A look forward to electoral reform in Ukraine in 2022 shows commendations for a job well done, fears of democratic backsliding, and a legislative wish list ahead of the next elections in 2024.

Ukraine has come a long way with reform of its electoral system since the discredited 2004 election, but according to local elections watchdog OPORA – the country is still at risk of taking a step backwards.

Ukrainian elections – some of the most observed in the world – have won rave reviews since the Revolution of Dignity;

not just for the professional way they are run, but for concerted efforts to enact recommendations from international election organisations.

Two steps forward

The results can be seen in reports from organisations as diverse as the European Council and ODIHR (Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights) to IDEA (International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance) and The Economist.


In 2021, IDEA moved Ukraine up to a “mid-range performing democracy” from its earlier descriptor as a “weak democracy”. The report, which can be viewed here, cites an improved performance by the parliament as key to the improvement in the rating.

“Parliamentary capacity has been one of the bright spots in Ukraine’s democratic growth”, the report reads.

A combination of Ukrainian political will and international support has enabled the country to make significant advances.

The Economist Intelligence Unit agrees, bumping Ukraine up on its Democracy Index to 5.90, just below the threshold of a “flawed democracy” at 6.00. The report notes Ukraine’s significant improvements in ‘Electoral Processes and Pluralism”, where the country scored 8.25 out of 10.

“Elections in Moldova, North Macedonia, and Ukraine showed a trend of improving electoral standards and more fairness and transparency of elections”, says the report, which can be read here.

One step back

Ukraine’s top electoral watchdog cautions that the gains in electoral reform are not yet entrenched and that there is plenty of work left to be done.

In a year-end interview, Olha Aivazovska, Head of OPORA’s Board, said that this isn’t a new trend.


“The irreversibility of the democratic process has not been formed. We do not have a constant positive upward trend”, she states, referring to democratic backsliding under disgraced former President Victor Yanukovich.

Aivazovska attributes this to a lack of political consciousness among Ukrainian citizens, and a reluctance towards civic engagement.

“The answer lies in the plane of political culture … [Ukrainians] have an awareness on an emotional level, but not a deep awareness of the causal links of our political choices”, she explained. “A systemic political culture with a responsible attitude to elections and a constant watchfulness of civil society over the actions of the authorities in Ukraine is still only in its infancy.”

Aivazovska warns about the lack of developed political parties in Ukraine and how this can be used to the advantage of an entrenched political elite. She cites specific concerns regarding a bill put forward by a group of MPs from the For Your Future group and support for the bill from David Arahamiya, leader of President Zelensky’s Servant of the People party.


According to OPORA, Bill No. 6444 would delay the implementation of the open party list election system to 2027, allowing parties to again run under the current parallel system, in which parties are able to use closed lists.

OPORA’s analysis of the bill, which you can read here, says the proposed legislation would abandon the current proportional electoral system and replace it with an “outdated, inefficient, and corrupt” system.

“Instead of a system of checks and balances provided by laws and institutions, we have the people and their emotions”, Aivazovska said in her year end interview.

We live from Maidan to Maidan, instead of reacting daily to what is happening in power.

Step by step

Beyond protecting recent gains in electoral reforms, Ukraine continues the process towards meeting EU Association Agreement requirements.

IFES (International Foundation for Electoral Systems), an international organisation that analyses electoral reform that has a dedicated office in Ukraine, in September listed the five main electoral reform priorities of the 6th parliamentary session. It can be found here.

Many of the priorities listed by IFES are about consolidating recent reforms or cleaning up recent electoral reform legislation.

Goals such as “amending the electoral code” and “refining the law on national referendums”, deal with cleaning up earlier legislation, while priorities like “adopting the draft law on referendums” and “registering the new political party draft law” are concerned with passing legislation that is either already well-defined or under debate.


However, another goal is concerned with the future of Ukrainian elections – specifically, the implementation of new election technologies.

IFES recommends that parliament regulate “innovative technologies in elections” and vows to “continue its efforts to protect Ukraine against a rushed introduction of Internet voting”.

Aivazovska remains cautiously optimistic, but stresses that it isn’t only up to elected MPs to ensure the success of electoral reform in 2022.

“I would not say that nothing worked at all”, she says about ongoing attempts at electoral reform.

“Society must understand that it is directly responsible for who comes to power. However, this is the kind of transformation [that takes] years”.

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