The presidential faction is sometimes too straightforward. The desire to adopt the law on impeachment looked like they forgot about the sense of proportion. As a result, for the first time in the short history of the newly-elected parliament, president Zelensky’s Servant of the People voted alone. That is, situational allies (like European Solidarity, Batkivshchyna or Holos, not to mention the Opposition Platform - For Life party) have not supported the presidential initiative.
Why MPs felt offended
At the suggestion of parliamentary Speaker Dmytro Razumkov, the law on impeachment was immediately put on voting agenda to be adopted in the second reading. The debating chamber was just outage. “If at least one MP insists on making amendments, then the bill cannot be adopted as a whole. At least one week is required for making corrections, the text should be processed by the committee,” Roman Lozynsky, the MP from Holos, said from the rostrum, adding that his faction would not support the bill without the respective amendments.
But the speaker stood pat and still put the bill on impeachment on voting in the second reading. The results of the voting were rather sad for the Servant of the People – only 245 votes “for.” Of these, 244 votes belonged to members of the presidential faction and one more vote to the non-factional MP. Thus, Zelensky was not supported either by the For the Future parliamentary group or by the vast majority of first-past-the-post MPs, who were not included in any of the factions.
"As for me, the things, which are happening in the debating chamber now, are just killing Ukraine’s parliamentarism. And this is a direct way to killing democracy. There is a clear procedure of passing the bills," Artur Gerasimov, the Co-Chair of the European Solidarity faction, said on the sidelines of the parliament.
After the vote, the factions flocked away to their inner meetings. There were rumors that they might not gather again after these meetings. In this case, the Servant of the People would face its first great embarrassment. But the scandal did not happen.
"Servants" stand on protection
In response, Razumkov noted that the impeachment issue “could not be delayed. That is why we accepted it within the framework of the rules and within the framework of the powers delegated to us by the people of Ukraine.” Yaroslav Zheleznyak, the deputy chairman of the Holos faction, noted that he would really like to hear the arguments of the regulatory committee on the situation.
David Arahamia, the chairman of the Servant of the People faction, was not convincing too. "We do not see any violations of the rules. This is the first thing. Secondly, the opposition always claims about the violation of the rules, therefore, one should not pay attention to the hostile voices,” he stated.
In fact, none of the representatives of the Servant of the People faction was able to explain their attitude to the regulation norm, which obliges to make a pause between the first and second readings if members of parliament want to amend the bill.
Bogdan Bondarenko, the expert on constitutional law, notes that the law on impeachment looks rather green and shoddy, it is subjected to fair and reasonable comments, which were rejected without consideration. “The conclusion of the Main Scientific and Expert Directorate concerning the bill contains comments and suggests that it needs to be finalized. Moreover, MPs have repeatedly expressed their comments on it,” Bondarenko recalls.
"This is not just a minor procedural violation. Due to this violation, the Verkhovna Rada took away the right to take the legislative initiative from other MPs. Actually, this is an opportunity to submit amendments between the first and second readings," the expert notes. Aliona Shkrum from Batkivshchyna faction insisted on taking into account the comments of the Main Scientific and Expert Directorate on the impeachment bill.
In the end, what can we say about this law? Bill No. 1012, designated by the President of Ukraine as urgent, provides that the Verkhovna Rada might remove the President of Ukraine from office by impeachment if he commits treason or another crime. The impeachment procedure is initiated by the majority of MPs from the constitutional composition.
The law stipulates that the submission for initiating impeachment should contain legal justification for the need to establish a special temporary investigative commission, which consists of the MPs, a special prosecutor, and special investigators.
After deciding on the accusation of the president, the Verkhovna Rada appeals to the Constitutional Court (to obtain a conclusion on compliance with the constitutional procedure) and the Supreme Court (to obtain a conclusion that the president’s acts contain signs of treason or another crime).
If the conclusions are positive, the decision to impeach the president is legal if at least 338 parliamentarians vote for it.
An interesting nuance: the lack of a law on forming special investigative commissions hampered the implementation of the Constitutional rule on impeachment. It was possible to register the law on investigative commissions in 2014, and it was adopted at the end of the cadet of the previous parliament. Then speaker Andriy Parubiy signed the law on June 12, 2019, but newly elected president Zelensky never signed it. But, however, he promised that the law on impeachment would be one of the first acts to be adopted during his presidency.
And Zelensky kept his word. But only partially. Because nobody really needs this non-viable law, which could be banned by the Constitutional Court.
"The law on impeachment is a kind of fig leaf. If the President’s Office had a real desire to balance the branches of power after limiting the parliamentary immunity, it would be necessary to amend the Constitution. This law is an attempt by the one-party majority to answer critics with claims of unjustified concentration of power by the president," political scientist Oleskiy Yakubin says.
And his colleague Ruslan Bortnyk adds: “The law on impeachment has actually stated the impossibility of impeachment. Indeed, you need to conduct three parliamentary votings to comply with the procedure, the final voting requires 338 votes, as well as the corresponding conclusions of the Constitutional and Supreme Courts, and this is despite the fact that some judges are appointed by the president."
"This law is trying to hide the need to deprive the president of immunity. After all, today he is completely inviolable in criminal terms. The impeachment procedure only applies to the process of depriving him of his position, but prosecution is actually impossible. And this is another procedure. If it is not launched in the near future, then in our parliament-presidential republic, the parliament will not be inviolable, and the president will keep this preference," Bortnyk summarizes.
Well, maybe that was the initial plan of President Zelensky?