Human rights in Ukraine – 2006. The situation and trends in Ukrainian constitutional legislation in 2006
The development of constitutional legislation in 2006 and the first five months of 2007 should be seen as the practical implementation of the Ukrainian “constitutional reform” of 2004. It was in spring of last year that parliamentary elections were held for the first time according to the new electoral system. Independent observers found them to have been lawful, transparent and democratic, yet from the very outset the new composition of the Ukrainian parliament gave cause for serious thought.
For example, the results showed that more than half (approximately 250) of the deputies were residents of the capital Kyiv. This virtually immediately places in doubt the representative nature of the fifth term (post-2006) of the Verkhovna Rada. The outcome also demonstrated that the deputy corps is to a large extent made up of rich people – of powerful businesspeople who it is customary in Ukrainian publicist writing to call “oligarchs”.
The highest level business elite therefore presented itself not merely as donors or the parties and blocs in the spring electoral race. Many of them, for example, R. Akhmetov, K. Zhevago, D. Zhvanya, O. Tretyakov and P. Poroshenko themselves became (or were re-elected) National Deputies. As a result, the separation of business and politics so dreamed of in theory and talked about by the Ukrainian media, failed to emerge. Quite the contrary: parliament very quickly split into a ruling coalition and a “non-ruling” opposition which at the same time were political representatives of the economic interests of the South and East, as well as of the centre and West of Ukraine.
Other problems of a structural nature arose during the formation of a coalition of deputy factions and their submission for approval of a candidate for the post of Prime Minister. At that time, however, the tension had not reached the level of political crisis. It seemed that the “Memorandum of National Unity”, put forward by the President and signed by the main politicians in the country, had assuaged the ambitions both of the defeated and of the victors. The public, however, did not respond with any great enthusiasm to this document. At the political level it was sharply criticized by the leader of the opposition Yulia Tymoshenko.
Soon after the formation of the government, a majority in the Verkhovna Rada began ignoring the requirements of Article 83 of the Constitution regarding the procedure for forming coalitions of deputy factions. Isolated cases when individual National Deputies joined the coalition were replaced by the practice of mass filling of their ranks through individual or group membership.Although in the third term of the Verkhovna Rada there were around 600 cases where Deputies changed factions, while in the fourth term there were 300 such cases, the exodus of National Deputies from the opposition factions on this occasion was taken quite badly. For example, the Ukrainian public condemned the lawful move of the socialists, headed by Oleksandr Moroz, to form a coalition with the Party of the Regions and the Communists. When, later, A. Kinakhs faction joined the coalition, the Ukrainian media directly labelled this treachery and political defection.
Later, in his Decree of 2 April 2007 “On the early termination of the powers of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine” No. 264/2007 President Yushchenko stated that “infringements of the constitutional requirements for the formation of coalitions of deputy factions” had led to a distortion of the outcome of peoples declaration of will in March 2006. Furthermore, the “unlimited” formation of the coalition was called disregard for citizens electoral rights which had led to a direct threat to national sovereignty.
The development of events at the end of 2006 and the beginning of 2007 had thus, in the Presidents view, gradually become the precondition for usurpation of power in Ukraine. He considered that it jeopardized national security and had destabilized the situation in the country, presenting a potential threat to the very existence of the Ukrainian State. This was manifesting itself in the fact that an ever increasing number of deputies from the opposition had begun voting together with the ruling coalition. With the exception of the move to the coalition of the deputies of Anatoly Kinakhs group, and earlier – of Oleksandr Morozs socialists, what was involved was not so much a formal move to the coalition, but a change in strategy of voting of isolated members of the opposition.
However the deviation from norms governing political ethics by some deputies did not in the given instance constitute a formal infringement of the Constitution. After all, Article 80 § 2 of the Constitution states that “National Deputies of Ukraine are not legally liable for the results of voting or for statements made in Parliament and in its bodies”. The new supporters of the coalition sat in the same hall for plenary sessions as before, they listened, made decisions, voted. Everything was the same as before, only their political assessment had changed. Therefore, in Ukrainian political discourse the question began to be discussed of whether a faction has power over the views of its members. Still more, do the people of Ukraine have power over the mind and consciousness of their deputies?
However, be that as it may, the people elected very different individuals with all their inevitable inner specific features and qualities. The voting moreover was effectively on the basis of closed candidate lists. That means that the people when voting for deputies had to rely on the maturity of the political force which formed a specific list. In reality the lists were formed by the leaders of the blocs and parties (more or less to an equal extent by V. Yanukovych, V. Yushchenko and Y. Tymoshenko), it is they who bear the main responsibility for the improper behaviour of their chosen candidates. Yet in the later events it was the President and Yulia Tymoshenko who were first to condemn political defections.
Furthermore, analyzing the events in retrospect, one can see that some of the places on the candidate lists in 2006 were bought for money (“donations”), which the electors clearly did not authorize the political leaders to do. Obviously in no electoral system in the world is the choice of people infallible. A normal electoral system can be majority, proportional or mixed, however in any of these cases it must produce a result where errors of the expression of peoples will are isolated, that is, not creating an effect on a mass or systemic scale. The situation with the newly-elected parliament gave grounds for speaking not of political apostasy, but of a faulty manner of forming electoral candidate lists, a legally imperfect electoral law.
On the other hand, there are no serious documented grounds for asserting that the people as represented by the majority of voters condemned the move of deputies from the opposition to the coalition. The people, in fact, elected National Deputies not directly to the coalition or the opposition, but to parliament – the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine. Their choice does not directly influence whether a Deputy joins the coalition or the opposition. The possibility can also not be excluded that in the course of a year the electorate could have moved to new political priorities together with the defecting Deputies.
That is, in March 2006 the people could have wanted one thing, and in April 2007 – something else. In the final analysis, if the voting of individual deputies from opposition factions together with the coalition is betrayal, then the voting of an entire faction – ByuT [the bloc of Yulia Tymoshenko) for the Law on the Cabinet of Ministers could be seen as an even greater betrayal. This after all virtually destroys the political weight of the position of President of Ukraine. And why in that case not consider as betrayal of the electorate the fact that President Yushchenko himself put forward the candidacy of Viktor Yanukovych as Prime Minister? After all, it was to stop the latter coming to power that his electorate stood out on the winter Maidan Nezalezhnosti [Independence Square, in Kyiv].
