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19 July, 2019  ▪  Hanna Chabarai

The well-known path

How popular parties plan to implement rule of law reforms

Both new and familiar faces top the polls in the runup to the parliamentary election. Their platforms signal that the current MPs expect to return to the Rada based on inertia from previous accomplishments, while the newbies run on slogans for “all things good”. The Reanimation Package of Reforms (RPR), a coalition of NGOs, has invited representatives of political parties to present their vision of governance and rule of law reforms. Candidates from Petro Poroshenko’s European Solidarity, Yulia Tymoshenko’s Batkivshchyna (Fatherland), Sviatoslav Vakarchuk’s Holos, Ihor Smeshko’s Strength and Honor, and Volodymyr Hroysman’s Ukrainian Strategy joined the discussion. Experts proposed that the parties share their vision for establishing and reforming the Government, developing anti-corruption institutions, reforming courts, law enforcement authorities and the election code, continuing decentralization and reforming the parliament. The Ukrainian Week looks at the proposals from the parties that have a good chance of getting through the 5% threshold and do not have an anti-Ukrainian agenda. 

Yulia Tymoshenko’s Batkivshchyna with its 9.4% of votes from the decided voters, according to the latest polls by the Social Monitoring and Oleksandr Yaremenko Ukrainian Institute of Social Studies, offers an audit of the Government functions in order to delegate some to those better capable of performing them. Batkivshchyna’s Serhiy Vlasenko believes that competitions should be abolished for some civil servant positions. “Open competitions have brought new blood to civil service. At the same time, they have killed the desire to grow within the institution itself. Everyone suddenly wants to become State Secretary, while professionals with some experience in civil service but lacking some of the things that outsiders have had no chance to compete,” he explains. According to Vlasenko, civil service needs professionals, not new faces.

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In terms of decentralization, Batkivshchyna wants to preserve the three-tiered system of local self-governance: hromada (community), county (rayon) and region (oblast), cut the functions of the counties and make the counties larger. “The principle of everywhere (coverage of the country’s entire territory – Ed.) should be upheld, so should be the principle of money following the powers. We believe that we should switch to the three- or five-year term for budget formation. The forecasting of local self-governance budgets should be sustainable,” Vlasenko said. 

Also, he proposed downsizing the Verkhovna Rada. But this should be preceded by the all-Ukrainian census to understand how many MPs Ukraine really needs. Batkivshchyna supports the abolition of MP immunity. Vlasenko believes that the methods of criminal persecution for anti-corruption purposes are not sufficient. So programs should be introduced to “decrease mental addiction of society to corruption.” He did not specify what programs these could be. 

The judiciary system needs mechanisms to unify court practices. It should be developed by the Supreme Court, Batkivshchyna representative says. According to Vlasenko, the system should be less loaded with functions: mediation should be introduced for dispute resolution, and the justice of the peace institution should be established to deal with small cases. The party supports the creation of a proper jury service and better quality of law education. 

Sviatoslav Vakarchuk’s Holos is currently polling at 8.3%. Its program director Pavlo Kukhta proposes a review of the functions of the state apparatus and delegation of part of them to the private sector, civil society. “The vision we have is a fully electronic state, normal interaction between registers within the state and between citizens and the state,” he says. “This is what we would like to see at the end of the next Rada term.” According to Kukhta, ministries have too much leadership which should be downsized. 

Holos suggests not interfering with decentralization, but communication with the communities should be better to prevent feudalization whereby communities are established based on a strategic plan, not the interests of local leaders. 

In order to improve the quality of the Parliament’s work, Holos wants to change the election code: introduce open party lists and abolish the first-past-the-post (majoritarian) system. “We want MPs to be more effective. Among other things, we need to remove the shameful phenomenon of systemic no-shows. For this, we propose linking salaries of MPs to their attendance. More specifically, we would not pay the salary to any MP who has missed over 25% of votes. Those who have missed 50% should be stripped of their mandate,” Roman Suprun, a representative of Holos, said. Vakarchuk’s team also plans to fight against the button-pushing by introducing fingerprint sensor buttons. It wants to introduce the mechanism of majority vote for the majority of those present at the session to replace absolute majority, and to abolish MP immunity. 

