On 27 – 29 January 2021 more than 300 participants took part in 3-day online conference aimed at discussing and analysing organization, conduct, and main challenges faced during local elections in Ukraine held on 25 October 2020. Throughout working discussions, the participants developed propositions regarding respective possible solutions both at legislative level and in practice. This post-electoral conference, for the first time held online, gathered representatives of different stakeholders, namely, members of the Central Election Commission (CEC), precinct and district election commissions, representatives of the State Register of Voters, legislative, executive and judiciary branches, scientific and expert sectors, NGOs and international community.
Olena Lytvynenko, Deputy Head of the Council of Europe Office in Ukraine, during the conference’s welcome remarks, stated that “in line with Action Plan and supporting the fulfilment of international commitments and obligations took on by Ukraine as the Council of Europe member state, the Council of Europe has been providing continuous support to respective Ukrainian public authorities with the aim of increasing the transparency of electoral process, the level of citizens’ trust towards electoral process and results of elections, and active engagement of women, youth, national minorities and disadvantaged groups of society into political and electoral processes. We welcome the provisions on gender quota in Electoral Code of Ukraine, as well as introduction of respective mechanisms of its enforcement, as, according to the Recommendations of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe and the Council of Europe Gender Equality strategy 2018 – 2023, balanced participation of women and men in political and public decision-making should constitute a minimum representation of 40% of each sex. We will continue working with our national partners on implementation of European standards and practices”.
During panel discussion “2020 Local Elections: View from Key Stakeholders”, Stewart Dickson, thematic spokesperson of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe, presented Information Report on the results of 25 October 2020 local elections observation and shared the main conclusions and recommendations of the Congress. Mr Dickson noted that “unequal level playing field for independent candidates on local level is one of the recurring issues that the Congress has observed more generally, and it will therefore become a subject of one of our future thematic reports. Also, the Ukrainian authorities could benefit from such a transversal report and recommendations, in order to further improve the electoral framework and use the time until the next elections to scrutinise the provision on independent candidates”. He also underlined successful implementation of previous recommendations of the Council of Europe for electoral process in Ukraine, in particular, with regard to ensuring electoral rights of internally displaced persons.
Oleh Didenko, Chairman of the Central Election Commission, drew attention to the exceptional circumstances of these elections conduct, as well as highlighted the support of national and international partners provided to the CEC: “It could be said that in fact we had an “electoral revolution” last year: new Electoral Code, with new electoral systems applied to new administrative and territorial structure. And all that in the context of quarantine restrictions. Nevertheless, despite all the complexity, local elections in Ukraine were evaluated quite highly by international observation missions and national observers. We felt public support, and that made it much easier for us to ensure the electoral process organization. Also the support of international partners, that helped us to implement a range of projects to ensure the proper organization of elections, was very valuable”.
During 3 days of the conference the participants in 8 working groups worked on the development of short-term and long-term recommendations on the following issues:
- election commissions: formation procedure and functioning;
- application of electoral systems for local elections;
- nomination and registration of candidates;
- elections during quarantine;
- financing of local elections and campaign finance;
- counting and tabulation;
- appeals against decisions, actions and inaction of election commissions. responsibility of election commissions and commission members;
- introduction of electronic means and technologies into the election cycle.
The recommendations developed by the participants will be further processed and proposed to the Verkhovna Rada and other public authorities in order to improve legislation and practice of local elections conduct in Ukraine.
*The conference was organized in the framework of the Project "Supporting the transparency, inclusiveness and integrity of electoral practice in Ukraine" in cooperation with the Central Election Commission, the OSCE Project Coordinator in Ukraine and the International Foundation for Electoral Systems.
**The video recording of the national online conference “2020 Local elections in Ukraine: lessons learned and recommendations” is available upon the links: https://youtu.be/YTC4g8eY13Y and https://youtu.be/fvu7p1z1rsY