President Volodymyr Zelensky issued instructions to the newly elected Verkhovna Rada and the government with clear deadlines in early September. Most of the instructions had to be implemented before the end of this year, and now we can safely say that the president's team was far from success in everything.
In particular, such large-scale orders of Zelensky as legalization of the gambling industry, opening of the land market and introduction of the amendments to the Constitution of Ukraine regarding decentralization were failed. It is also difficult to ignore the promise of the head of state to develop and adopt a new law on the special status of CADLO, - it was limited to the extension of the existing one.
OstroV has analyzed the main reasons for the failure of some of the initiatives of Volodymyr Zelensky and the prospects for their implementation next year.
The Dark and Bloody Ground
"The land reform is a complete failure. This is recognized both in the Cabinet of Ministers and in the President's Office. Perhaps, the Verkhovna Rada is the most satisfied – the ratings of the deputies were not affected, so they can safely appear in their constituencies, talking about how they fought for Ukrainian land and how they defended it. The President believes that he was done out with the land issue, he is not shy with expressions in this case. The Servant of the People party had no votes for the adoption of this law from the very beginning, and it was voted on in the first reading because of Zelensky's promise to complete it to the point that Ukrainian society will be able to accept. But in the end, no one wanted to spoil their reputation", - one of the President's Office employees confesses to OstroV on condition of anonymity.
In November, the Verkhovna Rada adopted a bill to open the land market in the first reading and it was planned that a successful voting would be held in the second reading by the end of this year. President Volodymyr Zelensky even promised to make some compromise corrections to the document: opening the land market for foreigners only after an all-Ukrainian referendum and reducing the maximum concentration of land in one hand from 200 thousand hectares to 10 thousand.
But unexpectedly (or not), the eternal oppositionist Yulia Tymoshenko entered the political ring with a decision to do everything possible to slow down the process of opening the land market as much as possible and prevent the Verkhovna Rada from even starting to consider the law in the second reading.
It all started with blocking the parliamentary rostrum and the presidium, as a result of which the Verkhovna Rada did not actually work for several days, and ended with the disruption of meetings of the agrarian committee and the organization of mass protests across the country. Sometimes, the behavior of the Batkivshchyna leader run to the absurd…
Yulia Tymoshenko and people's deputies from OPFL and Batkivshchyna disrupt the meeting of the agrarian committee
The final point of the "land confrontation" was clashes near the Verkhovna Rada, as a result of which 17 policemen were injured and 26 people were detained – mainly members of the National Corps.
At one point, the participants in the peaceful rally decided to block Hrushevskoho Street and set up large tents on the roadway. The police officers did not allow them to do this, as a result of which the clashes occurred. Batons, pepper spray canisters, stones, brilliant green and flour were used…
The most interesting thing is that it still remains a mystery why the nationalists decided to go to a mass rally on this day, because there was no law on opening the land market on the agenda of the parliament. Moreover, they were not going to consider it at that plenary week. The president's team has various rumors in this regard.
"Nobody knows for sure why the National Corps unexpectedly decided to stand up for the land. Some say that Arsen Avakov, who unofficially oversees them, decided to show Zelensky his strength in this way and recall who has real power in the country. In this connection, the rumors that Mr. Avakov may soon become the new prime minister began to ooze. All this is unlikely, but still… On the other hand, there is a more likely version that it was a secret understanding between Avakov and the Office of the President (not Zelensky personally, but with one of his close associates), where they saw that the law on the land market would not be adopted due to the lack of votes and thus decided to create a picture for their voters and international partners (in particular, the IMF, which requires it to allocate another loan). As a result, no one received what he wanted (the law was not scraped, as the activists demanded, but it was also not adopted as Zelensky wanted), but at the same time, everyone saved the face", - one of the deputies of Servant of the People, who is ready to support the law on opening the land market, told OstroV.
As a result, it was decided to fully consider the land bill, which can take several months, because about 4.5 thousand amendments were submitted to the document. That is, at first, the relevant committee will discuss and vote for each of the amendments, and then the same procedure will have to be repeated in the parliament hall. In addition, all fractions and parliamentary groups of the Verkhovna Rada signed a memorandum on joint preparation of the bill on the land market for the second reading.
Speaker of the Verkhovna Rada Dmytro Razumkov is accused behind his back by the president's team of failing the land reform. Like, he was not too persistent and wanted to go strictly according to the rules.