One way or another, from the legal point of view, it is not possible to prove that the change in the strategy of voting by a whole faction or the change in political tastes of the President with regard to the candidacy of Viktor Yanukovych were a blessing for the people, while the change in the voting strategy of individual deputies was an evil.
It could be said that the infringement of Article 83 of the Constitution with regard to the formation of a coalition of factions did not so much distort the results of the peoples expression of will in March 2006, as potentially influenced the stability of V. Yanukovychs government later. Parties after all join the coalition; they do not dissolve into it. In its turn the existence of a coalition is aimed exclusively at forming a Cabinet of Ministers. The Constitution says virtually nothing about the subsequent fate of the coalition, or indeed of the opposition. For example, from Article 80 § 2 of the Constitution it follows that deputies votes are on principle an individual matter. This means that they are governed by their own choice, intuition, and not by party (factional) discipline.
As far as the President is concerned, analyzing the events of autumn 2006 in his Decree № 264, he came to the conclusion that the practice of mass filling of their ranks through individual or group membership had led to “disdain for the constitutional electoral rights of citizens of Ukraine”.
According to the Constitution and a special law, the electoral rights of Ukrainian citizens consist in voting for a party or bloc list (the majority system is in force only at elections to village and settlement councils), or themselves getting on such lists. There are no serious problems with active electoral law in Ukraine however the situation with passive electoral law is considerably worse.
The constitutional amendments of 8 December 2004 and the Law “On the election of National Deputies of Ukraine” in the version from 19 January 2006, introduced a proportional system of voting with virtually closed electoral lists. This adversely affected the political rights of Ukrainian citizens, while making it possible to fill the candidate lists of parties and blocs with eccentric oligarchs, guards and chauffeurs of VIPs, as well as stage and television stars. Having enabled the deputy corps to be formed from the business or overtly exotic layers of society, the electoral law automatically stimulated the lack of control and unpredictable behaviour of parliamentary neophytes.
One can say that the “political reform” [as the constitutional amendments are known – translator] of 2004 and the electoral law adopted on its basis have made Ukrainian politics overtly corporative and the Verkhovna Rada itself the epitome of some kind of casino club for the rich. Since the amendments and the electoral law were voted in by the last makeup of the Verkhovna Rada together with the President to be, it is these people who bear responsibility for the systemic failings they contain. At the end of the day, the problems of the present situation in parliament and society have arisen not from deputy renegades, but from the systematic features of the “political reform” and the legislative decisions passed on the basis of these amendments.
Furthermore, the procedure for forming the coalition does not in itself directly influence the exercising by Ukrainian citizens of their electoral lights. Neither in 2006, nor later, was there success in installing the imperative mandate (which has been retained in about 10 countries) at the highest, parliamentary, level. After all, a National Deputy is not a primitive instrument for passing on the mood and preferences of the electorate, but a responsible, independently thinking and politically autonomous individual. The present pre-election programme is a declaration of intentions and not battle regulations. It can be exercised in very many ways. It is not surprising that in the formal – legal sense National Deputies have the right to choose their tactics for parliamentary life.
With regard to the real state of political culture in the country, in 2006 this was not on a high level. Back in autumn 2006, experts noted that in Ukrainian parliamentary factions the main decisions are made by the party elite which comprise 3 or 4 people. It is not surprising that the style of work of such totalitarian factions arouses only reluctance and disgust. On the other hand, the inconclusive state of the countrys political choice has fuelled party authoritarianism.
The political will of the Ukrainian people remains balanced between two vectors of development leading to significantly different prospects for the country. . It is for this reason that having gained a difficult victory in the Presidential elections, the Orange forces should have done everything to gain the support as swiftly as possible of at least a few percent of the blue and white electorate. However the historic chance of 2004-2006 was to a large extent lost. . The policy of the O range regime did not become truly caring and humane, and focused on the needs of the average person.
For example, the move towards the European values they declared required radical changes in government attitude to education. After all, only an educated person can understand the meaning of freedom, the dignity of the individual and of democracy. Yet Ukrainian provincial schools, just as their teachers, have remained in penury. Not even the network of provincial bookshops, traditional for communist times, was renewed.
The law was abused and legislation did not work as a universal regulator. Key witnesses were invited to the Prosecutor General via national television channels, and the vote-riggers in the elections could laugh at the weakness of the victors. The appalling, yet logical, consequence of this political atmosphere came with the former Prosecutor General Mykhailo Potebenko, being finally awarded the honour of Yaroslav the Wise.
It was then that the spread of salaries in the State sector reached 1:40. And this was while self-confidence contrasted with the extremely modest erudition of the ruling elite. The freedom of speech achieved as a result of the “Orange Revolution” made it possible for the public to look at the real intellectual possibilities of the political beau monde. It is not, therefore, surprising that at the 2006 parliamentary elections it was only the inertia of human hopes that saved the Orange camp.
The political mistakes of the Orange camp in 2004-2006 led to an expansion in the coalition unity in the new parliament. This had an adverse effect not so much on national or peoples sovereignty, as on pluralism, polyphony and diversity of Ukrainian civic society. Excessive unanimity became potentially dangerous for the rights of political minorities and the individual. Consolidation to fit circumstances has become a serious risk to Ukrainian liberalism since it threatens to excessively regulate the political processes in the country. Hypertrophied unanimity has effectively turned into a factor for stagnation in Ukrainian society.
On the other hand, there was not in fact any usurpation of power at that time in Ukraine. Since the concept of usurpation traditionally means violent seizure of power, there would be no grounds for asserting that the move of deputies from the parliamentary opposition to the side of the majority represented or was the precondition for coercion. There were no obvious signs of force in 2006. it would hardly be possible to liken the financial and business temptations organized by the coalition for their opponents to coercion.
The threat to Ukraines national security began emerging at that time not so much because of the coalitions political hospitality as due to an escalation in the general political problems in the country. Even a superficial glance at the political situation which developed over the 2006 parliamentary elections makes it possible to conclude that the executive branch of power has split into two powerful centres. The constitutional split provoked by the “political reform” is in turn organically ending up with “two Ukraines” [Mykola Riabchuk) – East-South and West-Centre. As a result, Ukraine ended up in 2006 with the competition, dangerously exacerbated by the “political reform” of two political stands and two visions for the strategic development of Ukraine. The historical and geopolitical grounds for this confrontation are the fact that the centre and West voted Viktor Yushchenko President, and the East and South made Viktor Yanukovych Prime Minister..
