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The most expensive Verkhovna Rada since independence?

May 10, 2016

On 14th April when the new Prime Minister and Cabinet of Ministers were elected, most Ukraine watchers noted that the required votes came from some both expected and unexpected sources.  Indeed, the number of votes from the “expected” category would have been insufficient alone to see Mr Groisman installed due to internal party division over his, and several Cabinet members appointments.

This, with a mathematically wafer thin majority only if all majority coalition parliamentarians vote the “Government line” clearly did not bode particularly well.  Nevertheless, across the finish line Mr Groisman and all Cabinet nominees managed to crawl – albeit prima facie with the electoral assistance of some seemingly misaligned political quarters.

That some unlikely political quarters voted in favour would lead a cynical reader to understand that deals had been struck behind the political curtain by those that own the political parties and who also “rent” a good number of parliamentarians too.  The costs of those deals will become apparent in due course undoubtedly.

(Hypothetically, Ihor Kolomoisky could be allowed to restructure Privat Bank obligations with NBU blessing, or certain odious ex-Regionaire functionaries allowed to remain in positions of administrative power overseeing nefarious cash flows from illicit schemes within State institutions and/or State Owned Enterprises etc in return for political support that would otherwise be withheld – A reader gets the point.)

Naturally, any contentious votes would therefore struggle without similarly clear instruction from those behind the curtain – and such instruction normally comes only when significant vested interests are at stake.  In the absence of such instruction from behind the curtain, deals would have to be struck with individual parliamentarians to get over the 226 legislative finish line with an unreliable wafer thin majority coalition as a foundation.

These individual deals have a cost, whether it be blatantly financial (as has often been the case historically), or favours, or cronyism/nepotism etc – or alternatively coercive arm twisting over past or current misdeeds.

The 10th May saw the Verkhovna Rada return to work and upon the legislative timetable were amendments to the laws relating to the Prosecutor General, as previously written.

Former Interior Minister and Block Poroshenko Verkhovna Rada faction head Yuri Lutsenko is the only candidate Pesident Poroshenko has considered – despite several suitable candidates of which least suitable is Yuri Lutsenko.

VR

Although draft Bill 4379, the subject of such prose in the above link was withdrawn, draft Bill 4469 made exactly the same changes to facilitate the installation of Yuri Lutsenko as Prosecutor General and thus in no way alters what was written – “Specifically the draft law proposes significant changes to Articles 27 and 40 of the law “Prosecutor’s Office”.

Article 27 currently states – “the Prosecutor General of Ukraine must be a citizen of Ukraine, who has work experience as a prosecutor for not less than 5 years.” – which clearly rules out Yuri Lutsenko who has never worked within the PGO.

The amendments to the law would make it read thus – “the Attorney General of Ukraine must be a citizen of Ukraine who has work experience in the field of law for at least 5 years“.

Thus no longer prior experience within the PGO, but also an extremely elastic text with regard to “experience in the field of law for 5 years“.

Clearly Mr Lutsenko’s 3(ish) years as Minister of the Interior would infer “experience in the field of law“, but they do not equate to 5 years in post – however “experience in the field of law” is an extremely broad and woolly term.  It can undoubtedly be stretched, as political expediency suggests it will be, to mean any Verkhovna Rada parliamentarian that has held a mandate for 5 years or more – for ever parliamentarian has experience in the field of law being the nation’s legislators.

Ergo any current or former Verkhovna Rada parliamentarian that has served 5 years or more become eligible when stretching such an elastic text in the proposed amendment.

A little too broad to prevent other parliamentarians putting themselves forward and scuppering Mr Lutsenko’s long yearned for role?

Onward to Article 40 that currently stipulates a legal degree – “higher legal education and work experience in the field of law for at least 10 years”.  Mr Lutsenko holds no qualifications in law.

The proposed amendments to the law would result in the following text – “has a university degree and work experience in the field of law or experience in legislative and law enforcement agencies of at least 5 years.”

A far more Yuri Lutsenko favouring text – “experience in the field of law or in legislative and law enforcement agencies of at least 5 years.”  Thus a combination of legislative and law enforcement agency experience – not either/or – instead of a law degree.

