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Finding 300 votes before the month end – Decentralisation Ukraine

January 14, 2016

Noting the renewed momentum in Minsk II rhetoric, as the last entry highlighted, as well as some notable occurrences both within the Kremlin Contact Group line-up, and the rising death toll of “problematic prominent individuals” among the “People’s Republics”, it would seem both necessary and appropriate to dedicate a few lines to the unreliable Verkhovna Rada and its ability to garner 300 (or more) votes that will see through changes to the Constitution of Ukraine providing for decentralisation of power throughout the nation – and enable the “Special Law” for the currently occupied Donbas when it comes to governance therein.

As stated in a July 2015 entry, when the draft constitution amendments passed through the Verkhovna Rada initially garnering 288 votes, the question would be whether another 12 or more votes could be found to enable decentralisation – and the “Special Law” for the occupied Donbas.

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The next (and final if successful) vote for the decentralisation focused constitutional amendments is to occur sometime during 26th – 29th January.

A failure to see the constitutional amendments reach the required 300 (+) votes will have serious repercussions for a nation now conditioned to expect decentralistion of power to their local governance structures – as well as the responsibility and accountability that goes with it.  It will also have serious repercussions as far as Ukraine being seen to adhere to the Minsk II obligations it was forced to undertake.

Yet there are issues within the constitutional amendments that do not sit well with many parliamentarians – not simply the much cited occupied Donbas”Special Law” issue.

Further tinkering with the proposed constitutional amendments would be exceptionally difficult.  Having passed the initial Verkhovna Rada vote (without reaching a constitutional majority) the amendments then went to the Constitutional Court to insure they are constitutional – where they got “the nod”.  Thus any tinkering now would indicate further deliberation by the Constitutional Court to insure that “nod” still applies.

Having managed to garner only 288 votes at the last reading of the amendments, and with the Verkhovna Rada becoming much more dysfunctional and unpredictable since the July vote last year, what are the chances of securing a constitutional majority within the next fortnight before the vote occurs?

How does the Verkhovna Rada voting math stand up when no text can be easily changed in any proposed amendment to eek out another vote in favour?  Those who did not vote in favour last time, for whatever reason, are presented with nothing different.  How to persuade them to take a different view?

It is of course possible to simply buy, through illicit payment of one form or another, the vote of some Verkhovna Rada deputies.  It is also possible to coerce their vote too – far too many have something nefarious in their past that the new anti-corruption institutions could be directed toward.

There are then the “party whips” who will undoubtedly be required to “whip” furiously.  Indeed, President Poroshenko’s “enforcer” Ihor Kononenko is already very active among the “Solidarity/Block Poroshenko” ranks.

Nevertheless, bribery, coercion, effective legitimate party “whipping”/discipline across all (willing/supportive) political parties will not necessarily reach the required number of 300 (plus).  Even with such an enormous amount of political energy spent, and no doubt significant external diplomatic weight applied, the math would suggest it will be necessary to insure the maximum attendance of MPs – be they sick, lame, (or as too many parliamentarians appear to be part-time), lazy.   Only those recently deceased or currently in jail can be discounted (for obvious reasons) if the constitution majority is to be successfully assured – that or a major U turn by any previously unsupportive political party changing its view en masse.

Can the Verkhovna Rada gather 300 votes?  Yes.  Will it gather 300 votes?  Probably.  Is it a done deal?  Far, far from it at the time of writing.

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