Since Petro Poroshenko assumed the presidency of Ukraine, the majority of discussions about the future of Ukrainian democracy have been consumed by external factors. This has been for good reason. Russian troops invaded, then annexed Crimea in early 2014; at the same time, Russia initiated another war front in eastern Ukraine, which claimed over 6,000 thousand lives and has displaced over one million Ukrainians. In addition to a severe human cost, the Russian war carried a huge economic cost by bringing to a halt various industrial enterprises in the Donbas region. However, the political fate of the country is equally dependent on internal factors particularly the improvement of procedural democracy. Ukrainian local elections, scheduled for October 25th 2015, are another important step for the development of Ukraine’s democratic politics. First, local elections will be held according to their regular five-year election cycle; the elections are an important step in the decentralisation process being discussed by President Poroshenko. Second, they will be conducted according to a new set of electoral laws that look to increase representativeness and strengthen the role of political parties. However, this latest round of elections is unlikely to introduce higher levels of transparency into the electoral process or bolster the role or function of political parties in Ukraine.
Ukrainian elections, at all governing levels, are typically characterised by unpredictability. That is, it is often difficult to predict when elections will occur as there may be irregularity in election cycles due to political upheaval (re-run of presidential elections following the 2004 Orange Revolution, the snap Presidential and municipal elections of 2014 following the Revolution of Dignity) or elections may be indefinitely postponed (lack of Kyiv mayoral elections following the 2012 resignation of Leonid Chernovetskyi until the snap elections held in 2014). Furthermore, unpredictability stems from a volatile party system that sees new configurations of party blocs (or coalitions) each election. This unpredictability has negatively impacted Ukrainian politics by preventing regular and predictable change in local government as well as stunting party development.
Under the second Minsk Agreement, local governing bodies in Ukraine are to be strengthened and electoral procedures made more transparent. This comes as a necessary part of the larger process of decentralisation proposed in Ukraine. The first step in this plan is to hold local elections. A ruling by the Supreme Court of Ukraine, in May 2013, set municipal elections for the last Sunday in October 2015. While this decision came prior to the 2014 Revolution of Dignity, this ruling aimed to create a regular, predictable election cycle in Ukrainian local elections. The October 2015 municipal elections will synchronise the election of city council representatives as well as city mayors and village leaders across Ukraine, regardless of when the last election was held (It should be noted that elections will not be held in the occupied territories of Donetsk and Luhansk and there is no provision in the new law providing voting rights for internally displaced persons.).
Full Article: Ukraine’s Local Elections: New law, old problems.