There are far fewer current (and historical) parliamentarians that have a combination of legislative and law enforcement agency experience in lieu of a law degree – and none who would qualify will stand against Yuri Lutsenko for the Prosecutor General’s role when this legislative amendment is clearly written for his sole benefit, and thus the political expediency of allowing President Poroshenko to place his chosen man in his chosen man’s long coveted role.”

As that entry went on to state – “With regards to the amendments themselves, despite the clear and entirely unethical intent for which they were written (little good comes from legislative changes to suit the desires and ambitions of one individual – it suggests rule by law and not rule of law), it is certainly no bad thing to remove the requirement of any potential Prosecutor General from having served years within the corrupt cesspit of the PGO institution.  Contemporary Ukrainian history displays that nothing good has come of such inbreeding, and thus that DNA code has to be broken – which these amendments clearly allow for.”

As stated, on 10th May the amendments to the law were put to the vote within the Verkhovna Rada – at the first attempt garnering 223 votes, and then 224 – below the 226 minimum requirement to pass statute.  Clearly some within the majority coalition did not vote for the amendments to the law – and in all probability some won’t vote for it next time either.

There are several official reasons touted for the failure to pass the legal amendments.  The first is that the draft Bill was submitted as urgent and therefore there has been insufficient time to consider it (despite its appearance upon the Rada legislative website on 19th April for anybody with an Internet connection to read).

Another official reason being stated is that the draft Bill would pass if it were to only remove the existing requirement of 5 years of previous Prosecutor Generals Office experience (and quite rightly this requirement has to go).  Rather it is the providing of an and/or with regards to holding a law degree that is claimed as the issue.

In short there is Verkhovna Rada support for removing the incestuous aspects of the Prosecutor General’s Office (quite rightly), but not the removal of the Prosecutor General’s obligation to hold a minimum of a degree in law.

A reader may indeed ponder how many nations have Attorney Generals that don’t hold any degree (or higher) in law – and the necessity to do so – vis a vis a potential candidate that has over a decade of experience in writing the laws.  Would such a candidate be any worse if, for example, any Prosecutor General’s degree specialised in family law, or conveyancing, when a Prosecutor General is focused upon criminal law?

Whatever the case, it is now necessary to find another 3 or 4 votes among the parliamentarians, whilst insuring none change their minds, before the next attempt is made to install Yuri Lutsenko as Prosecutor General.  Every parliamentarian now knows just how much their vote has now increased in value to get the required legal amendments over the finish line to allow the President to put his chained and (currently) loyal dog in the Prosecutor General’s chair.

As and when what will be a highly controversial draft Bill relating to elections in the occupied Donbas tops the Verkhovna Rada agenda, the cost of buying votes to get that over the 226 voting line will also be incredibly high – for parliamentarians will be forever reminded of that vote cast – or not cast – when they next face the ballot box.

(With regard to that controversial draft Bill and vote when it comes, it should be noted that if drafted very well and very cleverly, passing it would not necessarily do harm to Ukraine, for it can be written to comply with Minsk in entirety and yet be completely beyond the realms of acceptability for The Kremlin.  The upshot, Ukraine is seen to technically comply with Minsk in the full knowledge that The Kremlin will never accept the clever and tight text, and thus conditions for elections will not manifest despite the law’s existence – for those few souls that still believe they might.)

Moving along with the required reforms per the new Cabinet agenda will also find a need to buy the votes of parliamentarians to see much proposed legislation actually become law.  There is not a critical mass of reformers within the parliament, nor is there a single naive parliamentarian within the Verkhovna Rada that is unaware of the value (in US$) of their individual vote with such a mathematically slim and unreliable coalition majority.

The experienced (read Old Guard) parliamentarians are long accustomed to getting paid to vote the right way, or for making a speech at the Verkhovna Rada rostrum, or for talking to the media/appearing upon TV justifying (what passes as) policy.

If the costs of insuring a simple majority of 226 for basic statute will be high, then constitution changing 300 plus votes will have a high cost indeed.  Though the constitutional changes to the judiciary may just get over the 300 vote line, there is almost no chance of constitutional changes regarding the occupied Donbas doing so.

Ergo, with such an enormous amount of reform (and other) legislative ground to cover, and a very slim “on paper” coalition majority, (though far from necessarily dependable votes), for the current ruling elite, this Verkhovna Rada may well prove to be the most expensive in Ukraine’s independent history when it comes to buying votes to turn draft Bills into statute.

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