Challenges of 2020: Verkhovna Rada as detonator of unification or splitTaras Semeniuk
In 2020, the Verkhovna Rada may become both a great unifying ground and a driver of the downfall of the entire ZeTeam. It all depends on how quickly deputies will "grow up" and gain political wisdom.
The New Year's Eve 2019 wasn't special for most of the Servants of the People, as they could not imagine back then that the year will bring them a fast-paced career. However, after the euphoria of winning the election, the reality of parliamentary everyday life brought them down from the skies.
In 2019, the Rada faced three key tasks where it had to demonstrate effectiveness. It's about bills on the state budget 2020, the "special status" of Donbas, and the land market. While two of them saw no issues during the vote as deputies were playing the same notes, the land reform bill was a mishap. On this legislation, the Servants of the People so far cannot find an understanding both with their fellow deputies and their opponents from other factions.
Since the first days of Rada's work, analysts and experts have predicted that a majority would gravitate toward fragmentation. Majority MPs, considering key bills, will focus on the moods of their constituents, and this is especially true of the "land market". In addition, the conditional Kolomoisky Group, the Pavliuk Group, and others have a so-called "golden card" that will be drawn during the votes for bills that are crucial for the President's Office.
Scandals are not very conducive to understanding between MPs. Albeit contributing to some PR, they also turn for a monomajority into a negative assessment both by voters and some fellow faction members. For example, the case of Bohdan Yaremenko (the prostitute row) and the failure to vote for his dismissal, as well as the appointment of Yelizaveta Yasko, who earlier failed in the party primaries but was actually imposed by the President's Office, indicate that "Servants of the People" begin to realize that there is a parliamentary-presidential model of government in Ukraine, not the other way around.
Deputies begin to grow up and understand their role in the political process, so, from time to time, they deliberately fail to vote on the bills that are being imposed on them from above. We will see more of this in 2020.
Influence groups within a majority will play a more important role, especially when it comes to key bills
Although forecasts are hard to draw, it is Parliament that can serve as a platform for the country's unification, as President Zelensky said in his New Year's greeting, but it can also become a factor of an even greater division. It all depends on the principles and model of national dialogue that the authorities will promote in 2020. After all, winning an election is one thing, but "winning the power", that is, retaining legitimacy and popular support, is a higher-level game. In this situation, the fight will be for the content, not the form. It will be for the minds, not for some creative appearance.
The parliamentary-presidential model of government is implemented in the so-called coalition politics of parties, whose ideological principles may vary, while they are united in their common goals for the sake of the country. For example, in the last ten years the civil movement has grown significantly in Ukraine. It became a deterrent against authorities that tended toward authoritarianism. It has formed its leaders, many of whom have become part of the governing team. Therefore, "civic nationalism" as an idea, as a consensus of the elite groups and the public, remains important. Even more so, for a country with unhealed post-conflict wounds.
It is clear that there is a constant debate about the country's goals
And it is important that it goes on within Parliament because the very consensus, the very coalition, relies on the quality of elite groups represented in the Verkhovna Rada. If they fail to reach an understanding, the streets will have their say. And no one wants another Maidan.
Therefore, despite the desire of some politicians to use controversial topics as a "torch", the key challenge of the Rada in 2020 will be to keep the debate within Parliament premises and to make sure it doesn't spill beyond its walls.
Taras Semeniuk is an analyst at KyivStratPro