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Unsightly – but unusually swift discipline – Verkhovna Rada

December 12, 2015

Yet another unsightly and entirely unnecessary brawl occurred within the chamber of the Verkhovna Rada when Solidarity MP Oleh Barna assaulted Prime Minister Yatseniuk at the chamber podium immediately prior to him addressing the parliamentarians.

Regardless of what any reader may think of Prime Minister Yatseniuk, and Mr Barna has been actively attempting to collect signatures to demand the Prime Minister’s resignation, the physical assault by one parliamentarian on another goes far beyond boorish behaviour, doing little other than further discrediting a national legislature that has long been, and remains, held in disdain by much of the Ukrainian constituency.  As VP Biden stated only a few days ago, “the world is watching” – and once again it witnessed yet another disgraceful incident from the theatre of the absurd.

Oleh Barna

Oleh Barna

There can be no justification for physical assaults within the national legislature any more than there can be acceptance for mindless violence in a bar brawl on a Friday night.

The national legislature is a gladiatorial arena for verbal sparring and the battle for policy supremacy based upon ideological political position – if Ukrainian parliamentarians actually held any ideology, which they don’t.  (If they did, they couldn’t hop from party to party like fleas from a dog as they currently do and historically have done.)

In defiance of Verkhovna Rada history where nothing ever came by way of consequences when brawls occurred, this time disciplinary consequences not only will follow, but have already happened.

MP Oleh Barna is no longer a parliamentarian within the Solidarity Party.  He claims to have resigned, “Five minutes ago I left the Petro Poroshenko Bloc faction” – whilst the Solidarity parliamentary party claims to have expelled him, “The faction had a meeting to expel Oleh Barna.”  Who to believe is a matter for the reader, however the ever weak disciplinary leadership of Yuri Lutsenko of the Solidarity Party was noted prior to the party meeting over Mr Barna’s behaviour, whereby he decried the outrageous behaviour of the party MP, apologised for it, but stated the party would not expel him.

To be blunt, expulsion was entirely the right course of action – though considering the above paragraph and weak disciplinary leadership on display from Yuri Lutsenko, claims of expulsion may have occurred to gloss over Mr Barna’s resignation from the party.  A damage limitation exercise of sorts.

Further, Mr Barna was subjected to a very swiftly convened Verkhonva Rada Procedural Committee hearing whereat he was barred from the next 5 parliamentary meetings – a rather ingloriously extended festive break for Mr Barna resulted.

(For those that would expect Mr Barna’s honourable resignation as a parliamentarian after such a performance – well there is no honour amongst thieves, and there remains many thieves within the Verkhovna Rada.)

Thus an end to the matter?  Quite probably – although perhaps it should not be.

The actions of those that subdued Mr Barna in some cases went far, far beyond both reasonable force and also what was reasonable in the circumstances.  Proportionality in response by several lawmakers (when looking at the YouTube clip) is simply lacking.  With some having clearly exceeded reasonable and proportional force to free the Prime Minister from the clutches of Mr Barna, there are at the very least disciplinary words to be had with others too – if not somewhat stronger disciplinary measures to be taken.

Whilst welcoming the (highly unusual, but hopefully precedent setting) swift disciplinary action by the relevant Verkhovna Rada committee, (and the outcome), as well as welcoming (if to be charitable in choosing one version of events regarding Mr Barna leaving Solidarity) the rightful expulsion from any parliamentary party of any parliamentarian within its ranks that engages in such acts, the incident without further disciplinary words and/or action taken against those that so obviously went far beyond reasonableness and proportionality in their reactions to Mr Barna’s entirely unnecessary assault upon the Prime Minister leaves the disgraceful incident with, at the very least, loose ends – or worse, undisciplined parliamentary offenders in the eyes of many constituents.

Quite what Mr Barna has accomplished from this act, (or what he thought he would accomplish), an act clearly prepared, is somewhat unclear.  He may have (almost) up-ended the Prime Minister at the chamber podium, but he has certainly not unseated him from his office – indeed it is likely to bring about (however temporarily) a reaffirmation of the coalition by the highest echelons of both Solidarity and Prime Minister Yateniuk’s People’s Front – making it perhaps more difficult to raise sufficient signatures from amongst the parliamentary rank and file in trying to oust the Prime Minister via the lawful procedural route within the Verkhovna Rada.

With the US, Canada and the Europeans all making it explicitly clear that early Verkhovna Rada elections will be severely frowned upon as they will waste at least 4 or 5 months of reform time, and with the People’s Front stating they will leave the coalition if Prime Minister Yatseniuk is unseated rather than leaving post by choice – in effect offering a fait accompli – the actions of Mr Barna may well have further cemented Prime Minister Yatseniuk in post for a while longer, rather than helped in any way to remove him as he has been campaigning to do.

There remains several, prickly, unpopular, but necessary and fairly urgent legislative and policy issues to address in the immediate political future – and there may well be a consensus of opinion in certain quarters (both domestic and international) that Prime Minister Yatseniuk should get them passed and take the heat for them prior to a new man/woman coming in with a clean slate.

(In the meantime however, Cabinet Ministers seem to be lining up with their resignations – following Yuri Stets at the Ministry Of Information, it appears that the Minister of Infrastructure is also seeking to leave his post.)

Whatever the case, an entirely pointless and disgraceful scene once again in the Verkhovna Rada, mitigated slightly only by the unusually swift disciplinary reaction.

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