The Verkhovna Rada voted on Thursday, July 16, to send President Poroshenko’s bill to amend the Constitution regarding laws on decentralization to the Constitutional Court of Ukraine. The presidential bill received 288 votes, with 226 the required minimum. No Radical Party deputies voted for the bill, and only one deputy from the Selfreliance Party voted for it.
According to Verkhovna Rada procedures, the deputies first send a bill on proposed amendments to the Constitution for review by the Constitutional Court. After the Constitutional Court decides that the bill is in accordance with the Constitution, it is sent back to parliament, where it needs no fewer than 300 votes for complete adoption. The government maintains that the decentralization bill needs to be adopted before local elections on October 25.
The bill provides for the transfer of power to local communities, who will collect taxes and allocate budgets themselves. The oblast and raion (district) administrations will be dissolved, and the state will be represented locally by appointed prefects.
During the presentation of the bill in Verkhovna Rada, President Poroshenko stressed that the proposed draft amendments to the Constitution on decentralization do not envision a special status for certain regions of the Donbas.
“There is no hint of federalization in the draft bill. The draft bill does not envision and cannot envision the possibility of a special status for the Donbas. The proposed amendment only provides for the possibility of a specific procedure for implementing local self-government in several districts of the Donbas, which is to be regulated by a separate law,” he said, adding that Verkhovna Rada has twice voted to adopt this separate law.
However, in the revised draft, which the president submitted to parliament on Thursday, July 16, provisions regulating the special status of several Donbas districts were moved from the Transitional Provisions of the Law on Amendments to the Constitution to the Transitional Provisions of the Constitution, therefore into the body of the Constitution itself. According to the online publication Ukrayinska Pravda, Poroshenko decided to submit these amendments to the Constitution after meeting with Victoria Nuland, the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, on July 15.
Verkhovna Rada Vice Speaker Oksana Syroyid believes these developments reflect the desire of countries that had guaranteed Ukraine’s territorial integrity in the Budapest Memorandum “to get rid of this extremely uncomfortable topic.”
“During these hours and minutes terrible pressure (has been) placed on national deputies on the part of the international community in order to grant special status for DNR and LNR in our Constitution. They are arguing about the necessity to “demonstrate the implementation of the Minsk agreements,” she wrote in her Facebook on July 15.
The United States, the leaders of France and Germany had earlier called on Poroshenko and Ukraine to adopt the constitutional changes that implement the provisions of the Minsk agreements on self-government in the Donbas in their entirety. The amendments to the Constitution on decentralization are supposed to be adopted by the end of the year.
Today the Russian-backed “separatists” once again stated that the draft amendments to the Constitution of Ukraine proposed by President Poroshenko do not meet the principles of the Minsk agreements. According to DNR representative Denis Pushilin, Kyiv has failed to seek approval of the DNR and LNR leaders for the constitutional reforms as called for in the Minsk agreements and has not provided for the “legal confirmation of the special status of the Donbas.”