Deputy party head Yaroslav Yurchyshyn proposes re-criminalization of illicit enrichment – the Constitutional Court decriminalized it earlier; implementation of civil forfeiture for the assets gained illegally; re-launch of the Specialized Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office (SAPO), the National Corruption Prevention Agency and the State Investigation Bureau; empowerment of the National Anti-Corruption Bureau (NABU) to independent wiretapping based on court ruling; and introduction of the audit system for law enforcement agencies. In addition to that, ProZorro, the transparent public procurement system, should cover energy and security sectors, according to Yurchyshyn.  

The key tasks for the judiciary, according to Yurchyshyn, include the re-launch of the High Qualification Commission of Judges and the Supreme Council of Justice – currently they include compromised judges. “We now see the best scenario: both institutions will, during the selection process, receive support from the Public Council of International Experts – their term in office has not ended yet, so it’s realistic to relaunch them within six months. The people who conduct the competition cannot be less qualified or not pass the integrity appraisal,” Yurchyshyn says. The renewed High Qualification Commission of Judges should take into account the conclusions of the Public Integrity Council on judges  and conduct re-appraisal of them. In addition to that, Holos representative offers a procedure of competitive selection of judges for the Constitutional Court. 

Petro Poroshenko’s European Solidarityis polling at 8.2%. Poroshenko’s term in office ended with a big victory: Ukraine’s vector towards the EU and NATO were recorded in the Constitution. This declaration does not mean that Ukraine will quickly join any of these two, yet Poroshenko’s party is using these accomplishments in its electoral campaign. European Solidarity’s Rostyslav Pavlenko says that their team will support the formation of the future coalition around euroatlantic integration. “It is clear that we need to shrink the functions the state by outsourcing to the civil society or fulfilling jointly with it the ones it can and the ones where IT can be applied. This would decrease the dependence of economic processes primarily, and of social processes on a wider scale on the human factor,” he said. 

According to Andriy Smoliy, another representative of the party, the team will work in the new parliament to prevent the pro-Russian revanche and usurpation of power. It will also work to introduce the policy of strengthening the role of the nation-state in the issues related to the Ukrainian language, Church and de-communization. “We are against the bicameral parliament which normally works in federal states. So, we need to elect under the proportional system with mandatory open party lists. The next parliament will need to act as a guarantor for continued decentralization because these are the things that have empowered local self-governance bodies to actually implement their policy,” Smoliy says. Poroshenko team’s recipe for the fight against corruption is to remove inappropriate functions from law enforcement and security agencies, to reform tax authorities, and to re-criminalize illicit enrichment. 

European Solidarity plans to reset the Supreme Council of Justice and the High Qualification Commission of Judges and hints at the need to reform the system of the Interior Ministry and oversight over it. In addition to that, the party wants to introduce citizen education for Ukrainians. This would cover the awareness of citizens’ rights and the capacity to exercise them.   

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Ihor Smeshko’s Strength and Honor is on the verge of getting through the threshold with 4.1%. Its representative Olena Sotnyk sees the need to deepen decentralization and go from the current 25 oblasts to the “historic administrative arrangement of lands” with heads elected in local elections. She also supports the idea to pass a law on local referenda. According to Sotnyk, Ukraine should have an automated system for verification of officials’ declarations and to revise the functions of the National Corruption Prevention Agency which is not fulfilling its mandate properly.  SAPO should be independent from the Prosecutor General’s Office and recriminalize illicit enrichment. Sotnyk supports the change of the system for the selection of judges, increased accountability and salaries for them. According to her, Ukraine needs a law on small criminal violations to ease the workload for investigators in the regions. 

Nobody attended the discussion from Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s Sluha narodu (Servant of the People) which is polling first at 43.2%. Its platform declares the abolition of MP immunity, re-criminalization of illicit enrichment, open-party list election, “state in the smartphone”, independence of anti-corruption agencies, reset of the Supreme Council of Justice and the High Qualification Commission of Judges. It is currently unclear how exactly the party plans to implement these plans.


Translated by Anna Korbut 

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