It should be noted that no gross violations of the Law of Ukraine were observed during the plenary week May 15-19, 2017, except of course the Hour of Questions to the Government that was held on May 19.
At the same time, there were a few favorable signs, in particular the fact that during the meeting of the Coordination Board of deputy factions (deputy groups) on May 15 we heard almost no populist political statements that usually introduce some discomfort to the working atmosphere of this parliamentary body. This improvement probably resulted from the absence of heads of factions such as Oleh Liashko and Yulia Tymoshenko, who often “practice populism.” The only exception at the meeting was the statement made by the head of the Opposition Bloc Mr. Boiko.
In spite of the rather businesslike atmosphere of the Parliament’s meetings during the week under review, a number of violations of the Rules of Procedure of the Verkhovna Rada were observed that should be mentioned here, in particular:
- The main page of the Parliament’s website once again referred to a non-existent body of the Verkhovna Rada, namely, “Coordination Board of Heads of Factions and Chairs of Committees of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine”; in all normative documents this body has a somewhat different name: “Coordination Board of Deputies’ Factions (Deputies’ Groups).”
- There wasn’t a single case of a draft law being reviewed in accordance with the complete procedure, although part one of Article 113 of the VRU Rules of Procedure implies preference for the opposite: “In the first reading, a draft law shall, as a rule, be considered in accordance with the complete procedure for draft law discussion” (Article 30 of the Rules of Procedure).
- As a matter of fact, the fast consideration procedure was also violated, since MPs kept speaking for much longer than the allowed one minute and this resulted in excessive length of the discussion.
- The chairs often resorted to “repeat voting” (sometimes even to multiple repetition of voting), ignoring the procedure of adopting the decision to allow such repetition by the required majority of votes.
- Worthy of separate mention is the case of unduly motivated attribution of Draft Law No. 6400 “On the Territory of Ukraine Temporarily Occupied by the Russian Federation” to the Committee on National Security and Defense as the lead committee. It follows from the text of the memorandum as well as from the draft law itself that the subject of the draft law lies primarily within the competence of the Committee on State Construction, Regional Policy and Local Self-Government. However, appeals by the head of that committee were unjustifiably ignored by the Chairman of the Verkhovna Rada.
- The Parliament’s rostrum was used quite a few times for making statements of a political nature that were unrelated in any way to the issue being discussed by the MPs at that moment. In such situations, the chairs did not react in any way to the violation of the Rules of Procedure, although they could first admonish the speaker in this connection, and then, if the speaker continued to behave that same way, simply order that his/her microphone be turned off.
- Also questionable is the practice of giving speaking time to authors of inquiries sent to various bodies who just want to voice their dissatisfaction with the content of the replies they have received. Indeed, to make the situation clear, the Rules of Procedure provide that such answers be read out, so that the MP’s position would not look unfounded in such a case.
- Finally, several second-reading discussions of draft laws that took place this week attested once again to the necessity for urgently amending the Rules of Procedure in a way that will improve the second-reading procedure. In the first place, this pertains to the adoption of a rule providing that during discussions of draft laws a majority of the votes of the MPs participating in the voting will be enough to adopt intermediate decisions.
At the same time, the provision requiring majority vote confirmation of Committee decisions endorsing MPs’ proposals should be replaced with the opposite requirement: that Committee decisions will hold unless voted down by a majority of the MPs.