Monitoring of Compliance with the Law of Ukraine “On the Rules of Procedure of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine” during the plenary week July 10-14, 2017

This week we can say again that there were no flagrant violations of the Rules of Procedure of the Verkhovna Rada, except for the second reading of the draft law on the Constitutional Court of Ukraine. As regards putting new draft laws and resolutions on the agenda this process is rather lively, whereas the processing of legislative acts already pending consideration cannot be described as successful. Of the 41 legislative acts (not counting resolutions) that were on the agenda during the July 10-14 plenary week, only 12 were reviewed. No draft law was rejected; yet a few drafts were put aside in view of a negative result of “preferential” (tentative) voting.

Monitoring of the work of the Conciliation Board of deputy factions
(deputy groups)

  1. Like many times before, the press service of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine (below, VR of Ukraine/VRU) announced the meeting of the Conciliation Board of deputy factions (deputy groups) (below, CB) as a meeting of an entity not mentioned in any regulatory acts: Conciliation Board of heads of deputy factions and heads of Committees.
  2. Representatives of a number of factions presented their proposals for the agenda in a rather nonspecific way, failing to mention draft law numbers.
  3. After the CB meeting, the week’s draft agenda remained practically unchanged, which shows that this working body of the Rada demonstrates low efficiency.
  4. Moreover, VR Committees presented their proposals directly at the CB meeting, even though Article 73 of the VR of Ukraine Rules of Procedure requires that this be done in advance of the meeting.
  5. One can say that the CB has practically been deprived of any influence on the formation of the Parliament’s weekly agenda. The Rules of Procedure demand that the weekly agenda be voted upon at the CB meetings; but the voting does not take place. CB members take no measures to change the situation; apparently, they are satisfied with the role of “background artists” that they actually play in the work of this body.
  6. Again, traditionally, none of the factions and groups presented any proposals at the CB meeting for the next Hour of Questions to the Government. It may be assumed that this is so because CB members are unaware that they enjoy such a right; otherwise, they would have taken measures to comply with the procedure for conducting the Hour, which is systematically violated. As a result of these violations, this highly important lever for supervising the activities of the Government has been brought to naught; the meetings are conducted in a rather haphazard way, with violation of practically all of the provisions of Articles 229 and 230 of the Rules of Procedure of Ukraine’s VR.

Monitoring of the conduct of VRU meetings

  1. The chairs of the meetings fail to apply the prescribed provisions in connection with the behavior of representatives of certain factions, who focus in their statements almost entirely on political issues of a general nature instead of presenting their views on matters on the Rada’s agenda. This week, the situation led to repeated expressions by some MPs of open dissatisfaction with the indulgence displayed by the chairs of CB meetings in respect of such violations of the VRU Rules of Procedure. It should be noted that this did have certain impact on the chairs, who on several occasions switched off the microphones of MPs that had deviated from the subject of the discussion.
  2. One can say that during this plenary week there was only one case of a draft being discussed according to the complete hearing procedure: this was the draft law “On Amending the Law of Ukraine ‘On the State Budget for 2017’.”
  3. Numerous are the violations of the procedure for conducting the Hour of Questions to the Government, which is specified in the parliamentary Rules of Procedure in an absolutely unambiguous way. This practice has been made “traditional” by the leadership of the Verkhovna Rada, while the MPs show silent agreement with this situation – they seem to be quite satisfied with it (though it is unclear why).

Once again, the list of absent members of the Cabinet of Ministers was not time, the event began with information by a member of the Cabinet about the state of his sector, though such a report is not provided for by the Rules. After that, the Hour went on in a chaotic way, in particular as regards giving MPs the floor for voicing questions; thus, Part two of Particle 230 of the VR of Ukraine Rules and Procedures was violated, which specifies that the Hour of Questions to the Government is to begin with oral or written questions to members of the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine from representatives of deputy factions; this provision was not observed. Of the Hour’s 60 minutes, just 36 minutes were devoted to questions from People’s Deputies; this means that the efficiency rate of the Hour was as low as 60%.

We have drawn up a table presenting the questions that were asked by deputy factions and groups under this procedure.

  1. Worthy of separate mention is the discussion of questions that the Parliament had to address extremely rarely in its previous practice: we are referring to consideration of motions seeking consent for the criminal prosecution of a number of People’s Deputies; and in respect of three of these MPs, for their detention and arrest.