Thus after the 2006 parliamentary elections, the real threat for Ukraine lay less in the coalitions majority, than in the split in government power at the highest level, exacerbated by the “political reform”. It was this that led to the lack of cohesion between Ukraines domestic and foreign political course, confrontation between bodies of local self-government and the State administration in the East and South of the country.
At that time most dangerous for the country was the revival of the retrograde – conservative style of government typical for the Kuchma period which the leaders of the coalition almost immediately tried to reinstate. The general atmosphere was also oppressed by the archaism of primitive myths which continued to dominate in the system of State education, the superstitious attitude of even educated layers of the population to the idea of European integration and Ukraines potential membership of NATO..
It would also be difficult to overestimate the danger implicit in the disregard for the Constitution and laws of the country by the authorities and high-ranking public officials. Sufficient to mention the blocking of the functioning of the Constitutional Court by the former Speaker of Parliament V. Lytvyn, the fact that the Head of the Supreme Court V. Malyarenko and the Human Rights Ombudsperson N. Karpachova took part in the elections, the voting by deputies of the Verkhovna Rada using other deputies cards, the judgment of the Constitutional Court in favour of Leonid Kuchmas standing for office a third time.
Even then the harmful impact became apparent of the model of proportional representation for district and regional bodies of local self-government. The incredible spread of salaries in the State sector is destroying national unity. The situation where a National Deputy receives a salary which is a few dozen times higher than the salary of a highly qualified teacher or surgeon is a greater threat to national unity in Ukraine than any upheavals at the level of parliamentary factions. Even American newspapers wrote at the time about the disproportionately generous funding for Ukrainian public officials and National Deputies. Some analysts asserted later that with the kind of divide in State salaries as that in Ukraine, it is simply impossible to create a political nation.
There was in general a continuing and deepening political crisis in Ukraine during 2006. This was first of all the general crisis of confidence of the population towards the authorities. This was also a crisis arising from the primitive level of awareness of the population resulting in large numbers of Ukrainians being afraid of Brussels and NATO. It was a crisis of the economic divide between the rich and the poor, as well as between higher and lower ranking public officials. It was a crisis of constitutionalism and lawfulness, resulting in high-ranking public officials consciously ignoring the requirements of their own law-based system.
In the strategic sense, the majority of features of crisis in Ukraine are linked with the fact that it has still not managed to part with the theory and practice of totalitarianism. In the sphere of State governance the generation of communists continued to fight the “lost generation” of Komsomol members. The instrumental focus in the behaviour of political leaders, their inability to be guided by real values and principles, the mass disregard for the Constitution and legislation, untrammelled political ambition – these are all results of a plebeian political culture and of a long-term shortage of modern knowledge and freedom. On the other hand, as more time passed, the publics attitude to the Ukrainian political reality became increasingly critical.
The systemic failings of the constitutional amendments have continued to destroy Ukraines political and economic course. The overt primitivism of the electoral system created specially for the parliamentary and local elections of 2006, as well as the imperial mandate at local level, has made Ukrainian politics unwieldy and its State life a permanent settling of personal accounts. The situation induced by the hastily revamped Constitution has made Ukrainian politics at once hypocritical, emotionally distasteful, inhumane and ineffective.
The more rhetoric and slogans were declared by the political elite, the deeper the divide between them and the population. In the final analysis the mutual recriminations have made one simple fact clear and transparent: all without exception political parties and branches of State power bear responsibility for the systemic crisis in Ukraine. And the greatest blame lies with those who were and should remain the most sensible and intelligent.
Therefore the Presidents decision later to dissolve parliament was a hard nut to crack for the Constitutional Court not only because of the purely legal features. It was difficult in the first instance through its moral and ethical basis. From the legal point of view one did not need to prove that the President does not have the right to arbitrarily dissolve parliament. Viktor Yushchenko is not the Tsars Governor in the Caucuses who in the times of the Russian Empire usually had discretionary powers. On the other hand the President was right in the sense that the Ukrainian State had hit a dead end. Society which had become indifferent was disintegrating before our eyes, and we had to somehow react to this.
In themselves snap elections in a country which is growing and changing rapidly are easy to justify. However the energy of the population at such elections needs to be used to maximum effect. The real problem which Ukraine now faces is that the dissolution of parliament and new elections will not per se enable Ukraine to come out of its systemic crisis. The reasons for the latter lie concealed in the matrix of the “political reform”. While this exists, no Ukrainian parliament or government will be able to escape its destructive influence.
In order therefore to cure the illness, more daring measures are needed. The “political reform” can be put to a nationwide vote or abolished in the Constitutional Court. There is no shortage of legal arguments for this. It is well-known that the constitutional amendments voted in on 8 December 2004 had not undergone the proper scrutiny of the Constitutional Court. The amendments to the Main Law were, moreover, voted on in a package with an ordinary law. The latter was a normative act which determined the personal fate of the future President of the country! In the final analysis the primitively revamped 2004 Constitution really is illegitimate. It is absolutely not a document which we should defend with all our might. Since the responsibility for the reform lies with all branches of power, all need to be prepared for radical changes.
It is evident that Ukraines problem lies not in the fact that “bad” politicians seized the initiative in 2006 from “good” politicians. What is to be regretted is that even the “good” politicians are absolutely not concerned about the reputation of their own judicial system. One feels particular sympathy for the Ukrainian Constitutional Court. Whatever else should be said, they do, after all, form the legal elite of the country. The previous Constitutional Court was discredited in the eyes of the international community due to the judgment regarding a third term in office for Leonid Kuchma. At present it is not clear whether the new Constitutional Court will wish to sacrifice its reputation in favour of political ambitions.
In any case Ukrainian voters should think seriously whether it is worth once again giving their votes to those who have awarded themselves salaries dozens of times higher than those of their voters, and also to those who for the sake of unlimited ambition damaged the national Main Law. It is indeed time for Ukraines rebirth. However this can begin from something understandable to all and simple. This could be, for example, a review of the procedural elements of the “political reform”. This may seem from the outside insignificant however it could open the door for us into the fresh air.
2. The electoral system
The 2006 elections brought Ukraine a surprise since as soon as they ended the country began slipping towards new elections. However it would be difficult to say whether the Verkhovna Rada in its 2007 format really has a chance of becoming better than its predecessor. One can however already say that Ukraines electoral system is itself in a state of crisis. If a just cause can only be achieved through decent means, then it would be difficult, if not impossible, to overcome the political crisis on the basis of the present electoral system.
