In late 2004, the Ukrainian Orange Revolution appeared to mark a successful democratic transition in a divided nation. The optimism of the revolution, however, was eroded by the political realities of governing. Voters grew dissatisfied with the government of Viktor Yushchenko, and in 2010, placed Viktor Yanukovych back in power. Since Mr. Yanukovych’s return, many analysts have expressed their concern with what they view as a gradual eroding of political freedom, such as proposed changes to the constitution and a decline in media freedom.
Most recently, Yanukovych’s Party of Regions has passed new legislation, which substantially alters the electoral law for local elections. The National Democratic Institute (NDI) and the International Republican Institute (IRI) have released a breakdown of the recent changes, and explain the consequences of the new code.
The Law includes numerous technical errors and confusing procedures. It limits the electoral potential for a number of newly established parties, including some that are now represented in the parliament, while creating apparent advantages for incumbent parties. Restrictions on new parties and independent candidates appear to be unreasonable in light of principles established by the Ukrainian constitution, as well as international obligations and commitments that Ukraine has undertaken. The Law makes key changes to Ukraine’s election law within 100 days of the election, contrary to principles set forth by the European Commission’s Venice Commissioni that discourage changing election‐related legislation within a year prior to an election. It is important to note that the Law was drafted and adopted in a non‐transparent manner and involved virtually no public debate. The draft was registered in the Rada (parliament) by the Party of Region’s leadership on June 29 and was approved on July 10. Very few of the 1355 amendments reached the full Rada for consideration prior to the final vote. President Yanukovych signed the Law on July 27, 2010.