Weird protests and prospects for people's demands

Nadia Pryshliak
11:55, 19 October 2017
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Opinion

The current rally outside the Verkhovna Rada, which someone calls the next Maidan, while some brand it AntiMaidan instead, is nothing but a slight shocker for MPs, the government, and presidential administration. Although this is a sort of a hint that today’s authorities might as well one day find themselves in the same situation as their predecessors.

However, those throwing such hints often have a dubious reputation, as well. Besides, the implementation of all three demands put forward by the organizers of protests – Constitutional amendments on limiting parliamentary immunity, adopting changes to the electoral law, and establishing the Anti-Corruption Court – is more than questionable in the near future, since there is no political will on the part of the president or a desire to have anything changed on the part of parliament.

Out of the five registered bills on changes in the electoral system, none have any chance of being supported by the Verkhovna Rada. The parliament may create some kind of working group that will work on the issue, but it's a waste of time, simply because MPs elected in a majority vote system (making up half of the Rada) are not going to vote for a proportional system, no matter if it implies open party lists or not. On the other hand, party leaders will never go for truly open lists, unless they are able to influence the positioning of candidates. Therefore, if a compromise is ever reached, it will be some kind of a hybrid solution, which is difficult to imagine an attractive or productive move. Moreover, at the moment, such a document has no chance for adoption.

As for the draft law on the Anti-Corruption Court, there is actually no such bill, either. After all, two of those proposed by people's deputies have been criticized by the Venice Commission, especially the one submitted by MP Serhiy Oleksiyev, one of the most prominent legal experts in the pro-presidential BPP faction. The Venice Commission offered that Parliament works as a basis on another bill, authored by renegade MPs from the BPP with Svitlana Zalishchuk among them.

Hence the impression that a search is underway for any loopholes to allow avoiding any decisions unfit for the authorities

However, the coalition does not want to hear a thing about it. Oleksiyev claims that he is withdrawing his bill, calling on the authors of the alternative version to do the same, in order not to violate the Parliament’s Rules of Procedure and to clear the field for a new presidential bill. The thing is that an alternative bill can be introduced until a certain deadline, while that on the Anti-Corruption Court has already expired.

At the same time, Zalischuk asserts quite reasonably that this didn’t stop the president from submitting his draft law lifting parliamentary immunity at a time when similar bills are already registered in parliament, while registration terms for the alternatives have already expired.

Hence the impression that a search is underway for any loopholes to allow avoiding any decisions unfit for the authorities.

Speaking of parliamentary immunity, it is just one of those eternal dragging issues. The case with the changes to the Constitution in the part of lifting or limiting deputies’ immunity is when the authorities either can’t or don’t want to change anything. Actually, the president would love to have this immunity lifted off of the MPs. But it’s them to pass that decision. And they surely are in no rush to do so. After all, immunity is one of the incentives for many to get into a deputy chair simply to protect their wealth...

Therefore, once again, we are seeing a political game here called “We wanted to do it but we just didn’t succeed.” This game can be played in circles from cadence to cadence, since the procedure for adopting amendments to the Constitution is not an easy one. Initially, a minimum of 226 votes are required to forward the bill to the Constitutional Court for an opinion to be issued. This is the smallest problem, though, because it will still needs a preliminary approval, and then the final adoption by at least 300 MPs.

Therefore, once again, we are seeing a political game here called “We wanted to do it but we just didn’t succeed.” This game can be played in circles from cadence to cadence, since the procedure for adopting amendments to the Constitution is not an easy one

As of today, the profile Rada Committee has already decided that the immunity issue can already be considered in the session hall. The committee proposes to forward both the parliamentary and presidential bills to the Constitutional Court to get its opinion. Both documents propose to remove the norm of Article 80 of the Constitution of Ukraine, according to which "people's deputies of Ukraine cannot be held criminally liable, detained or arrested without the consent of the Verkhovna Rada." The difference between the bills is that the parliamentary draft law provides for its entry into force immediately after its publication, while the presidential bill stipulates that it will come into force on January 1, 2020. This has already caused a stormy debate, but, of course, the time difference is not so significant.

However, there is a number of other collisions. According to MP Serhiy Sobolev (Yulia Tymoshenko’s “Batkivshchyna”), although in the presidential bill touches upon the amendments to the Constitution, the date of their entry into force is in fact introduced by the bill, instead of being included in the transitional provisions of the Basic Law. In other words, this means that when the deputies of the following cadences wish to postpone the immunity lift, they will only need 226 votes to achieve it.

There is another terms-related problem. Even if the Constitutional Court promptly issues its opinion and Parliament will just as soon pass Constitutional amendments, the final vote will take place at the next session only, which logically begins in February 2018. But, in fact, one must take into account the "intricate" decision of the Constitutional Court that the next regular session is not necessarily a session following the current one. So it turns out that the relevant bill can be considered at any time whenever MPs feel convenient ... That is, this story has a beginning, but no end it seen so far. Meanwhile, the whole issue of stripping MPs of their immunity is becoming lame.

After the first day of protests outside the Rada, a new argument emerged concerning the possible lack of decision-making regarding protesters’ demands. It’s the fear of people's deputies to come to the session hall after some of their colleagues got into a scuffle with protesters

At the same time, the fact that the Ukrainian society, tired of the authorities failing to fulfill campaign promises, can sometimes act a bit rough in the streets, trying to force deputies to work harder, is used by legislators to justify their idleness.

For example, after the first day of protests outside the Rada, a new argument emerged concerning the possible lack of decision-making regarding protesters’ demands. It’s the fear of people's deputies to come to the session hall after some of their colleagues got into a scuffle with protesters. However, this argument is invalid, taking into account how many deputies have regularly skipped plenary meetings throughout the year.

Nadia Pryshliak

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