The decentralisation reform should be finalised prior to local elections in Ukraine – this is the opinion voiced by experts and representatives of hromadas referring to the news that the President’s Office is considering pre-term local elections.
Local elections in Ukraine shall take place in the autumn of 2020. This timeline is set in the Constitution of Ukraine. It clearly stipulates that the local elections take place in the last week of October in the fifth year of the tenure of the respective council or the mayor. The original plan was to finalise the decentralisation reform by that time and to stage the elections with the new administrative and territorial structure, the entire territory of Ukraine covered by amalgamated hromadas as well as with the new rayon structure.
On 17 July, during the working tour round the Kharkiv Oblast Volodymyr Zelensky said that he thought about pre-term local elections.
The DOBRE Programme asked the experts if it is possible to have pre-term elections and what Ukraine will have in such conditions.
Leontiy Shypilov, member of the Central Election Commission:
“The regulatory structure on this issue is the Constitution of Ukraine, the Law of Ukraine “On Local Elections" and the Law "On Local Self-Government”. It states that the regular elections will take place on last Sunday in October during the fifth year of authorities taken by relevant local councils - this is the year of 2020. And the extraordinary elections may be held if any early termination of authorities taken by the appropriate local council by the decision of the Verkhovna Rada takes place. Thus, it should be the decision of the Verkhovna Rada to stop powers of local councils, but there is also a list of grounds based on which powers may be stopped ahead of schedule. Or the Parliament being the only one state legislature may settle this question in another way".
Yuriy Hanushchak, President of the NGO “Institute of territories development”, expert in decentralisation:
“Zelensky few times proclaimed that he was ready to continue the decentralisation reform. The pre-term elections based on the old system will be 100 percent manifestation that decentralisation reforms are wrapping up. As the majority population of Ukraine has felt the taste of decentralisation, then I do not know how it will be understood in AHs. After all, it is actually an attack on that positive changes already made. In addition, decentralisation is considered to be the most successful reform. Moreover, it is a good fruit to any power – those, who will finish it, will receive laurels. Let us imagine that they want to hold elections and finish decentralisation. Then it is necessary to adopt a number of laws. And the most important thing is to make amendments into the Constitution. But elections in this case will be possible not earlier than in March next year. But what for? The budgetary process will be in progress, and political dividends will be very modest at that time. So, it is necessary to prepare people in every city that will have chances to win well-experienced acting mayors. If the pre-term elections are held, it will lead to certain misunderstanding from the European Union, but absolutely clear support from Russia. Russia needs to see Ukraine as a federalised country, and it will be so if we do not do reforms. It is a question of not even internal policy, but external one.”
Andriy Mahera, ex-deputy head of the Central Election Commission:
"We must bear in mind that local elections are appointed due to some grounds. The ordinary elections are appointed because of expiry period for powers of local councils elected at the same time on the whole territory of Ukraine. The extraordinary elections are not appointed at all territory of Ukraine, but only for those local councils, village/town/city heads, towards which there is a decision of the courts to recognize their decisions or deeds to be unlawful. In this case the Verkhovna Rada receives powers to appoint the extraordinary elections for such councils or heads. Therefore, the idea of holding extraordinary local elections simultaneously on the whole territory of Ukraine is very vague from a legal point of view. So, I do not believe in the opportunity to implement the idea of the pre-term local elections around all Ukraine".
Oleksandr Korinnyi, Head of the Association of Amalgamated Hromadas of Ukraine, Novoukrainska City Mayor:
"Elections are a democratic instrument, but people of our hromadas and Ukraine in general should benefit from it. We see the risks of holding extraordinary elections, but we do not see the benefits. Therefore, the heads of AHs say against the holding of pre-election. First, we will not have time to complete the formation of a new administrative-territorial system. If, however, we make a new one in a hurry, we will not have time to discuss it with people. And this is very important! In addition, it is necessary to have time to make changes to the Constitution and to fix a new administrative-territorial basis in it. One can not quickly resolve such issues. Another option is the elections taking place on the old basis that is absolutely unacceptable thing! One half of Ukraine will live in rayons, and the other half will be in the amalgamated hromadas. Then the reform will be frozen for another 5 years. I do not see any benefits to local self-government from pre-elections. One needs a legislative base and a new administration for it. It is necessary to complete the formation of the hromadas, and then go to the elections, and it is desirable to do all this by October 2020".
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