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New Electoral Legislation: Risks and Benefits for Major Players

  • New Electoral Legislation Risks and Benefits for Major Players

Kyiv: The new Electoral Code successfully passed the first reading in the Verkhovna Rada (the Ukrainian Parliament), although with a “crunch”, at the moment is “stuck” because of the huge number of amendments that hide the reluctance of a number of Deputies and political forces to actually adopt the new “rules of the game” in the Ukrainian elections. This document proposes to apply the electoral system, which allows to personalize the voting system ("open" lists of candidates), with the introduction of regional electoral districts. In practice, this means that each voter must vote for a political party, and then choose another candidate from the list of the political party, which is compiled specifically for his region, the candidate he considers worthy. It is assumed that during the elections, Ukraine will be divided into 27 electoral regions. Besides, this document provides for training and certification of members of election commissions, as well as new restrictions on political advertising. The most important thing is that the electoral code means the unification of the “rules of the game” for elections at various levels.

It should be noted that the requirements for changes in the electoral legislation were recorded in the electoral programs of the majority elected to the current parliament of political forces. Moreover, “open lists” was the most popular election promise of 2014. According to supporters of this model, it will mean the elimination of political corruption, because, on one hand, the place in the party lists will no longer be sold, and on the other, the buckwheat will not be bribed in majority of the districts.

Although, in general, it can be said that changing the electoral model in this case is not such a panacea, because all the same, political parties will form a list of candidates in regional districts. Consequently, the influence of party leaders on the list of candidates will not disappear anywhere. The same applies to corruption schemes aimed at bribing voters, because, in principle, the new model will in no way prevent candidates from “processing” their regions for support with the help of including classical bribes.

In addition, critics of the bill point out that its adoption at this stage of the country's approaching elections is impossible because of the impossibility of changing the rules of the game before the presidential elections themselves.

If you look deeper into the nature of the problem, in practice, changes in the electoral legislation for parliamentary elections can lead to the following consequences.

First, the reduction of the influence of party leaders, who previously had a decisive influence on the lists of parties. Although it cannot be said that this will save the power of the party centers.

Secondly, the emergence of a factor not only of inter-party, but also of intra-party competition in elections, because politicians will be forced to compete with each other within the same party list. Accordingly, it will remain a question of what kind of competition will be more stubborn, and whether this will lead to internal wars.

Thirdly, from a purely technical point of view, elections will be much more difficult. The election results will be established by the Central Election Commission in 4 steps, including the rating of the candidate in the region, the party and at the all-Russian level. Time to count the votes will increase significantly. And this is despite the fact that the results of elections in Ukraine have always been established much longer than in countries with developed democratic traditions. So, this will open up opportunities for constant mutual accusations of fraud. Again, not only inter-party falsifications, but also intra-party falsifications.

Why is BPP opposed?

Although formally the authors of the draft law on the new electoral code were representatives of the Bloc of Petro Poroshenko and the Popular Front, there is no particular support for amending the electoral legislation in these political forces.

As evidenced by the results of voting in the first reading, 68 members of the Verkhovna Rada out of a total of 138 B NF - 56 out of 81 voted for the new electoral code from the BPP faction. Actually, this led to the passage of the law “with difficulty”. And also leads to doubts about its further successful approval.

The reasons for the position of the PPO are obvious.

First of all, I must say that only 63 Deputies of the faction were elected by proportional lists. Others are majoritarian Deputies who obviously don’t really understand why they should destroy the system that provided them with mandates.

Secondly, BPP ratings have not been impressive lately by the positive dynamics. Accordingly, for the majority of the members of the Verkhovna Rada of this political force, the district may seem the most acceptable form of origin to the parliament in 2019.

Thirdly, the current electoral legislation was developed in the days of President Yanukovych with an expressive orientation to satisfy the interests of any “party in power” as much as possible. In particular, the proportional part is an opportunity for the people to “play democracy”, and now at the level of majority districts an “administrative resource” comes into play, thanks to which you can always ensure a majority loyal to any president.

In the end, we do not forget that the BPP, like most of the “ruling parties”, is a heterogeneous entity, which brings together Deputies very different in their political views. Some of them are known as public figures, others are not really looking for publicity. It is obvious that no one needs open competition of “public” and “non-public” Deputies.

Therefore, on the one hand, BPP publicly supports the idea of ​​a new law. On the other hand, most of the faction (about half) will never really support him, because this contradicts their personal interests.

If we turn to the position of the NF, it can be explained in approximately the same way. Well, to add that if the BPP positions in the ratings are low, then the NF positions generally exclude the possibility of passing through the lists of candidates from this force. So, for them, majoritarian districts are perhaps the only way to stay in politics.

Based on this, we can assume that the new law, the NF, and the PPO will be diligently "blamed" before the presidential election.

“Batkivshchyna” as the main beneficiary of the changes

Regarding who can benefit from a change in legislation, the list of political forces can be quite wide. But most striking, perhaps, "Batkivshchyna."

Tymoshenko has always been a supporter of the proportional electoral system, which always allowed her personal rating to be maximally converted into mandates for her political power.

At the moment, Tymoshenko is the undisputed leader of the presidential race. Its rating is (according to the average indicator of various studies) in the region of the 20% mark, and this is several times higher than the ratings of the closest competitors.

And for the winner of the presidential race, it is logical to strive to consolidate their success in the next parliamentary elections. And it is precisely because of the proportional electoral system that this is most easily done.

Let's not forget that Tymoshenko is the only politician who has the support of at least 7% in each of the regions. Accordingly, its political force can claim successful results in each of the regional districts.

In addition, the idea of ​​a new electoral law is quite popular. Her support can contribute to the assertion for Tymoshenko of the image of a systemic reformer, which she now seeks to secure for herself the “New Deal”.

The scheme of "triumph" Tymoshenko may be next. Victory in the presidential election. The victory on the parliamentary and the formation of a stable government-presidential vertical for years. In principle, this should be understood by other political players, that the presidential election is the first round of competition for control over power.

Accordingly, at the moment everything looks like the topic of electoral legislation will “speak up” before the presidential election, and then the hypothetical new president Tymoshenko will have excellent opportunities to establish his reformist image and secure his own victory by large-scale changes to electoral legislation in parliamentary elections.

At least now it looks like the most realistic scenario for making the necessary “electoral changes”.

Peter Oleschuk, for FNI


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