"This is a complete failure. Razumkov played an important role here; he decided not to bend the parliament across his knee, although the President's office sent such signals. The past Rada calmly made important decisions even without the committee's decision or reduced the time limit as much as possible. The Agrarian Committee could calmly vote for rejection all the corrections, but it did not do it. The head of the parliament could calmly put the law on the agenda, but he did not. Draw your own conclusions. The President's Office made them. But despite all this, Zelensky's people believe that the law on the land market will be eventually passed", - a source in the president's team told OstroV.
Legalization of gambling industry
The second test, which the Verkhovna Rada failed, turned out to be the legalization of gambling industry in Ukraine. If the failure of the land reform angered Zelensky, this pissed him off.
"The story of the gambling business seethed Zelensky with anger. He lost his temper when he found out that the Rada could not pass the law even in the first reading. Although the initial task was to pass the law before the end of the year in the second reading and as a whole", - a source in the Office of the President told OstroV.
On December 19, the Verkhovna Rada was not able to pass bill No. 2285-d "On state regulation of activities in the organization and conduct of gambling" in the first reading. Only 213 of the 226 required votes were found in the hall.
Only 200 out of 248 "servants of the people" voted for the law. The rest either abstained, were absent, or did not vote at all. People's deputies admit off the record that the law turned out to be too lobbist and large-scale.
"If Zelensky initially spoke only about the legalization of casinos in five-star hotels, then the new law already included 3 and 4 star hotels. Plus, they included non-residential premises where you can open slot machines. Then lotteries, an online casino and so on. As a result, we did not understand the law and sent it for revision", - a people's deputy from Servant of the People, who did not vote for the bill, told OstroV.
Indeed, the introduced bill covers the field of activity of casinos and online casinos, conducting betting activity (including online), issuing and conducting lotteries and the issue of playing poker online.
According to the text of the document, slot machine halls can be in five-, four- and three-star hotels with a certain number of rooms, as well as in separate non-residential buildings with an area of 1 thousand square meters for Kyiv and at least 500 square meters for other settlements, if there will be only slot machines.
"We are going to legalize gambling, namely the operation of casinos in five-star hotels, which will stimulate the development of the tourism cluster - the regions near the Black Sea", - Zelensky promised during his visit to Turkey in early August 2019.
The reason for this transformation of the president's initial idea remains a mystery. But for some reason, Zelensky blamed Arsen Avakov in the failure of the law. The media has long been saying that it is the Minister of the Interior who protects this business. OstroV's interlocutors at the President's Office say that after a failed vote in the Rada, Volodymyr Zelensky was on a tear, then he called Avakov and urgently demanded all illegal gambling establishments to be closed. In addition to this (apparently, due to distrust to the MIA Minister), the president appealed to the SBU to conduct its raids, and to Prime Minister Oleksiy Honcharuk to urgently convene a government meeting and decide to ban the gambling business under the guise of lotteries. He also made an angry post on Facebook.
"Yesterday, the Verkhovna Rada failed to pass a law on the legalization of gambling industry. We know who is behind it. Do you want to play by transparent rules? Do you want to work in a civilized way and pay to the budget? Well, let us do it the other way. Now we immediately close all gambling halls. Think…", - Zelensky wrote.
It had an effect. Raids and closure of illegal casinos and slot machines, which operated under the guise of lotteries, began across the country. The order was unofficially given: if you want to work legally, seek the adoption of law on the legalization of gambling industry through your representatives and lobbyists.
The President's Office expressly indicate the role of the VR speaker Dmytro Razumkov, who, having seen an insufficient number of votes on the board, did not announce a second voting, as was often the case in the previous parliament.
"Yes, it is not according to the rules, but he did not even try. He is trying to be right for everyone. It seems that Razumkov is playing some kind of game and wants to seem good for everyone. Pay attention to how he communicates with opposition parties: he is extremely polite, even friendly. It is rumored that he thinks to run for president in the future, if Zelensky keeps his word and does not go for a second term. In order to do this, it is necessary to save face and increase ratings. So, he is not quarreling", - a source in the Office of the President told OstroV.
On December 13, President Volodymyr Zelensky unexpectedly introduced amendments to the Constitution in the Verkhovna Rada, which provide for decentralization and new administrative and territorial structure.
According to the document, it is proposed to introduce the following list of administrative division: community, district, oblast and the Autonomous Republic of Crimea. Community is the primary unit in the system of administrative and territorial structure of Ukraine.
