The Servant of the People Party is celebrating the win at the parliamentary election: they have “ze-majority” in the Parliament. Opinion and experts explain whether Ukrainians should be afraid of the power grab and whether the pro-presidential party has a single vision on politics…
What are the risks and can power grab happen?
Bohdan Petrenko, a deputy director of the Ukrainian Institute of Research of Extremism, believes that the power grab depends not on the key positions being controlled by one political force but rather on people’s indifference.
“Ukrainians more strive to get freedom in its wide meaning than being protected and controlled by a strong leader. As soon as the government starts to tighten the screws, people will protest. Basically, the Revolution of Dignity showed that these are people who hold the power, despite some other people’s desires. Besides, the power grab can happen only when the government is really aligned. Today, candidates from Servant of the People are aligned only with two things: the brand and Zelensky’s rating.”
On the opposite, Dmytro Sinchenko, the head of an NGO Association of Political Sciences, says there is a threat of the power grab in any case.
“Taking into account the actions and statements of Zelensky, he doesn’t respect laws while his leadership style is authoritarian. I just want to remind you that Yanukovych grabbed the power without the single-party majority, he had “satellites” in his majority, who always supported all his initiatives in a disciplinary way. Naturally, the single-party majority makes this task even easier. However, there is no single centre of influence among “servants”. I believe they will face harsh competition among different pressure groups, which will interfere with possible power grab plans.”
Hryhoriy Bykov, a lawyer, a partner of the Advocate Association “Adequate Lawyers”, states that it is too early to speak about the power grab.
“We can start to speak about the power grab after some officials are appointed: if Zelensky keeps on appointing his friends and business partners not just to some official positions, like he did it at the beginning of his term, but to all key positions (which is quite evident). It should be borne in mind that the mono-majority is a huge credit of trust, a chance to fail to take into account pro-Russian opposition’s ideas, interests of some oligarchs.”
Liliya Brudnytska, an expert of the Political Studies Centre “Vybor”, highlighted that Ukraine has never had the single-party majority till now that’s why the term a “single-party government” is intimidating as it threats with the power grab.
“We can feel safe about the dictatorship or unlimited power: there are pressure groups within the party, which will fight for their interests, thereby weakening absolute power. Also, the oppositional forces are quite differently vectored, and they have external partners as well as financial resources.
However, the risk isn’t disappearing, it is only decreasing. The level of risk will depend rather on society than on politicians: whether people are ready to provide strict control over the government’s actions. Taking into account the election’ results, people are not ready.”
Andriy Martynov, a Doctor of Historical Sciences and a leading researcher of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine, believes the power grab is impossible.
“Zelensky doesn’t have a solid “presidential top-down command structure” in the regions. Until being renewed, the executive body will be “elusive” even in the centre. Besides, there are reasons concerning foreign issues interfering with the hypothetical power grab in Ukraine. The IMF, EU, USA are interested in a real distribution of branches of power in Ukraine, but this distribution can’t look like an “oligarchic consensus”.
Could a single-party coalition be formed, and who can align with “servants”?
Hryhoriy Bykov says it is possible as the Constitution allows a coalition to be formed by a fraction which includes the majority of Parliamentarians.
“To exercise powers and adopt laws except for those which should be adopted by the constitutional majority, Servant of the People doesn’t have to make a coalition with other political forces. Such an alliance (more than 300 votes) is needed only to vote for changes to the Constitution of Ukraine. And what political force it will depend on changes offered.”
Dmytro Sinchenko also agrees the single-party coalition can be formed. As such a coalition is easiest and fastest to be created. However, the expert doesn’t exclude an alliance with other parties.
“A certain reserve of votes will never hurt, so I can suppose that a coalition with Voice may be formed. Such a format looks the most logical – both new parties constitute “new faces”, both have similar agendas and promises. Moreover, Zelensky’ party is still experiencing staff hunger, so they need some professionals whom they can get from Voice.”
Bohdan Petrenko agrees that Razumkov’s party strives for the mono-majority. However, the expert distinguishes three factors which can make Servant of the People align with other political forces. “First. Leaders of pressure groups inside Servant of the People will tend to gather around them as many parliamentarians as it would be enough to get the “golden share” within the fraction. Then, they will have to negotiate with each of these groups.
Second. Majority partners from the side are psychologically stimulating an inner unity within the fraction. Third. They can always break up with their younger partner and cast the blame for administration problems on their incompetence.”
Pavlo Satsky states that SoP will be quite a specific fraction mainly because most of its members have no political experience.
“At first, the fraction will be quite organised. The party doesn’t have a single ideology, so it unites people, parliamentarians in particular, of different views. It is evident that most of SoP’s members were selected chaotically. It means that in case of serious failures of the President or the government, we may witness a disintegration of the fraction. Apparently, the opposition members will negotiate with Servant of the People’s parliamentarians to persuade them to take their side.”
Yuriy Trachuk, a patent attorney and USAID (Ukraine) RADA trainer of parliamentarians’ teams, also agrees such a situation can occur.
“There are 50 self-nominated candidates-winners who can evidently get an attractive offer. Of course, some situational coalitions can be formed as well. But such coalitions will be used by SoP just to adopt changes to the Basic Law. I am sure that other parties will also need an alliance with Zelensky. Voice and Fatherland are among them.”
On the opposite, Liliya Brudnytska thinks that the question should be put another way: will Servant of the People be allowed to form the single-party coalition?
“Taking into account the EU’s signals as for early local elections, our strategical partners are concerned about the mono-majority in the Ukrainian Parliament. Some American friends reckon that the Servant of the People should align with Voice because they are disturbed by the mono-majority. However, Zelensky is determined to form the single-party majority.”
Unity or internal conflicts: what should Ukrainians expect from “Servants”?
Bohdan Petrenko reckons that the Servant of the People fraction won’t be consistent, so the parliamentarians will align: according to either their interests or pressure groups. Thus, it will bring conflicts.
“There are risks that having entered the world of big politics and big money, some parliamentarians will get corrupted. It means conflicts of interests will occur anyway. Moreover, we have a group of people who are united neither by organisational affiliation nor ideology. Under their own momentum, they could support the President’s initiatives at the beginning. But taking into account that one of the first decisions to be made concerns the government’s and cabinets staffing issues, we may observe conflicts form the very beginning.”
Andriy Martynov also mentioned that Servant of the People isn’t a consistent party which has some staffing problems. He asserts that it can bring some internal conflicts.
“There are some groups within the party which are different: Zenelsky’s close people, Kolomoisky’s staff, open populists, renewed European optimists, indicative national conservators. However, those candidates who won in their majoritarian constituencies under the brand Servant of the People are even more inconsistent. Apparently, they may be involved in some conflicts among each other, especially, when it comes to appointing to the Parliament’s committees and government, especially when the process of adopting the 2020 budget will start.”
Volodymyr Sokol, a teacher and Donbas war veteran also tells about possible conflicts.
“The conflicts will occur, and very soon. If new parliamentarians are legally and bureaucratically aware, they can fasten on the adoption of decisions, despite their economical degrees. The opposition will also act as it has a huge media resource, they will turn even the tiniest mistake into big problems. Especially taking into account that President will try to present his party as European-style neat. It means that a full split between rules and necessity will be quite wide.”
Text by Dmytro Zhuravel