It so turned out that in attempting to describe the situation with regard to changes in electoral legislation in 2006, the conclusions organically emerged as ten relatively autonomous theses.
First and foremost, one must note that the principles of the Ukrainian electoral system are set out in Articles 69-74 of the Ukrainian Constitution which make up Chapter III “Elections, Referendum”. According to Article 155, this Section, together with Chapter I "General Principles,", and Chapter XIII — "Introducing Amendments to the Constitution of Ukraine," are subject to heightened protection. What this means is that any attempt to remove or modify constitutional articles about elections and referendums must be affirmed via a referendum. Chapters 1, III and XIII are amended according to particular regulations requiring complex juridical procedure.
At the same time, nothing in domestic constitutional law changes as quickly and as often as current electoral laws. Almost every election to the Verkhovna Rada and local councils since Ukraine became independent has been held on the basis of new or significantly updated electoral laws. The same must be said about presidential elections.
Aside from the Constitution, Ukrainian electoral system is made up of the following laws:
“On the Ukrainian Presidential Elections” № 474 – XIV from 05.03.99 in the version of Law № 1630-IV from18.03.04;
“On specific aspects of the application of the Law of Ukraine “On the Ukrainian Presidential Elections” during the re-run of the voting on 26 December 2004”, № 2221-IV from 8.12.04;
“On the elections of National Deputies of Ukraine” № 1665-IV from 25.03.04 in the version of Law № 2777-IV from 07.07.05 and “On the elections of Deputies to the Parliament of the Autonomous Republic of the Crimea, local councils and village, settlement and city mayors” № 1667-IV from 06.04.04, with relevant amendments introduced to the Code of Administrative Justice № 2747-IV from 06.07.05, as well as laws № 3253-IV from 21.12.05. № 3368-IV from 19.01.06, № 3437-IV from 09.02.06, № 3519-IV from 14.03.06
In addition, after the adoption of Law No. 2766 from 18.10.01 “On the elections of National Deputies of Ukraine”, the Constitutional Court issued judgments with regard to the constitutionality of various provisions. These were CCU Judgment № 1-18/2002 from 30.01.02 and CCU Judgment № 13-рп/2003 from 03.07.03 which should also be considered part of electoral legislation.
In terms of the development of the national electoral system Ukraine first had a majority system for all councils without exception. This was changed to a majority – proportional system for parliamentary elections, and majority for local council elections. Finally, under the pressure of the best expectations and hopes, as well as due to the “political reform” of 2004, the mixed system of parliamentary and majority system of local elections was replaced by an entirely proportional system.
The initiative was brought to its logical conclusion on a wave of enthusiasm. Henceforth only village and settlement councils are not elected accorded to party lists. As a result, the stability of the electoral system proclaimed in the Constitution has in practice turned into unprecedented fluidity of current electoral laws, reminiscent in dynamic to that of mercury.
At the end of 2004 the Law “On the Ukrainian Presidential Elections” was adjusted before the last (third) round of voting by a law on special aspects of the application of that law. . It is known that the early elections to the Verkhovna Rada in 2007 are to be held on the basis of a package of legislative amendments. These involve, for example, establishing a minimum voter turnout of 50%, re-election of the Central Election Commission [CEC] on a “parity” basis and the nullification of more than a third of the current deputy mandates, etc.
As we know, electoral systems used in todays world are not only majority, proportional or mixed. Aside from the traditional classification, they can also be defined as relatively simply or relatively complicated. Even if elections take place through postal voting (Europe) or pressing buttons or levers on an electronic device (USA), they can be placed in the first or second group. For example, the Ukrainian elections held with the use of ballot papers may be considered relatively simple.
In mathematical language the Ukrainian system of the expression of the peoples will could be called “arithmetic”, in contrast to those systems which can be considered “algebraic”, i.e. not entirely simple. For better or worse, Ukraine has from the outset been modifying a simple system for counting votes although specialists know that the more complicated an electoral system is, the closer the outcome is to the mood and preferences of the electorate. This is of course when the complexity is in line with the level of preparation of the voters and the electoral commissions.
On the other hand, if at the elections consideration of individual preferences is to be ensured or other mathematically or organizationally complex systems are used, this demands an educated corps of specially trained electoral commissions. In this case volunteers need to be specially selected, encouraged and trained. It is possibly for this reason that in Ukraine technologies demanding the use of complicated electoral formulae are consistently avoided.
However, even with the simplified 2006 elections, a lot was reminiscent of a political rush-job. It is quite often the case that people are chosen for working at electoral commissions at the last minute, making it impossible to give them even basic training. No wonder that at the last parliamentary elections independent observers noted a huge number of mistakes when preparing electoral protocols.
A separate problem of the Ukrainian electoral system during this period was the use of a proportional model at local level. With the exception of the majority elections to village and settlement councils, the other local authorities and bodies of local self-government are elected according to the number of votes cast for a specific party list. on the basis of party lists. At the same time all parties and blocs registered with the Ministry of Justice and the Central Election Commission function on the basis of nationwide programmes. This is the standard requirement of the Law “On political parties in Ukraine” № 2365-III from 05.04.01.
Since all party programmes and charters in Ukraine are nationwide, at the elections for bodies of local self-government, a centralized political view was effectively transplanted to the local level. Yet the interests of local areas and the regions often fail to coincide with the interests of the centre. They therefore are far from best suited to fit into the constraints of party programmes.
Discrepancies also arose because Ukraine recognizes in the main a civic theory of local self-government according to which the first participants in self-government are considered to be the territorial community – an autonomous source of public power which does not belong to the State but is independent (municipal). Under such a system local self-government and its bodies only deal with issues of local importance, while the functions of government authorities are implemented by the local State administrations.
According to Article 140 § 1 of the Constitution the territorial community is seen as the primary participant in local self-government, with this complying with its civic concept. This means that local self-government in Ukraine is confined to resolving issues of local character within the limits of the Constitution and the laws of Ukraine, and is concentrated in villages, settlements and cities. However, although district and regional councils are not classified as the base level of local self-government, it is specifically they which deal with the main issues of Ukraines provincial life.
