The Parliament’s Eighth Session Results and Forecasts for the Forthcoming Session

Similar to other typical spring-and-summer sessions, the eighth session was practically one and a half times longer than the seventh one.

During the 8th session, the number of decisions passed in connection with draft laws prepared for consideration was 1.86 times higher than the respective number for the 7th session. This is primarily accounted for by the fact that the bills considered during the 8th session were essentially less often large and fundamental in nature (i.e. fewer codes, in the first place).

An analysis of the draft laws considered by the full Parliament reveals a continuation of the negative trend of the past few sessions: there was a significant decrease in the number of adopted bills (by nearly 25%).

During the 8th session, the draft law adoption rate decreased (compared to the entire convocation):

- for draft laws submitted by the President of Ukraine, by 37%;

- for those submitted by the MPs of Ukraine, by 70%;

- for those submitted by the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine, by 59%.

Another persistent trend consists in that the number of bills from former members of the coalition (per one MP) that were adopted in the second reading is almost the same as the number of adopted bills submitted by the coalition itself. This refutes the established myth that bills from ex-coalition member factions are blocked by the BPP and People’s Front factions.

At the same time, most draft laws proposed by the Opposition Bloc and the groups “Renaissance” and “The People’s Will” (whose members used to be associated in some or other way with the Party of the Regions) were not supported by the other factions.

As to Committees designated as lead ones for draft laws to be considered, the adoption rate was highest among the following ones:

  • Committee on Foreign Affairs – 74%;
  • Committee on European Integration – 33%;
  • Committee on Culture and Spirituality – 34%.

By contrast, the following Committees had low adoption rates:

  • Committee on Legal Policy and Justice – 8 %;
  • Committee on Rules of Procedure and Support to Work of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine – 2.5%.

During the last 2 sessions, the conduct of the Hour of Questions to the Government came close to the requirements of the Rules of Procedure. However, the importance of submission of written inquiries from factions is still ignored.

Second, representatives of the Government still make statements at the beginning of the Government Question Hour on the state of affairs in the relevant sector, while this practice is not provided for by the Rules of Procedure. MPs hardly ever ask any questions of the Ministers after their statements. However, no preliminary information is made available as to which minister is about to speak during the Hour. This can be done after Monday’s Conciliation Board meeting.

It should be noted that during the past few sessions the Prime Minister began to participate very actively in events specified by the Rules of Procedure. Thus, during 12 hours of presence at the eighth session, the Prime Minister answered 135 questions (62% of all the answers that were provided), while the other Cabinet members attending the session answered only 85 questions (38 % of the total number of answers).

However, considering the fact that the Prime Minister did not attend two Government Question Hours, the ratio is more revealing:

  • 10 Question Hours (attended by the Prime Minister);
  • 135 answers provided by the Prime Minister;
  • 42 answers provided by Cabinet members.

A considerable achievement of the Parliament during the 8th session was the adoption of the Law “On the High Anti-Corruption Court”; the version adopted in the second reading was quite close to the original one submitted by the President (which was agreed upon with the international partners).

The Parliament’s main task for the 9th session is the adoption of the State Budget for 2019. The draft budget is to be submitted during the first ten days of the work of the Verkhovna Rada. Whether the first step of the budgetary procedure is implemented on time depends primarily on how soon the conditions for the next IMF tranche will be agreed upon. One of the Fund’s key demands is to establish gas tariffs for the population at the same level as the tariff for the enterprises. This will result in a price increase of 30 to 40%. One should expect that, in spite of intense debate over this issue, it will be supported by the majority of the Parliament. Otherwise, the Government will probably have to resign, but the number of votes will not be enough to approve the resignation.

It is expected that at the 9th session the MPs will fail to adopt the draft Electoral Code in the second reading, since its approval is not critical for the presidential election, which will be called no earlier than on December 31. Therefore, the People’s Deputies representing political forces some of which are interested in preserving the majoritarian component of the mixed election system while others favor introducing a preferential proportional system are likely to postpone the consideration of this issue until the spring-and-summer session.

In this connection, we would also like to emphasize that the information on the existence of a ban on making amendments to the election legislation one year or less before the next election is a myth. That provision was excluded back in 1994.

By the way, a lively public discussion has developed in the past few days of the possibility of postponement of the election to the summer of next year. As a matter of fact, there is a conflict of provisions in the current Constitution. Part five of Article 103 of the Constitution says that the election of the President of Ukraine is to be conducted on the last Sunday of March of the Ukrainian President’s term of office. At the same time, the length of a President’s stay in office (term of office) is five years. Even if there is a second round of presidential election, the incumbent President’s stay in office will be two months shorter than required. So there is indeed a formal cause for debate, although the head of the presidential faction said that petitioning the Constitutional Court with a request for interpretation of this conflict was unlikely.

One should expect that preliminary approval of the Draft Law “On Amending the Constitution of Ukraine (Concerning Abolition of Deputy Immunity)” No. 6773 will take place. However, the lead Committee specified in its opinion that the Parliament should pass a decision before October 5 on certain reservations expressed by the Constitutional Court in its opinion on the constitutionality of that draft law (its compliance with the provisions of Articles 157 and 158 of the Constitution). If a discussion at the Verkhovna Rada leads to changes being made to the original text of the bill, the resulting version will be referred to the Constitutional Court for its opinion on the revisions. Even if that does not happen, the likelihood of the draft law’s preliminary approval at the 9th session is rather low.

Highly important will be the Parliament’s overall attitude towards the initiative voiced by the President, who said that before September 4 he will submit draft amendments to the Constitution proposing to legally proclaim Ukraine’s wish “to join the European Union and NATO” in the Basic Law. If the Parliament refers that bill quite promptly to the Constitutional Court for a relevant opinion and the judges will yield their opinion while the 9th session is still going on, then the Parliament is likely to vote for preliminary approval (sometimes this procedure is referred to as “second reading” of draft laws of that type). That course of events appears to be quite likely, since only the Opposition Bloc faction and the MP groups Renaissance and The People’s Will, which harbor similar opinions, should be expected to vote against the proposal by the Head of State. Quite meaningful in that aspect was the support for that initiative voiced by the current President’s main opponent Yulia Tymoshenko.

In that case, one can quite realistically expect that those amendments will be approved at the “next regular,” tenth summer-and-spring session of 2019. The historical significance of that decision would only be paralleled by a few history-making votes by the Parliament’s previous convocations.

The trend of the recent sessions shows that it is problematic to expect resolution of such appointment-related issues as the election of new CEC members and of Constitutional Court judges. In view of the approaching elections, however, one may expect that such decisions will be taken in order to achieve higher voter support.