Constitutional Court makes its move, now it’s up to Rada
The Constitutional Court of Ukraine (CCU) was predictably gracious to the bill on the amendments to the Constitution regarding decentralization. No objections, all provisions recognized as constitutional. While reading out the ruling, the CCU judge Vasyl Bryntsev said, the opinions of several CCU judges were added, however he never disclosed the names of these judges. Actually, the opinions were not published either. This information is not available and the website of the court.
A number of MPs who had not supported the bill called the decision of the Constitutional Court unlawful and illegal. Thus, the MP from Samopomich [Self-Help] faction Yehor Sobolev said that the number of current CCU at one time issued rulings, which are now subject to criminal investigation regarding seizure of state power in an unconstitutional manner. Therefore, he believes that some judges, being "blackmailed” by possible criminal prosecution, "will do anything they are asked to do”. If needed, they could even reinstate fugitive Viktor Yanukovych as president.
In turn, member of the parliamentary committee on legal policy and justice, MP from Svoboda party Andriy Illienko noted that the court's ruling was too predictable and did not provide for any intrigue. He believes that in Ukraine, "the Constitutional Court is a body which simply duplicates the decisions that the state’s political leadership adopts".
However, these are all just words. The thing is, according to the Constitution, the ruling of the CCU is final and is not subject to appeal.
It should be noted that the CCU’s ruling on the so-called special status to certain areas of Donetsk and Luhansk regions was also no surprise. The judges believe that the changes are constitutional and do not foresee the abolition or restriction of human (and civic) rights and freedoms. In addition, the opinion was voiced that no citizen of Ukraine will not be restricted in their rights if some regions are regulated with a separate law.
It is also interesting that following the hearing, the permanent representative of the parliament to the CCU Anatoliy Selivanov was wondering for quite a while, why exactly this norm concerned journalists so much, as there is a separate law on the capital city of Kyiv, and there is no tragedy about it. Well, that’s some argument... Seems like he has forgotten that the conflict in eastern Ukraine began exactly around some idea of a "special status" for Donbas. And the previous game with constitutional provisions for Crimea’s autonomy also resulted in nothing good.
It is also interesting whether it is possible to make some other changes to the bill during such prior approval of Parliament. Actually, yes, it is possible. But then this document is also to be forwarded to the CCU. Of course, no one is willing to play this game. Moreover, in the CCU noted that this even applies to any new comma in the bill.
For the MPs not to even have such temptations, the CCU judges recall of a "dubious and tragic" story with bill No 2222 with Constitutional amendments from 2004. Let me remind that the CCU recognized the draft law as unconstitutional exactly due to violations of the constitutional procedure of its consideration and adoption. Moreover, with such ruling the CCU pulled the country back to the Constitution of 2004, according to which Yanukovych obtained plenty of new powers.
Thus, there is almost no chance that the provisions on the special status of Donbas will be withdrawn from the bill during its preliminary approval by the Verkhovna Rada, both from a legal point of view and also from a political perspective. These provisions were required by Ukraine’s international partners, although the country's leadership insisted that no pressure was being exerted. However, the speakers subtly added that Ukraine should understand that decisions need to be taken in order to not be deprived of assistance in the fight against Russia.
However, Russia could not care less about any kind of status for Donbas if it decided to occupy some territories. But still, there are some political and legal nuances ...
Overall, the CCU considered the bill and issued the ruling in record time – in just two weeks. Now, the bill headed back to parliament.
By the way, the reason that the second session of the Verkhovna Rada did not close on schedule (July 17) was to provide for the preliminary approval of the Constitutional amendments. Therefore, this opens the door for the final vote on the amendments to be held as early as at the third session, which opens on the first Tuesday of September 2015, and not in 2016.
It should be noted that it would not be difficult to gather 226 votes, needed for preliminary approval, as 288 MPs have earlier supported forwarding the bill to the CCU. The vote is expected to be held on August 26 or August 27.
However, there is still no consensus in negotiations on gathering 300 votes, needed for the final approval in autumn. Some deputies from the Coalition, including those who initially did not support the amendments, are said to behave come under huge pressure, but their positions still remain unchanged. Anyway, we have already seen throughout the parliament’s history, how the opinions of some MPs radically changed in just seconds.
In addition, the talks are also being held with some deputies beyond Coalition. In return for their support, they are said to be promised non-interference with their businesses. Extensive consultations are explained in the pro-presidential faction with the importance of decentralization , stressing that the country faces a complete fiasco in case we don’t pass the amendments, as they are part of top priority reforms. However, it’s more like such a tough discussion takes place because in case of a failure, the President will lose not only lose within Ukraine, but also on the international arena.
Autumn is fast approaching. And while MPs say that they don’t want decentralization be a bargaining chip in political bids before the local elections, there is still enough time to find the needed 300 votes, and afterward, the MPs will be saying that they believe in the possibility of appeasing Donbas with some special status. Although it will be understood that it’s not about the clowns from the so-called DPR and LPR.