Archive for July 15th, 2013

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Will the Ukrainian CEC ever become neutral?

July 15, 2013

Last week I wrote about the Central Election Commission (CEC) in Ukraine and the need for civil society to unite around a plan at the earliest opportunity to carry out parallel votes counts at all (or as many as their combined weight will allow) voting stations in Ukraine for the 2015 presidential elections – suggesting that, if necessary – and it will be necessary so fractious is Ukrainian civil society – the EU take the lead in forcing cooperation amongst these entities, considering they financially sponsor many pro-democracy/transparency NGOs in Ukraine.

I touched, very briefly, on the politicalisation of the CEC – an untenable position for an entity that is supposed to be neutral.

It is perhaps prudent to return to the issue of the politicalisation of the CEC.

As stated in the previous post, the CEC is comprised of 15 people, all nominated by the president after consultations with political parties.  Thus each party gets to “load” the CEC with its candidates via what is in effect  a party nomination on a quota basis.

In short, no CEC member is politically neutral considering they are all beholding to a political party to get there – an untenable situation given the need for neutrality of such an entity.  Personal integrity goes only so far when the party that put you into the Commission can also remove you.

The independence of the CEC is immediately compromised along the same political party lines it is supposed to independently adjudicate during elections.

One of the major functions of a political party are to nominate candidates for political office.

Although the CEC should be anything but political, due to the dysfunctional Yushenko years, in 2007 after numerous shenanigans by the then President involving the CEC and Ukrainian courts, a provision was written into law that only those nominated by the president after consultation with political parties could enter the CEC.  The ability of the president to nominate candidates without the support of a political party was removed.  To appease all parties this was to be done on a quota basis.

Unfortunately, whilst this was a convenient fix that prevented the premature dissolution of the 5th convocation of the RADA in 2007, and an attempt to prevent and contain the Yushenko/Tymoshenko in-fighting that otherwise could have resulted in parliamentary dissolutions and elections every other day, it immediately discredits the independence any CEC should have.

The CEC simply becomes doomed to be nothing more than an antagonistic extension and mirror of the RADA – made worse by the ability of parties to put forward or recall CEC members who may not do the party bidding.

The lack of forethought in allowing individuals to be withdrawn mid-term, rather than insuring that the entire CEC is dissolved and reelected between term limits if there are serious issues with its composition is startling.

If the ability to “tinker” with individuals is removed and replaced with the stark choice of complete dissolution or  allowing it to continue, the temptation as a sponsoring party to tinker with an individual here and there becomes far, far less – as there is no guarantee existing CEC members loyal to the party will be successfully reinstalled.

However, this has no effect on the need to deal with the politicalisation of the CEC at its most fundamental level.

The question is therefore how to appoint independent CEC members who will act with integrity and with absolute neutrality non-beholding to any political party or political office?

Ukrainian presidents are far from independent.  The next Ukrainian president, whomever it may be, will also be far from independent.  No nomination from a political party can be seen as anything but political.

There are no independent institutions of state as there is nothing similar to the Bar Association when it comes to appointing judges etc.  These are also political appointments.

Ergo creating a framework for judicial appointment to the CEC is no less political than any party nomination.

The legacy of successive failures from every president and government since independence to institutionalise democracy within the State institutions is a common failing of them all and one that looks likely to continue for many years to come.

It would be incredibly naive to think that whether Yatseniuk, Klitschko, Tyahnybok or Yanukoych win the next presidential election, that any of them will lead Ukraine out of this grey zone and create democratic and independent state institutions.  They will be kept subservient and malleable by any eventual winner.

Until there is an absolute commitment to democracy amongst the vast majority (almost to a man/woman) of the political elite – and I genuinely doubt that absolute commitment exists for any  party currently within the RADA, regardless of their rhetoric or party name – it seems the democratisation, independence and neutrality of Ukrainian state institutions is a quite some way away – including the CEC.

Breaking the cycle can only be done with the political will of the entire political elite – something very difficult to do in the zero sum politics of Ukraine.

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