Since the party imperative mandate which is legislated for at local level, runs counter to a civic system, deputy factions in regional and district councils found themselves in 2006 under double pressure. On the one hand they are governed by a political centre which is little aware of the real situation at local level. On the other, even non-party affiliated deputies of local councils find themselves under the pressure of faction discipline. This has on occasion already led to the formation of truly authoritarian sects – self-sufficient structures which are however ineffective from the point of view of implementing local policy.
We thus see that the transfer of political centralization and factional discipline to the local level did not in 2006 create a constructive working atmosphere in regional and district councils. This resulted in the electoral system being excessively concentrated on party allegiance and led to the formation of irreconcilable political groupings among deputies.
Furthermore, the local imperative mandate has distanced individuals with independent thinking and their own political position from taking part in running government and public matters. Under current electoral legislation, there is simply no place for such people in local representative bodies and in the Ukrainian parliament. As a result by no means all politically substantial individuals are able to fully enter the public sphere and gain access to the media.
As soon as an intellectually developed and self-sufficient individual wants to serve his or her community, s/he has to defer to a local party functionary. This is despite the fact that the persons stature is often incomparably greater than that of the party activist. The official leaders ambition conflicts with the “egoism” of the newcomer leaving the latter outside the political process. One way or another, individualism, as a typical attribute of liberal society has absolutely failed to find root in Ukraine. Instead we have a new version of Ukraine “democratic centralism”.
It is not clear what remains for autonomous individuals to do under such a system. Their intellectual and organizational potential is not being channelled which significantly increases the level of political frustration in society. It is galling that in todays Ukraine, not only the leader of the opposition Yulia Tymoshenko, but also the President Viktor Yushchenko, support the idea of an imperative mandate. There has not yet, thank goodness, been any success in introducing the imperative mandate in parliament, however it exists and is continuing to do its deed at local level.
The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe [PACE] has tried to steer Ukrainian politicians away from excessive administration, however the national electoral system as seen in 2006 continues to stubbornly thrust people who think for themselves in a straightjacket of party programmes and plans. This has resulted in a situation where parties and factions do not boast of specific individual members, but rather where belonging to the clan ensures public attention for a “cog” in the system.
In general, the move from a majority electoral to a mixed system and from there to one which is proportional with closed candidate lists has turned Ukrainian elections into voting according to party labels. From the outside it looks as though the “political reform” of 2004 introduced the universal slogan: vote for the party, the party will sort it all out.
The imperative mandate, however, has not only resulted in excessive political influence from the centre on the local authorities. For over a year the image of young parties has been discredited by the lack of experience of their provincial functionaries. This in turn leads voters to suspect that at the national level the party is flawed and has no future.
The introduction in 2006 of voting entirely on the basis of party candidate lists means that voters need to understand not only elementary rules, but also the nuances of the political game. Yet this understanding at present in Ukraine, except in Kyiv, is lacking. A proportional system thus requires proper political education in the provinces. Such education in turn demands a level of material wellbeing which people do not at present have in rural areas and small towns.
The inability of the average voter to come to grips with the processes going on behind the party scenes has already led to a revival in Ukraine of a kind of census (limited) suffrage system of democracy. Since the constitutional amendments of 2004 and the 2006 elections, State governance and local self-government have become more and more reminiscent not of the power of the power, but of government by the owners on behalf of the owners and in the interests of the owners.
Although debate is raging in Ukraine as to whether the imperative mandate is expedient, what is meant here is not the classical form of imperative mandate (where deputies depend on the electorate, on the orders of their voters), but rather strict party discipline, political centralism in its post-Soviet variant. All of this indicates that in 2006 the electoral system in Ukraine did not succeed in becoming democratic and open. Instead the pyramid of central totalitarianism disintegrated into small pyramids of authoritarianism at the local level. Instead of one “governing and guiding” force, Ukrainians have around 150 parties, with the level of democracy of each remaining that seen during communist times. The right of decision in Ukrainian parties is held by a small elite comprising three or four influential individuals.
Such a system does not take into account the fact that in the modern world there are more and more often situations where each participant is right in their own way. On the other hand, the more complex a political problem, the smaller the number of people who are capable of resolving it. All of this suggests an urgent need to understand the value of the individuals role combined with tolerance and pluralism. Unfortunately, individualized approaches to the assessment and resolution of problems in Ukraine are not encouraged and are seldom observed.
In 2006 the Ukrainian political elite demonstrated a low level of willingness to understand that in the countrys development strategy several variants could coexist. Politicians viewed the mosaic nature of Ukrainian society, its diversity, in a merely formal manner, and not as something suited for practical application. A spirit of animosity and suspicion remains dominant not only the area of local policy, but at legislative level. Many political leaders and official figures continue to espouse a form of xenophobia. This can be understood since it is precisely in Soviet ideological strata that one finds the roots of the imperative mandate: ostracism of dissident thinkers; electoral lists which were closed for the general public; ideological intractability combined with readiness to use blackmail in voting.
Real life is multi-faceted and flexible, yet the Ukrainian political system remains unyielding. One sees a strange mixture in Ukraine of political pluralism with harsh party-corporative ideology. On the one hand, the number of political parties in the country far exceeds the number of themes in world literature. On the other they are all marked by an exaggerated idea of their own significance. Although there are a fairly limited number of strategies for political development in Ukraine (rightwing, leftwing, centrist, a radical wing, “greens”), party ambitions bear little relation to their popularity ratings. This is not surprising since even minimal legitimacy enabled Oleksandr Moroz to head the Verkhovna Rada in 2006.
At the same time parties which in 2006 boasted the names of the Speaker of Parliament, the Head of the Supreme Court and the first (after M. Hrushevsky) President of the country, could not overcome the three-percent vote threshold. The current preferences of the Ukrainian voters are thus in marked contrast with the self-assessment of the former leaders of the country. Since the political tastes of the electorate undergo rapid change in Ukraine, the authorities resort to constant re-editing of the national electoral system.
This has exacerbated the crisis in passive electoral law initiated by the constitutional reform of 2004. Although the number of deputy mandates is always limited, in a law-based country this does not affect the opportunity for members of the public to stand for office in elections. As stated in Article 38 of the Constitution “Citizens have the right to participate in the administration of state affairs, in All-Ukrainian and local referendums, to freely elect and to be elected (my italics – V.R.) to bodies of state power and bodies of local self-government”.
