The new just-appointed Cabinet of Ministers received moderately positive evaluations even from ex-President Poroshenko’s European Solidarity party that is now in opposition. Most of the new ministers have good chances to continue reforms.
At the same time, unlike the Cabinet, new Rada has so far shown itself as quite incompetent, with 254 MPs from the Servant of the People, directed by guidelines from party leaders, voting in support of drafts with dozens of pages over the course of 5-10 minutes. As European Solidarity MP Ivanna Klympush-Tsintsadze commented regarding this new style of work, “‘turbo mode’ in an unclear direction prompts only to fasten seatbelts.”
3 decide, 254 vote
According to The Babel, the Servant of the People party has developed an unprecedented strategy for communication with media. During an instruction for MPs from the party that took place this August just before their entrance into parliament, the party decided that only 3 speakers will communicate freely with journalists regarding any topic. These are Dmytro Razumkov — now speaker of the Verkhovna Rada, David Arakhamiya, head of the Servant of the People party, and Oleksandr Korniyenko, its deputy head.
Also, there is a group of 50 Servant of the People MPs out of the total 254 who can visit TV shows.
“Talking points for comments are prepared for them daily. Theses are prepared by Korniyenko, Mykyta Poturaiev, technologist Denys Semenov and People’s Deputy Yevhen Kravchuk. Kyrylo Tymoshenko is included from the President’s Office. This is necessary so that the faction’s position coincides with the position of the President’s Office because many things are ‘done from the wheels,’” an anonymous speaker from the party explained to The Babel.
Such a system means that the 200 deputies from the Servant of the People are informally forbidden to speak publicly. Naturally, such a system works for voting as well, when a few leaders prepare theses and instructions daily. This de-facto leads to an abnormal concentration of power in the hands of the president and his close team and party members. This allows acting very fast – with the tradeoff being no restraints or sufficient dialogue.
The goal justifies the means – or disregard for the regulations of amending the Constitution
For Poroshenko’s oppositional European Solidarity, especially worrying was Servant of the People’s ignorance or deliberate neglect of the regulations of parliamentary work. When the new Parliament started considering the law on the cancellation of deputies’ immunity that requires amendments to the Constitution, it ignored the need to consider the recommendations of the Venice Commission and the Constitutional Court of Ukraine.
According to Poroshenko’s speech in the Rada, the amendments to the Constitution require a conclusion from the Venice Commission and the Constitution Court that should be implemented in law and taken into account. The conclusion of the Venice Commission is needed to bring the Ukrainian legislation in line with EU legislation. According to Poroshenko, the law on the cancellation of immunity ща ЬЗі was already developed by his team and sent to the Constitution Court and Venice Commission. What is now being voted, he argued, may go against the regulations and be canceled in the Constitution Court because a conclusion from the Court and Venice commission was not yet provided. It’s not that simple to change the Сonstitution as some may think, he stressed and compared the turbo-regime voting with similar unlawful practices from Viktor Yanukovych’s time.
Few may question the importance of the law on the cancellation of parliamentary immunity. However, voting against the regulations is alarming, as MPs may ignore yet more important regulations in the future or even the Constitution itself. As Zelenskyy holds a majority in the parliament, he, according to Ukrainian law, will have control over the Constitutional court. It’s naive to suppose that this Court will impose any restraints on the parliament or president now.
A pre-emptive demonstration of the iron fist
When debates around Constitutional amendments became too heated, Servant of the People MPs stood up from their places and blocked the tribune. It’s now clear why they chose to sit in the front circle around the tribune with all other parties in the back of the hall. Blocking the tribune and maintaining order is easier that way. This lamentable practice of blocking the tribune, which before was used by different parties at times of the hottest discussions, now remains available for only one party.
They pressed the green button over 100 times in under two hours
For over an hour, parliamentarians voted to submit the bills to the relevant committees. More than 100 times, they voted in favor of reducing the deadline for submitting alternative bills to save time and allow laws to be voted in further. The co-chairman of European Solidarity Iryna Herashchenko criticized such a motion that cancels out any normal consideration of the bills:
“For the second hour in a row, the new faces vote……, the VR chairman commanded to give the committees an order to consider the bills as urgent. Although voting on this is not necessary. Alternatively, you should vote in favor of putting these bills on the agenda and give the right and time to submit alternatives. There are no texts of bills on the site. There are only titles): hectic activity for the sake of hectic activity.
At first, I sincerely thought that the people just had not yet understood the regulations […]. We tried to enlighten the Servants that turning into button-pushers on the first day and pushing-pushing-pushing on the green is not necessary. But the Servants sincerely confessed that this is the service for the people. The people like it when Servants don’t sleep at night and push on buttons. Such was the first day of the new parliament.”
Rarely but powerfully — how Zelenskyy tried to manage the voting
Although parliament and president are different branches of power, Zelenskyy didn’t avoid some short comments like “come on, Dmytro,” urging the speaker to comment further and get to voting faster.
But the most powerful was Zelenskyy’s yelling at European Solidarity MP Honcharenko. Honcharenko criticized the voting on amending the Constitution without the Constitutional Court’s remarks and shouted to the speaker Razumkov, who didn’t read the title of the law under consideration correctly. Razumkov corrected the title but Honcharenko continued to shout. Immediately Zelenskyy responded loudly in Russian: “Well, they told you! So what are you yelling all the time for?” and thrashed on the table:
Later in his speech “on Internal and external affairs,” Zelenskyy urged the deputies to work.
“Less SMS, more laws, please. We are all waiting,” he told. “…You have the chance to enter history textbooks as a parliament that embodied everything they have failed to do in the last 28 years. As a parliament where there were no fights, I ask you strongly, no voting fraud… Or you will go into history as the shortest-lived parliament. One year. This is your approbation period. Believe me, I already know that dissolving the Verkhovna Rada is not so scary…”
However, Zelenskyy forgot that there are only three very specific conditions upon which he can dissolve the Parliament, that he is not omnipotent. Yet, he tried to show that he is, both in his urging of the speaker and his speech to the Rada.