The state of votes
Towards a truly universal suffrage
A step forward for the homeless a step back for democracy
Alexandra Azarkhina | 2013. October 13. 08:46
Homeless people are still people. Supposing that their participation in elections will lead to more corruption than what already exists is absurd. All concerns regarding this decision are related of the political sphere’s corruption, not to the homeless as such!
The main reason why homeless people did not have the possibility to exercise their voting right up until now was the absence of a so-called official residential registration, which had to be included in passports: a citizen could only be on a voting list if they had a record of the registration.
The record of residence in Soviet passports was strictly required. In the former Union urban citizens got their passports only in 1932 and residents of rural areas had to wait until 1974, since this rule was created to limit migration within the country.
Independent Ukraine has inherited the concept of the registry of residence. The record of registration is still necessary for legal employment. It is favorable for the employee to be registered at the same locality where he or she is going to work.
The amendment provides the possibility for the homeless to include themselves in electoral lists by stating the address of the place of voting. They would still have to show a passport or a certificate of the loss of their documents. So, this procedure is not going to be easy for most, but will help those, who would like to exercise their right to vote. Indeed, it can help strengthening public institutions’ connections with the homeless population who are most of the time excluded from societal communication.
Concerns about homeless people who will be selling their votes is not a sufficient condition for disenfranchisement, the deprivation of civil rights. Who says that a citizen living in his own apartment will not sell out?
Sale of votes during elections is a wide-spread phenomenon in Ukraine because of the general mistrust in democratic institutions. The logic behind it is the following: “why shouldn't I sell my vote? 10 Euros that I can receive right now are more feasible and certain than the result of the elections. Anyhow, there is no difference between corrupt candidates! Their politics will not benefit me more tomorrow than10 Euros today.”
We don’t have any precise information about the number of homeless people in Ukraine so we cannot be sure about the political influence of the above-named decision yet. When it comes to presidential elections, when the country is basically one big electoral district, votes of the homeless will only represent a small part of total ballots cast, therefore their role will not be crucial. But when it comes to the elections of the Mayor of Kiev, the mass of homeless people can be very influential, especially within one district. How can we prevent manipulations? Only by means of civil control: organizing votes and observing polling stations – the same means that we should use all the time to make our elections more transparent regardless of the menace of buying the votes of any strata. We cannot suddenly change the political culture of homeless people, just like we cannot change the political culture of the majority of Ukrainians from one day to the next.
This amendment can really help to integrate the homeless in political processes. It can allow them to realize that they have certain rights as citizens and ensure the exercise of their civil rights. Exercise of their rights would be the best indicator of their political engagement. All in all, the concerns with this decision are related to the problem of the political sphere’s corruption, not to the homeless themselves.
Nastya Tyshko | 2013. October 13. 08:46
The new law might look good on paper but when it comes down to its effect on elections it will surely undermine the democratic system and give ample opportunities for corruption. Not to mention the fact that it will allow people who do not contribute to public spending to decide on redistribution.
Universal suffrage is one of the main characteristics of a democratic state. Modern Ukrainian voters might turn up at polls without a registered domicile in future. Such a normative act is very unusual for our native political traditions, so citizens try to foresee the implications of the new law. It became a major focus of public attention and stimulated lots of discussions. Some welcome the measure as a progress of democracy – which might be true on paper – but they disregard Ukrainian reality.
The main problem is to count homeless people in our country. Different statistic researches give absolutely different results: from a few thousands to millions. Taking into account the fact that population census was abolished, the registration of vagabonds becomes almost impossible. Furthermore, it gives unlimited opportunities for falsifications. Political parties will have an ability to manipulate an unknown quantity of votes in an arbitrary way. Candidates will surely use such a great chance for raising their ratings. Another interesting detail: in this case deputies will be sheltered from administrative and criminal responsibility for their illegal deeds. No concrete numbers – no palpable arguments!
Let’s also consider the financial aspects of the situation because politics is strongly connected with money. Buying votes is a quite widespread practice but on the previous elections it cost politicians a pretty penny. If homeless become full voters, the situation will change dramatically. Give them anything from 2 to 5 Euros (depending on their self-rating) – and they will vote for any political power. A good bargain! The only question will be: who is faster? Ukraine will become a founder of a new kind of competition: the run for buying votes. Speed will be a decisive factor, not reason. Such a model of extended political relations will not raise the level of Ukrainian democracy. However, it could be a pleasant surprise for the European Union, since it is so compassionate about human rights so who knows…
Taking part in the elections has always contemplated different qualifications. In the beginning of the democratic era one of the conditions was a being a taxpayer in exchange of obtaining the right to vote. And not by chance – it is really important condition! In fact, tax bearers pay politicians for their governmental work directed to making their life better. As we know, homeless do not pay taxes and do not put their mite into the exchequer. Because of this, vagabonds cannot be full-fledged voters and should not decide what political force will become dominant. Paying money to contribute to public spending makes people’s decision more weighed and serious.
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