However under the new electoral system in Ukraine there is no free access by citizens to passive electoral law. It is paradoxical, but in Ukraine we have a situation where one can stand for the office of President by paying a bond and putting oneself forward, yet one can only become a candidate for deputy of a district country by being included on a party candidate list.
As already mentioned, the current version of the Law on the elections to the Verkhovna Rada was drawn up especially for the 2006 parliamentary elections. At that time the legislators aimed at dealing with the shortcomings of the previous law which had not, they believed, sufficiently envisaged legal guarantees against vote-rigging and safeguarded transparency in the counting of votes.
The new law was marked by detailed regulation of the electoral process with, for example, a complicated structure for electoral commission protocols. Unfortunately in practice the procedural guarantees were unable to avert elementary buying and selling of places on the candidate lists. An obvious shortcoming of the law was its excessive complexity. The legislators tried to ensure efficient elections, however in their wish for perfection they lost any sense of measure.
As a result, the juridical attributes of this large-scale normative act made the law more of a manual on the ideal training of personnel, “Bureaucracy according to Max Weber”. At the same time electoral commissions were to be made up of volunteers who, for a number of objective reasons, did not have time to fully master the complex procedural aspects of their regulations. This led to confusion in completing protocols and to unwarranted suspicions that commission staff had been corrupted, and it prompted appeals against the outcome in many electoral polling stations in the courts.
Since In public law the difference between beneficial and harmful is often felt at the level of legal nuances, elections must have maximum balance of procedures. This requirement is fair both for the polling station and for the Central Election Commission itself. If one looks at the Ukrainian electoral system from this viewpoint, it becomes clear that in 2006 it was constructed on the principle of almost total mutual distrust between the participants in the electoral process.
3. Political conflict
The constitutional amendments of 2004, together with the 2006 elections, serve as a prologue to the dramatic events of 2007, against the background of which this analysis is being written. The political future is predicted by the historical past, and we therefore feel it necessary to analyze the political – legal situation which emerged in Ukraine after the issuing of the Presidents Decree “On the early termination of the powers of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine and the setting of new elections” from 26 April 2007.
As we know, on 2 April 2007 President Yushchenko issued Decree No. 264 “On the early termination of the powers of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine” which pointed to and at the same time significantly exacerbated the intense political crisis in Ukraine. After a not very long period had elapsed, the President made a second attempt to resolve the political confrontation in a legal manner. On 26 April he issued a second Decree dissolving parliament and setting new elections.
This Decree No. 355 (hereafter the Decree) states: “the refusal by the Cabinet of Ministers to provide the appropriate funding, and effective inaction of the Central Election Commission make it impossible to hold the early elections to the Verkhovna Rada on 27 May 2007”. Therefore, “in order to create the proper conditions for all participants in the electoral process, and bearing in mind the fact that pursuant to Article 77 § 2 of the Constitution the date of the early elections is directly linked with the date on which the decision regarding the early termination of the powers of the Verkhovna Rada, the Presidents Decree No. 264 of 2 April 2007 ... must be considered to have lost legal force.”
It did not, furthermore, pass unnoticed that the new Decree was not merely a juridical copy of the first, legally speaking entirely inept document dissolving the Verkhovna Rada. It not only set a new date for the early elections, but also significantly changed the entire chain of juridical argumentation.
Unlike the first attempt, the second Decree on dissolving parliament contained important references to Article 90 § 2.1 and Article 83 § 6 of the Constitution. Both references are not only important, but also necessary since Article 106 § 1.8, which gives a list of Presidential powers, categorically and unqualifiedly affirms that the President of Ukraine shall “terminate the authority of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine in cases stipulated by this Constitution: (my italics – V.R.). In the juridical sense this means that the President may dissolve the Verkhovna Rada solely on the grounds of three groups of circumstances, listed in separate points of Article 90 § 2 of the Main Law. He is prohibited from behaving otherwise also by Article 19 of the Constitution.
It is precisely Articles 19 and 106 which prevent the President from dissolving the Verkhovna Rada directly on the basis of Article 102 § 2, this being the dramatic conclusion which many supporters of the President tried to argue in the national media and on the Internet. The most notable here were the analytical discussions and interviews with M. Riabchuk, B. Futey, O. Merezhko, N. Petrova, O. Severyn and F. Venislavsky.
Instead, in the Presidents new attempt, the logic behind the juridical grounds is considerably more cogent. For example, the second Decree maintains that “on 11 July, at a plenary session of the Verkhovna Rada the formation was announced of a coalition of deputy factions which included National Deputies who were not members of the factions forming the coalition. In March 2007 this practice took on a mass nature. Due to this the preconditions arose for the exercising by the President of Ukraine of his right to terminate the powers of the Verkhovna Rada early on the basis of Article 90 § 2.1 of the Constitution given that the coalition of deputy factions in the Verkhovna Rada had not been formed in accordance with Article 83 of the Ukrainian Constitution”.
Indeed, according to Article 90 § 2.1, “The President of Ukraine shall have the right to an early termination of powers of the Verkhovna Rada if: 1) the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine fails to form a coalition of deputy factions in compliance with Article 83 of this Constitution within one month; This means that in order to comply with Article 90 § 2.1, the prior adherence by all relevant parties to the requirements of paragraphs six and seven of Article 83 is needed. Given that the norms of the Constitution often function in whole groups together, this type of juridical interrelatedness should be regarded as natural.
If we analyze the general content of Article 83 of the Constitution, it is not difficult to conclude that its norms create a constitutional institution. In the legal sense this means that individual paragraphs of the article act as independent normative guides which, although they do not have autonomous sanctions, are equipped with their own scope and conditions. Moving away from legal language, this means that the main material and procedural points related to the formation of a coalition of deputy factions in the Ukrainian parliament is fully outlined in paragraphs six and seven of Article 83.
For example, Article 83.§ 6 states that “A coalition of deputy factions comprising a majority of peoples deputies of Ukraine in the constitutional membership of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine shall be formed in the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine on the basis of the results of election and on the basis of the harmonisation of the political platforms”. Arithmetically speaking, this means that the critical number for the creation of a properly functioning coalition of deputy factions is 226. Furthermore, this figure is achieved via group membership.
Article 83 § 7, in turn, stipulates that “A coalition of deputy factions in the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine shall be formed within one month from the date of opening of the first meeting of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine held upon regular or extraordinary elections to the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine or within one month after the date of termination of the activity of a coalition of deputy factions in the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine.
