A Certain Parliamentary FAQ

Since February 2014, Ukraine – again – is a semi-presidential republic, what is incorrectly referred to as ‘parliamentary-presidential’ republic in Ukraine proper. This is the highly controversial 2004 constitutional amendment, controversial because it was drafted by the notorious Viktor Medvedchuk, then head of President Kuchma’s office. The intention was basically thus: executive power shifts to the Prime Minister, appointed by the parliament, while the President simply signs Rada bills into law and does other presidential stuff (chief of state, commander-in-chief, etc). In this case, Yanukovych was to be President, while Kuchma would be his PM, thus staying in power without the pesky constitutional referendum business of his Belarusian colleague Lukashenko. This backfired, but the amendment was voted through as part of a compromise: Yuschenko’s opposition supports the amendment, while the government allows a third round of elections, which Yuschenko won – plunging Ukraine into half a decade of political shitstorm unending. Yanukovych quickly brought back the 1995 Constitution, making Ukraine a presidential republic again; after he fled, the 2004 Constitution was hastily brought back, and is currently Ukraine’s Basic Law. It is to be amended again: Poroshenko promised the first batch of amendments to be voted on before Rada goes on vacation (in mid-July), and the new Constitution is at least supposed to come in force before the October local elections.

Why I’m writing this, though, is to bring to light something missed by Western observers and Ukrainians alike. Namely, the fact that the parliament – the Rada – is, actually, responsible for EVERYTHING being done in this country. Reform laws? Must be voted in by Rada. New government appointments? Must be voted in by Rada. New Prosecutor General? Must be voted in by Rada. People like head of the SBU, minister of defence or minister of foreign affairs are proposed by the President, but must be voted in by Rada, AGAIN. The President is supposed to be in charge of foreign policy (which is Poroshenko’s main strength, actually). The PM, appointed by Rada, is supposed to be in charge of getting things done. But how those things must be done is up to Rada and the laws it passes, again.

Yet for some reason, Western observers are over-eager to bullshit Poroshenko or Yatsenyuk, but do not give Rada deputies the time of day; yet those Rada deputies are actually responsible for anything being done. Or, as is the case, not being done. Military procurement (demonstrated by a particularly notorious case of Armed Forces personnel being entitled to two pieces of underwear a year, according to old Soviet-era regs)? Must be voted in by Rada, but it wasn’t – law 2551 was on the floor last Friday, but was not even voted on. Budget (the one made of black holes named ‘Naftogaz Ukrainy’ and ‘Pension Fund’)? Must be voted in by Rada. Tax reform? Must be voted in by Rada (although it’s still work in progress in the Cabinet, after which it will have to be voted in by Rada). Pension reform? Must be voted in by Rada. SBU chief gets sacked? His sacking must be voted in by Rada. Long-touted ‘total blockade’ measures against ‘DPR’ and ‘LPR’? Must be voted in by Rada. The list goes on.

What I’m saying is that chief responsibility for shit not getting done lies on the Rada – and Rada MPs are a lazy and corrupt bunch who will torpedo vital reforms if it suits their interests, or whoever’s interests they’re lobbying. Ukraine can’t blockade ‘DPR’ and ‘LPR’ completely because there are factories and mines in rebel-controlled territory whose owners sit in the Rada (owners such as Efim ‘Jabba the Hutt’ Zviagilsky, Rada’s oldest MP) and benefit immensely from not having to pay any taxes from those factories. Ukraine can’t issue more than two sets of underwear a year to its troops because MP Pashinsky is in an argument over oil, and because it gives MPs untold opportunities to decry the ‘traitors’ and ‘incompetents’ in the MoD. Ukraine can’t streamline its overburdened pension system because MPs want retirees to be destitute and thus easily swayed to vote for them. And the list goes on.

Biggest offenders here are, of course, MPs associated with Ihor Kolomoyskiy the coffee-drinking oligarch – Kolomoyskiy’s pal Borys Filatov, Kolomoyskiy’s proteges Yuriy Bereza and Semen Semenchenko (the one whose name sounds like ‘semen’), self-proclaimed Maidan hero Volodymyr Parasyuk, noted lustration authority Egor Sobolev (he of the ‘not having a higher education’ fame), noted drinking establishment fighter Boryslav Bereza and, of course, Dmytro Yarosh, KING OF A UKRAINE (according to Russian media). Why am I saying ‘biggest’? because as of early June, Filatov, the Facebook superstar who does literally nothing but criticize the government (and by ‘criticize’, I mean ‘bullshit’), missed HALF of the Rada meetings. I’ve yet to see him vote on anything, too; he and his pals (the Gascognians, as social media dubbed them, in reference to a Soviet joke about ‘you’re all faggots, I’m d’Artagnan‘) did not vote on ANY of the laws which have to do with reforming the country. ANY of them! When they do vote, their votes are usually strangely in accord with Opposition Bloc, the former Party of Regions remnant. Yarosh is an even worse offender: the man missed EVERY SINGLE Rada meeting, EVERY SINGLE ONE, yet he somehow has time to bash LGBT people or condemn the Minsk ceasefire on Facebook.

Do I see these people being blamed? I do not, yet they’re the MPs, it’s their job to vote on laws, especially when everyone and their dog talks about ‘reform’ now – but does LITERALLY NOTHING to implement those reforms, like voting the necessary laws in the Rada in the first place!

Yes, criticism is justified, but only when it’s legitimate criticism. And no one criticizes the Rada for some reason, even if they bear most of the responsibility for the country. This isn’t Russia; Poroshenko is not Putin, and Yatsenyuk is not his Medvedev; and while his party is the largest one in the Rada, it is extremely fractional and finicky. In essence, Poroshenko has none of the control Yanukovych had over his pet supermajority in the last Rada; yet, for some reason, the blame is entirely his. No one blames Popular Front (Yatsenyuk’s people, who I voted for last October) for walking out of the Rada instead of voting law 2551 (the military procurement one) in. No one blames Samopomich for sitting on their ass and doing nothing but blame the government, contrary to their election slogan of ‘Do it yourself’. No one blames Tymoshenko’s party for not voting on vital laws. No one blames Liashko for taking notorious Ihor Mosiychuk the Tourette Syndrome Man (responsible for the ‘friendship trains’ thing in March 2014, spun by Russian media), an idiot so dense he was chased out of the notorious Social-Nationalist Assembly: even neo-Nazis have standards. No one blames Kolomoyskiy’s Gascognians for missing half the meetings while showering the government with all sorts of bullshit.

Do your research. Ukrainians will be very well advised to follow Cossack Havrylyuk’s example (he’s also an MP) and read up on the Constitution, particularly that little thing about separation of powers. Western observers, on the other hand, will be very well advised to do their research in general. If you’re writing about Ukraine, at least write decently, instead of chasing big headlines and/or accusing Poroshenko of being an oligarch (in a country where all politicians either are oligarchs or controlled by oligarchs). I want Western media to be something to look up to, not to parrot Ukrainian journalism or Russian ‘journalism’ – which, unfortunately, they’re all too happy to do.

Russia at least has the excuse of fighting an undeclared war to undermine Ukraine. What’s your excuse?

A Certain Parliamentary FAQ

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