The decision to dissolve the Verkhovna Rada was met with applause and joy by the supporters of the new president near the parliament building, but experts are not so unanimous in their assessment. Opinion figured out why Zelensky needs early parliamentary elections, whether his decree violates the law and whether to expect a political or economic crisis.
Why is Zelensky in a hurry with the parliamentary elections?
Bohdan Petrenko, deputy director of the Ukrainian Institute of Research of Extremism, believes that the decision of the newly elected president is a logical step for the politicians who came to power on the wave of “messianism”.
“The greater the distance between the presidential and parliamentary elections, the greater the disappointment in those who were chosen as the ‘Messiah’. For example, in 2014, in just 5 months, the result of the BPP was significantly lower than the result of Poroshenko. Moreover, his power did not even take first place. Plus, Zelensky uses the ‘against’-technology. That is, to improve his rating, he confronts the powers who have low ratings. It was Poroshenko in the presidential election, now it is the parliament. That is a typical populist position.”
The political strategist Pavlo Shcherbyna also sees in the decision of Zelensky the desire and the need to transfer his rating to the plane his own party’s success in the forthcoming elections.
“As the winners of the presidential race, Zelensky’s team understands, realizes that the newly elected president will be the object of criticism of the majority of political forces, the drop in the rating of which is due to the peak of Zelensky’s electoral rise. In these circumstances, they extremely need to manage to convert the presidential rating of Zelensky to the rating of the party Servant of the People in the shortest possible time”.
But Maryna Bahrova, a member of the board of the international union Institute of National Policy, is convinced that by such actions the president is trying to meet the demand of the Ukrainians for the renewal of power.
“Zelensky is in a hurry with the elections to the Verkhovna Rada, in order to fulfil his election promises and to implement real changes in the country through the ‘compression of time’, without waiting for the next election. Thus, the newly elected president of Ukraine is trying to satisfy the public demand for a fundamental renewal of power and at the same time to capitalize his high electoral capital into a close political party in order for this party to get the majority of seats in the new parliament.”
Political scientist Vladyslav Serdiuk does not exclude that by dissolving the parliament Volodymyr Zelensky can not only increase the number of representatives of the Servant of the People in the Parliament but also considerably weaken their opponents.
“Zelensky’s decision can be explained by the fact that now, on the background of the strong support from citizens, the new president wants to obtain stable support in the Verkhovna Rada, to systematically promote his policy there. And it is known that Zelensky wouldn’t have a good history with this convocation of the Verkhovna Rada, because the deputies began to criticize and put pressure on Zelensky even before the inauguration. Also, his party Servant of the People is the undisputed leader of all sociological researches now, so the motivation of the new president is absolutely clear. He can get rid of the players like the People’s Front and weaken his opponents.”
Oleksii Buriachenko, a political expert, noted that in fact there are several reasons for the dissolution of the Verkhovna Rada. In particular, Zelensky’s desire to fulfil his own promises and get the maximum power.
“The first reason. V. Zelensky promised a number of urgent legislative initiatives while being in the status of the presidential candidate of Ukraine. To realize his electoral promises, in the way V. Zelensky sees them, he needs ‘his’ faction in the Verkhovna Rada.
Second reason. I predict that before the end of 2019, there may be a complete reset of the government. That is, in addition to the early election in parliament, the early local elections will take place. The algorithm is nearly following. After the election of new Verkhovna Rada, the creation of the coalition and the appointment of the new Prime Minister of Ukraine, the Parliament will adopt a Law of Ukraine ‘On national and local referendums’, which will consider the question about ‘the path of future relations with Russia’. The next step will be to adopt a new administrative-territorial structure in the state, which will automatically and logically entail the need for early local elections.
The third reason is, of course, Zelensky’s and his team’s desire to get the maximum representation and full power on the background of high ratings of both Volodymyr himself and the party Servant of the People.
Dmytro Sinchenko, the head of the public organization Association of Political Sciences also highlighted a number of reasons. One of them, the expert believes, is the need to create an image of the enemy in the form of “the old system”.
“Zelensky won the election not because of the support of the voters, but due to the protest voting against his predecessor, so his popularity will not last forever. Every day he will lose support, no matter what decisions he makes and what actions he takes. His voters often have completely opposite expectations, so whatever Zelensky does, someone will not like it.
In this situation, he needs to convert his support into votes in the parliamentary elections as soon as possible. This is the first obvious reason. The second, technical reason is the need for the banal saving of the money of Kolomoisky and Firtash: the fast campaign will cost much cheaper than the planned one, and they will not need to contain a combat-ready staff structure for a few extra months. In addition, the presence of a ready-deployed structure is a significant competitive advantage, which now only 3-4 parties have. The rest will banally not have time to organize themselves. The third, the least obvious reason for haste, but the most important one for Zelensky, is the need to create an image of the enemy. This is Putin’s favourite technology, which has been reliably ensuring his victory in Russia for more than 20 years. And it is also an integral part of the ‘image of Holoborodko’, for which his voters voted, and which Zelensky now needs to comply with. Only by fighting the ‘old’ system in the image of the “old” parliament and the ‘old’ government will he be able to justify his failures in office.”
Is the decree on dissolution unconstitutional?
