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And what if the Constitutional vote fails? Come back next year – Ukraine

January 20, 2016

A few days ago an entry appeared outlining just how difficult it will be to raise the 300 (plus) votes among the parliamentarians of the Verkhovna Rada when it comes to the proposed constitutional amendments that allow for “Decentralisation” of powers from the centre to the regions – Amendments that contain a single line that would then allow for a standard statutory law to create special conditions for the occupied Donbas.

The final paragraphs read – “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.”

Almost a week later, obtaining the required 300 votes still appears far from certain, and may indeed rest with the indiscipline of certain parties that are against the amendments, and individuals therein voting with the government to see it over the line.  Who and how many will defy the Samapomich party line may prove to be critical.

The above-linked entry however, did not outline what happens should the vote fail – So what happens if the 300 (plus) votes are not reached?

As “decentralisation” of power to local governance has been a key national reform for President Poroshenko (and the government) since assuming office(s) it will be a significant political policy blow when Ukrainian society has been conditioned to expect it.

Specifically with regard to the occupied Donbas, it seems assurances have been given within the “Normandy Four”, that the constitutional amendments relating to decentralisation – and the single line within those amendments that then enables a statutory (and not constitutional) avenue to create specific conditions for the occupied Donbas – would be adopted by the end of January 2016.  A very brave assurance to have given.

So what if the Verkhovna Rada fails to find the 300 (plus) votes to get the constitutional amendments over the line?

The answer is (constitutionally) clear.

There will be no long expected decentralisation of powers to local governance across Ukraine.

Likewise there will be no prospect of any further progress by Ukraine toward the Minsk II agreement – for without the constitutional amendments containing the single line that provides a statutory “Special Law” avenue for the occupied Donbas territories, any such statutory “enabling” actions would remain (as they currently are) unconstitutional.

Not only does national “decentralisation” and Minsk II stall – both stall for a long time.

Article 158 of the Constitution of Ukraine states – “The draft law on introducing amendments to the Constitution of Ukraine, considered by the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine and not adopted, may be submitted to the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine no sooner than one year from the day of the adoption of the decision on this draft law.”

There is no ambiguity in “no sooner than one year”.   If not 28th January 2016, then constitutionally, it can not be revisited until 28th January 2017 – at the earliest.

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Any attempt to try again before then is simply unconstitutional.

Ukrainian society is used to the failure of the political class to deliver – so a delay in “decentralisation” for at least one year, and in all probability longer than that, for the re-submission of the amendments, and the entire slow moving bureaucracy will have to be repeated, in all likelihood taking closer to two years, is not going to come as any great surprise if that be the outcome.

The consequences for the Donbas, and the Ukraine, if an unwillingness to adhere to its obligations (regardless of the other side) to Minsk II will swiftly see EU disunity manifest in further extending Donbas related sanctions on Russia.  Ukraine will be seen as responsible for delaying Minsk II, and for a significant length of time.

The only sanctions that could be excepted to continue would be those sanctions specific to the illegal annexation of Crimea – those Crimean sanctions are going to last for many years.

It now seems almost certain that these constitutional amendments will go before Verkhovna Rada parliamentarians on 28th January – a huge day for the future governance of Ukraine and with an outcome that is far, far, from certain.

The dilemma then, to go ahead and hope 300 (or more) votes are found and risk a delay of 1 year or more if not, or try and explain why assurances given cannot be delivered by the end of January as stated and provide a credible reason why there is any hope of reaching that 300 (plus) at some time in the near future (if ever).

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