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What to happen to parliamentary coalition after presidential elections in Ukraine?

Author : Natalia Lebed

The absence of a permanent majority in Ukraine’s legislative body is an open secret
14:45, 27 March 2019

The Verkhovna Rada

On March 6, 2019, the Kyiv District Administrative Court ordered the Verkhovna Rada to publicize the personal composition of the parliamentary coalition, thus confirming that this coalition really exists. The court has accepted this verdict in response to the appeal of non-affiliated MP Andriy Derkach. The plaintiff was interested in the fact why the coalition was submitting a candidature for the position of Minister of Health to the Verkhovna Rada consideration. The court also added to request Artur Gerasimov, leader of Petro Poroshenko faction in parliament,  and Maksym Burbak, leader of National Front faction in parliament, provide all the data on the composition of the coalition.

The decision of the court should have been implemented until March 12 but no lists have been made public. Why there are no lists? in fact, there is no coalition.

Yes, the absence of a permanent majority in Ukraine’s legislative body is an open secret.

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Sometimes, however, the opposition tries to put the coalition issue on the agenda, but so far all such attempts have been in vain. The MPs know that recognizing the absence of a majority means the early dissolution of parliament. Indeed, according to the Constitution of 2004 (according to which we now live), the parliamentary majority plays a decisive role. In the event of the insolvency of the MPs to form a coalition within 30 days, the president of the country receives the right to announce early elections.

Why did the coalition disappear?

The seventh coalition of the Verkhovna Rada of VIII convocation called "European Ukraine" was formed on November 27, 2014. At first, it was a fairly solid construction, it included 302 deputies. But such an idyll lasted less for than a year; on September 1, 2015, Lyashko’s Radical Party left the majority, and there were already 281 deputies in the coalition.

February 18, 2016, Tymoshenko’s Batkivshchyna faction left its composition, and the next day, February 19, Samopomich did the same. Therefore, Petro Poroshenko Bloc and the National Front remained in the coalition. Now, these factions include, respectively, 135 and 80 members, that is, 215 MPs. The majority amounts to 226, thus, they still need some 11 people. But Petro Poroshenko Bloc and the National Front do not consider this a problem, because the coalition members were allegedly joined by non-factional deputies.

This joining is unstable, and the personal composition of the situational coalition changes; sometimes the votes come from the People’s Will, sometimes from the Vidrodzennnia group, and sometimes even the Opposition Bloc helps.

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De jure, there is no parliamentary coalition. And this makes the entire parliament illegitimate.

However, there is a nuance; the decision of the Constitutional Court of 2010, which allows MPs who left the factions (those who formed a coalition at the time) to remain in the majority; even despite their fractional demarche. The main thing is that such deputies did not withdraw their signatures under the coalition agreement. So, they stayed in the game.

However, remember that in 2010, the same Constitutional Court overturned political reform and blessed the return to the 1996 Constitution, where the parliamentary majority had a completely different functionality. In addition, there is another clarification of the Constitutional Court, dated 2008. It states that the coalition could be formed exclusively from the MPs, who belong to the factions. Obviously, these two verdicts contradict each other, as well as give room for numerous interpretations.

After the election

At the moment, there are three potential leaders: Volodymyr Zelensky, leader of the polls, as well as Petro Poroshenko and Yulia Tymoshenko, whose differences in the rating are within the statistical error.

The actions of President Zelensky are very unpredictable; if he comes to power, he will not have his own foothold in parliament, unless the "alien" factions offer him their "friendship."

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Poroshenko and Tymoshenko have their own factions, but Tymoshenko’s is rather a small one. Even if her Batkivschyna would be supported with Samopomich and National Front, it would not be enough. Tymoshenko’s relations with the parliament can be very complicated, so perhaps she might want to dissolve Rada and form a new one.

If she decides on this scenario, she will have to act very quickly. The fact is that the president cannot initiate re-elections later than six months before the end of the term of office of the current Verkhovna Rada. The MPs took the oath on November 27, 2014. So the Rada might be dissolved before May 27, 2019.

Now let us consider the situation if Petro Poroshenko becomes the president for the second time. It is likely that in this situation the National Front faction would firmly grip its last ally. Yes, Petro Poroshenko Bloc will grasp the current “coalition” in order to preserve leverage for the next parliamentary elections. Centrifugal tendencies will occur if the current head of state loses an election — in this case, yesterday's allies will willingly betray him.

What’s next

However, experts believe that early parliamentary elections will not be held under any circumstances. Thus, Dmytro Sinchenko, Political Sciences Association chairman is convinced that there is no point in such elections. Legally, the procedure will take longer than the regular elections. Even if the newly elected president initiates the process, he will not have time to complete it.

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Ruslan Bortnyk, Institute for Policy Analysis and Management chairman, has a similar opinion. "The early elections would not be announced," he says. At the same time, a fundamentally new coalition will not form, because the current duumvirate of the Petro Poroshenko Bloc and the National Front prevents it from being created. What will happen? The forces that already exist in the parliament might overflow "under the wing" of the new president. Poroshenko Bloc, National Front, People’s Will, and Vidrodzhennia groups might join Zelensky’s team (if he leads the country),” the expert predicts.

Thus, "there is a possibility that even before the parliamentary elections a relatively new coalition would be formed in the Verkhovna Rada, it would be loyal to the president. And a temporary technical government will also be created," he sums up.

The mention of the government is not accidental, because the newly elected president might require the coalition to include the candidacy of the prime minister. (According to the law, the parliamentary majority proposes the candidature of the head of the Cabinet of Ministers, but in reality, the president himself lobbies for it.) In addition, the head of state can appoint "his" prosecutor general, Security Service head, and the minister of foreign affairs. The list of applicants for these chairs has long been prepared by each of the candidates.

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But let us go back to the likelihood of early parliamentary elections. Bohdan Petrenko from Ukrainian Institute for the Study of Extremism assures: “It’s unlikely that the president will go to early elections. We understand that there will be two rounds of elections, and therefore, litigation is possible, therefore the inauguration may be delayed. Although he still has a couple of weeks left."

Petrenko adds: “And I hope that the political consultants explained to the candidates: their success in the presidential election does not mean an automatic success of the party in the parliamentary ones.”

The expert also draws attention to the fact that the possible re-election to the Verkhovna Rada will fall on the summer. “And summer is a vacation period for Ukrainians. Therefore, if Poroshenko or Zelensky, who are oriented towards the urban electorate and the middle class, wins, then holding elections during this period would be inappropriate. If Tymoshenko wins, who relies on the rural population, she can announce re-election."

“But in any case, not a single political force will take a majority in the next parliament. They will still have to negotiate with their opponents. The political situation of the Ukrainian political system should be taken into account - the deputies will support any president in order to get his support in their constituencies. If we proceed from this, then there is no sense for the president to hold re-elections; he will have the opportunity to rely on parliament anyway,” Petrenko said.

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