During the presidential elections in Ukraine on March 31, 2 690 violations of the electoral law were reported to the police. The Central Electoral Commission received over 130 complaints. But the appeals, complaints and their effectiveness haven’t necessarily made the headlines in the view of the actual election results.
The type of complaints, however, coupled with over 80 investigations on vote-buying, questionable campaign financing, and the manipulation of administrative resources at the national and local level, are highlighted in the preliminary findings of the OSCE/ODIHR election observation mission.
If elections can be considered a reflection of good governance and efficiency of the public administration, it is relevant to look deeper into the actual effectiveness of the complaints. Or is the right to effective legal remedy, guaranteed by the election law, just one example of a sound legal framework on paper?
Elections aside, Ukraine has comprehensive laws protecting citizens’ rights to appeal. Yet a general skepticism on the effectiveness of appeal and dispute resolution procedures persists. As a participant in one of the focus group discussions, held within the framework of the FBA rule of law project in Ukraine, phrased it:
“I do not want to appeal anything. This is red tape…no one has ever won in court with the state. Because the mechanism is such that it kind of gives with one hand, and takes away with the other. It is impossible to sue the state. One doesn’t have enough money”. (2017)
As a fundamental principle of the rule of law, the right to appeal allows individuals to seek redress against administrative decisions. This can be done through internal reviews, ordinary courts or specialised administrative courts. It also ensures that public agencies communicate and explain the reasons for their decisions. Ensuring effective procedures and mechanisms for appeal are therefore essential to a rule of law based system of governance.
Over the past four years FBA, enabled by financial support from the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida), has been working with Ukrainian authorities in assessing rule of law principles at the local level. While positive examples exist, more needs to be done to ensure the legal certainty, transparency and effectiveness of procedures. It remains to be seen whether the final election results on April 21 will translate into meaningful change for people’s everyday lives in Ukraine.