When we say that the first anniversary of the Verkhovna Rada of the ninth convocation has come, we actually mean the first anniversary of the "mono-majority" party of Volodymyr Zelensky. On July 21, 2019, Servant of the People came to the parliament as the largest faction, and then formed a coalition out of one single party, not wanting to share power with any of colleagues.
We are the champions
Shortly before the date of the anniversary, the MPs from the Servant of the People faction received a 58-page documents "Recommendations to MPs for communicating with voters while reporting on the first year of work in parliament." It was published by Livyi Bereh outlet and readers immediately called it "temnik" or gag order, although this name is not entirely correct.
Bogdan Petrenko, deputy director of the Ukrainian Institute for the Study of Extremism, states that "temnik" refers to the press. It is mandatory for implementation since the overwhelming majority of the media in Ukraine are in the sphere of influence of one or another oligarch who dictates the rules. In the same case, we are talking about instructions on what messages to go to the press with.
But the 58-page volume is too much, says Petrenko. “If they decide to write out such theses, then they should do it as laconically as possible. But even this is not the biggest problem here. Servant of the people was perceived according to their name – representatives from the people, not professional politicians. When they all start saying the same things, the population will not perceive it,” the expert is convinced.
But why do they need these theses? In short, they need to tell how wonderful is the overall situation. And if not everything is perfect, then these are temporary difficulties. For example, regarding the sale of the positions on the party list, which took place a year ago, it is advised to say the following: “Rumors about the sale of the positions have been circulating since our team appeared. There are even swindlers who pretend to be “Servants of the people” who offer people party lists for money. Law enforcement officers catch them on a regular basis and bring them to justice. Therefore, if someone tells you that he is selling some places, go straight to the SBU, to the police, because we are not selling places.”
Or here's a nice passage about the reasons for the staff shortage: “The process of forming teams continues even now. Why? The answer is very simple: on February 15 of this year we elected the governing bodies of the party, modernized our charter, launched the central office, and in fact, from that time, an active restructuring of the party began. But a month later, at the beginning of March, the coronavirus epidemic began in Ukraine, and we were forced to suspend the development of the party. Now, when the situation has more or less stabilized, we have returned to this issue again and work is underway throughout Ukraine.”
For all the good things
Well, the main thing for any political force is to decide on the enemy. "Servants of the people" are lucky now: their main enemy will not sue for libel and will not appear in the press with refutations. Anything can be blamed on the coronavirus. But, for example, political scientist Kyrylo Sazonov does not see anything extraordinary in the instructions for the MPs.
“This is a normal practice. If an MP works in one profile committee and is associated with one topic, he may not know the specifics of other areas,” he says.
Head of the Third Sector center Andriy Zolotariov notes that “Zelensky’s MPs are politically sterile people. This social elevator took them out, but didn’t teach them to understand what they were doing on the way.”
But since it has not been very successful to raise the standard of living, MPs from the Servant of the People see their achievements in something else. For example, MP Pavlo Frolov lists the following advantages: the elimination of parliamentary immunity, as well as the elimination of piano voting ("it was Zelensky's mono-majority that had enough political will to criminalize piano voting and stop the mockery of the Constitution.
Frolov notes, "in order to force the MPs to actively work on bills, we have introduced the world's strictest system of fines for missing committee meetings and plenary sessions."
The parliamentarian also refers to the achievements of the ninth convocation of the famous digitalization with its "e-format not only of the legislative process but of the entire document circulation." Frolov also recalls the coronavirus in the context of how successfully the MPs got out of the situation by introducing a freelance regime. Frolov also likes the way he and his colleagues stopped "corrective terrorism" (here we mean 16,000 amendments to the law on non-return of nationalized banks).
Frolov complains, “we were unable to bring the regulations in line with the Constitution. The reason was the MPs’ fears about the imperative mandate. We could not convince colleagues of the need to replace the individual legislative initiative with a collective one: with the right to register bills signed by so many equal to the number of the smallest faction (17 MPs) or on a professional basis - by the majority of the committee.”
But, “the business card of the work of the 80% renewed parliament was its turbo mode - the adoption of laws at a rate of one law per day. Promptly and without distributing corruption flows, a majority was created and two governments were formed.”
Andriy Zolotariov sums up, "the parliamentary session was enchanting." That's just an idea of the extravaganza for everyone.
