Introductory Remarks For Session II: The New Election Law And The 2012 Parliamentary Elections
By Bohdan Harasymiw
Good morning! Bonjour, tout le monde! Dobroho ranku, pani i panove! Welcome!
When it comes to election laws in Ukraine, “Everything Old is New Again,” as the saying goes.
In October of this year, elections will be held in Ukraine for the national assembly, or parliament, the Verkhovna Rada. In November of last year, a new election law was passed which scraps the procedure of the previous two elections and reverts to a system last used ten years ago, in 2002. Instead of:
450 deputies being elected on closed party lists by proportional representation in a single, nation-wide electoral district,
now there will be reinstated a mixed electoral system, with 225 deputies elected from closed party lists (in which blocs or electoral alliances cannot participate, and where the threshold for representation has been increased from 3 per cent to 5 per cent) in one nation-wide district; plus the other 225 deputies will be elected by plurality vote in single-member districts, representing parties, but also allowing once again independent (self-nominated) candidates to compete. An interesting question is who will draw the boundaries for these districts; gerrymandering of some kind can be expected.
The option of voting “Against All” is gone.
This new/old electoral law is touted as a compromise between the desires and expectations of the governing Party of Regions and its allies, and the various opposition parties: each side expects to obtain a majority of seats from this system, by hook or by crook, and then to form a government.
There are positive and negative features to this system, for all concerned and for those on the sidelines.
To explain all of the implications and ramifications of this—for the sort of political system that is emerging in Ukraine, whether it be democracy or kleptocracy or electoral authoritarianism or some other point on the spectrum—we have three expert speakers and one expert discussant who will give their views on how this came about and what it means.
First, for the background to the present situation, I’m going to call on Alyona Getmanchuk, who is with the Institute of World Policy in Kyiv.
Thank you. Next we have Bohdan Futey, a federal judge and consitutional advisor from Washington, to tell us how the new/old law was drawn up and what its effect will be.
Thank you. Canada has sent election observers to Ukraine on many occasions in the past, and will do so in 2012. Markian Shvets, who is with the Canada-Ukraine Foundation, is here to tell us about his experiences with the UCC-CUF observer mission to the last presidential elections, and what to expect this time. I suppose we are all eager to hear if Canada is going to export to Ukraine its expertise in making robocalls. I must say that whenever I’ve gone to Ukraine to serve as an election observer, I feel a certain schizophrenia. I live in a province where we haven’t changed the party in government for over 40 years. It seems to be a form of constipated democracy. Maybe for the forthcoming election in Alberta, Ukraine should send some observers to us, to coach us on changing the government—they’ve already learned how to do that, and we haven’t.
Thank you. To start the discussion going, I’m now going to callon Nico Lange, who is with the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung in Kyiv.
Thank you. So in light of what we’ve heard so far, does anyone have any idea of how many kilos of hrechka each Canadian election observer should bring with him or her, to ensure free and fair elections? One of the things I still don’t understand about the Ukrainian political context is the constitutional requirement for a majority in the Verkhovna Rada in order to form a government. There is such a thing as minority government—talk to Stephen Harper. We can now open the conversation to all, just before giving our presenters a chance to respond to the discussant’s comments.
Thanks to all participants, the panelists, and you, the audience.