Why Zelensky's Servant of the People is trying to rearrange power in Kyiv?

Author : Natalia Lebed

Source : 112 Ukraine

The draft law on the capital completely redraws the vertical of the metropolitan authority
14:54, 20 September 2019

Kyiv Mayor Vitaly Klitschko
Kyiv City State Administration

September 19, the main events of Ukraine’s capital were localized in two places. Firstly, the parliament was to consider the law on the capital; secondly, a meeting of the Kyiv City Council was scheduled. As a result, the law was not considered, and the city council did not appear at the meeting. Contemplating the empty hall, city mayor Vitaliy Klitschko said: “Today we see that there is no quorum. Therefore, I appeal to the parliament to dissolve the Kyiv City Council and call early elections in Kyiv.”

In fact, the MPs were going to call early elections in the capital without Klitschko’s calls. They even called the date - December 8th. This date is reflected in the transitional provisions of the draft law "On the Capital", voting on this project was scheduled for September 19. But the agenda was corrected: the MPs supported the decision with 237 votes in favor of returning to the bill at the second session. The work of the current session is scheduled until January 24, and the next should begin in February. In this case, early elections of the mayor of Kyiv and the city council will not be held on December 8. MPs do not disclose any specific insights regarding the date of the elections in Kyiv.

Related: Mayor Klitschko urges Ukraine’s parliament to dissolve Kyiv Council

A new way of living: Kyiv format

The draft law on the capital, if adopted, completely redraws the vertical of metropolitan authority. First of all, district state administrations will disappear; they will be replaced by district councils with special executive committees. However, the district councils in Kyiv were canceled at one time, then restored again. The problem was that the district councils, in fact, did not have any power and budgets functions for the development of the region. That is, a resident of the district could come to an appointment with the city council deputy and tell about some local issues, for example, about the poor quality of utility service. But the city council deputy did not have the opportunity to help this, allocating money for patching the water supply. At best, he could act as a mediator and ask for allocating funds from the City Council.

In addition, according to the constitution, the city district councils are not subjects of local self-government. Lawyers have pointed out this conflict, emphasizing that the district councils of cities do not correspond to the spirit of the Basic Law. But president Zelensky seems to have decided not to bother with this fact.

Related: Klitschko vs Zelesnky’s team: All you need to know about elections in Kyiv

It is expected that 30-40 city council deputies will be elected to each district council. Their number will be regulated by law "On Local Elections". Actually, city council deputies would have modest obligations and powers. They would be allowed to dispose of the communal property, lease it, and the like. In addition, they would regulate the activity of markets (and make a profit from it). So the micro-budget of a separate region will be formed, which can be used for humanitarian needs. Additionally, subventions from the city budget are provided. But ultimately, the size of the income of the districts and the financial transfer are established by the city council.

The number of city council deputies will be reduced from 120 to 84. And this applies not only to the capital. It is proposed to establish the same number of city council deputies of the city council in all cities with the number of voters more than a million people. Interestingly, the bill lacks clauses on the secretariat of the Kyiv city council. Thus, the city mayor is losing one of his political backbones.

But the terms of reference of the city council and its executive committee are quite clearly outlined. They might be divided into three groups: humanitarian (schools, kindergartens, hospitals, museums, social protection of the population), infrastructure (transport and roads) and urban planning. In particular, the city council approves the general plan of the city and establishes building rules.

Related: Klitschko about dismissal from post of Kyiv City State Administration Head: It is illegal

But all executive power in the city is exercised and personified by the Kyiv City Administration. It supervises the work of all state bodies, monitors their compliance with laws, and ensures that the central authorities and local authorities work in synergy. In other words, the entire real management vertical is concentrated in the hands of the head of the Kyiv City Administration, who will be appointed by the president on the proposal of the government. The popularly elected mayor would preserve his representative and ceremonial functions.

Moreover, the branched out decentralization scheme, which originates at the district level, looks like fiction, given the fact that the Kyiv City Administration can stop "the act of local self-government by expressing a written protest with a simultaneous appeal to the court." Simply put: what was decided at the local level can be crossed out with one stroke of the pen of the head of the Kyiv City Administration.

Experts draw a parallel with the once very broad powers of the “gauleiter” Oleksandr Popov, a protege of ex-president Viktor Yanukovych. Popov came to power at that time when the powers of mayor Leonid Chernovetsky ended, and new elections of the capital's mayor were not appointed. President Yanukovych delegated his people to control Kyiv City Administration, bypassing the decision of the Constitutional Court, which clarified that the mayor of Kyiv automatically occupies the post of chairman of the administration. And President Zelensky legislated the separation of the two seats.

Related: Cabinet approves Klitschko's dismissal

In any case, if the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine supports bill No. 2143, the head of the Kyiv City Administration will concentrate all the fullness of the capital’s power in his hands.

Test case

The document looks like an experiment, if successful, a certain management format will be distributed throughout the country. Presidential representatives - prefects (the former governors) might get very broad powers, so we could forget about local self-government.

If Zelensky’s team successfully copes withholding of early elections in Kyiv, then, probably, in the summer 2020, other local authorities throughout the country would be rebooted. Andriy Bogdan, the head of the presidential office, is eager to amend the decentralization reform, which began under Poroshenko. Zelensky’s team does not object to the creation of united territorial communities and even says that the process of their formation is quite successful.

Related: Klitschko meets with World Bank Group President

At the same time, the president offered to stop the division of Ukraine into districts, since the districts would have no functions if the local communities exist. In fact, this is fair, but it is not only about decentralization, but also about administrative-territorial reform. Zelensky’s team focuses on replacing the heads of regional state administrations with prefects. They would monitor compliance with laws by local authorities.

A separate issue is related to who the prefects will be submitted to - the Cabinet of Ministers or directly to the president. Probably, the last option is more acceptable for Zelensky. However, in any case, changes to the Constitution are indispensable. Plus, there is a need to develop and implement a new election system. The other day, the incumbent president vetoed the Electoral Code adopted by the previous parliament. The Servant of the People argues that the code provided for an overly complicated procedure for holding elections, including at the local level.

Lawyers vs. prosecutors

City mayor Vitaliy Klitschko strongly opposes the new bill. "I am convinced that this bill cannot be adopted in this form. It destroys the principles of decentralization and self-government, deprives the Kyiv citizens of the right to elect power in their city. And also creates chaos in the local management,” Klitschko says.

Servant of the People makes excuses: no one supposedly thought to encroach on the rights of the local citizens, the mayor’s office would be just separated from the office chairman of the Kyiv City Administration. Nevertheless, the mayor Klitschko insists: Zelensky’s project is not just decentralization, but rather the centralization of power.

Speaking about plans of Zelensky and his team, we will find out them gradually, observing the political style of the sixth president of Ukraine.

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