When running the president, Volodymyr Zelensky promised that his first bill would be a document on democracy. The referendum law was supposed to come soon after it, but today neither the first nor the second was adopted.
With regard to democracy, the president submitted to the parliament a draft law on the introduction of appropriate amendments to the Constitution and even received the approval of the Constitutional Court, but this was stalled. And regarding the referendum, Vice Speaker Stefanchuk assures that the work on the bill is ongoing right now, but the words and assurances should become deeds already.
Moreover, the referendum law was “not in luck.” The third section of the Constitution guarantees plebiscite. Based on it, two laws on the referendum were adopted at one time. The first was in the 1991 edition. The second was adopted in 2012. But this last one was already recognized as unconstitutional in 2018.
There were a number of reasons for this, from the form of adoption of the law (it was recognized that the MPs acted in violation of the procedure) to its essence (the law of 2012 abolished the norm on local referenda). In any case, the country does not have a law that would regulate this form of democracy, for the abolition of the 2012 edition does not mean a return to the law adopted in 1991.
Meanwhile, the law on the referendum is very necessary. It is incorrect to compare such things, therefore I would say this: the law on both local and national referenda is extremely needed.
Many are afraid of local referenda because they might lead to an increase in negative separatist tendencies. However, I believe that everything will happen exactly the opposite: the ability to make decisions regarding the historical and cultural sphere will ease regional tension.
As for concerns about the federalization of Ukraine, the issue of the territorial structure cannot be submitted to a local referendum. In the same way as questions of taxes, the budget, amnesty, the return of the death penalty, any restrictions on human rights cannot be submitted to a national referendum. That is, certain safeguards for the use of this form of democracy exist, and no one should be afraid of some abuses in this area.
One should be afraid of the other thing – a number of points (in particular, the controversial issue of the possibility of opening a land market) would be legislatively formalized even before parliament pass a referendum law.
And this applies not only to the land market, but also to Ukraine’s membership in NATO, the issue of the special status of Donbas, and the like. If you adhere to the procedure prescribed in the Constitution, then if you proclaim a referendum at the initiative of three million citizens, of whom at least one hundred thousand live in each of two-thirds of the regions of Ukraine, then the mood of this or that region would not prevail. On the contrary: they would all be properly balanced.
So what is the reason for the delay in adopting the referendum law? The authorities are not interested in fulfilling their promises.
There have already been cases in the history of our state when a referendum was used not as a democratic tool, but as a means of strengthening authoritarian power. Here, of course, I am referring to the 2000 referendum held by Leonid Kuchma.
As for me, when organizing a plebiscite, three points are extremely important. The first is compliance with the procedure. We do not need falsifications at the stage of collecting signatures for the referendum, as ше was done in 2000. The second is the clearer formulation of the questions. Without the ability to distort their meaning or interpret the answers as dictated by situational benefits.
On March 17, 1991, citizens of the then Ukrainian Soviet Republic (and other republics, too) were asked if they wanted to save the USSR "as a renewed federation of equal sovereign republics, in which human rights and freedoms of any nationality would be fully guaranteed."
Obviously, many people liked the long tail of this issue with guarantees of rights and freedoms. In any case, in Ukraine, 70.2% of the referendum participants voted for him. But already on December 1, 1991, 90.32% of respondents answered “yes” to the question of whether they support the Declaration of Independence of Ukraine.
Perhaps this is not the most successful example, because, between March 17 and December 1, an important event occurred on the territory of the Soviet Union that changed a lot.
Namely - the Moscow putsch on August 19 with the temporary capture of the then "guarantor" of Gorbachev's rights and freedoms. Undoubtedly, this also influenced the mood of Ukrainians, but the possibility of manipulating public opinion should always be remembered.
And finally, the third point. Perhaps the most important. The adoption of the law on the referendum will not make any sense if we do not agree on what to do with its results now. Because, for example, the results of the 2000 referendum were never implemented.
And now we are not talking about whether this referendum was “bad” or “good,” Leonid Kuchma’s intentions were honest or dishonest. The thing is that without a clear idea of what to do the day after the plebiscite, it should not even be started.
It is also indisputable that an all-Ukrainian referendum held in compliance with all norms must be binding. In addition, a “consultative” referendum is a deliberate transfer of responsibility by the authorities to citizens. With the simultaneous optional fulfillment of their will. We do not need such tricks and Jesuitism.
And then the money spent on the plebiscite would not be spent in vain. By the way, representatives of the power team point to the financial barrier as the main reason for postponing the issue of the referendum.
But, firstly, you can save on sky-high bonuses and salaries for Smelyansky (Ukrainian Postal Service head, - ed.) or Kobolev (Naftogaz Ukraine head, - ed.) because the presidents of the leading countries of the world are already envious of their income. And, secondly, if a job is worth doing it is worth doing well. Unless, of course, if we conduct it according to the rules and for the common good.