Proportional Representation Open List Electoral Systems in Europe

Publication Date: 
8 Apr 2009

Publication Type:



On 31 March 2009 President Yushchenko introduced a draft new constitution for priority parliamentary consideration.  This draft proposes substantial electoral reforms including introducing a bicameral legislature and replacing the closed proportional party list election system with an open party list parliamentary system.  According to the President people must gain the right to vote not only for one or another political party, but for a concrete candidate to improve political competition, accountability, and governmental efficiency. 

This move echoes the sentiment expressed by the Venice Commission on 4 February 2009 when their delegation addressed members of the Verkhovna Rada and Ukrainian civil society regarding the status of the Ukrainian Electoral Code.  According to Mr. Thomas Market, leader of the Venice Commission delegation, the current electoral system in Ukraine includes many problems including:

1)  Closed List:  Which makes Deputies accountable to Party Leaders and not to voters

2)  Single Constituency:  Which does not provide for territorial representation and gives Kyiv a stranglehold on Ukrainian politics

3)  Corruption:  Under the current system, party leaders wield a worrisome degree of power

At that time there were eight draft laws registered for consideration.  Since February there have been only more electoral reform proposals from all sides and facets of the political spectrum now culminating with President Yushchenko’s proposed new constitution.  Proposed electoral reforms have varied greatly and there are many aspects of the electoral code that merit attention.  However there is a consensus building among political actors in Ukraine that before the next Verkhovna Rada elections Ukraine should move from a closed to an open list system. 

This paper will consider the potential benefits of the open list first by giving a brief overview of the pros and cons of the proportional representation - open list systems.  Next it will provide a brief summary of how eight European countries implement their versions of this electoral system to varying degrees of ‘openness’.   Finally this report will look at two groups of countries where Ukraine lies at the cross section, the countries of former Communist Europe and the former Soviet Union.  It will compare trusted indicators of democracy and corruption, Freedom House’s Freedom in the World Report 2008 and Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index 2008, to see if there is any correlation between election system choice and good governance in this group of countries.

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