Ukraine’s Lessons from Political Parties’ Bans — Dr. Olha Chernovol

Dr. Olha Chernovol: Postdoctoral Fellow in the Droit civil section, Faculty of Law, University of Ottawa; Fellow and Member of the Scholar at Risk Program at uOttawa Human Rights Research and Education Centre

Most countries around the world have banned a political partyfor some cause; Ukraine is one of them.

Ukraine’s history of banning political parties can be divided into two phases. The first phase lasted until 2014 and involved dissolving political parties mostly for procedural reasons. The second phase started after Russia annexed Crimea and occupied parts of Donetsk and Luhansk regions. It involved banning political parties that had pro-Russian agendas and whosupported Russia’s military aggression against Ukraine. Before Russia launched its full-scale military attack on Ukraine in February 2022, the government had already introduced some restrictions on the activities of political parties to prevent abuses. These restrictions could lead to a banning if a polparty were involved in activities such as trying to overthrow the state by force, promoting violence, stirring up ethnic or religious hatred, violating human rights, endangering public health, or spreading totalitarian ideologies such as communism or Nazism.

The government’s decision to impose these restrictions was based on the lessons learned from 2014 and aimed at ensuring the country’s stability and security. That’s why, since May 2022, Ukraine has taken measures to limit the activity of political parties supporting Russian aggression. These include taking action against spammers who promote totalitarian regimes, and other activities that incite violence against Ukraine. 

Moreover, the legislation contains provisions to ensure transparency and democracy in political parties’ activities. This includes forbidding political parties from having armed groups and making sure that any bans are imposed only through a special court procedure. These measures will help maintain Ukraine’s stability and security while also promoting a fair and democratic political environment. In Ukraine, lawsuits seeking to prohibit the activities of a political party are strictly handled through the administrative proceedings’ framework. 

It’s important to note that the lawmaker has defined a specific set of reasons for filing an administrative lawsuit to ban the activities of a political party (Article 21 of Law on Political Parties in Ukraine). These reasons include five types of violations of the laws governing the activities of political parties in Ukraine:

1. Violating the provisions established by the Constitution of Ukraine and other relevant laws concerning the creation and operation of political parties.

2. Doing things by a political party to undermine Ukraine’s independence, changing the constitutional system through violent means, violating the state’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, threatening national security, etc.

3. Supporting communist or Nazi totalitarian regimes and symbols.

4. Doing things that discriminate based on race, gender, religion, etc. violates citizen equality.

5. Doing things that aim to justify, legitimize, or deny Russian aggression against Ukraine. If a political party is found guilty of breaking the law, there will be consequences. The activities of the party may be terminated, and it can be dissolved, along with all its structural entities. The state will confiscate any funds and assets owned by the party, according to the court ruling. There is a legal process in place to ensure a transparent transfer of funds to the state.

However, experts argue that the current mechanism for banning political parties in Ukraine is not perfect. The lack of guarantees for political parties creates a risk of arbitrary bans on their activities. Moreover, the ban imposition mechanism is flawed, which has allowed some representatives of banned political parties to keep their positions. For example, members of the Opposition Platform – For Life party formed two new parliamentary groups, the Platform for Life and Peace (PZZhM) and the Restoration of Ukraine (VU), after leaving their old party. 

We must establish and identify the factors that can lead to the banning of political parties, especially when it comes to their potential involvement with Russia. With over 370 political parties operating in Ukraine, it is a huge challenge to monitor their activities and ensure they are not directly working with Russia. Clear verification measures, properly maintained, will help to ensure that the Ukrainian political system remains free from outside influence. This issue requires immediate attention. The Ukraine can still correct difficulties caused bypast lassitude.