From the legal point of view, it is these norms which are crucial for providing evidence and general juridical justification for the second Presidential Decree. Although Article 83 § 9 says that “The basis for the formation, organisation, operation, and termination of activities of coalition of deputy factions in the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine shall be established by the Constitution of Ukraine and Rules of Procedure of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine”, in fact the Constitutional Court, in judging whether the Presidents Decree was constitutional should be guided not by the Rules of Procedure, but solely by the provisions of the Ukrainian Main Law.
It thus follows from the logic of the Constitution that a coalition of deputy factions must be finally formed within a month, and its parties must exclusively be deputy factions. Furthermore, the overall number of Deputies in the factions which have decided to join the coalition cannot be less than 226. Effectively this is all that Ukraines Main Law stipulates. All else is the juridical attributes of the Rules of Procedure, that is, a statement of the will of a majority of National Deputies which does not require (since the Rules of Procedure are not a law), the official consent of the President.
Maybe it was for this reason that the Ukrainian parliament chose a free (and then unconstitutional) path for forming a coalition on the basis not only of group, but also individual membership, while extending the period of its formation indefinitely. In other words, the Verkhovna Rada, having formed an initial majority within a month, deliberately forgot after this to close the coalition doors. This step, as we know, led to permanent additions to the coalition from further – individual and group – intakes.
At first glance such practice seems reasonably innocuous however its juridical subtext holds a potential risk for the political stability of the country. If one considers that the coalition is all the time functioning and permanently open, then the government which it forms is permanently open for dismissals and reappointments. Let us assume that during a particular period of time this permanently functioning and open coalition is made up of 226-227 Deputies. The government can then fall at any moment if even the smallest faction leaves the coalition.
Furthermore, if the doors to the coalition are permanently open, then is it possible to consider it formed in the juridical sense at all? That is, is it formed in the sense envisaged by paragraphs six and seven of Article 83 of the Constitution? Any increase in the coalition outside the month time frame stipulated by the Constitution for its creation shows that it is in a state of constant turbulence. After all, if one can freely join the coalition at any moment, then one can just as freely withdraw from it. The latter means that the coalition can collapse or be made up independently of the time frame set by the Main Law for its organization formation.
Although the Constitution does not say anything on this subject it would seem fitting to assume that its creators intentions were by no means so thoughtless. Whatever politicians may say on the capitals squares, a coalition which is permanently functioning and open for joining and leaving is reminiscent of a Verkhovna Rada permanently open for re-election. It is therefore logical to assume the opposite: according to the logic of the Main Law, the people vote for parliament once every five years and parliament once every five years creates, via a coalition, a government.
What is more, if the coalition is permanent and individuals can join it, they can also individually leave it. And this automatically leads to the fate of the government depending not only on the smallest coalition faction, but on any two or three National Deputies. And these can be Deputies from the makeup of the coalition, or from the opposition, i.e. from outside. Is this not a classic scenario for political blackmail? The difference between renegade Deputies in the given case will lie only in the fact that some are the participants, and others the objects of desperate political deals. If the coalition consists of 226 National Deputies, and any can join or leave whenever they please, this will mean the renewal of the Polish liberum veto in a Ukrainian variant. In todays reality, such a set up could lead to corrupt scenarios the likes of which we could never have imagined.
While the Constitution does not contain a direct prohibition on such Deputy coming and going with respect to the coalition, nor does it actually permit such moves outside the months time frame. Such permission is not envisaged ether for individual parliamentarians, or for deputy factions. As we know, on the basis of Article 19 of the Constitution, public authorities and their officials do not have substantial, that is, strategic freedom. The Main Law deliberately avoids giving real discretionary powers to public officials and parliamentarians.
At least a doctrinal analysis of the provisions of the Ukrainian Constitution suggests that its rationale is such. On the issue of the formation of a coalition, this logic is seen in the coalition of deputy factions being created under normal circumstances only once and exclusively within a month, after which the coalitions doors remain closed for the entire term in office of the newly-elected Verkhovna Rada. The ongoing readjustment of the coalitions ranks can take place only where the number of National Deputies has become less than 226 for natural reasons. For example, a legitimate reduction in the size of the coalition could occur not through the permitted withdrawal from its ranks of factions or individuals, but only for the reasons foreseen in Articles 81, 87 and 115 of the Constitution.
Such circumstances can arise as the result of the resignation of a National Deputy; the coming into legal force of a conviction against a specific Deputy; a Deputys being declared incapable of looking after him/herself, or missing; the suspension of the Deputys Ukrainian citizenship or his/her departure from Ukraine for permanent residence abroad; a breach in the incompatibility requirements of a Deputys mandate with other activities; withdrawal from his/her faction, as well as due to his or her death. In addition, a coalition must be re-formed as a result of the dismissal (Article 87 § 1 of the Constitution) or resignation (Article 115 § 2 of the Constitution) of the Cabinet of Ministers.
It should also be noted that under the Constitution, a coalition of deputy factions is created by the Verkhovna Rada only as a means of forming a government – the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine. The Main Law does not speak of any other functions or possible uses for a coalition. Of course critics of such a point of view can refer to the Rules of Procedure which give considerably more attention to the coalition, as though in this way broadening its range of possible applications. However we do not in fact know whether the Rules of Procedure in this aspect are constitutional. Although the Rules of Procedure of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine are not a law, on the basis of Article 150 § 1.1 of the Main Law they can also be examined as to whether they are constitutional.
Some may also point to the fact that according to Article 83 § 8 of the Constitution “A coalition of deputy factions in the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine shall… present candidates for the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine”. This means, they suggest, that isolated changes of ministers in the government during the entire term of office of the Verkhovna Rada take place through the mediation of the parliamentary coalition.
However, prior to an interpretation of this point by the Constitutional Court, one can insist that isolated changes of ministers in the Cabinet of Ministers take place not on the basis of Article 83, but in accordance with Article 114 § 4 of the Constitution. The latter states that “The candidate for office of Prime Minister of Ukraine is submitted by the President of Ukraine on the suggestion of the coalition of deputy factions”, while “other members of the Cabinet of Ministers are appointed by the Verkhovna Rada upon the submission of the Prime Minister.”
