Did people's deputies actually deserve a New Year's corporate party? As a rule, it is a type of reward for any team for their performance throughout the year and is paid for by employers. In the case of Ukraine's legislators, it's the citizens who should be green-lighting such festivities.
So should the deputies be celebrating? This is something Ukrainians should be asked. The outcome of such poll would hardly differ from what's already known – Ukrainians name the Rada as the worst performing body in Ukraine.
However, objectively, the parliament in 2018 was quite productive. Important laws were adopted on the "reintegration of Donbas", the ATO was reformatted into the Joint Forces Operation to counter the illegal Russian and pro-Russian armed units in the Donbas war, Constitutional amendments were passed in the first reading on the country's strategic path toward NATO and EU. Parliamentarians also considered the "church issue," the language law, a number of economic bills, and adopted the state budget on time.
However, the parliament continues to head the so-called anti-rating among Ukrainians. But why's that?
Objectively, the parliament in 2018 was quite productive
There are several reasons. One is that the number of laws adopted had no positive effect on the welfare of Ukrainians. Of course, laws on strengthening national security are a priority but at the same time, no one should forget about other reforms in line.
The second reason for the Rada's low rating is the lack of discipline and personal responsibility among some deputies.
Parliament is to a certain extent a reflection of society. If people are not interested in politics, politicians will only show interest in voters on elections' eve. The unwillingness to cultivate own political culture leads to the fact that the ticket to Parliament is given to some deputies who may skip session meetings and important votings, although this is their direct responsibility.
It is worth noting that nowadays, the citizens have more types of leverage on state authorities, but their critical mass is not large enough to claim voter control over deputies. People's highly critical stance toward Parliament has not yet converted into a distinction between deputies, known only by what they promise, while doing little, and MPs who actually do their job.
Fulfilling promises is not about laying new roads or repairing schools – these are tactical and situational steps that must be done a priori. Making a change means forming through a legislative initiative a strategic platform that will promote the development in all spheres of life. That is, it is about the formation and understanding of the mission, realizing why there is a state of Ukraine, where it is heading, and where it plans to get in the future.
The quality work of deputies must consolidate the population and increase motivation to achieve strategic goals, formulate responses to the threats and risks that the country will face along the way. Meanwhile, what kind of consolidation can we talk about when people see deputies being unable to gather a required minimum of votes for some simple bill? Hence, a great distrust in the legislative body and complete hopelessness of voters who start thinking they can't change anything at the next elections.
The quality work of deputies must consolidate the population and increase motivation to achieve strategic goals, formulate responses to the threats and risks that the country will face along the way
Hence, a disbelief in the ability to influence the authorities and get protection in case their rights "are violated by the Government of Ukraine." In this light, it is not surprising that a sense of hopelessness increased among Ukrainians (from 12% to 18%), and anxiety – from 30% to 38%. However, according to the poll by the Democratic Initiatives Foundation, commissioned on the order of the Institute of Sociology of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine, "hope still dominates with 43%, but the rise of positive expectations, which was seen in 2013-2014, has gradually been decreasing, with this year's drop being especially noticeable."
So what should one expect from Parliament in 2019? It will be a year of great promises on the part of both the government and the opposition. Elections put forward their own terms and dictate a populist narrative instead of a productive discourse. The entire election campaign will be rich in emotions and scandals.
Next year, the deputies will use the parliamentary rostrum for voicing more promises to improve everyone's life after the elections rather than present arguments for certain legislative initiatives.
In addition, there are bills on the agenda, which will become a certain benchmark to distinguish between "friends" and "foes," for example, the second reading of the amendments to the Constitution on Ukraine's strategic choices towards NATO and the EU. In general, these changes will not accelerate the country's entry to the international organizations, although they will fix the strategic goal. At the same time, it will prevent abrupt U-turns in the country's strategic direction in case the Rada's configuration becomes conditionally pro-Russian or chooses to defend neutrality.
Despite the fact that sociology already reveals the main contestants in the parliamentary run, there is a public request for new faces and parties. There will be a clear split between the pro-government parties and the opposition. The opposition itself will be divided into several camps: pro-European, pro-Russian, and Ukrainian-centric.
Despite the fact that sociology already reveals the main contestants in the parliamentary run, there is a public request for new faces and parties. There will be a clear split between the pro-government parties and the opposition
Top agenda of all parties and presidential candidates will include the question of completing the war and deciding on what to do with Donbas. This will be the cornerstone of the entire campaign. The answer to the question on whether to defend the country or go for an offensive to liberate the occupied territories will be voiced by nationalists, but pro-government and opposition politicians will stick to the line of diplomatic talks and hope for Western support. With regard to these talks, it is likely that some leaders will speak about certain peace guarantees or mechanisms for reaching peace.
The Rada's configuration after the elections will to some extent depend on the presidential election. After all, there is a threat that the new president could see a parliament in complete opposition to their policies. This could lead to a political crisis and slowdown of reforms. Therefore, the presidential election, in a sense, will be the guideline for the configuration of the future coalition.
Taras Semeniuk is an analyst with KyivStratPro