Sunday, April 27, 2008

What the future will bring...

Speculation from an article entitled: "Will they 'nail' the president?" [a play on the word 'prybyut', i.e. PoR and BYuT] in the authoratative "Dzerkalo Tyzhnya" weekly:

"The parliamentary constitution committee will be created in the middle of May. By the end of the month the new Fundamental Law project will have received the appropriate verdict from the Constitutional Court and it will have been initially approved by a majority in the highest legislative body in the land [i.e. parliament]. During September the modernized version of this fundamental document of state will have received absolute support in the VR, and will be judicially valid. After this, most probably, extraordinary Presidential elections, parliament elections , and elections for the organs of local administration, and, possibly, urban heads will take place.

The number of politicians, who consider a such a scenario completely realistic, is increasing with each day. The guarantee of its success is the union of two most influential political forces - Party of Regions and BYuT..."

But first, the Kyiv city council and mayoral elections on May 25th..


Anonymous said...

BYuT in supporting a Parliamentary democracy ahead of a Presidential system has placed Ukraine bets interest ahead of Party politics and personal Interest. By adopting a European Style Parliamentary system Yulia has taken a major step forward towards Europe and formation of a stable political system in Ukraine. However the devil is in the detail and much depends on the system of representation and method of elections.

The president’s power and authority should be restricted. Power should remain with the peoples democratically elected parliament representatives who maintain the necessary checks and balances over the executive. (Britain’s West Minster and Finland systems are a good example)

If the head of states role is limited to that of a monarch in a modern constitutional democracy, the direct election of a head of state should be avoided as there is no justification for a directly elected head of state. Canada, Australia and New Zealand, whilst they maintain allegiance to the Queen of England, are effectively represented by an appointed governor who acts as their head of state

The costs of a directly elected president, particularly given that there are better democratic alternatives, are excessive. In the USA the appointment of the president (It needs to be noted that the USA does not directly elect their head of state) costs billions of dollars and what do they get for this high cost? The costs of directly electing the President of France is a waste of money (The French have a unnecessary “two-round” voting system which increases the costs significantly). The French model should be avoided at all costs. Democracy is not determined by the number of elected positions. Even Russia's system of direct election of its head of state, be it a significant improvement on the US system, can not be justified in terms of any cost benefits it may provide.

Ideally the head of state with limited powers should be appointed by a Constitutional Parliamentary majority (2/3rds). If the parliament can not agree or Ukraine opts for direct election of its head of state then the election should be conducted using a “single round” preferential ballot. (Also referred to as Instant Runoff voting).

A preferential voting system would ensure that the head of state is elected by a majority (50% or more) votes without the need to hold two round of voting. If no single candidate receives 50% or more votes then the candidates with the least votes are excluded and their votes redistributed according to the voters express preference until one candidate receives more then 50% of the vote.

Ukraine could save `100’s of millions of dollars in direct and indirect costs as a result of adopting a preferential voting system. Preferential voting is widely sued thought Australia and some state in the USA and in Ireland.

Anonymous said...

As Ukraine once again tinkers with its government, a crucial issue, one of many, is ignored - the "party list" system.

Currently in Ukraine, 3 parties have decided that it is convenient to limit the powers of the president. That's not reform - that's just political gamesmanship.

Any democratic system must have checks and balances, not just gang warfare between rival oligarch blocs or parties.

It is also clear that the previous poster has no understanding of a crucial item in Canada, Australia, and New Zealand - there is no appointment of a governor, and there is no allegiance to the Queen of England. There is respect for the Queen of England.

Canadians would be severely offended if they found out that somehow they are now subservient to the Queen of England.

In the US, there is a system of checks and balances, based on separation of powers into a tri-partite form of government - judicial, legislative and executive.

To suggest that the elections for president ought to be abolished because of the money spent on elections is --- UTTER NONSENSE.

Democracies are not cost-effective.

Dictatorships seem to be cost-effective.

But today, Ukraine and most other civilized countries reject dictatorships.

For good reason, and regardless of the "costs."

Blair Sheridan said...

The truth of the matter is that Canadians _do_ indeed pledge allegiance to the Queen. As a born and bred Canadian, I never had to, but new Canadians do. It's part of the citizenship court process.

