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Kharkiv after Kernes: Who to become new city mayor?

Author : Natalia Lebed

Source : 112 Ukraine

On the morning of December 17, it became known that Hennadiy Kernes, Kharkiv mayor, had died of coronavirus-caused complications. The deceased was 61 years old, the last ten years he has been heading one of Ukraine’s largest cities
20:50, 17 December 2020

Hennadiy Kernes
Open source

What the law says

The elections of any mayor are appointed by the Verkhovna Rada. And then the promotion of this issue is in her hands. Olha Aivazovska, the chairman of the board of the OPORA civic network, explains that no later than the fifteenth day after the death of the mayor, the person exercising his powers applies to the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine with a petition to call early elections.

After that, parliament has 90 days to vote on the date of the elections. But, says Aivazovska, "in practice, there is no responsibility of the collegial body of parliament for not setting a date, and sometimes the procedure was not carried out for years."

Legal expert. The Verkhovna Rada can spin the mayoral elections as it wants. For example, during the presidency of Viktor Yushchenko, the Verkhovna Rada unexpectedly appointed the re-election of the Kyiv mayor. This happened in 2008. Then acting mayor Leonid Chernovetsky did not die and did not even get sick, but the "orange team" really wanted to replace him with their representative.

However, Chernovetsky won the 2008 elections. And four years later, in 2012, when his term of office came to an end, he resigned. According to the law, the Verkhovna Rada was supposed to call elections, but this was not done. The deputies could not find a consensus and deliberately delayed the date of the elections. Kiev was left without a mayor, and the management of the capital was carried out by head of the Kyiv City State Administration Oleksandr Popov.

Related: Kharkiv Mayor Kernes suffers kidney failure

This went on for two whole years - until 2014, when, after the Revolution of Dignity, the date for the election of the capital's mayor was finally set.

Olha Aivazovska suggests that this situation may repeat itself now in Kharkiv. "While there is someone to perform the functions of the mayor, and there is a consensus of local elites regarding this, it is not a fact that the elections of the mayor of Kharkiv will take place in the near future," she said on Facebook.

So, everything really depends on whether the local (and not only) elites are satisfied with the situation when secretary of the Kharkiv City Council Ihor Terekhov will remain the temporary chairman of Kharkiv.

Sources of 112.ua in the Verkhovna Rada say that there is a plan against Ihor Terekhov that would not allow him to stay in the office. It would seem that this is a perfectly suitable candidate, given not only his long cooperation with Kernes but also the purely friendly relations that tied them together.

Ihor Terekhov and Hennadiy Kernes
Open source

However, Terekhov was not only a friend of Kernes. He is also friends with the current Interior Minister Arsen Avakov. And he, according to rumors, has long wanted to see him as the Kharkiv governor.

Until recently, the post of chairman of the Kharkiv Regional State Administration was held by Oleksiy Kucher, who, by the way, ran for mayor of Kharkiv from the Servant of the People. But Kucher did not live up to his trust – he lost the elections, finishing third with a score of 7.24% (Kernes was the first with 60.34% of the vote, and the second was the candidate from the HLP, Oleksandr Feldman, with 14.32%).

For losing the election, Kucher has already been punished by the dismissal of the chairman of the Kharkiv administration. On November 25, the government appointed Aini Tymchuk to replace him. And now it is difficult to say what reason can be found to show her the door less than a month after her election.

However, our sources insist: with the death of Kernes, his right hand, Terekhov, will probably move to the governor's chair. As for Kucher, he will no longer run for mayor: in the presidential political force, he will not be allowed to lose again.

Related: Kharkiv Mayor Kernes passes away

Feldman’s chances

The second-rated candidate for mayor of Kharkiv is Oleksandr Feldman. In elections in October, Feldman ran for the Opposition Platform. Feldman had a good chance of winning.

In favor of the People's Deputy from the Opposition Platform – For Life party speaks his recognition and media presence, as well as patronage in the form, for example, of the famous "Feldman-Ecopark".

The Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine, considering the issue of elections in Kharkiv, can say in the style of the gangster 90s: "What will I have from that?" - political scientist Kyrylo Sazonov notes. At the same time, he says, there are forces interested in mothballing the current situation. But there are also forces that, on the contrary, will strive for re-elections. This is Alexander Feldman, and, for example, Yulia Svitliychna, MP from the Servant of the People, former chairman of the Kharkiv city administration (who, however, ran from her own bloc).

In this case, both Feldman and Svitliychna will have to convince the Verkhovna Rada that re-elections in Kharkiv are needed. I don't mean to convince financially. This means: to bring arguments that will make an impression on the people's deputies, which will induce them to press the "yes" button.

But it won't be easy.

Life without elections

Sazonov is convinced that now both Kyiv and Kharkiv are happy with everything. For at least two reasons. First: "The interaction of Kharkiv and Kyiv will take place in the previous format," he says. Second: Kyiv has additional leverage over Kharkiv. After all, this city now from time to time can be blackmailed by holding elections, and this will make its leaders more negotiable.

Bogdan Petrenko, deputy director of the Ukrainian Institute for the Study of Extremism, is convinced that the main goal in the last local elections in the context of Kharkiv was to get the "Kernes Bloc" into the City Council. Not even Kernes himself, but his block. The mission has now been completed, and people close to the late mayor run the city council.

And this suits the Kharkiv elite quite well. Moreover, Kernes' person, the aforementioned Ihor Terekhov, remains at its head. Under such conditions, no one needs changes. "Any additional movements will require spending money, campaigning, and the like," explains Petrenko.

Kyiv needs no changes. If only because the ruling party cannot but nominate its candidate, and he is guaranteed to lose. The Servant of the People had enough shame in the local elections even without that. Therefore, the expert predicts, "we will observe the inhibition of this process for a long time to come."

Related: Secretary of Kharkiv City Council Terekhov to replace Kernes in office

Let's not forget the city council

In addition to the mayor, the Kharkiv city council cannot be discounted. Will he manage without Kernes? An expert on local self-government issues, and in the recent past – the chairman of the Velikoburluk Regional State Administration of the Kharkiv region, Viktor Slysh, in an interview with Ukrinform, notes that the city council will hold out for a certain time without the mayor.

Related: Three-day mourning announced in Kharkiv over Kernes' death

"Personal experience (and scientific research in this area) suggests that Kharkiv will live with Kernes or without him. For example, the issues of filling the budget, receiving subsidies, education, health care, and the provision of housing and communal services are mandatory. At the same time, the personal presence of the mayor when making decisions is not mandatory - his deputies, heads of departments, and departments are successfully coping with them,” Slysh comments.

"The need for the personal presence of the mayor appears when it is necessary to determine the strategic directions of the city's development for 10-15 years ahead and at the same time be able to divide 30% of the city's development budget for their implementation," he adds.

Whether the "interim" mayor will be able to do this is an open question. Especially if he is not motivated to run a long distance.

Related: Kharkiv mayor died in Germany after coronavirus battle: Who was Hennadiy Kernes

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