Tetiana Chernukha, program coordinator of the Agency for Legislative Initiatives, in her interview for Hromadske Radio spoke about the specifics and problems of local referendums, covering a wide range of issues, such as decommunisation, decentralization of power, constitutional rights and freedoms of Ukrainian citizens.
The right to initiate and conduct a local referendum is a constitutional right of the citizens of Ukraine and one of the most important forms of the direct exercise of power by the people (Article 5 of the Constitution of Ukraine).
Article 38 of the Constitution of Ukraine guarantees the right of citizens to take part in national and local referendums. However, after the Law of Ukraine On National and Local Referendums of 1991 became invalid, and the Law of Ukraine On National Referendum of 2012 came into force, a legally fixed mechanism for initiating and conducting local referendums disappeared. On the other hand, the country’s regional agenda is aimed at decentralization and deregulation, which implies extending the rights of citizens as to addressing local issues, including through initiation and holding of local referendums. For instance, within the framework of the reform, the Law of Ukraine On Civic Associations was adopted, whereby a local referendum is a necessary component of this process. However, there is still a lack of a legislative framework for the settlement of a mechanism for holding local referendums.
The key problems associated with local referendum as a mechanism of direct democracy include:
1. threats to the territorial integrity of Ukraine;
2. use of a local referendum to legitimize dubious or downright illegal decisions of local authorities; and
3. violation of the procedure for initiation and holding of local referendums.