The representative function of MPs and the president is one of the main ones: they must protect the interests of the people. The president announced a promise to introduce its principles in Ukraine 1.5 years ago, as a presidential candidate. And now, less than two weeks before the local elections, Volodymyr Zelenskyy surprised Ukrainians with a video message.
The President announced five questions to the people, which they can answer on the day of local elections on October 25. The President kept the intrigue and did not name any questions. Here are our five questions, which we propose to be given or taken into account.
1. Do you support Ukraine's course towards NATO and the EU?
In the fifth year after the Maidan, shortly before the presidential elections, in which ex-President Petro Poroshenko was devastatingly defeated by Volodymyr Zelensky, MPs decided to indicate in the Basic Law the country's aspiration for the EU and NATO. Although Ukraine has not yet applied to NATO, it is not a fact that it would receive a positive response from the alliance. And most importantly, the citizens themselves were not even asked whether they agreed to such a course at all.
In 2018, "Social Monitoring" conducted a survey on the views of citizens on the political course of Ukraine, the number of respondents was 1,250 residents of 36 cities. Slightly more respondents were “against” (40.7%) of joining NATO than “for” (39.8%). There are more supporters of the course towards the EU than opponents. Every second stands “for,” while every third is “against.”
2. Do you support the granting of special status to Donbas and the implementation of the "Steinmeier formula"?
Voters supported Zelensky with very different ideas about what policy the president will pursue in relation to Donbas. Zelensky did not take decisive actions, understanding how they could affect his rating. But this cannot last long.
It is natural to ask the Ukrainians whether our country should provide economic support to the region, amnesty the participants in the events in the territories, and grant the Russian language special status in the region. In short, to find out whether, according to the Minsk agreements signed with the Russian Federation, one should finally implement the law adopted 6 years ago on the special status of certain areas of Donetsk and Luhansk regions in order to end the war in Donbas.
We are also talking about the functioning of the people's militia, special rights for local authorities, including for the conclusion of agreements with the Russian Federation on border cooperation, on the participation of these authorities in the appointment of prosecutors and courts.
Opponents of this law emphasize that it is impossible to submit it to a referendum since it concerns the violation of the territorial integrity of Ukraine. However, it is difficult to agree with them, because in fact, it is not about the separation of part of the Ukrainian territory, but about changing the principle of its functioning. The first deputy chairman of the Verkhovna Rada, the presidential representative in parliament Ruslan Stefanchuk stated directly that the authorities were considering the possibility of finding out the opinion of Ukrainians on this issue.
Ukrainians also have the right to express their opinion on the Steinmeier formula, which determines the mechanism for enacting this law and the mechanism for holding elections in Donbas, as well as their opinion on the blockade of Donbas.
3. Do you support Ukraine's cooperation with the IMF?
Credit conditions for the provision of funds from the IMF are considered one of the most favorable in terms of interest rates and terms of return. However, Ukraine pays for them with its sovereignty and social component of the economy. Bound by obligations with the fund, the country gradually increases the length of service required for retirement every year, which, in fact, is a veiled increase in the retirement age. It was at the request of the IMF that the retirement age for women was raised from 55 to 60 years. In addition, for the sake of receiving a new tranche from the organization, the authorities are preparing to revise tariffs for heating and hot water.
Since the issue of cooperation with the IMF has been directly affecting various spheres of life, it would be worthwhile to find out at an all-Ukrainian referendum how citizens feel about such cooperation.
And given the fact that the country is increasingly addicted to the "credit needle" every year (for 2020 the amount of debt to the IMF is about 6,7 billion USD), Ukrainians could express their opinion on the issue of the state's return of funds. At the time of a pandemic, the authorities could take advantage of a temporary deferral of payments, which would free up additional resources. This is not a default, but a restructuring, that is, the postponement of loan repayment dates, which is considered an acceptable practice worldwide.
4. Do you support the adoption of the Law "On the Land Market" in its current form?
On the day of consideration of amendments to the draft Law "On the Land Market", thousands of people took to the streets, opposing the very fact of discussing this issue. Someone calls the adoption of the law on the land market a chance for Ukrainians to make money, while others call it a strategic mistake of public administration and lobbying of personal interests. After all, neither the president, nor the prime minister, nor the speakers even owns statistics on land shares in Ukraine.
The majority of Ukrainians surveyed by the Razumkov Center (68.9%) believe that the issue of free purchase and sale of agricultural land should be resolved at an all-Ukrainian referendum. More than three-quarters of the respondents (76.6%) would take part in such a referendum.
True, from the point of view of democracy and statehood, such a referendum should have been held before voting for the bill in the second reading. Experts believe that the authorities deliberately refused this, understanding what its results might be. Including - and for the sake of supporting the IMF, which has long been lobbying the land market in the form proposed by the government. According to the Razumkov Center, only 19.6% of respondents would vote for the introduction of the land market, and 64.3% against.
In case of the appropriate expression of the will of the Ukrainians, the implementation of this law can still be stopped by the "popular veto" promised by the president.
5. Does Ukraine need a law "On Language"?
From September 1, schools with Russian as the language of instruction switched to Ukrainian. The MPs did not pass amendments to the Law "On Language," which should have postponed this event for several years and reduced the use of the Ukrainian language in schools.
The question of the infringement of the Russian language in Ukraine is one of the most acute in society. Experts of the Venice Commission have also stated that the law is discriminatory. Despite all the delicacy and politicization of this issue, they do not understand why some languages are given preferences (for example, foreign ones in education), and others are not.
The opinion of Ukrainians about the need for language quotas may surprise the president. Judging by the results of recent polls, the population does not see a threat to Ukraine's independence from the Russian language. According to KIIS, 48.8% of Ukrainians believe that the Russian language is a historical heritage of Ukraine, which should be developed, and only 27% of respondents believe that it threatens Ukraine's independence.
Moreover, according to a survey conducted jointly by the Razumkov Center and the Democratic Initiatives Foundation named after Ilko Kucheriv, 18% of the respondents are in favor of the official status of the Russian language as the second state language in some regions, another 13% - for this status throughout Ukraine.
These are by no means all the questions that the president should ask the Ukrainians. Zelensky should also take into account their views on a suitable form of government for the country, the water supply of Crimea, administrative-territorial and tax reforms, the introduction of funded pensions, the payment of a 5% military contribution, which Ukrainians continue to pay without declaring martial law in the country. Also, the opinion of citizens regarding quarantine restrictions, some of which are already being challenged in courts by local authorities, may be important for the president. Well, the question of whether it was necessary to spend money from the coronavirus fund on road construction is likely to remain rhetorical.