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Venice Commission opinion criticizes Ukraine's ban on pro-Russian politicians running for office

by Elsa Court October 9, 2023 6:14 PM 1 min read
A polling booth during the parliamentary elections in Kyiv, Ukraine, 21 July 2019. (Photo by Sergii Kharchenko/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
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The Venice Commission published an opinion on Oct. 9 criticizing a Ukrainian draft law that sets to block members of banned pro-Russian parties from participating in future elections.

The Venice Commission, a body of the Council of Europe that advises Ukraine on steps toward integration with the European Union, evaluated the law together with the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR).

The draft law envisages that those who were members of now-banned parties at the time of the launch of the full-scale invasion will not be able to be elected to local and parliamentary elections in Ukraine for ten years following the end of martial law.

In May 2022, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky signed a law that banned 11 pro-Russian political parties.

The Venice Commission believes that although "almost all democratic systems recognize and regulate some form of ban of the parties that are perceived as a threat to the democratic system," the time frame of the draft law is too long.

Emergency measures are appropriate during an "exceptional situation,” but must be "terminated once the exceptional situation is over," the commission believes.

Moreover, the "individuals affected by the draft law have not been convicted of any criminal offense," according to the commission.

The published opinion also highlighted that the draft law, if passed, would be in direct contradiction to the universal human right of being able to participate in public affairs.

The Venice Commission and ODIHR recommended that the draft law therefore be adapted to ensure "adequate criteria and an effective individual assessment," should Ukraine wish to ban certain persons from running for elections.

The organizations also recommend Ukraine limits the time frame of restrictions "to the shortest possible period of time," ensuring that any ban is maintained "only for individuals presenting the most serious threat to the democratic order and national security."

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