In addition, a Governor-General is formally appointed by Her Majesty. The candidate is selected by the Prime Minister and approved by the Queen.

Anonymous said...


The oaths of office of various Canadian officials do, in fact, contain a statement about allegiance to the Queen.

But swearing allegiance and being subservient are 2 different things, at least as far as Canada is concerned today.

The role of the Governor-General is largely a ceremonial role.

And it's not the Queen who appoints the governor - she approves the governor, as you said.

Decisions are made by the Canadian parliament, and the focus is on the Canadian Prime Minister, not on the Governor-General.

It's one of those cute, quaint British sort of things.

Having family in Canada myself, and having visited Canada quite frequently ever since I was a kid,and having interacted with Canadians to this day, I never got the feeling that Canadians felt subservient to the Queen, And certainly I don't get that sense today, either.

Back to the main point - Ukraine cannot afford the rampant corruption that is in place today.

And constitutional reform, I think you will agree, Blair, ought to be more than just another bit of tinkering to satisfy the political tug-of-war of the current moment.

Anonymous said...

I don't think the form of the system is that critical.

What matters is that people learn to vote and lobby through intermediaries to ensure that there are checks and balances.


Anonymous said...

dlw, I strongly disagree with you.

A monarchy, whether hereditary or constitutional, is far, far different from democracy. A dictatorship, likewise, is a form of government far, far different from democracy.

An oligarchy, in which government is accountable only to a few wealthy people, is far, far different from democracy.

A theocracy, such as in Iran, is far, far different from democracy.

Separation of powers, and checks and balances, must be at the core, must underlie any free, open, fair and honest system of government.

If the system is such as that in Ukraine, or Mexico, or Nigeria, or Russia, what you get is the vast majority of people having no voice, no remedies, no rights. And they end up leaving, or learning to get around the government.

In Ukraine, democracy is developing.

Russia has gone the totalitarian route.

Mexico is shipping all of its people to the US, so that the corrupt Mexican oligarchs can stay in power.

I think that the form of the system, the set of rules that is in place for everyone to play by, not just oligarchs or ditators, is indeed critical.

Anonymous said...

Elmer said: "As Ukraine once again tinkers with its government, a crucial issue, one of many, is ignored - the "party list" system."

I agree the closed Party list system has a number of issues. An open-list smaller local based multi-member electorates would better represent voters.

One article that was recently published by Nerkalo Nedeli provides some insight into the current thinking behind the scenes.

Overall the proposed reforms are worthy of support BUT I have serious reservations at the proposed representative model.

The proposal to have a two round voting system whilst maintaining the undemocratic Imperative Mandate" provisions would seriously distort the democratic representation. As I understand the top two parties will face a second round and the winner of the second round would win 50% of the seats. This opens up a wide range of possibilities and a host of inconsistencies whilst overinflating the winning parties representation. The requirement for a second round of voting is unnecessary as the same result can be achieved with one round by implementing a system of preferential voting. The system outlined in the article also maintains a nation-wide electorate.

The creation of smaller based local electorates, (Each electorate returning nine members elected on a 10% quota by a preferential proportional representation voting system) would better reflect the electorate and provide for direct accountability by implementing an open list mandate as opposed to the closed party list. Candidates and parties would have to secure the support of the voters. Smaller based electorates also mean that campaigns would be more manageable and less costly then a nation wide electorate.

re Canada, Australia and New zealand's "head of state" (Governor General) is appointed by the queen on the recommendation of the head of government.

A constitutional parliamentary appointment would be more preferable then a directly elected head of state and superior to the appontment on recomendation by the head of government.

Checks and balances are provided on a daily basis by the parliament itself. (The limitation in Ukraine's system for effective parliamentary checks and balances in the Imperative Mandate provisions - One reason why PACE declared it undemocratic)

Blair Sheridan said...


I absolutely agree about the need to take a more serious approach to constitutional reform in Ukraine. Various politicos are only interested in getting a short-term political gain from messing with the consitution.

I'm just not sure that the time is right. Ukraine is, without question, an evolving democracy and is, more or less, on the right track, but there's still a way to go. As you note, corruption is a massive problem, and that's not all.

