New Verkhovna Rada begins its work: What to expect from Ukrainian parliament?

Author : Natalia Lebed

The first official meeting of Ukraine’s newly-elected parliament has started in Kyiv
11:00, 29 August 2019

Verkhovna Rada

The first official meeting of Ukraine’s newly-elected parliament takes place on August 29, 2019. Ukrainian MPs plan to amend the Constitution. And they will continue amendments, obviously, on September 3. The Constitution is amended at two sessions, with 226 votes needed for the first reading and 300 for the second.

The Livy Bereh outlet reports that the amendments to the Constitution will affect the reduction of the deputy corps from 450 persons to 300. However, such a daily agenda is quite unlikely.

Related: Parliamentary group approves outline of solemn session of new Verkhovna Rada

“Voting for the amendments to the Constitution is possible. It would be about parliamentary immunity, self-government reform,” Bohdan Petrenko, deputy director of the Ukrainian Institute for the Study of Extremism, notes. Petrenko focuses on an important point: ensuring an effective vote on the Constitution, it is not enough to convene the newcomers to vote. It is also important to obtain a unanimous vote from them, and it is necessary to be sure of strict internal party discipline for this. It is not easy to control a large faction, but it is even more difficult to find situational allies.

According to the tradition, the oldest MP of the parliament (this time, it is 78-year-old Yuliy Ioffe from the Opposition Platform - For Life) reads the oath of the MP, which is accepted by all the newly elected parliamentarians. Then the most interesting part begins - the division powers.

This division starts by electing the leadership of the parliament. The session will be opened by Andriy Parubiy, the speaker of the previous convocation, who will immediately give up his powers. The seats on the Presidium of the Verkhovna Rada will be taken by the newly elected leaders. Dmytro Razumkov, the head of the party, and Ruslan Stefanchuk, the representative of the president in parliament, are seen as the speaker and first vice-speaker of the parliament; both are from president’s Servant of the People party. The opposition will first give the place of the second vice-speaker, and for the sake of maintaining gender equality, the third seat on the podium might be taken by a woman.

Related: Verkhovna Rada to cancel parliamentary immunity on September 3, - media

Opposition Platform - For Life and Holos, according to recent reports, refused to fight for this position. But European Solidarity of former president Poroshenko claims to take the vice speaker’s office.

The new parliament will have 424 MPs instead of 450 since elections were temporarily not held in Crimea and in some areas of Donetsk and Luhansk regions.

According to the CEC, the largest faction in the Rada is Servant of the People, which has 254 MPs elected both from the list and by majority districts. 43 seats belong to the Opposition Platform - For Life, 26 – to Batkivshchyna, 25 – to European Solidarity, 20 - to Holos party, 6 – to the Opposition Bloc. One representative was delegated from Samopomich, Obyednany Tsenter, far-right Svoboda, and Bila Tserkva Razoml. Another 46 mandates were received by the independent candidates.

At the first meeting of the Rada, the new Prime Minister will be presented. Earlier, several candidates were nominated for this post: Vladнslav Rashkovan, Deputy Executive Director from Ukraine at the IMF, Andrшy Kobolev, Head of Naftogaz, National Security and Defense Council Secretary Oleksandr Danilyuk and Oleksiy Goncharuk, Deputy Head of the Presidential Office.

Meanwhile, while Zelensky keeps the intrigue, political scientist Anton Kuchukhidze notes that he expects from the new Rada “reform of the tax system. After all, as the experience of Western countries shows, it’s difficult to ensure economic growth without tax cuts. In addition, de-shadowing of the economy is required, because otherwise there would be obstacles to the flow of investment in the country."

Related: Servant of the People to suggest Razumkov for Spokesperson post to Verkhovna Rada

Political scientist Bogdan Petrenko recalls that September is soon, which means that MPs must, first of all, “take the budget should be voted as a basis” and, in general, the budget process should be started. But, he says, it is likely that the MPs elected will not have time for productive work. “The huge problem is that they cannot divide the parliamentary committees. And I am on the side of the opposition because today Zelensky interprets the law on parliamentary committees in a special way and distributes proportions in his own way. If Servant of the People, having gained 60% of the composition of the parliament, then it should give the opposition 40% of its posts."

However, Petrenko predicts: according to the rating of the presidential party, conflicts with colleagues in the parliament might be not that dangerous as some internal strife.

“I expect a flurry of optimism and a flurry of populism,” political analyst Ruslan Bortnyk notes. “Why the optimism? Because there are a lot of new people who appear in the parliamentary corridors. Populism - because many demanded decisions are coming. I mean canceling parliamentary immunity, anti-corruption events, the impeachment of the president. All these events will not directly affect the life of Ukrainians, but they will be the first to be implemented in parliament. In addition, the Rada will begin to actively fill up the staff gaps - starting from parliamentary committees and ending with executive authorities," he says.

Andriy Zolotariov, the head of the Third Sector Center, believes that it is too early to voice forecasts. Because the new Verkhovna Rada must be seen "in action." Later it will become clearer whom the Ukrainians brought to power and what the tandem of the new head of state and the Servant of the People party is capable of.

Related: New Verkhovna Rada can change composition of Central Election Commission

“The next hundred days will allow us to draw more solid conclusions. Because the first hundred days is still the “honeymoon” for the politician, who has the maximum credit of confidence during this period. And then decisions should be made, and a significant part of them will be unpopular. So it will be a kind of an exam for them. Then we will understand who is Mr. Zelensky," Zolotariov is convinced.

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