Stephen Bandera writes: Members of parliament are accountable to no one.
Eggs, smoke bombs, sirens and fisticuffs were not enough to stop Ukraine’s parliament from making a mockery of the democratic process on April 27. Without any debate or discussion, the legislature ratified an agreement that will allow the Russian military to maintain a presence in Ukraine until 2042 and adopted the state budget for 2010.
Video footage of the Rada circus was carried by media worldwide as the Kremlin scored yet another victory in Ukraine in the 50 days since Viktor Yanukovych became president. In his first weeks in office, Yanukovych was praised for the speedy consolidation of power.
When he quickly formed a Cabinet of Ministers and cobbled together a majority in parliament using less than constitutional means, most observers looked the other way. They reasoned that anything was better than the chaos that resulted from the standoff between president and prime minister that characterized Viktor Yushchenko’s presidency.
They looked the other way when Yanukovych secured a constitutional court ruling using less than constitutional means. All three branches of government – executive, legislative and judicial – were brought under the control of a single political party (like the good old days of the Soviet Union - Back to the USSR!).
Russian supporters wave the national flags as they welcome the missile cruiser Moskva, a flagship of Russian Black Sea Fleet, as it enters Sevastopol Bay on April 9. In a highly controversial April 27 session, marred by fisticuffs, smoke bombs and egg tossing, Verkhovna Rada Speaker Volodymyr Lytvyn claims 236 lawmakers voted to ratify a 25-year lease extension of the Black Sea Fleet in Ukraine. (UNIAN)
So it should have come as no surprise that Yanukovych found 234 votes in the 450-seat parliament to vote for extending the Russian Black Sea Fleet lease. But in Soviet times, the party members would actually show up to vote, even if the results were fixed beforehand. In post-Soviet Ukraine, parliament members do not have to be physically present in parliament to vote: it’s enough for their “voting cards” to be in the right hands under the dome on Hrushevsky Street.
For example, where was Regions deputy Serhiy Holovaty when he voted to ratify the Black Sea Fleet agreement? In Strasbourg, France. Ukrainian democracy effectively allows for elected officials to perform their duties virtually, despite the fact that the Constitution clearly states deputies have to vote in person.
Ask a Ukrainian who represents their community in parliament and they won’t know, because the current Rada was elected according to a proportional, closed list system.
There is no direct representation. All a voter saw on the ballot when he/she voted in 2007 were the first ten names of every party or electoral bloc. Not only are the Ukrainians clueless as to who represents them, they don’t even know who they voted for. As a result, a bunch of no names responsible to nobody except their party boss, who bought their way onto their party list are in parliament. This is the worst Rada ever, making some of the worst decisions – ever.
But Ukrainians did not give any one party the carte blanche to rule the country in the last presidential or parliamentary elections. In fact, Ukrainians cast their votes for political forces that would never trade Crimea for lower natural gas prices or adopt a state budget without any debate. They voted for pro-Western forces such as the Bloc of Yulia Tymoshenko and Our Ukraine Peoples’ Self-Defense.
But wouldn’t you know it? Parliament members from these parties were instrumental in making sure Yanukovych’s Kremlin-appeasing initiatives were successful in parliament: nine deputies from BYuT and seven from OUPSD. Their combined 16 votes pushed the necessary number over the minimum 226 mark. They joined forces with Yanukovych’s Party of Regions, the Communists and the Rada Speaker Volodymyr Lytvyn’s Bloc, who did not have enough votes on their own.
Their names are: Valentyn Zubov, Volodymyr Ivanenko, Petro Kuzmenko, Oleh Malich, Sviatoslav Oliynyk, Valeriy Pysarenko, Ihor Savchenko, Ivan Sidelnyk and Oleh Cherpitsky from BYuT and from OUPSD Yuriy Boot, Serhiy Vasylenko, Stanislav Dovhy, David Zhvania, Oleksandr Omelchenko, Ihor Palytsia and Volodymyr Poliachenko.
These are the names of the people who betrayed their voters. But people can’t recall them even if they know their names. They can’t be replaced by their parties. They are immune from criminal prosecution. They don’t even have to be in the Rada to vote. Their terms in office won’t expire until 2012. They answer to nobody. Except to Yanukovych. And he answers to nobody. Except Vladimir Putin.
Stephen Bandera, grandson of Ukrainian independence leader Stepan Bandera (1909-1959) is a journalists and former Kyiv Post editor. You can read his blog entries at http://kyivscoop.blogspot.com/