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The European Commission for Democracy through Law of the Council of Europe (Venice Commission) has issued an Urgent Joint Opinion on draft law 3612 "On democracy through all-Ukraine referendum."

"The Draft law therefore represents a considerable step forward compared to the 2012 law; however, there are several issues that could be improved in the text or would need further clarification," the Venice Commission said in a document of July 21, prepared jointly with the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR).

The following key issues could be given further consideration:

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A. It is recommended to clarify the relation between the popular initiative referendum of abrogation of laws or part of laws and the referendum on "resolving matters of nationwide significance";

B. The procedure for the popular initiative referendum should provide Parliament with a role before the vote, as well as, if necessary, after the vote and in conformity with the results; the consequences of the approval of the popular initiative should be defined in the law;

C. Additional provisions should be introduced aimed at ensuring equal opportunities for the supporters and the opponents of issues submitted to referendum on referendum commissions of different levels;

D. It is recommended to extend the deadline for collecting the signatures for referendums on popular initiative;

E. It is recommended to check all signatures;

F. It is recommended that the Draft law be harmonised with the election legislation to further strengthen the mechanisms of accessibility of referendums for persons with disabilities, and to establish mechanisms that will practically facilitate the effective and meaningful exercise of suffrage rights of IDPs;

G. Consideration should be given to synchronising the provisions of the Draft law on funding of referendum campaign with the legislation on financing of political parties;

H. It is recommended that provisions on electronic voting are excluded from the Draft law and regulated globally at a later date by way of a separate law, which would also address local, parliamentary and presidential elections;

I. Limitations and bans on campaign activities should be reconsidered;

J. the Draft law should include specific articles for dissuasive and effective sanctions on media-related violations.

It is noted this urgent Opinion was authorized by the Enlarged Bureau on June 17, 2020, and issued pursuant to the Venice Commission's Protocol on the preparation of urgent opinions (CDL-AD(2018)019) on July 21, 2020. It will be presented to the Venice Commission for endorsement at its 124th Plenary Session on October 8-9, 2020.

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As UNIAN reported earlier, presidential Bill No. 3612 "On people's rule through an all-Ukrainian referendum" was registered in the Verkhovna Rada, Ukraine's parliament, on June 9, 2020. The bill determines the possibility of introducing electronic procedures for organizing and conducting a nationwide referendum, including electronic voting.

On June 18, the Verkhovna Rada passed the relevant bill in the first reading.