Ukraine's spring parliamentary session was the most productive, but not really reformist, according to a conclusion that experts from the civil society organization Reanimation Package of Reforms reached at forum held in Kyiv on July 22.
The forum included foreign experts, watchdog organizations, lawmakers, government officials and prosecutors.
While parliament registered a record number of 3,568 bills, only 39 out of 118 provisions that the ruling coalition had planned for this session were actually passed, according to the group.
Poor management, hasty voting in violation of procedure, and infighting within the coalition have constrained the pace of reforms.
Oksana Syroyid, deputy parliamentary speaker, believes that parliament failed as an independent representative body to control government and perform legislative functions. “This is yet to be achieved. We put up with a large part of parliament’s agenda being formulated behind parliament’s walls,” Syroyid said.
She also said many bills passed were of low quality, with nearly 80 percent of parliament’s agenda being focused on amending adopted laws.
Yury Lutsenko, head of President Petro Poroshenko’s faction, said that the “parliamentary coalition is facing a downturn,” while “the whole idea of reforms is exposed to threat.”
“It is impossible to pass such large amount of laws even from technical point of view,” he said. “The coalition agreement will be reviewed,” Lutsenko promised.
Only the interior and justice ministries received high praise from forum participants. “Their achievements inspire and prove that they did not spend allocated time for nothing,” said Andriy Teteruk, first deputy head of the People’s Front faction.
The forum furthermore examined progress in five key areas: decentralization, elections, civil service, anti-corruption and law enforcement.
Ihor Koliushko, chief expert of Reanimation Package of Reforms, believes that a rather progressive bill on giving regional and local government more authority was used to execute the Minsk peace agreements.
Syroyid said the bill actually was about centralization because of the extended powers of prefects and their appointment by the president.
“The major fiasco of the spring session,” and a “half a measure” – were some of the most widespread words applied to the local elections bill.
While the bill conveys some positive changes such as two-round elections for mayors of large cities and a proportional representation system for oblast and district councils, it does not introduce open lists postponing this reform until parliamentary elections in 2019.
With a new budget year approaching, the risk that the new civil service system will not be implemented by 2016 grows every day.
Yet, the civil service bill, “which meets both European standards and peculiar Ukrainian requirements stemming from corruption, low professionalism and need of depoliticizing the service,” roughly passed the first reading with a narrow majority of 226 votes and never made it to the second reading, said Kostyantyn Vashchenko, head of the Ukraine’s National Agency on Civil Service.
It proves that “parliament remains a black box … with groups of influence, which interests often deviate from factions’ interests,” Vashchenko believes.
Experts agreed that the new parliament teamed up with the public to fight corruption. Among major achievements under way experts named: the first reading of the bill on financing of political parties, elimination of corruption in parliament and opening real estate and anti-corruption registers.
“Seventy bills were recognized as having elements of corrupt and none of them was adopted,” said Yegor Sobolev, chairman of the parliamentary anti-corruption committee.
Meanwhile, parliament voted down the public procurement bill, although annually Ukraine loses Hr 50 million in public procurement. Maksym Nefyodov, deputy Minister of Economic Development and Trade, called upon members of parliament to make this reform a priority. “It will open access to the $1.7 trillion public procurement market for Ukrainian companies,” he said.
Olena Sotnyk, member of the European integration parliamentary committee believes the legislature lost on law enforcement reform. Instead of reforming the police, which comprises some 150,000 people, parliament reformed only the Kyiv patrol police, which are 2,000 people. Similarly, “we lost the fight over independence of the anti-corruption prosecutor,” Sotnyk said.
“We were between two fires: to vote down the reform of prosecution, or try to fight for an anti-corruption prosecutor,” she added.
Meantime, Deputy Prosecutor General Vitaliy Kasko believes any further delay would lead to catastrophic consequences and stall the reform for an indefinite amount of time.
“We must not stop on what we achieved,” said Sobolev and called upon participants of the forum to continue insisting on еру dismissal of Ukraine’s Prosecutor General Viktor Shokin.
Kyiv Post’s legal affairs reporter Mariana Antonovych can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org