The Ukrainian parliament on October 15 amended the law on parliamentary elections, which it had adopted on September 24. (See Monitor, September 25) Acting in response to President Leonid Kuchma’s observations and reservations to the law, the parliament adopted 12 of the changes proposed by the president and rejected three of them. The main changes include:
— Eliminating the requirement of a 50 percent minimum turnout for a valid election.
— Declaring the first-past-the-post candidate the winner in single-mandate constituencies, irrespective of the size of that candidate’s plurality. Kuchma had favored requiring a minimum of 25 percent of the votes cast.
— Removing the requirement that parliamentary deputies — and by implication the candidates — must speak the Ukrainian language. Kuchma had rejected this stipulation as unconstitutional.
— Enabling the president to nominate the members of the Central Electoral Commission for consideration by parliament, and authorizing the 15-member CEC to elect its chairman, vice-chairmen, and secretary. The law as initially adopted had reserved these powers for parliament, potentially handing the left a lever against the presidential camp in the election.
— Authorizing "work collectives" (in addition to parties and public-political associations) to nominate candidates in single-mandate constituencies. (UNIAN, DINAU, October 15-16; The Rukh Insider, October 16)
No changes were proposed or made to the basic concept of the "mixed" majoritarian-proportional system, envisaging the election of 225 deputies in single-mandate constituencies and another 225 on country-wide party or bloc slates, with a 4 percent threshold required for a party or bloc to gain parliamentary representation.
Adopted by a large margin, the changes virtually guarantee that there will be no need for repeat elections or runoffs, thus ensuring the election of a parliament irrespective of voter apathy. The easy consensus on eliminating the Ukrainian language qualification reflects the competition among all camps for the votes of eastern Ukraine. The election is due in March and the campaign is de facto already in full swing even before the formal kick-off.
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