Parliament

The Wrong Turn.The Parliament had distorted the Maidan expectationsin Six Months

22.10.2014
Lesia Shevchenko

The Parliament failed to implement theMaidan demands. The system’s resistance has eventually recovered. The democratic parliamentary factions have focused on the political races and pushed the Maidan tasks and their own agendas in the background.

The Parliament failed to implement theMaidan demands. The system’s resistance has eventually recovered. The democratic parliamentary factions have focused on the political races and pushed the Maidan tasks and their own agendas in the background.

‘Ukrainska Pravda’ has published an article by the Open Society Foundation’s President Lesya Shevchenko on the outcome of seven months of the VII Convocation of Verkhovna Rada on the eve of the 2014early parliamentary elections.

The acting Members of Parliament had half-yearto implement, at least partially,the aspirations of winter popular protest, to eliminate the old corrupt system and place the authorities in the service of the people. In sevenpost-Yanukovych’smonths the MPs are not ready to change the system and change themselves.

The Euro-Maidan and the ‘Revolution of Dignity’have laid the foundations for the regime change. The rise of patriotism and the national identity have helped people to organize themselves and present a clear list of demands to themembers of the political elite.

The Parliament faced a challenge of transforming these expectations into the real laws and policy changes. The idea oftransition from the Soviet-style isolation of political power from the society to the open communication of the MPs and theirvoters was the key.

However, severaladopted laws only were consonant with the ideas of the Maidan. The substantialshare ofthe progressivedraft-laws failed to be adopted, and thus pulled the country back.

Start with yourself

The analysis of the post-Maidan parliament demonstrated a failure to implement the main demands of the protestors: sweeping away corruption and strengthening the grass-root democracy.

No attempts to strengthen public controlover theauthoritiesare visible either at the level of the constitutional amendments as suggested by Mr.Poroshenko, or among the legislative initiatives.

The Maidan, in particular, has demanded the modernization of the Cabinet of Ministers and its purification of the bureaucracyburden. At the same time the President's version of the amendments to the Constitution (the draft law 4178)has only mentioned the changes of the procedure of forming the Government.

The Parliament has hardly assembled the required votes for the lustration of judges and public officials. The draft laws 4378-1 ‘On restoration of confidence in the judicial system’ and 4359 ‘On the purification of government’ were voted on 8thand 16th of April with 234 and 231 voterespectively. The second law was included in the parliamentary agenda at the second attemptonly. ‘Svoboda’ was the only political party which voted in full for this initiative with 35 votes. ‘Batkivshchyna’ has managed to provide 77 out of 86votes, and UDAR gathered 38 out of 41.

The MPs have failed to support the project on implementation of the European experience in the property sphere and provision of an open access to the proprietary rights information. The draft law 4728 was, at the same time, vastly supported by the NGO community. On May 14th, 2014 the mentioned document was completely failed with only 108 supporting votes. ‘UDAR’ contributed with 18 votes, ‘Batkivshchyna’ with 39, although both parties had promised to "make the ownership transparent in the country" before.

Three weeks earlier, on March 25th a similar draft law 3378 on the openness of the civil rights registry was not supported (only 207 votes). The pro-democratic parties have failed to support this project ‘ripieno’ again.

The Parliament has failed the comprehensiveelectoral reform, which has been demanded by the Maidan. The two draft laws (4906-1 and 4906-2) introduced in the Parliament suggested the open lists elections. On August 12th, 2014 the VerkhovnaRada has failed these with 160 and 167 votes. The support of the pro-Maidan factions was not enough.

‘Barkivshchyna’ has filed another compromise draft law 4222 on the open party lists parliamentary electionsin Ukraine. It also failed. However, its content did not meet the title, as there was not a word on the promised open lists.

As a result, three parliamentary groups lead byMr. Kinah,Mr, Homutynnik andMr. Eremeev, joined by the Party of Regions and the Communist Party havecompletely failed an idea of the open lists elections.

In his campaign Mr. Poroshenko promised "to make every effort within the constitutional powers to hold the snap parliamentary elections solely on the proportional basis with the open lists bythe end of 2014". However, he failedto submit any such initiatives. The 2014 elections will be held with the Yanukovych-style scheme. This imposes serious doubt on the effectiveness of the ‘government rebooting’.

