Odesa region governor Maksym Stepanov refused to leave his post after the decree of president Poroshenko. Poroshenko’s decree is illegal since governors in Ukraine are dismissed not by the wish of the president, but on the proposal of the Cabinet of Ministers only. At the time of signing the presidential decree, there were no corresponding proposals from the Cabinet.
On April 5, Petro Poroshenko arrived on a working visit to Odesa. As reported, during this trip he had a conversation with Odesa region governor Stepanov. According to Odesa region governor, Poroshenko invited him to write a letter of resignation at his own request. The official refused.
On April 6, President Poroshenko signed a decree to dismiss Stepanov as Odesa region governor and ordered Serhiy Parashchenko, Stepanov’s first deputy, to replace him. Stepanov refused to leave the post. He said that he considers the decree of the President of Ukraine illegal since the governors can be dismissed only on the proposal of the Cabinet of Ministers.
In addition, Stepanov published a photo on his Facebook page that said: “Ensured fair elections! Fired?”
Some sources claim that the president wanted to dismiss due to Poroshenko’s poor results in Odesa region during the first round of presidential elections (9% of the votes).
Serhiy Berezenko, deputy head of Bloc of Petro Poroshenko faction, said that the removal of Stepanov could be a management decision, not Poroshenko’s political revenge.
Ukrainian journalists revealed that even before the first round of elections, Stepanov sabotaged instructions from Poroshenko’s administration, which were aimed at increasing votes for Poroshenko in the first round of presidential elections. As it turned out, Stepanov completely ruined the work of Poroshenko’s so-called “Grid” operation, the electorate’s bribe system, in Odesa region. In addition, the governor did not conduct any election campaign – both public and private – in favor of the president. As reported by media, Parashchenko was appointed to first deputy governor of Odesa region in early March in order to strengthen the “electoral direction” and to promote “Grid” operation to bribe the local voters.
Ukraine’s law of “On local state administrations” states that the powers of the governor could be terminated by the President of Ukraine in the event of:
1) violation of the Constitution of Ukraine and the laws of Ukraine;
2) loss of citizenship, detection of dual citizenship;
3) recognition by the court as incapable;
4) departure to another country;
5) the entry into force of a court conviction;
6) violation of the requirements of incompatibility;
7) expression of no confidence by two-thirds of the relevant council;
8) filing an application for dismissal at governor’s own request.
In addition, the President of Ukraine might terminate the powers of the heads of local state administrations in the event of:
- acceptance of the resignation of the head of the relevant regional state administration;
- Prime Minister’s submission;
- expression of no confidence by a majority vote of the relevant board;
- on the initiative of the President of Ukraine;
- on other grounds provided by the above and other laws of Ukraine.
At the same time, according to Art. 118 of the Constitution of Ukraine, the governors are appointed and dismissed by the President of Ukraine on the proposal of the Cabinet of Ministers.
According to Oleksandr Saienko, Minister of the Cabinet of Ministers, at the time of signing the presidential decree, the government did not take a decision on the removal of Stepanov from his post. On April 9, Ukraine's PM Volodymyr Groysman announced that the Cabinet of Ministers had received a draft decree of the president, Petro Poroshenko about dismissing Stepanov and would consider it at a meeting on April 10.
Serhiy Parashchenko, the first deputy of Odesa region governor, agreed to become acting head of the region. However, Oleksandr Lonchak, director of the department of education and science of the regional administration, and Olena Teriaieva, the director of the healthcare department, supported Stepanov and consider the decree of Petro Poroshenko illegal.
Yaroslav Katolik, a local political scientist, explained that such a conflict has several risks. “The first one is that the logistical support of election commissions can be damaged by the fact that there will no longer be a single decision-making center. Second, there is the risk of dual power when Stepanov says that he is a legitimate governor, and his first deputy is an acting governor too. Each of them would issue his own orders and decrees, and it would be unclear who to listen to.”