So, the community's right to direct implementation of local self-government is secured at the constitutional level through elections, local referenda, local initiatives and in other forms determined by law.
It is proposed to introduce the institution of prefects. The draft stipulates that the President of Ukraine appoints and dismisses prefect upon recommendation of the government.
Prefect suspends the acts of local self-government on the grounds of their inconsistency with the Constitution or laws of Ukraine with simultaneous appeal to the court.
Despite the fact that the bill does not provide for the capture of any "special statuses" in the Constitution of Ukraine, there is a potential opportunity of granting "special status" to any region of Ukraine by adopting a law, rather than amendments to the Constitution (that is, by 226 votes in the Verkhovna Rada).
"Special status for the Russian occupation authorities is in the amendments to the Constitution again. This time it was covered in paragraph 16 of the first part of Article 92: "Only the laws of Ukraine determine… legal status of administrative division. "It is this norm that will be used with the law on the special status of the occupied territories, dispersing metastases of the country's collapse through a healthy body. The railway communication with the occupied territories, which was declared by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, will help this", - former deputy speaker of the Verkhovna Rada Oksana Syroyid believes.
Sources in Servant of the People told that the voting for this bill (for sending it to the Constitutional Court) was initially planned for Friday, December 20. But unexpectedly, the relevant committee of the Verkhovna Rada (on issues of organizing state power, local self-government, regional development and urban planning) did not support the document at its meeting on December 18: 11 people's deputies out of 15 required voted in the affirmative. Officially, Servant of the People stated that it had not rejected the bill.
"We did not reject it yesterday. Yesterday, the committee simply did not have enough votes to support it. Because there was a fight due to the agrarian policy yesterday and many of our faction representatives went there to defend the committee's representatives. That is why there were not enough votes", - MP from Servant of the People Oleksandr Kachura justified.
However, after the failure of the land reform and legalization of gambling industry, Servant of the People decided not to risk and not to place the bill for consideration yet.
"First of all, we need to deal with the land and gambling business. Because there are too many high-profile and contradictory initiatives at once. We decided to resolve everything gradually: the land at first, then gambling business and only then decentralization", - a people's deputy from Servant of the People told OstroV.
New-old law on the special status of CADLO
In December, the Verkhovna Rada extended the law on the special order of local self-government in certain areas of the Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts until December 31, 2020. This despite the fact that over the past few months, Volodymyr Zelensky and people's deputies from Servant of the People unanimously reiterated that a new law is needed, and it will be developed immediately after the Normandy format meeting.
"It is easier for us to continue this bill now and then to introduce the Steinmeier formula later, seeing certain steps on this side, we are approaching de-escalation", - Zelensky stated after the Normandy format meeting in Paris.
OstroV's interlocutors in the president's team claimed that the President's Office already had some developments and versions of the new law on the special status of CADLO on the eve of this meeting. Zelensky was going to bring them to Paris and present to the leaders of the Russian Federation, Germany and France. But a clear signal came from the Kremlin in preparation for the meeting - the new law will not be discussed.
"On the part of Ukraine, all the developments were ready. But at some point, Volodymyr Zelensky's assistant Andriy Yermak, who was responsible for informal negotiations with Moscow, stated that the Russian party refused to even start the topic of a new law. The maximum that they are ready to talk about is implementation of the Steinmeier formula into the law - but with an obscure wording whether the control of the border passes to Ukraine before or after the elections. Therefore, the extension of the current law is a kind of compromise", - one of the president's team members told OstroV.
Neither the Office of the President, nor Servant of the People knows how it will look. The Ukrainian MFA told that the Steinmeier formula would be implemented in Ukrainian legislation through amendments to the law on the special status of CADLO. Chaos reigns in the party itself on this subject: they do not understand why they need to make any changes to the law, which will not work. In addition, it remains unclear when to do this: before or after a new meeting in the Normandy format, which is expected to be held in March 2020.
"Many people in the party are afraid that having implemented this formula there, we will in fact reanimate this law and take the responsibility to comply with it. And we have the people's police, local courts and the like there. Our voters will not understand it. Arakhamia (Davyd Arakhamia, head of the Servant of the People faction, - OstroV) said in fact that we would develop a new law on the special status after the new Normandy format meeting in March 2020. Someone else says that "we will introduce the Steinmeier formula before this meeting, otherwise it will not take place at all. In general, everything is as usual - complete chaos and nobody knows anything", - a people's deputy from Servant of the People admits.
Vladyslav Bulatchik, OstroV