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26 July, 2019  ▪  Roman Malko

System cacophony

How the branches of power live and interact after the presidential election

The new president of Ukraine was suddenly forced to stop the cavalry attack on the system of authorities, which had already begun during the inauguration. He did this, of course, by necessity, because he did not intend to have dead time on the way to victory. Perhaps, if he were starring in a new series, and everything went according to the script, it would have been so. But the reality turned out to be different. A talented actor, vulnerable and delicate, suddenly realized that waving of his sword didn’t scare anyone, and the menacing look only amuses those who must bow their heads in obedience. And if you do not rein in the horse, it is quite possible to smash into the already regrouped enemy line. Say what you like, but our warrior does not love defeats with all his heart. First of all, he wasn’t used to them (well, he didn’t happen to meet defeats throughout his life), and secondly, it would be the height of folly to lose so foolishly after winning the election. So he switched to plan B.

The state of relations, in which the institutions of power are at the moment, could be called a quadruple power, but this is too loud and pompous. There is no particular reason to think so. You cannot call it dormancy either, because, despite the exponential inhibition in the depths of these organisms, in fact, actually, very violent processes occur. In fact, all this is more like an ordinary cacophony. Each institution today is trying, within the limits of its capabilities and talent, to play its own party as best as it can under existing conditions.

The president lives his life, patiently waiting for reality to change, which, finally, will enable him to continue what he, in fact, went to the post for. Having burned himself on the Rada and having understood that he would not be able to bring it to heel; leave alone finding common language with, Volodymyr Zelenskiy decided to switch to areas where it was possible to go wild. If he can, he rules and introduces his people into the system, if he cannot, he doesn’t. He meets with delegations, signs decrees, submits bills to parliament. His worst headache is how to manage not to lose the support he received before the parliamentary elections, and where to find the appropriate staff to control the necessary directions. And since there is obvious shortage of personnel; friends from “95 Kvartal” are few in a number, and not everyone obviously wants to change their profession, and appointing a good-for-nothing in a key position is very irresponsible (the predecessor has already made such mistakes), so even a slight delay is quite handy.

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Of course, the electorate, who seeks to see the promised miracle now and immediately, does not agree to wait long and may scatter. To prevent this from happening, you should take real pains imitating active work, creating informational storms. Fortunately, in this area the president’s team is up to par: throwing fake news about a referendum on negotiations with the Kremlin, a selfie with shawarma at the gas station, an official visit to Monatik’s concert, an emergency briefing on the return of Leonid Kuchma to the Tripartite contact group on the settlement of the situation in Donbas or demonstrative instructions to Ivan Bakanov, a business partner who is now trying himself as acting chairman of the SBU, you are always welcome. However, there happened a small incident with Bakanov. The press release with the loud title “President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskiy demands in two-week’s period that the Acting Chairman of the Security Service of Ukraine to report on the first results of work” really touches to the heart. Bakanov’s words deserve a special notice: “We always told each other the truth; we did not allow others to tell lies. We never stole; we didn't let others steal, and always remained humans.” But in reality, this whole story reminds a scene that two friends act out to the public, realizing that they are being spied on. Either the president’s press service has not yet learned how to write messages dryly, leaving extra information behind the scenes, or it’s in the promulgation of ambiguous details that they see certain schticks that the electorate should buy, but it was much Freudian. Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s phrase: “We have very little time to reload the SBU, we need real criminal cases” can be interpreted, well, very ambivalently.

The fact that the adoring electorate will swallow this message like a candy should not be doubted. But are these revelations really addressed to them and should they be heard by those who were not under the rock? Of course, there is no secret that, due to the sluggish performance, the rating of the president’s team will quickly melt with each week and they need some specific actions that can slow down this process. There is almost nowhere to go wild, and this is an annoying reality that they will have to face. It is also clear that the tactic of blaming the predecessors, who do not want to leave and throw a spanner in the works, in all possible sins, albeit effective, but it will not work for ever. Therefore, the situation must clearly be somehow rescued, and so, willy-nilly, you will have to resort to window dressing. In the end, the method is proven...

