Two Steps Forward or Two Steps Back: Ukraine’s Upcoming Local Elections and Impact on Democracy and Anti-Corruption Reforms

|
Two Steps Forward or Two Steps Back: Ukraine’s Upcoming Local Elections and Impact on Democracy and Anti-Corruption Reforms

Ukraine’s upcoming 25th October elections, which hold great significance for ongoing challenges to democratic, judicial, decentralization, and other key reforms, were the topic of discussion during an October 19th webinar organized by the German Marshall Fund. 

The panel consisted from Ukrainian experts on judicial reform and anti-corruption efforts, including two issues which have made headlines in Ukraine recently with potentially dangerous hearings in the Constitutional Court creating confusion around the High Anti-Corruption Court of Ukraine (HACC). Throughout the panel the experts discussed the modalities of the local elections, including the impacts of the coronavirus, oligarchs, and Russia, as well as the outcome of the recent EU-Ukraine summit and how transatlantic partners can best support Ukraine’s at-risk reform and integration progress. 

The webinar hosted the following experts: Olha Aivazovska – Coordinator of Political Programs and Chairman of the Board, OPORA; Halyna Chyzhyk – Judicial Reform Expert, Anticorruption Action Centre – AntAC; Denys Kovryzhenko – Senior Legal Adviser, Ukraine, International Foundation for Electoral Systems; Lisa Yasko – Member, Foreign Affairs Committee, Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine; as well as the moderators: Orest Deychakiwsky – Board Vice-Chair, U.S.-Ukraine Foundation; Jonathan Katz – Senior Fellow and Director, Democracy Initiatives, German Marshall Fund of the United States and Bruno Lété – Senior Fellow, Security and Defense, German Marshall Fund of the United States.

The Transatlantic Task Force on Ukraine (TTFU) was established in October 2018 by the German Marshall Fund’s Frontlines of Democracy Initiative, the U.S.-Ukraine Foundation’s Friends of Ukraine Network (FOUN) Democracy and Civil Society Task Force and Reanimation Package of Reforms (RPR) with support from civil society organizations in Ukraine. The main focus of the task force is to provide a real-time platform for stronger U.S., European, and Ukrainian engagement and information sharing among policymakers, opinion-makers, and civil society organizations on political, economic, and security issues affecting Ukraine, its democratic transition, and engagement with Western partners. 

 

Throughout the webinar, the experts made the following statements:

Bruno Lété:

  • In Brussels the elections are closely monitored; 
  • There is a lot of satisfaction that the elections are democratically taking place, despite the complicated health and safety conditions;
  • Zelensky’s political party is struggling with reforms implementation – this will be reflected in the election’s outcome;
  • The results of those elections will shape the EU’s view on Ukraine’s democratic progress; 

Olha Aivazovska:

  • Unfortunately, the Ukrainian Parliament decided to change the electoral system right to the start of the official campaigning;
  • Many politically active people don’t understand the rules implemented by the Parliament – it’s not only about the procedure itself but also the new electoral system;
  • The president advocates the interests of the Sluha Narodu party, in public conversations he used slogans from campaigning, he used his working hours for campaigning as well – that goes against the Constitution of Ukraine; 
  • President must ensure the voting rights and equal attitude to citizens who hold different political positions, views;
  • There has to be communication between the local power and national power – the government has expanded funds for the local level, but unfortunately, local self-government bodies don’t know what to do on the election day due to new regulations; 
  • Local governing bodies don’t’ know how to aware citizens of the national rules for organizing elections and nobody how secure, in terms of COVID-19, this elections day is going to be;

Denys Kovryzhenko:

  • The election day procedures harm on voter turnout due to on-going confusion among the constituents;
  • The process of filling out the ballot is quite complicated and party candidates are not trying to explain how it works – we should expect a certain level of confusion;
  • Many regions have misinterpreted the legal requirements by the banks – many electoral campaigns go across hundreds from different collection funds due to late issuing of the instruction by the National Bank of Ukraine; 
  • Many stages of the electoral process were conducted democratically and legally however, it has also faced some difficulties that were previously faced – lack of professionalism among the electoral administrators, opportunities of the campaign finance, poor regulation of campaigning itself, etc. 

Lisa Yasko:

  • It’s the first time that the elections are going to be competitive – a large number of local parties fighting for electoral support;
  • The most dangerous thing is pro-Russian forces which will try to take advantage and to gain more support through disinformation campaigns;
  • The Servant of the People party strongly believes in the core democratic values, such as the power to people, decentralization, freedom of self-expression and speech, etc.
  • After the EU summit earlier in October – the course of non-recognition of occupied territories, the annexation of Crimea, territorial integrity remains in the discourse of the EU-Ukraine relations; 
  • There should not be any panic when media talks about the cancellation of the visa-free regime – the visa-free regime will remain, due to the COVID situation now there are some restrictions;
  • Sometimes there is miscommunication with our Western partners, a lot of times there is no transparent understanding of what is happening in Verkhovna Rada;
  • The anti-corruption and judicial reforms are a priority;

 

Link to the webinar: Ukraine’s Upcoming Local Elections and Impact on Democracy and Anti-Corruption Reforms