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What are political consequences of the sale of Ukrainian land?

Author : Natalia Lebed

Source : 112 Ukraine

The sale of land embroiled not only the power and the opposition, but also the parliamentary majority
22:56, 19 November 2019

Open source

The interlocutors with whom 112.ua managed to communicate indicate three main consequences of the adoption of the law on the sale of land. This is an increase in social tension, a clearer parliamentary opposition (with the simultaneous shattering of the mono-majority) and a warming of relations with creditors of Ukraine, in particular the IMF. But so far, the document has been approved only in the first reading. Theoretically, it can even be rejected, because on November 13 only the “Servant of the people” faction and part of the extra-faction MPs voted for it, they gave 240 votes. By the second reading, the number of those wishing to sell land may decrease, especially given the public outcry.

Hundreds of amendments

Mykola Solsky, the MP from "Servant of the People" and the chairman of the agrarian and land policy committee says that between the first and second readings a whole "bunch of amendments" is expected. "There will be hundreds of amendments, and a lot will be adopted. There are already 117 of them that we have developed over several weeks during discussion," Solsky says.

What these amendments concern, Solsky does not specify, but it is clear that the main one will concern the amount of land sold to one person. The day before, the Batkivshchyna party leader Yulia Tymoshenko focused on this moment. “The distribution of 210 thousand hectares to one owner is the three territories of Kyiv. We are opening the way to receive Ukraine for those who has more money,” she was indignant speaking from the rostrum.

It is likely that such a provision will be revised, as David Arahamia, the head of the “Servant of the People” faction, told reporters on the sidelines. “We need to balance this norm on the maximum number of hectares that one person can buy,” he said. “We can reduce this number of hectares between the first and second readings,” added the representative of the Cabinet in Verkhovna Rada Iryna Vereshchuk.

Amendment number two is (according to Arahamia) the creation of a land cadastre. Number three is the provision for preventing raiding. “A lot of people are afraid of this. Now in the agricultural sector there are really a lot of cases when there were raider attempts,” says Arahamia. And Mykola Knyazhitsky from "European Solidarity" adds: "We vote for the land market, but when the minimum price is high, and the Ukrainian farmer is protected and has priority."

Thus, amendment number four is the separation of domestic land buyers from non-residents. It is expected that by the second reading the bill will have a clause that foreigners will be allowed to buy Ukrainian land only after a referendum. The minimum cost per hectare is also to be agreed upon - and this is edit number five. All this needs to be done, because now we have “a market, where Ukrainians should sell their last, their own land. And sell it for nothing,” says Oleksiy Honcharenko from the European Solidarity faction.

All of the above is summarized by his colleague Iryna Gerashchenko. "We demand to limit the concentration of land in one hand and to remove the regulation on 210 000  hectares of property, create a transparent land cadastre, a land bank, provide fines to protect fertility and restore land, reclamation, provide a minimum price so that farmers will not sell their shares for nothing, "she notes.

Meanwhile, the Batkivshchyna faction announced that it was joining the opposition to the current government. Because our power supposedly crossed all possible red lines. “Today, not only the parliament, but also 75% of our people, farmers, small and medium agricultural producers are broken. Parlamentarians voted against Ukraine,” Yulia Tymoshenko noted..

She hinted at the protests, which are likely to unfold in Ukraine. "By the second reading, we together with the farmers, trade unions, volunteers and patriots of Ukraine will do our best to remove from the law everything that is contrary to the law," Tymoshenko promised.

Related: Ukraine’s Cabinet promises loans for land purchase at 3-5% per annum for agricultural producers

But now the reaction to the decision of the parliament is rather sluggish. A few rallies were gathering under its walls, the number of participants of which was almost equal to the number of law enforcement officers brought up to the Verkhovna Rada.

“This is just a performance,” comments Vadym Karasev, director of the Institute of Global Strategies. “There were people, but there were few of them, because they still do not understand what risks this law provides.”

"Agricultural issues are always complicated, and agricultural movements are always strong. There are peasant unions in the world that raise farmers and take them out to the streets if the government makes" unsuccessful "decisions. They block roads, organize strikes, pour milk ...", - reminds Karasev.

“Perhaps, by the second reading, the situation will become clearer because a trade union strike committee is being created, and maybe those farmer organizations working on this will be able to accumulate efforts, because the parties in parliament are not capable of this. An ordinary person looks at what is happening now to a showdown between those in power, "said the expert.

Global corporations conspiracy?