But who throws a spanner in the works, blocks the president’s initiatives and his attempts to pull the blanket over himself?  Clearly, it’s the parliament, which is working in its usual mode as if nothing has happened and seems to be doing it consciously. It has little time left. Countdown to pre-time parliamentary elections has started. It is unknown whether an attempt to abolish this presidential initiative through the Constitutional Court, despite its dubious legality, will succeed. But the remaining time is still worth using in order to cool the hot heads of the presidential team and, if there is no time to create fuses about which there is so much talk and almost nothing is done, then at least to bring down its rating to a minimum.

So, Zelenskiy, in anticipation of such meanness, is trying to submit to parliament as much as possible high-profile bills (on impeachment, on illegal enrichment), well aware that they have little chance of getting even on the agenda. But it is also a trump card. It will make possible to keep on talking about the “throwing a spanner in the works.” And the demand to adopt laws on the impeachment of the president and lifting of parliamentary immunity in one package is nothing more than an attempt to challenge the Rada as a dare. But this cannot surprise the elected representatives. They themselves will make a fool of anyone, as they have done more than once. The law on temporary investigatory commissions is already ready for second reading. It contains the entire procedure of impeachment, but there is nothing about the lifting of immunity. Votes in favor, most likely, there will be enough...

With the government, the situation is even more interesting. It not only plays its own game, feeling support of the Rada and clearly recognizing its own significance, but it can also break all presidential plans related to early elections. And the matter is not even that the Ministry of Justice allegedly does not want to bypass the rules to fix the statutory problems of the party “Servant of the People”, which can make the participation of a virtual presidential political force in parliamentary elections impossible. The most influential lever is money. According to the CEC estimates, the needed sum for the elections must be as much as UAH 2 billion ($73 million). It is the Cabinet of Ministers that appropriates funds for this. And it may simply not find them in the budget or give them too late. To crown it all, there is the latest problem with Arsen Avakov, whose retirement you can smell in the air after the tragedy in Pereyaslav-Khmelnytskiy. Prior to this incident, it was the Minister of the Interior with its security structures that was the pillar on which the president could safely lean on. But now the circumstances are such that if the parliament on the spur of the moment dismisses Avakov from the cabinet for his men’s killing a child, then even the servant of the people will not feel comfortable to resist it.

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The only branch of power that can with pain and misery be considered an ally of the president remains the judicial one, which gives symbolic signals of loyalty. This is not even surprising. The judicial system always keeps its nose in the wind and quickly takes the right side. Although it is not all clear. On the one hand, there are refusals of the Supreme Court to open proceedings in the case on the legitimacy of the presidential decree on early termination of parliamentary powers and early elections and on the case on the legitimacy of the appointment of Andriy Bohdan as head of the Zelenskiy PO. But on the other hand, the Constitutional Court did accept the submission of people's deputies regarding the constitutionality of the above decree. And since the deputies ask badly to reduce the examination procedure to a minimum and make a decision as quickly as possible, it’s not at all a fact that this case will lie for indefinite time somewhere in deep drawers. By the way, it was almost by chance that the day before the question of consideration of this issue in the Constitutional Court, Volodymyr Zelenskiy appointed there his representative Fedir Venislavskiy. This is just a remark. Since it is unknown whether there is a connection between the events mentioned. Moreover, there is no reason to doubt the honesty and impartiality of the Ukrainian judges. But it is also impossible to reject attempts to pressure them. The case is really fateful. And on how the question is settled, a lot will depend.

Everyone more or less likes this game, because there are no other options yet. So far, no one is openly hostile with anyone, and the cacophony of the authorities is still on. The presidential team needs control over all branches of government, and it is ready to wait as long as necessary. They cannot make losers of themselves, and they are well aware of this fact. The parliamentarians, as well as the officials, seem to have also accepted the fact that the elections will be pre-timely, and this suits them to a certain extent. The main systemic task now is not to delay the time of expression of the will, but only to teach the young president good manners, bringing to his attention that it is hopeless to disregard the institutions of power without having enough forces. Of course, the situation may change at any time, although now it seems that nobody is interested in speeding it up.

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