Lutsenko becomes Prosecutor General – What next?

May 12, 2016

As stated almost 1 year ago, Yuri Lutsenko has become Prosecutor General replacing Viktor Shokin – “the only position with somebody’s name tentatively tagged to it, is that of a new Prosecutor General – and the name tagged to it is Yuri Lutsenko.” – 14th July 2015.

After two failed votes, 223 and 224 in favour (the minimum requirement being 226) a few days ago, as predicted by hook or by crook (or by purchase of, or coercion to obtain votes) 12th May, unsurprisingly saw 264 parliamentarians vote through the amendments to the law facilitating the placement of the sole candidate considered by President Poroshenko (despite several other better candidates).

Lo, a long standing prediction that Mr Lutsenko would replace Mr Shokin eventually materialised.

President Poroshenko now holds the “(un)holy trinity” of President, Prime Minister and Prosecutor General, and clearly has the financial and/or coercive clout to get basic statute comfortably voted through the Verkhovna Rada, no matter how flimsy the majority coalition appears on paper.

Henceforth, the perception of the vast majority of the Ukrainian constituency will be that all progressive and regressive steps taken by the Ukrainian State are the personal responsibility of the President.

So be it – as regressive and undemocratic as that “(un)holy trinity” may appear, there is now a career politician as Prosecutor General rather than another incestuous appointment from within a very corrupt and reform-obstructing Prosecutor General’s Office.

FILE - This May 12, 2009 file photo shows former Ukrainian Interior Minister Yuri Lutsenko during a news conference in Kiev, Ukraine. On Sunday April 7 2013, Ukraine's president on Sunday pardoned Lutsenko, 48, a close ally of imprisoned former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, moving toward fulfilling a key demand on Kiev's path to integrate closer with the European Union. (AP Photo, File)

As Yuri Lutsenko is, and will remain, a career politician (with ambitions greater than being the Prosecutor General, albeit it will perhaps be perceived  as a step up from his last role as Block Poroshenko faction leader within the Verkhovna Rada) his tenure will be self-limited and far from ignorant of the national political timetable.

It is therefore reasonable to predict his tenure being no more than 2 years in office, perhaps 18 months.  Much will depend upon the timing of any early Verkhovna Rada elections – or not.  A return to the Cabinet of Ministers is clearly the ultimate goal of a man that has twice before been Minister for the Interior.

Thus, having set that backdrop, what can be expected from Yuri Lutsenko as Prosecutor General over the next 18 months (2 years maximum)?

Clearly being a politician in a prosecutor’s chair, he will immediately prioritise those issues that matter to the voting constituency, if nothing else in preparation for his political return.  Ergo former-President Yanukovych and closest circle are likely to see cases brought to the courtroom and assets arrested (or what’s left of them) in the meantime.  (Going after those that remain and have cases to answer, Boiko et al, may well be a stretch too far for Lutsenko however.)

The violence of EuroMaidan/Revolution of Dignity will feature highly too.

It is perhaps unlikely that the control of the 2nd May 2014 events will be transferred back to Kyiv having only a few months ago been transferred to the authorities in Odessa.  It should be noted that the authorities in Odessa under the ever-watchful eye of Giorgi Lortkipanidze have progressed far further and far more swiftly in the past few months since being given control over the investigation, than the central authorities in Kyiv progressed in the 2 years since the incident.  Now that notable progress is being made, it would be foolish to pull the investigation back to Kyiv.  Appointing a new Regional Prosecutor for Odessa however will have to be a priority.

As PG Lutsenko will probably not be staying in role for more than 2 years (at a maximum), then a clear out of the PGO of those simply too odious and corrupt seems likely in the first few months.  PG Lutsenko will be in post long enough to insure their return does not occur on his watch – and that may prove to be long enough to make significant structural changes and create a new institutional culture to be nurtured by whoever replaces him upon his inevitable return to politics.

So far, so possibly acceptable.

However, as a career politician and High Chamberlain/Grey Cardinal well versed in grubby little deals behind the political curtain, it is difficult (some would say impossible) to see a necessarily A-political Yuri Lutsenko when fulfilling his new role.  Either consciously or subconsciously he will be immediately aware of the politics of any prosecutions his new realm undertakes – and here think not only of the personalities that fall within the NABU remit, but more broadly.

Much will depend upon how a reader decides to judge any Lutsenko term as Prosecutor General.  If the benchmarks are to be weighted in terms of numerous high profile prosecutions providing for lengthy jail terms then a reader may well be disappointed.  If a reader weights benchmarks toward institutional change then they may perhaps be far less disappointed 18 months – 2 years from now when he returns to politics via democratic mandate.

During the forthcoming 18 months, it may well become apparent just what political price has been paid to see 223/224 votes become 264 within 48 hours, whether it was worth it and for whom – including Yuri Lutsenko.

Having predicted President Poroshenko would be a single term president but a few days after his election, and the prediction of Yuri Lutsenko becoming Prosecutor General having now come to fruition, it is perhaps only the success of Mr Lutsenko in the eyes of the Ukrainian constituency that will insure the reelection of Poroshenko and prove this blog wrong, as the national economics will probably take too long to significantly recover insuring reelection, and issues such as Visa-free is neither here nor there when it comes to being a vote winner.

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