According to the Coalition Agreement, improving the system of local elections is one of the priorities of reforms in Ukraine. Coalition Agreement provides that improving the system of local elections will include conducting of local elections according to the Constitution of Ukraine on the basis of decentralization, decreasing of number of seats in local councils, introduction of majoritarian system of absolute majority for elections of mayors in large cities, introduction of proportional electoral system for elections to all local councils, except for elections to village councils.
This concept was prepared in accordance with relevant provisions of the Coalition Agreement, international standards for elections and political situation in the state.
1. Quantitative composition of local councils
According to the article 16 of the current Law “On Elections of Deputies of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea, local councils and village, town and city mayors” the total composition of local councils (except of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea, oblast and rayon councils) depends on the number of residents who live within the respective administrative-territorial unit, and ranges from 12-16 deputies (in administrative-territorial units with a population less than 1000 people) up to 76-150 deputies in administrative-territorial units with a quantity of voters over 2 000 000 inhabitants.
Considering the provisions of the Coalition Agreement, the limit composition of village, town, city and city district councils should be reduced by 20-30%. Reducing the quantity of councils’ composition up to 50 percent or more seems inappropriate as it may increase the load on deputies in their work with voters, complicate the formation of permanent commissions of the respective councils, and conducting elections of deputies according new electoral systems proposed in this concept.
Thus we can assume that the quantity of deputies of village, town, city, and city district councils depending on the number of voters of relevant territorial community / administrative-territorial unit will be the following:
1) less than 1000 voters– from 8 to 12 deputies;
2) from 1000 to 3000 – from 10 to 18 deputies;
3) from 3000 to 8000 – from 15 to 20 deputies;
4) from 8 000 to 20 000 – from 18 to 25 deputies;
5) from 20 000 to 50 000 – from 20 to 30 deputies;
6) from 50 000 to 100 000 – from 25 to 35 deputies;
7) from 100 000 to 250 000 – from 30 to 40 deputies;
8) from 250 000 to 500 000 – from 35 to 50 deputies;
9) from 500 000 to 800 000 – from 40 to 60 deputies;
10) from 800 000 to 1 500 000 – from 60 to 80 deputies;
11) more than 1 500 000 voters – from 60 to 100 deputies.
Due to the fact that rayons and oblasts sometimes contain a considerable number of administrative-territorial units, the legislation should set limits restricting the number of deputies of relevant rayon and oblast councils. This number can be determined according to the general rules established for the village, town, city and city district councils (see. above). Considering that rayon and oblast councils represent the common interests of local communities, the representation of villages and towns of rayon importance in rayon councils as well as the representation of rayons and cities of oblast importance in oblast councils should be determined in proportion to the number of voters registered in relevant administrative-territorial unit. For example, if there are 10% of voters in oblast registered within certain rayon, this rayon should have 10% of seats in relevant oblast council. If following such rules administrative-territorial unit will have less than two (in case of elections to oblast council - less than seven) seats, the Law on local elections should allow formation of electoral constituencies from several neighbouring rayons (at elections of oblast councils deputies) or villages (at elections of rayon councils deputies) so that at least 2 and not more than 5 deputies were elected within the relevant constituencies at election of rayon council deputies, and at least 7 and no more than 12 deputies were elected at election of oblast council deputies.
2. Duration of the electoral process
It is proposed to increase the duration of the electoral process at regular local elections up to 90 days. The need for such increase comes from the need to change the electoral system for conducting elections, implementation of changes to the order of election commissions’ formation for local elections, complexity of the voting procedures and the need for outreach activities for voters on procedures of voting at local elections according to the new electoral system.
The experience of the 2010 local elections also clearly showed that in fact it is impossible to organize the preparation and holding of elections effectively within 60 days. Reduced term of election process increases the risks of fraud at the stage of commissions' formation, candidates' registration, weakens readiness of commission members to work in relevant commissions, leads to shorter terms for complaints and claims review that weakens the mechanisms of voting rights protection.
3. Electoral system for local elections
Local elections can be held according to the following electoral systems: 1) majoritarian electoral system of relative majority in single-member constituency; 2) majoritarian electoral system of absolute majority in single-member constituency; 3) majoritarian system of relative majority in multi-member constituency; 4) proportional electoral system with voting in single multi-member constituency for closed party lists; 5) proportional electoral system with voting in several multi-member constituencies for closed party lists; 6) proportional electoral system with voting in single multi-member constituency for open party lists; 7) proportional electoral system with voting in several multi-member constituencies for open party lists; 8) mixed-member electoral system in version, which was used at last regular local elections in 2010. Local elections can be held using also other types of electoral systems (for example, the system of single vote, which is not transmitted, the so-called "bound" mixed system, which is used in elections to the German Bundestag, the "alternative vote" system, etc.).
However, the complex electoral systems will certainly complicate the process of voting, counting of votes and tabulation, as a result the procedure can be confusing for voters and electoral commissions' members or lead to unpredictable political consequences. Systems that provide voting in single-member constituencies may increase the impact of administrative resources and bribery of voters on election results.
