KIEV, Ukraine -- A Constitution Court ruling announced on Thursday may reduce the number of election districts in the city of Kiev, de-facto benefiting the ruling Regions Party ahead of the October parliamentary elections.
The Court deemed unconstitutional a part of the election law that allows Ukrainian voters temporarily living overseas to cast their ballots for candidates in Kiev districts.
The Court acted on a petition from 59 Regions Party lawmakers.
The ruling suggests that about 400,000 Ukrainians living overseas that traditionally vote for pro-Western candidates will only be able to vote for parties, but not for individual lawmakers in majority districts.
This may effectively reduce to 13 from 16 the number of lawmakers to be elected from Kiev, and may relocate the three seats to eastern regions where the Regions Party dominates the vote.
Half of the 450-seat Parliament will be elected on a party-list vote and another half will be elected in individual constituencies.
Arseniy Yatseniuk, the leader of the opposition Front of Changes party who is likely to lead Ukraine’s united opposition for the election, accused President Viktor Yanukovych and his Regions Party of breaking a pact on fair elections with opposition.
“The government understands that the Kievites will not support them that’s why they try to get more mandates in regions where it can falsify the elections,” Yatseniuk said.
“The election process has begun and the swindlers from the Regions Party have again decided to change the rules of the game for their benefit.”
“The pact on fair elections is broken by President Yanukovych,” Yatseniuk said.
“Pandora’s Box was opened in Parliament concerning the change of the election law.”
The law, approved in November 2011 by 366 lawmakers, including by 98 opposition deputies, was praised as a compromise between the ruling Regions Party and the opposition groups.
The law eased fears of possible boycott of the election by the opposition groups, a move that would most likely make the elections not legitimate.
Although losing on some issues, the opposition groups managed to push through amendments that make it more difficult for pro-government parties to dominate election commissions that will eventually count ballots.
This is supposed to reduce possible election fraud.
The law also increased the threshold that is required for entering Parliament on party lists to 5% from 3% currently, potentially hurting small parties.
Zhanna Usenko-Chorna, a deputy head of the Central Election Commission who is thought to be loyal to opposition groups, said the latest court ruling violates the constitution by denying the right of the Ukrainian living overseas the right to vote for candidates in individual constituencies.
“The article No. 22 of the constitution guarantees the right for the people to have equal election rights,” Usenko-Chorna told Ukrainian News agency.
“The situation shaped towards restricting this right.”
But Yatseniuk said that the opposition groups will win the elections, and said the judges of the Constitutional Court will be responsible for their latest ruling.
“The united opposition will win the elections anyway, despite all machinations by the Constitutional Court, whose judges will bear responsibility for today’s ruling,” Yatseniuk said.