26 October 2016

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Week’s milestones: Rada on hiatus, by-election with violations and PGO on rise

Ukrainian legislators appear to have gone on summer vacation with no sense of guilt. By-elections in seven constituencies can hardly be deemed as another victory for the country’s democracy. Meanwhile, the Prosecutor General’s Office is on a tireless hunt for high-ranking corrupt officials, both former and present.

Photo from UNIAN
Photo from UNIAN

The Verkhovna Rada continues to live by peace-time laws. Although it includes plenty of MPs who have visited the zone of the Anti-Terrorist Operation – and those trips were not just excursions – these deputies have, so far, failed to boost the efficiency of their colleagues’ legislative performance. The collective unconscious of the Ukrainian deputies makes them unable to make changes to parliamentary regulations, which would make lawmaking more effective and professional. It also makes them turn a blind eye to random calls from a small number of the more conscientious MPs to extend the session until September. In fact, it's not even about the small number of coalition members. The problem’s roots lie deeper: public interest in the Verkhovna Rada has not risen above private interests and those of the parties, while the concept of political responsibility, as such, remains alien for many lawmakers.

The week before the summer holidays was also not fruitful. On Tuesday, public servants made a few positive decisions, benefitting their employers, but later everything was business as usual: the Radical Party’s sit-in led by Oleh Lyashko who imagines himself to be a modern-day Mahatma Gandhi, a ridiculous drone launched in the session hall by MP Ihor Lutsenko and minor skirmishes and arguments between coalition and opposition members.

Rada Speaker Andriy Parubiy tried to save face for Ukraine’s legislature, announcing a possible move to abolish provisions of the law on party dictatorship, which were applied when MPs Yehor Firsov and Mykola Tomenko were stripped of their mandates. The speaker also appeared pleased to emphasize that not a single draft law on holding elections in the temporarily occupied areas of Donetsk and Luhansk regions had been registered in the Verkhovna Rada, despite attempts made by certain MPs to submit a bill on the issue since early June. Rada also pledged a change in the composition of the Central Election Commission in the fall of 2016, as terms for many of its members were long overdue, according to Ukrainian law.

Meanwhile, the Central Election Commission is summarizing the results of the midterm parliamentary elections in seven constituencies across Ukraine. Regardless of who is elected, these elections can hardly be deemed another victory of Ukraine’s democracy. The majority system, which does not imply an ideological component, has demonstrated its rules, so ruthless given the current realities of life in Ukraine. It seems that all the violations of the electoral legislation were accumulated over the last several years and concentrated in these seven locations on the country’s map. It should be noted that since late 2014, the parliament of the latest convocation has never been too enthusiastic about reforming electoral legislation despite earlier promises to their voters.

At the same time, it is believed that the issue of raised utility tariffs will not “go on a summer vacation,” unlike the majority of the MPs – too inviting are the dividends from skillfully manipulating this issue.

Freshly-appointed Prosecutor General Yuriy Lutsenko, who was approved for the post only following certain amendments to Ukraine’s legislation, continues to show vigorous interest in effectively performing his direct duties.

The newswires are full of reports on the arrests of both former and current high-ranking officials, who did not take seriously Lutsenko’s statements of his intention to fight corruption. It will be interesting to note how many more officials will have to encounter law enforcers at their doors before the country can witness a major mind shift. Lutsenko has said the courts will hand down the verdicts in the Maidan killings before the year ends. He has also pledged to name in early August those responsible for the Ilovaisk tragedy.

Yevgeny Magda

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