politics

Local elections on backburner

16.01.2015 | By Anna Vasylyk

One of the most remembered promises given by Petro Poroshenko during his election campaign were the decentralization of power and holding of early elections to the local authorities. Initially it was about the possibility for Ukrainians to re-elect the government closest to ordinary people in autumn of 2014 but subsequently such step was interrupted by the parliamentary campaign. Ukrainian legislation does not approve simultaneous holding of elections to the Rada and to local councils so the issue was postponed

At the first postelection press conference the leaders of the presidential bloc promised to hold early local elections in the spring of 2015 (with the exception of the Donbas it will be discussed separately), but But a bit later it turned out that legal literacy is not one of their strongest points. The thing is that the Article 83 of the Law On Local Elections prohibits their holding in the last 6 months of the term. The terms of powers of local councils will expire in October 2015, and the regular elections should be held at the same time and this, among other things, means that even in case the early elections are scheduled for March, the newly elected local councils will have to work for no more than 8 months therefore, the main point of the campaign is lost. Because the Constitution requires holding regular elections to local councils every five years and fiveyear term in the office refers only to those elects, who received powers at the regular election.

The thing is that that the promise not to delay the extraordinary local elections was based on the expectation of adoption of the new Constitution it would have allowed to reset the timing of the elections. Moreover, back in the middle of 2014 it was expected that Ukrainian system of organization of state power and local selfgovernment would undergo significant changes.

Now the solution to the problem is postponed again decentralization is clearly not one of the top priorities in the approved program of activities of the Cabinet at first officials have to make changes in the budget and tax legislation (which is not a quick process). And the leading politicians found themselves in a difficult position. Ratings of the Petro Poroshenko Block and the Peoples Front are unstable, the declared austerity policy may bring them down, and it will be problematic to hold the spring campaign in such situation, it is better to wait until the fall hoping for at least some stabilization all over the country.

Yet there is a certain positive element to postponing the decision on the local authorities for autumn. First of all, there is a chance that by the time some changes will be introduced to the electoral law itself (the current system of local elections copied from the parliamentary system is not without flaws). Secondly, over the remaining time it would be possible to amend the law on local selfgovernment and elect mayors and councils based on the new realities and responsibilities. It will be better than electing local authorities based on a certain model of relations with the community and the central government, and then change it in the process.

The situation will surely be heated with protest activity in the regions the trend outlined at the end of the last year. But, on the other hand, nothing prevents the central government from pursuing onsite staff policies with due regard of wishes of local communities using existing authorities. At least it cab get rid of the most odious officials at the level of regional administrations, including law enforcement agencies.

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