If I were magically made head of state in Ukraine tomorrow, I honestly wouldn't know where to begin. With the court system - one of Ukraine's least funny jokes? The administrative bureaucracy that manages to live off and despise the population at the same time? The "law enforcers," for whom the expression "equality before the law" must bring up a good belly laugh? I think I would be driven insane within a week! :-)

Politics and politicians here are still, IMHO, not mature enough to put the interests of the country above their own narrow interests.

In short, I don't trust any of them enough to start a truly disinterested constitutional reform process yet. I really hope they'll change my mind soon.

Anonymous said...

Blair, I believe it was Madison (maybe I'm wrong on this, but the quote is valid) who said: if men were angels, there would be no need of government.

Rousseau, Hobbes, Locke and others debated the nature of man and the nature of government, the "social contract" and the nature of the consent of the governed.

In the US, it took 2 tries, and it was only on the second try that the US finally hit upon the US Constitution.

And at that time, the nature of the debate was the same as now, but it seems to me mainly - what system of government will OVERRIDE the personal interests and ambitions of the assembled and the about-to-be citizens of the newly-formed US?

In the former sovok states, one sad legacy is that eveything is a card game and a chess game combined into one. You want to shake my hand? It'll cost you something, and I'm thinking 3 moves ahead on how to get more.

I see Tymoshenko and Lutsenko as having the people's interest OVERRIDE their own personal ambitions.

One has to start somewhere. Tymoshenko has started by openly supporting a parliamentary system of government, as she told the Council of Europe.

You are right, Blair, corruption, including corruption in the legal system, has got to go. Yushchenko himself has noted that corruption is killing the country.

The elimination of the party list system is crucial, as is the elimination of total parliamentary immunity that deputies enjoy today which leads to and supports their corruption.

Local elections are a must.

And, without question, the elimination of the party list system.

Without tinkering, and without the chess game of "gee, how will the electorate vote if we have a different form of party lists."

I'm afraid, however, that it will take either a few more votes of the people, or an assurance to the current oligarch thugs that not all of their ill-gotten gains will be taken away if true reforms are implemented.

And there's another incentive that seems to be coming into play more and more, which Akhmetov and others are looking at - Initial Public Offerings on various international stock exchanges, which require audited financial statements, and annual and quarterly reports, and boards of directors above suspicion.

Whatever works.

Anonymous said...

Elmer said:.

"The elimination of the party list system is crucial, as is the elimination of total parliamentary immunity that deputies enjoy today which leads to and supports their corruption"

I think the party system is not so ,much the problem as is the current makeup of the parties. But they are evolving. Parties play an important role. What I find needs to be developed is the party structure within enough party.

A move towards an open list voters choice representative model would be a major step forward.

The closed Nation-wide list makes it virtually impossible for voters to identify wand influence directly the political process.

There are two distinct separate yet intertwined issues. One begin the form of government. The Parliamentary system is without any doubt the best option for Ukraine and a step forward)

The method of election and representation is not normally spelt out in constitutional reform but the subject of legalisation so as to give some degree of flexibility and means of implementing change more readily.

The creation of smaller local based electorates would help develop a closer association between the elected representatives and the electorate.

This can be done in a number of ways. The creation of a bicameral parliament (two houses) each house having a different mandate one national and the other local as exists generally in the westminster system.

Another alternative is to create smaller multimeter electorates. I recommend electrolytes that each return nine members of parliament elected by a system of preferential proportional representation with an inbuilt 10% quota.

Smaller electorates allow for each community to debate the issues and quality of the candidates seeking election. It provides for a more manageable and direct electoral process whilst reflecting the diversity of the electorate.

Whilst parties will still exist, and so they should, the parties will never the less be required to put forward skilled practitioners in order to maximize their vote.

The main problem with the national party list system as I see it is the filling of bumps on seats not on morality but on their financial contributions to the party overall or in the case of Our Ukraine there "Star entertainment quality" as opposed to their contribution to development of managerial governance and review.

The other lesson we can learn from Westminster is the appointment of ministers from the ranks of members of parliament. There is no valid overriding logic as to why a person appointed as a minister should vacant their parliamentary representation in order to take up a ministerial position.

The form of government is the design and the representative model is the foundations., get the foundations right and you can build a solid parliamentary system based on the principle of one vote one value reflecting the will and aspirations of the electorate.