"This Verkhovna Rada became the leader in scandals, - Yevhen Bulavka, political analyst, comments. - Just remember the scandal with money in envelopes, the scandal with bribes, the scandal with the lie detector. The law enforcement agencies even started the investigation, in other, but there is no result. Society does not have time to track everything.”
“They promised to have a completely different style of work, but nothing has changed. And this is against the background of their very low efficiency. This is probably the first such Rada where the majority MPs do not know what they are voting for. They did not even know the names of the ministers appointed by the coalition,” the expert adds.
Thus, he denies both the success in the fight against non-personal voting and the effect of the famous "turbo mode" mentioned by Frolov.
But even if the parliament began to acquire its own face, the pursuit of new, "young" or "fresh" cadres crawls out sideways to the establishment: "The overwhelming majority of completely new people entered the new Rada, and with them, we got a bunch of new scandals,” Petrenko recalls.
“When in 2006 the Batkivshchyna party held its huge faction in the Rada,” sums up Petrenko, “relatively random people were also represented there. That is, various chairmen of regional cells, etc. will pass to the parliament. But still, they were members of this party, they were imbued with his ideas, etc. In the case of "Servant of the People," we do not see anything like this. From the April presidential elections to the July parliamentary elections, too little time has passed to form a normal team. Therefore, it would be better for Zelensky not to call early elections, but better to prepare for them.”
However, now there is no point to complain about the mistakes of the past. The main thing is to avoid new ones. Yevhen Bulavka and Andriy Zolotariov believe that President Zelensky might repeat his trick with the dissolution of the Verkhovna Rada. And the motivation for this will be his desire to maintain his own power:
“In a year, that is, until July 2021, a complete reboot of the Rada should have taken place. Because when we talk about the parliament or the Cabinet of Ministers, we must understand that this is about Zelensky. For none of the MPs would have entered parliament, if not for his personal rating. Therefore, the president bears personal responsibility for everything that happens. We have a special problem with the economy, for some time everyone will keep on the same safety margins, but in a year we will face the results of this particular work. That is, over the next year, many processes will reach their logical end. Meanwhile, Zelensky always has at hand such a tool as the dissolution of the Rada. He can use it to maintain his own rating."
Andriy Zolotariov voiced the same opinion. He also believes that the luck for President Zelensky is steadily being exhausted: “There is still a parliamentary majority, but a rather difficult period will begin in the fall. The year during which Zelensky was frankly lucky will be over. But all sorts of factors will converge at one point - social, local elections, as well as the US presidential elections - it will not be easy to withstand this political and economic storm. At least it will be a test for the parliament and for the majority. If the Rada gets out of such a test, it will "live" for some time, then its dissolution is possible.
Along the way, Zolotariov assures: “Ukraine’s Rada, which we elected in 1994, was the most democratic. For example, Roman Bessmertny, as a village teacher, conducted a campaign worth $ 200. And no one gave him money for it, so he wasn’t indebted to anyone. But at the same time, he was not alone, there were many such people.”
But, he continues, “in the late 1990s, a lot of money entered the Ukrainian parliament. As a result, MPs drove in the cheap cars, and drove away in luxury ones… Because when a parliamentary request costs 5,000 USD, an MP quickly turns into a dollar millionaire. And the Rada itself became a place with unlimited liability when its members had everything and they had nothing for it ...”
“You can, of course, consider that each next Rada is worse than the previous one and each new president is worse than the previous one,” Sazonov disagrees. “But all of them are elected by the people. And each generation of voters makes adjustments to its vision. But the fact is that big business went into politics, I do not see a tragedy. At one time Kuchma (Ukraine’s second president, - ed.) did not have the task of creating a Ukrainian oligarchy, but there was a choice: either Ukrainian oligarchs or Russian ones. In the end, big business that creates jobs and pays the major share of taxes. And the fact that he defends his interests through the Verkhovna Rada is quite normal.”
Well, perhaps it is true. Another matter is what methods one uses and to what extent big business is ready to defend its interests. And how far one can go in bribing he MPs, and how much MPs themselves want to get easy money. But could the history of Ukrainian parliamentarism have developed in such a way that the choice was not between playing up to Ukrainian or Russian business, but between who controls whom: business controls legislative power, vice versa? Probably it could. But then it would be a completely different story.