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UKRAINE – Urgent Opinion published - Draft Law on All-Ukraine Referendum

22/07/2020

Strasbourg - The Venice Commission adopted an “urgent joint opinion” with ODIHR on Ukraine’s Draft Law 3612 concerning Democracy Through All-Ukraine Referendum.

The opinion, requested in May by the Speaker of the Verkhovna Rada, was published already on 21 July 2020 before the next Venice Commission plenary session, given the need for legal expertise before possible passage in the Ukrainian parliament.

The joint opinion welcomes Ukraine’s efforts to amend its legal and institutional framework relating to national referendums and to bring it into compliance with relevant standards as well as good practices. “The transparent and inclusive character of the drafting process should be praised”, according to the opinion. The text also addresses some problems that had been subject to critical remarks from ODIHR and the Venice Commission in the past.

However, the opinion sets forth several issues that “could be improved” in the text or would need further clarification, as follows:

A. It is recommended to clarify the relation between the popular initiative referendum of abrogation of laws or part of laws and the referendum on “resolving matters of nationwide significance”;
B. The procedure for the popular initiative referendum should provide Parliament with a role before the vote, as well as, if necessary, after the vote and in conformity with the results; the consequences of the approval of the popular initiative should be defined in the law;
C. Additional provisions should be introduced aimed at ensuring equal opportunities for the supporters and the opponents of issues submitted to referendum on referendum commissions of different levels;

For more information please read the text of the opinion below.

Although the Venice Commission normally adopts opinions during its four plenary sessions, “urgent opinions” can be adopted through a collective procedure, for example, if needed before an impending referendum or a debate in parliament. In that way, the authorities in question benefit from Venice Commission legal expertise in time. Urgent opinions are usually formally submitted to the next plenary session for endorsement; therefore this opinion should be considered by the Commission in October, the next scheduled plenary session.
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