Now here is an interesting little story – somewhat comical to a degree – which leads nicely into Ukrainian voting systems.
Andriy Shkil, a former Batkivshchnya (BYuT) MP of the previous parliament, has been refused asylum by the Czech Republic, a nation well known for granting asylum via the historical legacy of Vaclav Havel who rarely turned an application down.
Why did the Czech Republic refuse his application for asylum?
The answer lays within the Schengen Visa system.
Although free to travel anywhere within the Schengen area once a Ukrainian has a Schengen Visa, they have to enter and egress the Schengen zone via the specific nation that granted the Visa. If Poland granted the Visa, a Ukrainian who wanted to visit Italy for example, would have to travel there and back via Poland.
Personally I don’t know a Ukrainian who isn’t aware of the rules – although undoubtedly there will be some.
Logic would dictate, following on from such basic rules, that if an individual is going to claim asylum somewhere within the EU, that also will necessarily need to occur in the nation that issued the Visa, rather than seeking asylum in any EU nation an individual may take a fancy to. Ultimately, a nation issuing a Schengen Visa must have some responsibility for their decision to grant – or not – an individual entry, for it is their decision and not that of any other Schengen area state who may well have made a different decision.
And so, in a way, it is rather comical that a one-time parliamentarian – an individual supposedly bright enough to have been trusted in creating and supporting – or not – Ukrainian legislature, has tried to claim asylum in the Czech Republic on a Schengen Visa issued by France.
Naturally, had Mr Shkil been reelected to the current parliament, he would not be seeking asylum anywhere but enjoying the immunity and impunity being an MP brings – and the fact he is not in parliament today it is not because he was beaten in any constituency seat, but rather due to his very lowly place on the Batkivshchnya Party list when it comes to proportional representation.
The Ukrainian electoral system is a mixed electoral system where 50% of MPs are those who take office through what is officially called Single Member District Plurality (or First Past The Post as most would recognise it), and 50% of MP seats are in parliament due to how high they are placed on their party list vis a vis the percentage of the vote their party gets.
Naturally all the top places on party lists go to the leaders to insure their place in parliament without having to go through the rigors of actually standing against another in the first past the post system in a constituency seat – as they may lose and that would never do!
Placed at 87 on the Batkivshchyna Party list, either Mr Shkil was not willing to pay enough to those who make the party lists to be placed higher, or he was such a poor performer during his tenure that his placing was deliberately done to insure he would not return to parliament. Given the high number of poor performers on most party lists, he was either simply out bid or truly useless beyond comprehension.
Anybody on party lists lower than position 50 are in a precarious position and are certainly not assured of representing a party in parliament. 87th on a party list is a clear signal you will not get your nose in the RADA trough.
Even if we look at the ways of manipulating the proportional representation part of the vote, 87th place would simply not have been high enough to reasonably expect a return to the RADA.
If we look at the independent form of mixed electoral systems, then the 50% of first past the post seats run completely separately and in parallel to the proportional representation 50%. This system can lead, for example, to a party winning all the constituency seats and then half of the 50% of seats allocated by proportional representation – thus giving a party 75% of the parliamentary seats.
Alternatively there is the dependent mixed electoral system, whereby proportional representation places parameters on the system, thus is therefore somewhat dominant over first past the post. For example if a party wins 40% of the national vote, then their party members who win their seats through the first past the post constituency elections take their seats, followed by a remainder from the party list until it reaches the 40% of the popular vote it won.
Yes there are occasions under the dependent system whereby a party may win more seats in the first past the post constituency seat elections, than it should hold under its share of the proportional vote count. Should that be the case, these “overhanging” seats in excess of the proportional vote are honoured and the parliament extends to accommodate the additional MPs for that session – whilst everybody else is represented by their proportional share of the vote.
None of this would have helped Mr Shkil at such a lowly place on the Batkivshchnya Party list – and neither would manipulating the size of voting districts – as Ukraine, for the purposes of its proportional representation, is seen as one big district rather than allocations on a proportional basis by Oblast (county) level.
Quite simply, the smaller the district, the smaller the number of proportional seats available, and thus the higher the percentage of the vote needed to win a seat. The larger the district, the more proportional seats available, the lower the percentage of the vote needed to win a seat – not rocket science (albeit political science summed up by the formula X 1/(X+1)).
Anyway, enough of that academic waffle – Mr Shkil is now in France duly seeking asylum there. The question is, will France grant it given that it is not normally that accommodating compared to the Czech Republic – a nation that was obviously Mr Shkil’s first choice when submitting his asylum application.