Are early local elections possible and what will be with decentralisation at all: views of experts and MPs

Are early local elections possible? What legislative changes are needed for local self-government and what will happen with decentralisation? Experts, local self-government representatives, as well as current and future MPs answered these questions. 

Are early local elections possible?

“I do not see constitutional grounds for early local elections. It is worthwhile to understand that first decentralisation should be completed, and then it is possible to hold elections. Moreover, the elections are scheduled for October 2020 – we have a stub year to complete the reform, because it has many unfinished stages.

Are non-all-Ukrainian local elections possible? Yes, it may happen in some hromadas where violations by city mayors or deputy corps have been detected. Then the Verkhovna Rada has grounds for announcing early elections in a certain hromada. But these are very different processes, and then this will not hinder the completion of the decentralisation reform,” Vitaliy Zahainyi, chairman of the Centre for Public Initiatives.

Regarding early elections, in any case, this must first be the subject of an internal-party discussion, since the party has a majority. Now we are running a little ahead, since consultations are under way, but such a decision has not yet been made. The desirable scenario is, of course, to hold elections in 2020,” Vitalii Bezhin, representative of the “Servant of the People” party.

“Today, there are no legal grounds for the elections, except for the desire to win the majority in the local councils “on the wave”. I very much hope that the legislation will not be trampled and that the elections will take place in the period stipulated by the Constitution, in 2020. Again, the budget funds are not allocated for this, and it would be a serious shock to the budget. The cost of local elections is commensurate with the cost of holding parliamentary elections – it may cost at least 2 billion hryvnias in the event of their regular holding,” Oleksandr Chernenko, MP of Ukraine.

“We need some time to complete the reform. It is very desirable – highly desirable – to make changes to the Constitution. And if this is done very quickly, it will be possible in March, but it makes no sense to do this in March and wait six months for the budget process. And, the main thing – the time is needed to teach the prefects to work in a new system. Half a year is just the necessary term. Therefore, I do not see the expediency of conducting early local elections from a technical, legal or political point of view. ... I see one reason – it is making amendments to the Constitution, and these changes should indicate when elections should be held. If not – then in October 2020. This is what will be the most legitimate,” Yuriy Hanushchak, decentralisation expert.

“Is it possible in the legislative field? No, it isn’t. Is it expedient? Really inexpedient. Although people on the ground are not afraid of the elections, those amalgamated hromadas, established six months ago, will go to the elections... It is really about to complete the local self-government reform – all that is needed is already worked out – and go to the local elections on a new territorial basis. This will be the most effective and most appropriate option,” Valentyna Poltavets, Executive Director of the Association of Amalgamated Hromadas.

“Local elections are planned methodologically one year after the parliamentary elections in order to be an indicator of the proper or improper movement of central government to meet citizens’ interests. And this is not only the case in Ukraine, but also in Spain, France, Germany. ...

If something goes wrong, people, using their voice in local elections, can show that they are satisfied with the country’s movement,” said Oleksandr Slobozhan, executive director of the Association of Ukrainian Cities.

“First, the reform must be completed and a new territorial system formed, and then the elections held... If an early election is held on the current basis, some people will be elected in hromadas, some in the rayons – it is inadmissible,” Oleksandr Korinnyi, head of the Novoukrayinka City Council.

Which system should regular local elections follow?

“The current law on local elections is imperfect, it needs to be changed. On the other hand, there is the Electoral Code that has been voted for, which envisages a system of open lists in the councils of large cities and oblast councils, and a multi-mandate majority election system in small cities, rayon councils, villages and settlements. But it will come into force in 2023... If there is political will in the new parliament and of the president, nothing prevents to change the timeline and try to introduce a new system provided for in the Electoral Code already this autumn,” Oleksandr Chernenko.
“We are supporters of the majority election system, because there should be no big-league policy at the local level. Two rounds in big cities [from 90 thousand voters] is an absolutely normal system, since it increases the legitimacy of the elected mayor,” Oleksandr Slobozhan.

How to complete the decentralisation reform?

“The concept of reform has been approved more than once with local self-government bodies. All that is needed has already been worked out – but the Verkhovna Rada did not have the political will to adopt this legislation. The new Verkhovna Rada can be armed with these draft laws,” Valentyna Poltavets.

“In autumn, it is necessary to put three extremely necessary draft laws to the vote – the law “On the Territorial System Foundations”, the territorial system itself and the new law on the capital city, since the capital is regulated by a separate law,” Vitalii Bezhin.

“The position on the three priority draft laws is very pleasing, but it is only the beginning. We have a serious conflict of norms between the law on local self-government, local state administrations, and the division of powers. There is a conflict of competencies, and this is a very serious problem for local self-government,” Oleksandr Slobozhan.

“To complete decentralisation, not three but many more laws are to be adopted. ... In the parliament of this convocation, we experienced a very serious opposition to decentralisation – of both some local elites, and some political parties. We’ll see whether the new parliament be able to confront this seriously,” Oleksandr Chernenko.


“The manifesto for the future parliament is very simple. This is the most grateful reform. The one, who completes it, will receive all the laurels. Anyone who tries to take a risk and do the opposite – will get a fiasco,” Yuriy Hanushchak.

Watch a video of this conversation here:

The full version is available in Ukrainian – please click HERE

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