Court Deals Blow To Opposition Candidates

KIEV, Ukraine -- A second Constitutional Court ruling in less than a week on Tuesday called for a second major change to the election law that will govern upcoming parliamentary elections in October.

Constitutional Court of Ukraine

The ruling deemed unconstitutional a clause allowing candidates to run for seats at the same time on party-lists and in individual constituency districts.

It may hurt opposition groups that planned to rely on the strategy for offsetting influence of pro-government candidates.

An earlier ruling, disclosed on April 5, reduced the number of election districts – and seats to win - in the city of Kiev, de-facto hurting opposition groups and benefiting President Viktor Yanukovych’s Regions Party.

“When they understood this law allows an opportunity of fair elections Yanukovych ordered the Constitutional Court to change parts of the law that do not favor the Regions Party,” Arseniy Yatseniuk, the leader of the opposition Front of Changes party, said. “The pact on fair elections has been scrapped.”

The law, approved in November 2011 by 366 lawmakers, including by 98 opposition deputies, was originally praised as a compromise between the ruling Regions Party and the opposition groups.

The law eased fears of a possible boycott of the elections by the opposition groups, a move that would most likely make the elections not legitimate.

Although losing on some issues, the opposition groups managed to push through amendments that make it more difficult for pro-government parties to dominate election commissions that will eventually count ballots.

This is supposed to reduce possible election fraud.

The law also increased the threshold that is required for entering Parliament on party lists to 5% from 3% currently, potentially hurting small parties.

Half of the 450-seat Parliament will be elected on a party-list vote and another half will be elected in individual constituencies.

Yuriy Miroshnychenko, a senior Regions Party lawmaker and Yanukovych’s representative to Parliament, on Tuesday denied allegations that the latest ruling benefits the pro-government party.

“One cannot say the ruling benefits the pro-government political group,” Miroshnychenko said.

Some observers agree the latest ruling was not unexpected as it mirrors a 1998 ruling by the Constitutional Court and thus should have been taken into account by the opposition groups.

“The ruling is absolutely correct,” Boris Kushniruk, a political strategist for the Ukrainian People’s Party, a small opposition group, wrote in his blog.

“The leaders of opposition must agree that their demand for parallel nomination was a mistake.”

“What they have to do now is not to talk about somebody scrapping the pact on fair elections, but to make sure no changes are made to those parts of the law that create opportunity for abuse,” Kushniruk said.

Source: Ukrainian Journal