The Verkhovna Rada’s ruling faction has nullified the status of two MPs, thus creating a very serious precedent. Of course, anything could be expected after the court ruling reinstating the 1996 Constitution, but throwing out members of parliament is something new.
Last week the Higher Administrative Court stripped VR’s Oleksandr Dombrovsky, Electoral District (ED) No. 11, Vinnytsia oblast, and Pavlo Baloha (ED No. 71, Zakarpattia oblast) of their MP status and all privileges as members of parliament. The court ruling read that there was no way to verify the results of the elections in the said oblasts, and that the Central Election Commission (CEC) would have to arrange for a repeat election.
Experts are practically unanimous: there are at least two reasons for challenging this court ruling: (a) the Higher Administrative Court had no jurisdiction over the cases because there was a 5-day time limit for suing the majoritarian oblast election commissions and CEC decisions (i.e., data submitted for court hearing was long overdue); (b) both MPs were sworn in at the Verkhovna Rada after and duly registered, so a court ruling on this level was legally ineffective.
Yurii Karmazin sued ED 11 and ED 71, claiming rigged election. On Monday The Day kept calling Karmazin. No reply. There are legal and political questions that remain to be answered. Regionnaire Volodymyr Makeienko quickly stated that Karmazin found himself alone on the platform after the new VR train had left: “They may have simply forgotten all about him; another option is that’s the way the man wants to resurface in current Ukrainian politics and brainwash his electoral district.
Opposition will, of course, fight over the expulsion of the two VR members. This approach will be legally correct and may well produce political dividends. On the other hand, it will prove to be an inconsistent one. Four months ago, the Opposition accused Dombrovsky of stealing victory from Batkivshchyna’s Natalia Soleiko (ED 11). The Party of Regions is zeroing in on Petro Poroshenko (who, allegedly, helped Dombrovsky) and Viktor Baloha (Pavlo Baloha’s brother), accusing both of playing their own game by refusing to join the Party of Regions.
UDAR keeps blocking the Ukrainian parliament. No signs of compromise with the ruling faction.
Says UDAR’s MP Volodymyr Kurennoi: “We had another round of talks on Monday but it proved to be of no avail. We insist that every MP must vote on an individual basis. This is our key message and we will keep it, come what may. The ruling faction is busy working out options. None can make sure that every VR MP will be present to insert his/her card and press the yea/nay button. No compromise has been achieved, with the ruling party having the ball in its court. We are told that the Rada’s third convocation [“Rada-3”] is technically obsolete. No problem; we’re ready to unblock the Ukrainian Parliament and vote with our hands or by casting our ballots for Rada-4, if and when we can be sure this will happen… We take extreme measures when we witness the Constitution of Ukraine being violated on regular and long-lasting basis. Such violations have very bad consequences, including the passing of inadequate, unpopular bills, with MPs often ignoring the Constitution, missing VR sessions, using other MP vote cards, while being paid [Ukraine’s highest public servant’s salary]. Ukraine and the rest of the [civilized] world have witnessed all this. Our political party has adopted an innovative approach to matters that are especially important for Ukraine. We resort to political debate, take part in talk shows, but when we see that the Constitution of Ukraine is violated, we block the Ukrainian Parliament. A national [of any civilized country] will call authorities when witnessing an act that runs counter to the Constitution. That’s the way we are acting. I agree that our stand can be described as uncivilized, non-European, but all those [Ukrainian] MPs using other MP cards to press the yea/nay buttons are even worse.”
Time will show whether this tactic was the right one. Below is an interview with Volodymyr FESENKO, political analyst.
Mr. Fesenko, how do you feel about the Administrative Court’s ruling, stripping two VR members of their MP status?
