscribers” to the petition it should be noted that it is really the fact and having 25 000 subscribers is not a guarantee of the petition approval, but only the chance to be heard by the officials from the President’s Administration. It is they who is obliged to direct the petition “for processing” within ten days since 25 000 people cast their votes in its favor. Processing of a certain petition means drafting and providing proposals to the President of Ukraine in favor or not in favor of an online petition and of the drafted reply to it.

In each case the President’s response to the petition must be drafted not later than ten days following the announcement of its examination. The law also stipulates that response to the petition, be it positive or negative, must be concise and well-substantiated. If the President holds the petition to be substantiated he may issue a decree or submit a draft law to Verkhovna Rada.

Now there are few words about seriousness of filing online petitions and whether it will actually help people to solve their actual problems and issues. Online petitions is the efficient method of people’s communication with power which is confirmed by existence of such mechanisms in more than 70 states including Switzerland, Sweden, Australia, the USA and Great Britain.

Only time will tell whether online petitions will catch on in Ukraine or will become a mere “pipe dream”. Now we are witnessing a “parade” of petitions which, for the most part, are of joking or impracticable nature.

The scheme will possibly be improved in the future and online petitions will objectively mirror the public opinion, as well as burning socially important problems and it is not ruled out that someday certain matters will be resolved through such mechanism.