What happened on January 16 in parliament can be called, without an exaggeration, one of the most emotional sittings in the current session. Anticipating a hot time, most of the MPs began to gather as early as 8 a.m.: some wanted to take their seats, others to block the podium in order to foil the sitting and thwart the discussion of the 2014 budget and other draft laws. Incidentally, the budget committee had urgently gathered at 1 a.m. According to the opposition, the committee discussed all the amendments to the 2014 budget but took into account none of their proposals.
But let us get back to the January 16 sitting. The clock shows 10:20. A rumor is flying that 40 opposition MPs have blocked the exit from Speaker Volodymyr Rybak’s office room. Meanwhile, the MPs are shaking hands with and hugging each other in the session room, the opposition is blocking access to the podium and rejoicing over the “walled-up” speaker, but suddenly a voice rings out in the room and the sitting opens. “Who is speaking?” the opposition MPs are crying out. Then the audience can see Vice-Speaker Ihor Kalietnik who reads out the agenda not from the podium but from a side row in the hall. The oppositionists begin to chant “Shame” and a siren begins to howl. But, in spite of this, Kalietnik quickly puts the draft 2014 budget to a vote. The country’s main financial document was passed in 10 seconds by 249 votes (Regionnaires, Communists, and 25 independent deputies) without any criticisms or amendments from those present.
THE 2014 BUDGET WAS PASSED WITHOUT DEBATES OR AMENDMENTS, ALTHOUGH THE COMMITTEE IN CHARGE OF THIS HAD GATHERED ABOUT 3,000 CRITICAL
But the sitting continues: the MPs are invited to vote on judicial system reformation bills.
Surprised by this scenario, the opposition MPs begin to take some voting cards away from the majority deputies. A fight breaks out, two MPs are punched on the face, blood is shed, and doctors enter the room. A “western,” isn’t it? Kalietnik says in reply that the oppositionists hinder the voting and switches on the “manual mode” of voting. As a result, the Regionnaires and the Communists began to “pass” laws by 235 votes without any debates, including the odious Law No. 3883 on a simplified procedure of lifting parliamentary immunity and bringing MPs to criminal justice. Amply satisfied with the voting, the vice-speaker closes the session. The MPs will gather again under the Verkhovna Rada dome for a new session two weeks later.
Meanwhile, the Batkivshchyna faction leader Arsenii Yatseniuk said on behalf of the opposition that “Ukraine has seen the overthrow of a constitutional system and the seizure of power.” “They needed to adopt changes to the law, which makes it possible to put inside opposition deputies under a simplified procedure,” Yatseniuk says in conclusion. “From now on, 226 hands can vote any moment and anywhere to strip opposition deputies of immunity and of the possibility to fight for the rights of Ukrainians. This was the main goal of today’s spectacle.” Passions are running from the session room to the corridors. It is there that The Day asked MPs of diverse political persuasions about how this voting will affect the further work of parliament and societal sentiments.
THE PARTY OF REGIONS MP VOLODYMYR MALYSHEV (EXTREME RIGHT) HAD HIS FOREHEAD BRUISED IN A PARLIAMENT BRAWL. ACCORDING TO THE BATKIVSHCHYNA MP OLEH MEDUNYTSIA, THE FIGHT BROKE OUT WHEN THE PRO-GOVERNMENTAL MAJORITY BEGAN TO VOTE WITH THE CARDS OF THEIR ABSENT COLLEAGUES
“It is absolutely illegitimate… It is de-legitimatization of parliament pure and simple,” Petro Poroshenko, independent MP, member of the European Integration Committee, says to The Day. “Will there be any public protests in response to these events?” we ask the billionaire MP, a Euromaidan leader. “No,” Poroshenko says dryly and curtly.
“The MPs must understand what they have in fact done, for many of them are still unaware of what has happened,” says Vitalii Nemilostivy, an independent MP. “If the situation remains the same and parliamentarianism is not to be restored, this will result in a further usurpation of power by the executive branch.”
“How is parliament going to work further on?” we ask the Party of Regions’ Oleksandr Volkov, deputy chairman of parliament’s Budget Committee. “In the same way as before: they will be putting up obstacles, and we will be voting,” Volkov said abruptly and disappeared behind the session room door.
Opposition MPs are also outraged over the manual count of votes. “Did the counting commission count? Faction heads announced the result, but what about the counting commission? It is the only unit that has the right to count the MPs’ hands,” UDAR MP Viktor Pynzenyk says resentfully.
“You can only vote by a show of hands if the Rada passes a resolution on changing the way of voting. But it did not do so,” says Volodymyr Lytvyn, a former parliament speaker and now an independent MP, commenting on the legitimacy of the vote.
We catch up on parliament’s stairs with Serhii Kivalov, the Party of Regions’ main adherent of “juridical purity,” chairman of the parliamentary Committee on the Rule of Law and Justice. “Do you think it was legitimate to vote by a show of hands?” we ask. Kivalov explains that, you see, it is quite a normal and lawful practice. “And is it not a violation of the procedure that voting by a show of hands was not preceded by voting with cards about changing the method of voting?” we further ask. Kivalov chose not to answer this question and went away without any comments.