There are thus grounds for considering that under the Constitution, a coalition of deputy factions submits proposals regarding the replacement of posts of “ordinary” ministers to the Prime Minister, and with regard to the post of Prime Minister – to the President of Ukraine. However even in this case there are no convincing grounds for asserting that proposals regarding individual ministers can be submitted by the coalition as well as beyond the “sixty days after the resignation of the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine” (Article 90 § 2.2 of the Constitution). This can suggest that outside the time frame given by the Main Law for the formation of the government, a coalition does not, in a constitutional sense, exist at all. If this be the case, then any changes in its composition beyond the time limit for its formation must be recognized as unconstitutional.
The thesis regarding a permanently functioning coalition seems extremely dubious from the point of view of Article 80 § 2 of the Main Law. If “National Deputies of Ukraine are not legally liable for the results of voting … in Parliament and in its bodies”, then what kind of coalition unity, and therefore, coalition at all, is it possible to consider?
The possibility cannot be excluded that for specifically this reason the Constitution of Ukraine does not require the early resignation of the Prime Minister or Cabinet of Ministers where there has been a natural reduction (on the basis of Article 81 of the Constitution) in the number of deputies who formed a coalition below the critical level.
In fact in the majority of cases a serious crisis with a parliamentary majority leads to the dismissal of the government following a vote of no confidence. However, although Article 83 § 7 of the Constitution requires that a coalition be formed not after the resignation of the government, but “within one month after the date of termination of the activity of a coalition of deputy factions in the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine”, in fact we dont actually know whether this norm refers to termination of the activity of a permanently functioning coalition, or only to the crisis over the parliamentary majority which has arisen due to a parliamentary vote of no confidence in the Cabinet of Ministers.
One way or another, the above suggests that the second Presidential Decree creates a real intrigue for the professional activity of the Constitutional Court. In itself the content of the Decree did not predetermine a court judgment in favour of President Yushchenko, nor in favour of his opponents. However it makes it possible to build a constitutional analysis of the Presidents initiative on serious arguments pro and contra and this markedly distinguishes the present juridical position from the political situation with the first attempt by President Yushchenko to dissolve the Verkhovna Rada.
4. Conclusions and recommendations
As our analysis shows, the specific features of the situation and development in Ukrainian constitutional legislation in 2006-2007 were determined by a number of political, legal and cultural factors.
The main legal factor during this period was the constitutional reform of 2004, carried out with glaring procedural irregularities. These constitutional amendments defined less than optimal parameters for the Ukrainian political process in the following two years, as well as adversely affected the legal content and political direction of Ukrainian electoral legislation as of 2006.
The main political event of last year was the elections to the Verkhovna Rada and local councils. The elections took place on the basis of a proportional representation electoral system, according to closed candidate lists. The lists were formed by the top individuals in the party on a non-transparent basis which led in future to the commercialization (corruption) of parliament, the destabilization of certain links in the chain (the government, prosecutors office and the court) of the State mechanism.
Political corruption led to a deep crisis in society which provoked a reaction from both the opposition and President Yushchenko. His Decree on early parliamentary elections heightened the political confrontation in the country with this culminating in a fragile and temporary agreement between the main political players. As a result of political compromise parliament of the fifth (post-2006 elections) term supposedly “voluntarily” suspended its work. The situation in the country should be helped by parliamentary elections set in accordance with another Presidential Decree for the end of September 2007.
Given the situation that has developed, we feel impelled to give several recommendations which reflect our view of the events outlined above.
1. Sine the basis for the political crisis in Ukraine is the “matrix” of the political reform, the Ukrainian authorities should urgently return to the issue of a legal development strategy for Ukraine. This means that Ukraine will again be faced with the choice: whether to abolish the constitutional reform or draw up and pass a fundamentally new Constitution.
2. National electoral legislation needs considerable improvement. This involves first and foremost creating normative acts based on the principles of political freedom, trust, intellectual honesty and respect for the dignity of each of the parties to the electoral process. Simplified (primitive) voting according to closed candidate lists, as well as the ensuring factional authoritarianism should be condemned and removed from Ukraines political practice.
3. The problem of the imperative mandate in Ukraine also needs to be resolved. This imperative mandate is the epitome of extreme conservatism in the contemporary world. In Ukraine it is the direct result of the countrys tragic communist past. Particularly repugnant is the control over the will of deputies exerted by the party (factional) top echelons. Similar practice is the epitome of a concentration on individual leaders in Ukraines representative structures; it arouses antagonism and mistrust in society and lowers to a primitive level of governance over State and public affairs.
4. The present state of the judiciary is adversely affecting the implementation of both the Constitution and electoral legislation. As we know, without the courts the Constitution and laws have little value. On the one hand, Ukrainian courts, including the Constitutional Court suffer from corruptionї. On the other, the judiciary has yet to become free of direct external interference.
All of this leads to the law not being above us, but subject to human whim, which effectively prevents Ukraine becoming a law-based State. Judicial reform thus remains very much on the agenda.
5. New urgency has been given to the issue of adherence to the Constitution and laws of the land by the President, Speaker of the Verkhovna Rada, Prime Minister, Head of the Central Election Commission, the Head of the Constitutional Court, the Prosecutor General and the Human Rights Ombudsperson. One sometimes has the feeling that our politicians and public officials are really trying to “privatize” the legal system of the country. it is clear that such attempts demand response at the constitutional level and that legal mechanisms need to be created to bring such offenders to answer.
6. Since the law can act as regulator only in conditions of equal treatment of all involved, the practice in Ukraine of applying it selectively is dividing the nation and presenting a direct threat for society. It is therefore necessary to abolish as swiftly as feasible illegal “bonuses” and privileges of the political elite, to stop giving out State-owned flats in the capital to National Deputies. Other measures needed include establishing an average European spread of salaries in the State sector, restricting deputy immunity to what is objectively required.
7. Given the political events of 2006-2007 it would appear that Ukraine has still not freed itself of the results of the long years of communist rule. This suggests the need for a review of government policy in the areas of culture and education. Radical changes are required in the structure of government spending, with an increase in the amount spent on science and education. Ukraine must become more open to the world, a better educated and politically honest law-based state. This demands the continuation of public discussion on defining and crystallizing true priorities and values for the Ukrainian political community.
 By Vsevolod Rechytsky , Constitutional Specialist for the Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group.
 It is customary in Ukraine to distinguish between different parliamentary terms of the Verkhovna Rada by number. The fifth sklykannya or term was that which followed the 2006 elections. [translator]