Furthermore, the draft law 1089 on the election of mayors in two rounds was rejected and removed from further consideration.

The courts and security agencies

Riding on the wave of popular protest the politicians have promised to deal with the Constitutional Court. Itspolitical dependence in fact had allowedMr. Yanukovych to accroach the power. However, only 179 people’s deputies have voted for the inclusion of the draft law 4033 to improve the work of the Constitutional Court in the agenda.

Besides the draft law 4378-1 to restore the confidence in the judicial system considered above, the reform of the judiciary was included in the few other draft laws, three of which have not been accepted. The draft law 2203-1 provided for the improvement and expansion of the Supreme Court powers and allowed citizens to apply directly to the Supreme Court with a request for review of the decision. It was supported by 111 votes only.

Two more draft laws (3356-2 and 4033) mentioned the expansion of the Supreme Court powers as the highest judicial body in the system of courts of general jurisdiction and the improvement of the Constitutional Court activities. The first draft lawwas supportedwith 64 votes only and thus was failed by all the factions.

Fight the government against the peaceful protestors has exacerbated the need for radical reform of the security ministries. The initiative presented by President Yanukovych on the State Prosecution (draft law 3541) was supposed to introduce the European standards, and thus has been considered the key documentof law enforcement reform. It was adopted on the last day of the 7thVerkhovnaRadaonly, on October 14, 2014 with 316 votes.

Currently the reform of the law-enforcement agencies has shifted to the area of Cabinet of Ministers competence, while the MPs have demonstrated little enthusiasm. Hagglingand unwillingness of the MPs to take over the development of the complex reforms may undermine the window of opportunity for systemic changes in human rights.

Preserving the shaky legislation does not eliminate the risks of a return to dictatorship throughthe sole governmental control over the security agencies.

The transparency of funds and media ownership

Ukrainian big business turned unprepared for the transition to the competitive model. Traditionally, the business success depended on allocation of budget money through the access to power.

The MP’s resistance has been clearly manifested during the vote on increasing transparency of the public procurement for the enterprises (draft law 2207). The senior representatives of the business sector, including Mr.Zhvania, Mr. Kinah, Mr. Vasadze and Mr. Mkhitaryan, did not vote for one of the key issues of the anti-corruption reform.

On the last day of the seventh convocation of the parliament, given the activists’ pressure at the parliamentary walls, VerkhovnaRada has managed to adopt a package of the systemic anti-corruption laws. The abovementioned package consisted of four basic draft laws. The members of parliament approved the 2014-2017 anti-corruption strategy, the establishment of the National Anti-Corruption Bureau, the National Commission for the Prevention of Corruption and the disclosure of the final business beneficiaries.

Themedia-focused Maidan demands concerned primarily the adoption of the law on transparency of the media ownership and privatization of the media, as well as facilitating the introduction of independent public broadcasting.

The draft law 2731(submitted by the previous government) has aimed to provide transparency ofthe media ownership, forbidding the non-residential affiliation. It was supported by 322 votes. The Party of Regions and the communists have shown more support than the pro-Maidan parties.

The draft law 1076 on Public Television and Radio was adopted on April 17th, 2014 with 243 votes only through the support of the pro-democratic faction of the parliament.

Seven months full of deviations

Apparently, the new pro-European leadership has in fact abandoned the development of the direct democracy instruments. President Poroshenko’s draft law 4178 on amending the Constitution contains many important nuances. However, there is no single passage introducing citizens’ control over the authorities.

The theses on grass-root democracy and public control were clearly recorded in the2012parliamentary election campaign manifestos, including those of  ‘Batkivshchyna’ and ‘UDAR’. The latter, in particular, has promised to introduce three instruments of direct democracy - the people's legislative initiative, the popular veto and people's vote of confidence.

These ideas, like many other Maidan demands, have not been implemented in the Parliament. The system’s resistance has eventually recovered. The democratic parliamentary factions have focused on the political races and pushed the Maidan tasks and their own agendas in the background.

Thisarticle is based on the results of the monitoring of the legislative activity of the parliamentary political parties, performed by the Open Society Foundation experts and supported by the National Endowment for Democracy, USA (NED).

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