Internally Displaced Persons’ Electoral Participation Gap

Rally participants hold signs.


Several of IFES’ partner organizations in Ukraine organized an “Invisible Voters” event in March 2018 to raise awareness of internally displaced persons’ challenges among policymakers and the general public.
Publication Date: 
19 Jul 2019

Publication Type:

Tetyana Durnyeva, Harald Hartvig Jepsen and Hannah Roberts

Group of Influence Ukraine Executive Director Tetyana Durnyeva, International Foundation for Electoral Systems Senior International Adviser Harald Hartvig Jepsen and independent consultant Hannah Roberts contributed an article on “IDPs’ Electoral Participation Gap” to Volume 9, Issue 1 of the Journal of Internal Displacement.

Sustainable Development Goal 16 is concerned with peaceful and inclusive societies, access to justice for all, and effective and accountable institutions. Yet, this is a distant reality for many internally displaced persons (IDPs), some of whom lack access to their most basic of democratic entitlements. IDPs’ electoral participation is crucial for preventing marginalization, promoting reconciliation, and for making governments more responsive and accountable, including in respect to solutions for IDPs. Securing IDPs’ electoral rights in their area of origin or in their current location is a key component of a durable IDP settlement solution. This article explores the international standards for IDP electoral participation, and the multiple operational challenges involved. It looks in detail at the case study of Ukraine, where despite extensive advocacy efforts, IDPs still do not have the right to vote either in local elections or for half of the members of parliament. The study examines the current legal, practical and political barriers to IDP electoral participation in Ukraine, and reviews how the persistence of the Soviet-era residence registration system is a major obstacle for inclusive elections. The study critically analyses arguments against granting IDPs full franchise in Ukraine and explains a draft law that addresses public concerns about the integrity of the IDP vote. If adopted, this draft law will remove some of the existing barriers to electoral participation faced by IDPs, as well as internal migrants and other transient citizens, all of whom are negatively affected by the current permission-based residence registration system in Ukraine.

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