Agrarians are also on strike in the regions, however, all this is targeted actions that do not make political weather. "I think the government will adopt this law, it is beneficial in terms of filling the budget," - says the deputy director of the Ukrainian Institute for the Study of Extremism Bogdan Petrenko. "IMF mission arrives in the country, it should coordinate the next tranche, one of the conditions for which was the opening of the land market," he recalls.

"However, the question is whether the president’s office is really interested in adopting this law? Therefore, there was only the first reading. Perhaps this is such a tactical move before the IMF arrives," the expert suggests.

But if Petrenko hesitates in assessing the motivation of the power team, then the opposition is deprived of such doubts. “Do current MPs think that with the opening of the land market, Ukrainians will live better? Does the country already have decent salaries and pensions that enable people to buy land at the level of those foreign companies that come here with a ton of money? Does the country have a clear and a transparent agricultural policy that allows farmers, producers to conduct their business? Why is the current government in such a hurry? To appease international corporations and surrender the state? " asks Oleg Meydich from the Fatherland faction.

The founder of the Gorshenin Institute, Kost Bondarenko, also speaks about foreign corporations interested in Ukrainian assets. “Zelensky as president is more dependent on an external factor than on an internal one. If Poroshenko was dependent on the US State Department, then Zelensky is a product of transnational corporations,” the expert is convinced.

“It is clear that he will build some kind of state where there will be a populist quasi-dictatorship that acts in the interests of these Western corporations - privatization, sale of land, perturbation in the pharmaceutical industry. It will ensure the arrival of transnational corporations in Ukraine. Ukraine will depend on them all more and more. The side effect of this is that the factor of the Ukrainian oligarchs will be leveled, they are not needed by transnational corporations ", said Bondarenko.

However, not everything is so simple with the oligarchs.

And again Kolomoisky

“What surprised me most was the fact that the Kolomoisky group of Servant of the People, which initially opposed the opening of the market, now  almost all voted in favor of the sale of land, "says Bogdan Petrenko.

The faction "Servant of the people" indeed showed almost unanimity in voting on the land issue, but it still could not live without scandals. One of the "servants", namely Anna Skorokhod, accused the authorities of detaining her husband because of her vote, contrary to the position of the faction. "The basis was my vote in the hall, the red button against opening the land market," she says.

Related: Ex-MP Savchenko to participate in action for referendum on land sale market

Moreover: the head of the faction allegedly accuses Skorokhod of taking bribes. This was not publicly announced anywhere, but Skorokhod decided to make such accusations public herself. The situation is especially piquant because the MP made her recognition directly from the rostrum of the Verkhovna Rada. For which she was expelled from the faction.

Commenting on the incident, Bogdan Petrenko notes: “This is a signal that splits in the Servant of the People are continuing and they urgently need to look for an airbag in the form of additional votes. Before the first reading, they found them, but the second reading will be decisive, and here "the ability of the authorities to accumulate their resources will be indicative."

“How will the MPs vote during the second reading?” He argues. “We don’t even know when it will happen. The issue here is not even the law itself, but the motivation of the MPs. If the mono-majority will attract not only non-faction MPs, it will serve as a signal for the same Kolomoisky group that "we can solve such issues without you."

Thus, as was said at the beginning, the collapse of the mono-majority can become one of the consequences of land reform. Or at least it can be the sad dynamics of new scandals in the largest faction. On the sidelines of the Rada, they say that Iryna Vereshchuk resigned as the representative of the Cabinet because of her refusal to support the bill on the land market.

"Centrifugal tendencies in the" Servant of the people "will only intensify, which will force sane people (either from among the majority or from those who take care of their own name) to make some kind of demarche - either defending his position, or even leaving the faction," said political analyst Yevgen Bulavka.

“This cannot but affect Zelensky’s rating,” he summarizes. “He cannot but provoke his fall. The issue of land is one of the most sensitive. And there are a lot of people who are very wary of it. Multiply this by the heating season and by new payments and we will get a cumulative effect from unpopular decisions. The trend towards an increase in the number of Ukrainians who believe that the state is moving in the wrong direction will only intensify. "

But things will not come to active protests or even violent confrontations, Bogdan Petrenko is convinced. “Revolutions are motivated by certain reasons, but specific reasons lead to them. If now the land reform is adopted and the mass of people remains unhappy with it, then if there is a reason, Maidan may arise. But not now, that's for sure. Because while President Zelensky has a level of trust above the level of distrust, it’s too early to speak about serious protests,” the expert said.

Related: Referendum on land sale market can take place before 2024, - Razumkov

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