“After Baloha’s brother submitted his letter of resignation as a member of the Party of Regions’ faction at the Verkhovna Rada, word got around that the Regionnaires would punish him. When and how remained to be seen. Dombrovsky was a different matter, I believe he was punished because he had refused to join the Regionnaires faction. All this reminds one of the Regionnaires’ logic, save for a very dangerous precedent, with a court ruling stripping a couple of MPs of their status several months after being sworn in and getting this status. Previously courts of law tried to influence election results but wouldn’t think of condemning members of parliament.
“This court ruling is a very controversial one, primarily from the legal point of view. The current Constitution has no such clauses. A member of the Verkhovna Rada can be stripped of his status only under a VR resolution. The problem is that the ruling VR faction has made a bad mistake, accumulating a number of enemies from among the non-affiliated MPs… The big question is: Will these MPs vote for this court ruling, being aware that any of them may find himself in a similar situation tomorrow? Of course, they can be pressured to punch the yea button, but they will know that, by doing so, they will secure their political death verdict.
“I am skeptical about the whole affair. First, the political aspect. This ruling should have been made by the Verkhovna Rada. Second, this court ruling will be appealed to the Constitutional Court and to the European Court. This will take a long time while making the political situation in Ukraine even more controversial. Strange as it may seem, the Administrative Court ruling has weakened the Regionnaires’ position. The Party of Regions is trying to apply old techniques during this new quickly changing period. The Regionnaires appear to misunderstand the new times, that intimidating MPs, using good old law enforcement/law-court techniques may be unproductive and have absolutely negative effects.”
Yurii Karmazin challenged the court ruling. The Party of Regions is capitalizing on this, emphasizing Karmazin’s opposition membership.
“Karmazin wants to be back, of course, for there is much involved, and he is likely to come to terms with those ‘upstairs.’ Whether he is deliberately or secretly will be used by the Regionnaires is up to Karmazin. Karmazin will publicly deny any such options, of course, but there are legal and political aspects: He failed to forward this claim within the five-day period following the election, as per Constitution of Ukraine. There is no evidence, but I can’t rule out the possibility of his willful collaboration. His statements don’t sound convincing, reminding one of shale gas opportunities in Ukraine, with the Opposition voting against shale gas development at the Verkhovna Rada, apparently acting hand in glove with Russia’s Gazprom…”
The Opposition keeps blocking the Ukrainian parliament. How can this problem be solved?
“There are two options: Number one is achieving a compromise. Talks are necessary, including the personal vote issue. Number two is a forceful unblocking of the Ukrainian Parliament by the Regionnaires. I don’t think the current Verkhovna Rada will be dissolved. The current administration loves today’s Verkhovna Rada because it is deadlocked, politically ineffective. Blocking it any further may well become a big risk the Opposition will have to take. A deadlocked parliament in a democratic country should set the red lights flashing at the cabinet. There are very important bills to be passed, ones the current administration badly needs. Considering all these aspects, I guess the Verkhovna Rada will start functioning. Another big question is when, before or after the Ukraine-EU summit? Also, how the Ukrainian Parliament will be unblocked?”
Is this siege of the VR rostrum serving to sharpen the competition within the Opposition?
“UDAR realized that they were hiding in the shade of the Svoboda and Batkivshchyna political parties. They are blocking the Ukrainian Parliament, apparently to demonstrate that UDAR must be dealt with as a serious political party. As a matter of fact, this party appears to have upgraded its infrastructure and has well-trained personnel. It has become an influential figure on Ukraine’s political field, sporting red T-shirts/sweaters. In contrast, Batkivshchyna has shown a very poor political performance. Svoboda made up for this shortage by performing in front of Kyiv City Hall.”
What about the conflict within Our Ukraine Party? Any lessons to learn?
“This party should be regarded as a lesson to be learned by the Opposition. Viktor Yushchenko’s political career should be a lesson for our current Opposition leaders. During the past presidential campaign I told Klitschko, Tiahnybok and Yatseniuk that should have photos of Yushchenko and Tymoshenko in front of them, with this caption: ‘Don’t Make Their Mistakes.”