Vladyslav Serdiuk assured in the comment for Opinion that Zelensky’s decree corresponds to the current legislation as, according to the speaker, the coalition in the Verkhovna Rada didn’t exist at that time.
“It is strange that Zelensky’s decision is called unconstitutional, because, as you know, there is no coalition in Ukraine since 2016, because to understand this, it is enough to calculate the number of mandates that the BPP and PF had. There were less than 226 deputies, and therefore Zelensky’s decision is absolutely legitimate and complies with the legislation.”
In contrast to this opinion, Bohdan Petrenko notes that not everything is so clear: on the one hand, it is not clear what is considered the lack of coalition, on the other – there are no documents that would confirm its existence.
“Regarding the legislative grounds for dissolution, the answer should be contained in the Constitution and Regulations. Unfortunately, none of these documents says what we can consider as the date of termination of the coalition. But, considering that the documents confirming the existence of the coalition before dissolution (personal list of deputies) weren’t published, it can be used as motivation in the following judicial disputes.
But Dmytro Sinchenko notes that the new president did not keep the conditions of dissolution provided by the Ukrainian legislation, and therefore the decision is exclusively in the political plane.
“Zelensky’s team was guided not by the Constitution, but by sociology which demonstrates a low level of trust in people’s deputies. However, this level of trust in politicians has always been there in Ukraine, and it has never been a reason for dissolution. Moreover, the current convocation of the Verkhovna Rada was much more productive than all previous convocations, but it is difficult to explain it to the people – they are guided by the stereotypes about the deputies-drones. Of course, this stereotype has some grounds, but it is still unfair.”
Oleksii Buriachenko noted in his comment that only the constitutional court of Ukraine can define the constitutionality of the decision. Beyond that, the expert does not rule out the new lawsuits and appeals because early elections can be extremely disadvantageous for a number of persons. “Now there are a lot of absolutely polar opinions in the public space, starting from people’s deputies and ending with the position of individual judges, and there are indeed reasons for this, because the Ukrainian legislation is not perfect and contains a lot of ‘white spots’, which are very successfully used by both the experienced politicians and the judges of all levels.
The phrase ‘legal basis’ sounds pretty cynical in unfortunately not a legal state – let’s recall how many primary illegal decisions were accepted even by this convocation of the Verkhovna Rada, which was recognized as illegal and unconstitutional by the courts.
The formal reasons for the dissolution of the Verkhovna Rada were the lack of a coalition since 2016, however, such a legal position will need to be justified and defended, both in the Constitutional and in the Supreme Court of Ukraine. After all, we all understand that such early elections are for various reasons not profitable for a number of political parties as well as individual people’s deputies.”
What are the consequences we should expect and is a political or economic crisis possible?
Oleksii Buriachenko suggests that the renewal of the government can really affect, for example, the state of the investment climate, but the expert urges not to make categorical forecasts.
“If the new president is really able to qualitatively restart the Verkhovna Rada and the Cabinet of Ministers, then there are great chances that it will be possible to avoid both political and economic crisis. The main factor is one – to make this reboot as quickly and efficiently as possible. Trust is the main criterion of the legitimacy of the power and while V. Zelensky has such credit of trust, he can afford to make many purely political decisions.”
Vladyslav Serdiuk believes that there are no grounds for a political crisis today.
“There is a question: wouldn’t Ukraine be in political crisis if the president had absolutely no support in the Verkhovna Rada for his initiatives? Zelensky did not start this conflict, as most political observers and politicians believe, it was started by the Verkhovna Rada when it started to block his inauguration. Today, there is no reason for a political crisis in the country, although it will, of course, be deliberately formed by Zelensky’s opponents.”
In his turn, Dmytro Sinchenko is convinced that the political crisis has already come, and it began with the inauguration speech and the resignation of the Cabinet.
“Will the economic situation deteriorate? Unfortunately, yes. Will the inflation spin up – it is possible. Will there be an aggravation of the military operations at the front – it is very likely. Even today we see the background to all this – the statements of the IMF, the trend of the depreciation of the hryvnia, more murdered soldiers in the Donbass… These all are reactions to the inadequate staffing solutions of the new owner of the premises on Bankova street, to his confrontational statements, to the resignations. But is it necessary to prepare – I think for 5 years of war, we have long been ready for everything.”
Maryna Bahrova emphasizes that political and economic crises exist inseparably from each other.
“The protracted political crisis and all sorts of deviations from the rule of law, for example, the appointment to senior government positions in violation of the current legislation, can lead to the rejection of financial support for the Ukrainian economy from the IMF, reduction of various financial programs, the outflow of foreign investment from Ukraine. Thus, a political crisis that can lead to the onset of a protracted economic crisis.”
But Bohdan Petrenko predicts the possible beginning of certain exacerbations or even a crisis at the time when Zelensky begins to lose the rating of trust on the part of society.
“After the re-election, he has a great chance to form a majority in the Parliament, and his political force will likely head the Cabinet. And then everything the acting President tried to escape from – salaries, utilities, pensions – will become a zone of his responsibility.
Moreover, then the question will arise – who to confront because the classic scheme of ‘defeat the dragon’ provides that the winner himself becomes a dragon.”
Text by Dmytro Zhuravel