The pressure is on for Ukraine as it heads into their parliamentary elections today. So far, the country seems to be doing beautifully with the process. Six hundred observers – three times the normal amount – will help monitor the process along with cameras at polling stations. Ukraine should be commended for being open to international inspection of their process, while other post-Soviet states remain unwilling or unable to endure international scrutiny. One major and excellent change to Ukraine’s reformed process is the advent of the Single Mandate District. Essentially, the reform changes the old closed party list proportional system so that half the elected parliament (Verkhovna Rada) now comes from geographically defined districts, much like US congressional districts. So on Oct. 28, Ukrainians will cast two votes, electing 225 deputies proportionally from party lists and 225 representatives of their respective districts.
Each campaign is limited to running during the 90 days prior to the election Oct. 28 election. This limitation has ensured that the country endures a shorter period of competition and strain between the different political actors. It almost leaves one wishing the US would consider such a thing! Before the reform, parties controlled parliament by controlling the party lists. This was a system ripe for corruption, as any member could put those to whom they owed favors on the list.
Another key reform raised the minimum threshold for proportionality from 3 percent to 5 percent. Four major parties dominate the political landscape, and yet 3,000 candidates in a country with 36.7 million registered voters still have a shot to win a seat. Parties are also now precluded from running together in electoral coalitions, which means the big parties can’t buy off the support of the smaller parties to win seats. If a small party clears the threshold, they win a voice in parliament. As a result, expect Ukraine’s next parliament to more closely represent the variety of preferences across the country.