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Politically expedient legislation – Poroshenko

March 26, 2016

After two days in locked in a room with incredibly wise intellectuals, practitioners, assorted spooks past (and probably some present), numerous ambassadors, policy, and strategy wonks, plus other assorted aficionados, (thus this blog rightly assuming the mantle of retard in residence), it is with reluctance entries once again appear – for it means this gathering and meeting of enlightened and erudite minds is over (at least when it comes to being physically present in the same room).

It is also begrudgingly noted that as early as March 2016 the highlight of the conference/forum season in Odessa and Ukraine has already past.  There will surely not be a gathering of such global expertise, the orating (and debating) of such insightful commentary, nor quality recommendations for the rest of the year in Ukraine.

Thus before getting onto the subject of this entry, a public thanks to those that sponsored, organised and attended the Odessa Security Forum.

Particularly for the sponsors, a shameless plug in exchange for sincere gratitude.  Thanks to NATO,  The Black Sea Trust, Pridunavie, the John F Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, and Ukraine Today.

It was a good to see some old friends again, and also to make new and most valued acquaintances – some of whom with the passage of time will undoubtedly progress to the category of old friends.

This entry will not go into the substance of this two day event – though other entries subsequent may raise some of the issues discussed (Chatham House Rule applies if and when that occurs).

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Humble tribute made, and genuine gratitude expressed after being seen as worthy of having an invitation, it is time for a return to the grubby politics, strategies and internal disputes that provide the tainted hue of much of the Ukrainian political class.

On 16th February the Verkhovna Rada passed law 3700.  The law was rightly decried as being an absolute affront to democracy and will undoubtedly be challenged in the Constitutional Court if not amended, or preferably repealed in its entirety.

In short, law 3700 allows political parties to remove from their party lists (not single mandate, first past the post seats) those candidates they no longer want after an election and after the Central Election Committee has recognised them.

Thus a party who placed candidates on the proportional representation party list may remove those upon it after an election has occurred and been recognised officially.

It therefore follows that should an individual (or many individuals) vote for Party X because Candidate Y was number 27 on the party list, following CEC recognition, the party can simply strike off Candidate Y and replace them before they assume their democratic mandate.

To go to the extremes, in theory, a party can stuff the top half of its party list with reformers that have traction with the public, fill the bottom half with odious hangovers from post-Soviet oligarchical politics, have the CEC recognise the result, and then strike down the reformers en masse leaving the seats to be filled by the loathsome – lawfully.

The law is clearly undemocratic, and hands power to the party leadership to simply select their chosen (and far too oft nefarious) men/women to fill the seats won under the proportional representation system.  The invitation for internal party corruption and buying/selling of seats due to the arbitrary selection by party leaders is as plain as it is grotesque.

On 25th February, further sullying and already dubious commitment to reforms, President Poroshenko signed these poisoned prose into law – once again to rightful squeals and loud public laments from the reform orientated democracy advocates.

The questions are therefore why would President Poroshenko sign into law such a blatantly offensive and odious text when his reform credentials are now deeply suspect within the national constituency (and to be blunt the international community too)?  He has stated numerous times that there will be no early Verkhovna Rada elections this year, so why not send it back to the Verkhovna Rada with “Must try harder” scrawled across it?  Is there not ample time to produce something that holds democratic integrity if such a law is necessary whatsoever?  He must surely be aware that this law will be rigorously challenged and also adversely effect his steadily decreasing popularity.

The answer is that the law, whilst remaining the law, provides President Poroshenko with the (perhaps temporary) ability to correct a problem within the exiting party list from the last elections of 2014.

It seems likely that there will be some changes both within the Cabinet of Ministers and the Presidential Administration during the on-going negotiations over a reshuffle.  It is quite possible that any outcome will bring about the requirement to bring into parliament the next name (or perhaps several names) on the 2014 party list of Block Poroshenko.

Unfortunately for President Poroshenko the very next name on the list is Andrei Bogdan.

Mr Bogdan is the current lawyer and friend of Gennady Korban.  Mr Korban is currently in and out of prison pending trial for numerous serious allegations.  Some would say that he is indeed getting his richly deserved comeuppance for an entirely dubious history.  Some will state that as he is close to Ihor Kolomoisky, he is but a pawn in a game being played between Messrs Kolomoisky and Poroshenko.  It is also rumoured that Mr Bogdan is now also a member of another political party.

Either way, and any which way a reader may perceive it, there is no way as Mr Korban’s lawyer and chum, Andrei Bogdan can remain comfortably atop the party list waiting to enter the Verkhovna Rada under the presidential flag at a time of internal political flux and Verkhovna Rada reshuffling.  Hence the cynical may conclude that this clearly undemocratic and potentially corruption enhancing law was both passed and signed into statute within a fortnight to provide a lawful path to undo a previous political error.

Lo, it will come as no surprise that within one month of this law entering into force, on 26th March 2016, the “presidential party” has purged itself of those it no longer wants waiting upon its 2014 party list having now gained the approval and recognition of the CEC (under the chairmanship of Mr Okhendovsky) to remove them.

The very first name on that list of those struck off being that of Andrei Bogdan – (There were 12 others – Malovatskoho, Malashenkovoyi, Ryabykina, Vovk, Friedman, Raupova, Ilyashenka, Tarasovtsya, Revenko, Byedovoho, Leshyka and Velimovskoho).

The immediate issue relating to the required denial of Andrei Bogdan entering the Verkhovna Rada should any reshuffle present the opportunity is now resolved.  (Not withstanding another 12 on the party list too).

The law may or may not get struck down in the future, but certainly not before any early Verkhovna Rada elections that may occur during the Spring of 2017.  Those elections will require new party lists which will certainly not feature Mr Bogdan on anything associated directly with President Poroshenko’s official party – or indirectly and unofficially supported Bankova project/technical parties.

Whether this offensive legislation will survive and for how long remains to be seen, for it can also be interpreted as a very crude method of buying Verkhovna Rada proportionally represented party seats when the leadership can pick and choose who fills them post election and CEC recognition.  Perhaps it was never designed to last, then again, perhaps it was.

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