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A return to a parliamentary Code of Ethics

February 3, 2017

In July 2016 an entry appeared regarding the codified void where ethics should be within the Verkhovna Rada.

It was a subject revisited in a few lines for The Odessa Review in the October.

It is a subject that is now seeing an attempt at manifestation via MPs Ostap Ednak and Sergei Leschenko spearheading the initiative – and long overdue it is too.

Looking back on those past ruminations which perhaps zoom into too much detail at times rather than sticking with bigger ethical points, there are several raised (and duly highlighted) that will be interesting when it comes to seeing how they are tackled – if they are confronted at all.

“A recurring issue with Ukrainian legislature is that too often it creates legal text that either heads into unnecessary microscopic detail, or is left so broad as to be almost unenforceable.  When creating an ethics code, care needs to be taken for it to be neither too restrictive, nor too slack without meaningful consequences imposed for those that transgress.”

And

“For any parliamentary code of ethics to have any hope of being adhered to, several concerns need to be addressed, including the one of code enforcement when parliamentarians stray or deliberately choose to ignore it.  There is a necessity for a body to hear the issues, and to decide upon clearly identified and meaningful punishment for infractions. How the representatives in this body are chosen, and how they would identify a breach of parliamentary ethics would also have to be determined. An ethics committee with the power to discipline seems the simplest answer.”

And

“Nevertheless, an ethical code should oblige parliamentarians to insure a broad and fertile space for civil society, because it is not a document written just for a particular moment in time. It is a code of somewhat eternal nature, albeit having to stay in step with societal ethics as they too change and evolve over time. It would also be wise, if not a necessity in Ukraine’s current state of development, to include a solemn undertaking not to undermine or nefariously influence the institutions of State.  Phrasing it as a duty to advocate for and protect all democratic institutions would also cleverly put a positive veneer upon such an issue.”

And

“It seems some consideration regarding interaction with the media will be required too.  Neither Ukrainian parliamentarians, nor the Ukrainian media have much in the way of constituency credit when it comes to ethics.  What level of political spin, half-truth and fairytale is acceptable before it becomes unethical?  What of social media interaction when a parliamentarian’s Facebook seeks to cut out an equally unethical media conduit? The cleverer way may be not to deal with media interaction specifically within an ethics code clause. Rather, it might fall within a wider clause relating to transparency, good will, and good faith with regard to all public interaction.

A Code of Ethics supported by an enforceable disciplinary procedure is certainly required to at the very least codify ethics within a Verkhovna Rada that currently is an ethical void.  The original results of what now begins, if it is not smothered at birth, will be interesting.  What, if anything actually survives and becomes a Code of Ethics, yet more so.

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