Each of mentioned above systems has its advantages and shortcomings that have to be considered before the decision on their use at local elections.
For example, majoritarian system of relative majority is understandable for voter, provides deputy election in the first round, but it increases the impact of fraud using administrative resources and bribery on election results as well as it brings to the loss of a significant number of votes (i.e. the winner of the election can appear to be a person for whom voted absolute minority of voters), it also may bring to excessive political factionalism of representative body and weakening party system. It also brings the necessity to conduct mid-term elections in case of deputy's termination of powers; it also leads to inconsistency of real level of support of party with its representation in the elected body (due to the loss of votes and election of deputies by minority of voters).
Majoritarian system of absolute majority has the same shortcomings. This system increases the level of legitimacy of elected deputies (due to repeat voting for the most popular candidates), its shortcoming is that it increases the total costs on conducting election (due to repeat voting).
Majoritarian system with voting in multi-member constituency can solve some problems, which typical for majoritarian system with voting in single-member constituencies, (e.g. eliminate the need to conduct mid-term elections and repeat voting, reduce the number of lost votes compared to majoritarian system with voting in single-member constituencies). However, as according to this system every voter will be given only one vote the votes may be dispersed among a large number of candidates, so it can result in election of deputies who are not supported by a majority of voters.
Proportional systems with closed party lists reduce the level of use of administrative resources, structure the party system and allow parties to influence the order of coming deputies to the elected body, but the use of these systems leads to narrowing of internal party democracy and to political corruption (by selling seats in party lists). Proportional systems with open party lists are more complicated for voters, provide complex procedure of counting of votes and tabulation, and may lead to a weakening of the party system. However, their advantage is that they contribute to development of party democracy and party structures at the local level; they allow voters to influence on the personal composition of the elected body.
When choosing a particular variant of electoral system for certain local elections it's necessary to ensure the implementation of several goals:
1) to ensure that oblast and rayon councils implement their functions as bodies representing the common interests of local communities, which requires elections in several multi-member constituencies with boundaries corresponding to the boundaries of the communities, or (at election of deputies of oblast councils) out of the bounds of rayon or cities of oblast importance;
2) to depoliticize the work of local governments at the level where the relevant authorities do not form a local policy, in other words at level of village and town councils (excluding large cities), city district and rayon councils, which implies rejection to conduct elections to these bodies according to the proportional system (in this case if quantitative composition of some of these councils is reduced, using of proportional system may be impossible);
3) to provide voters with option to vote for the particular candidates at elections, which will contribute to renewal of local councils membership (this rise the need either to conduct local elections according to proportional system with voting for open lists or according to some versions of majoritarian systems, for example with voting in single or multi-member constituencies);
4) to reduce the level of expenditures on elections (which means to reject the systems that involve mid-term elections);
5) to provide the appropriate level of political structuring of oblast councils and city councils in big cities that form local politics and have appropriate financial resources for formation and implementation of this policy (which requires conducting of appropriate elections using one of the proportional systems with sufficiently high thresholds and eliminating the possibility of self-nomination for elections);
6) to ensure a high level of legitimacy for mayors in big cities that will reduce the level of confrontation between these mayors and respective councils (which requires election of city mayors in big cities using majoritarian system of absolute majority);
7) to ensure maximum unification of electoral systems at different types of local elections that will prevent voters' confusion on election day;
8) to ensure the simplicity of voting, which will reduce the number of invalid ballot papers.
The following kinds of electoral system used at local elections will ensure achieving the mentioned above goals:
Elections of village and town mayors (in towns with the number of voters fewer than the number of voters in the smallest oblast centre)are proposed to be conducted according to majoritarian system of relative majority in single-member constituency, where winning candidate for the post of village, town mayor is the candidate who received more votes than any other candidate. Nomination can be made through self-nomination or by oblast (if elections are held in the town of oblast importance), rayon (town) party organizations. Each voter has one vote and may vote for one candidate for the post of mayor.
Elections of mayors for cities with the number of voters which is not less than the number of voters in the smallest oblast centre are proposed to be conducted according to majoritarian system of absolute majority in single-member constituency, where winning candidate for the post of city mayor is the candidate who received more than a half of valid votes from voters. If no candidate received the required number of votes, 3 weeks later after Election Day the second round of mayoral elections is to be held; two candidates who received the most votes in first round are allowed to participate. The winning candidate for the post of city mayor is the candidate who received more votes that another candidate included to ballot paper for repeat voting. Nomination can be made through self-nomination or by oblast (city) party organizations. Each voter has one vote and may vote for one mayor candidate.
