Archive for May 27th, 2013

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A decentralising of power to local government by Yanukovych?

May 27, 2013

Now here is an interesting entry on the President of Ukraine website – a decentralising of every day democratic powers in line with the Ukrainian Law of Self Government 1997 and the European Charter of Local Self-Government (ratified by Ukraine in 1998) – which naturally enough, whilst existing on paper, have never actually been implemented by any Ukrainian government.

Needless to say, the poorly written Constitution of Ukraine indeed puts hurdles (relevant Articles within Chapters 9,10 and 11 are conflicting with Chapter 6 for example) in the way of implementation, even if there has ever been the political will to implement the laws of Ukraine relating to local self-governance or upholding its obligations under the ECLSG.

In 2004 a constitutional review highlighted the issues but nothing was done.  In 2009 a half-hearted attempt by the then government to reconcile these issues was pooh-poohed severely by Council of Europe and thus those half-baked amendments were quietly abandoned.  In March 2012, the Council of Europe supported a new draft of amendments due to be implemented between 2013 and 2015.

Thus almost 20 years after identifying legislative issues preventing a far more democratic local self-government to the degree most of the EU would recognise, very little has been achieved.  In fact nothing has been achieved other than getting an approving nod from the Council of Europe over the current proposed amendments – so it is with interest that there now seems to be some momentum, particularly in respect of Articles 118 and 119 as identified by the presidential website.

All jolly good, although Articles 118 and 119 are but the tip of the iceberg within the conflict between constitution and law surrounding Ukrainian local governance  – but – it still all seems very unclear as to what, exactly, these proposals will amount to.

Ideally, if local governance and constitutional conflict are to be addressed then it should be carried out completely rather than in-part.  The whole point would be to deliver both legal mechanism but also legal and institutional clarity – both of which are currently either lacking, blurred or conflicting.

To start with, identifying a unified concept of local authority and giving a constitutional basis for the legal protection of local government would seem a very basic but good idea.  To have effective local government there needs to be a legal financial basis that insures the State provides some form of equalisation between local governments and insuring a basis for the development of local democracy.  Some form of legally established and protected tiering of levels of government, their accountability and responsibilities and the formation of councils within communities, cities, regions etc. – A legal defining of their key functions and limitations.

I could go on and on, but to do so would probably require changes to 50% of the Constitutional Articles that deal with local self-governance – so what’s the point?

I have written that this is going to decentralise power – and that is true to a degree.  However whilst it certainly would decentralise responsibility of local issues to local regional governors it must be remembered that regional governors are actually appointed by the President after consultations with the Cabinet – they are not elected.

That said, their daily involvement with city mayors and administrations varies greatly from governor to governor, city to city and town to town and the elected mayors, local councils etc will all have far greater autonomy, responsibility and accountability if the nod from the Council of Europe is to be read as meeting an acceptable democratic normative.

Thus just how far this therefore decentralises power – rather than decentralising responsibility and accountability – is a very subjective issue given the President is still responsible for the hiring and firing of regional governors who will be responsible in controlling more liberated city halls.

However, regardless of existing laws and undertakings to European Charters – does it not serve the centre to decentralise responsibility and accountability to the periphery anyway?  After all if things go badly wrong in one region of the periphery, is it not far easier to deal with it out there and in isolation, without it necessarily infecting other peripheral regions or the centre itself, due to centralisation unnecessarily drawing itself into every scandal?

Anyway, lets see what happens in the next year or so relating to increased autonomous local self-governance, responsibility and accountability.  Social policy is bound to have a significant impact on the presidential elections in 2015, and a shift towards more accountable local self-government and autonomy is not likely to lose any votes.

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