Questions of this sort had seldom been on the Parliament’s agenda; this must be the reason behind the observed substantial violations of the Rules of Procedure:

  • The chair of the meeting announced that 15 minutes are allotted to questions addressed to the Prosecutor General and another 15 minutes to clarifications to be provided by the People’s Deputies mentioned in the motions, whereas a different time limit is set out in the VRU Rules of Procedure for the questions and the clarifications: 30 minutes in each case;
  • Not all of the groups and factions were given the floor in the discussion: in particular when the motion regarding MP Dobkin was being discussed, neither Self-Reliance nor People’s Will representatives had a chance to speak;
  • The Prosecutor General repeatedly spoke of things unrelated to the subject under consideration, but the chair did not interrupt him when this happened.
  1. This week, the chair of the VRU meetings quite frequently failed to channel the discussion into a constructive and efficient process; this resulted in great losses of plenary time. Thus, at the morning meeting on July 11, an hour and a half of the Parliament’s working time (between 12:30 and 14:00) was practically completely lost.
  2. Attention should be drawn to the situation encountered during the second reading of draft law No. 6427-d “On the Constitutional Court of Ukraine.” The so-called Table of Amendments No. 2 is still unavailable on the website of the VR of Ukraine, even though it was submitted on July 11, 2017, according to information on this draft law’s web-page. Therefore, it is still unknown what text the MPs actually voted for. In particular we emphasize that the chair announced amendment (proposal) No. 536 from MP Chervakova; she clarified that this amendment pertained to a highly sensitive item: voting by secret ballot for the nominated ombudsperson. Chervakova’s proposal was supported by 227 votes. Later, however, Committee head Kniazevych explained that a proposal of an essentially different content had been voted upon. The draft law has already been signed and sent to the President to be signed. This has happened in spite of the fact that, as we have said, the text of the comparative table that the MPs were working with is still unavailable on the VRU website.

In conclusion, we can say that a number of important draft laws were adopted this week. In the first place, we are referring to the Government’s draft law No. 6600 with amendments to the State Budget. Remarkably, these changes were supported by only 62 of the 138 votes of the pro-presidential faction; moreover, faction members most closely associated with the President did not vote: these are Kononenko, Berezenko, Hryniv, Kniazevych, Matvienko, the faction’s head Herasymov, Yuzhanina, Iryna Lutsenko, Iryna Herashchenko, practically the entire group of MPs from Vinnytsia (including the President’s son). The Opposition Bloc, People’s Will (Volia Narodu), Renaissance (Vidrodzhennia), and Batkivshchyna saved the day.

Nor did the BPP faction members very closely associated with the President vote for the detention and arrest of MPs Poliakov, Rozenblat and even Dobkin.

Without a doubt, another success achieved by the Prime Minister was the first-reading support provided for draft law No. 6614 “On Amending Certain Legislative Acts to Raise Pensions” which pertains to the pension reform: 282 MPs voted for it, while only the Opposition Bloc and Liashko’s faction did not support it (except for Vitko, who had recently stopped voting in line with the faction’s stand).

It should be noted that MPs Yulia Tymoshenko, Serhiy Vlasenko and Oleksandra Kuzhel were absent all week long.

Finally, we present for information purposes a statistical table reflecting the work of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine during the session week under review.

Processing of acts by the Verkhovna Rada on July 10-14, 2017

Type of decision

Draft laws

Resolutions

Holder of legislative initiative

People’s Deputy of Ukraine

President of Ukraine

CMU

People’s Deputy of Ukraine

President of Ukraine

CMU

Included in the agenda

6

0

4

 

 

 

Not included in the agenda

1

3

   

 

 

First reading: approved as the basis

1

2

1

 

 

 

First reading: returned for repeated first reading

 

 

 

 

 

 

First reading: dismissed

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ratification

 

1

 

 

 

 

First reading: approved as the basis and as a whole

2

 

1

4

 

 

Second reading: returned for repeated second reading

 

 

 

 

 

 

Second reading: dismissed

 

 

 

 

 

 

Second reading: approved as
a whole

2

 

2

 

 

 

Total number of processed drafts

12 draft laws and 4 resolutions

Table of questions asked during the Hour of Questions to the Government,
July 14, 2017

Factions

Number of MPs

Percentage of the total number

Number of questions

Percentage of the total number of questions

BPP

138

32.7 %

3

25.0 %

People’s Front

81

19.2 %

2

16.7 %

Opposition Bloc

43

10.2 %

0

0 %

Self-Reliance

26

6.2 %

1

8.3 %

Renaissance

26

6.2 %

1

8.3 %

Radical Party

20

4.7 %

2

16.7 %

Batkivshchyna

20

4.7 %

1

8.3 %

People’s Will

17

4.0 %

0

0 %

Unaffiliated

51

27.5 %

2

16.7 %

As can be seen from this Table, the number of questions from factions and groups does not conform to the membership ratio among these groups; moreover, the Renaissance group and the Opposition Bloc were not provided with the opportunity to ask even a single question.

Alyona Hurkivska,

Volodymyr Kryzhanivskyi