Elections of village, town (towns with the number of voters less than the number of voters in the smallest oblast centre), city district, and rayon council are proposed to be conducted according to majoritarian system of relative majority in multi-member constituencies, each of which gives from 2 to 5 deputies of relevant council. Multi-member constituencies will be created by district election commissions, which establish results of relevant local election. Winning deputies in multi-member constituency are the candidates who received the most votes in amount which is equal to the number of seats for the respective constituency. Nomination of candidates will be done by the relevant town, rayon, city district, oblast (for towns of oblast importance) organizations or by self-nomination. At elections to city district council the priority in nomination of candidates should be given to the city party organization, at elections to the city council of oblast importance the priority in candidate nomination should be given to oblast party organization. Each voter will have a number of votes equal to the number of deputies who may be elected in relevant constituency. A voter can give only one vote to a candidate (i.e. votes cannot be accumulated) supporting any number of candidates, which should not exceed the number of seats for the respective constituency. This method of voting (giving several votes to each voter) allows to elect the most popular candidate: if each voter had only one vote (system of single non-transferable vote), the votes would be dissipated among dozens of candidates and a person supported only, for example, 5-10% of valid votes could win (from the other hand, one of candidates could receive 90% support, while the remaining seats in the elected body would be given to candidates with support, for example, 1-2% votes).
Introduction of the system of a single non-transferable vote is inappropriate also because it is excessively activates internal party competition and leads to unpredictable results (e.g., due to active internal party competition one of the candidates can get 50% of votes for his/her support, while the rest candidates from this party, despite the high level of party support in general, can get no vote at all, as the main candidate will compete for the mandate with other members of his/her party but not with candidates nominated by other parties). These factors were essential that the system of single non-transferable vote was only applied at elections in several countries (Japan, South Korea, Vanuatu, Jordan - at parliamentary elections, Afghanistan, Poland - at local elections), many countries finally abandoned it. Therefore, local elections hardly could be recommended to conduct using this system.
Elections of oblast council deputies, deputies of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea, and deputies of city council for cities with the number of voters which is not less than the number of voters in the smallest oblast centre are proposed to be conducted using proportional system with voting for open party lists. Each regional/republican/city organization of the party will nominate the all-oblast/all-republican/all-city list of candidates and lists of candidates for corresponding multi-member constituencies. In both types of lists the order of candidates is determined at conference/meeting of the party. At least 7 candidates should be nominated in each multi-member constituency (nominating fewer candidates may distort the representation within the system; if the constituency has less seats the system becomes more similar to majoritatian). Multi-member constituencies are to be created in such way that from 7 to 12 candidates could be nominated in each constituency. The general list of candidates will be formed from the respective lists in multi-member constituencies. A voter can vote for only one candidate in the party list in a multi-member constituency, and the vote will be considered to be given for the candidate and for the party list in relevant multi-member constituency. The right to participate in distribution of seats will be given to those local party organizations that received the quantity of votes equal to electoral quota, but not less than 3% of valid votes. The district election commission, which will establish the election results will determine local party organizations which passed the threshold and the number of seats they receive (the number of seats will be determined in proportion to the number of received votes for the local party organization using the method of residuals). Then TEC will count the electoral quota: the total number of votes for all lists of candidates in all constituencies is to be divided into composition of relevant council. After that they determine the number of seats obtained by each party in multi-member constituency: the total number of votes given for the list of local parties in multi-member constituency is to be divided into the electoral quota. The resulting integer number is the number of seats that party receives in this constituency. Then elected deputies should be determined among the candidates from the party list in multi-member constituency: those candidates who obtain the greater residuals of the division of votes given for them into the electoral quota (considering the number of seats obtained by the party in the constituency) are considered to be elected. After defining candidates elected in the respective multi-member constituency, DEC will determine the amount of compensation seats to be distributed among the candidates included into the general list of candidates. It can be calculated in such way: the number of seats obtained by parties in the respective multi-member constituencies is subtracted from the total number of seats obtained by the local party in a single multi-member constituency. Considering received results candidates from the general list of candidates will be considered elected in an amount equal to the amount of compensatory seats. The priority in getting seat will have those candidates who received 20% of votes of the electoral quota. After receiving seats by these candidates, left seats will be distributed among candidates in general list in order specified in general list; candidates who were elected in multi-member constituencies or from the general list will not be not included.
7. The form of ballot paper
In elections of deputies of village, city district, rayon, and town (towns with 96 000 voters) councils, as well as in elections of village, town, city mayor ballot paper contains a list of candidates placed in alphabetical order. A blank box is placed next to name of each candidate and voters can put the mark "+" or another mark to show his/her will.
In elections of deputies of city council for cities where the number of voters is not less than the number of voters in the smallest oblast centre, as well as in election of deputies of ARC and oblast council the ballot paper contains the name of the local parties that nominated candidates in multi-seat constituency (names listed in a ballot paper in sequence defined with draw procedure held by TEC, which will set the election results), under each party name there is a list of deputy candidates from the respective party, a blank box is placed next to the candidate's name. Voter can put the mark "+" or another mark to show his/her will in one of these boxes.
All ballot papers for local elections will contain instructions for filling them. Ballot papers for different types of election will be printed in different colours. Ballot papers will be printed by printing company defined by the TEC which will set the results of relevant local elections. Control over the manufacture of ballot papers, destruction of printing plates and printing waste etc. will be provided by control commission formed by corresponding TEC from representatives of local party organizations, which registered candidates for appropriate local elections and which formed their own faction in the respective local councils.
The changes to ballot papers will be made using the stamp “Withdrawn” which will be delivered to PECs in order similar to one provided by the Law “On Elections of People's Deputies of Ukraine”.