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Ukrainian authorities lustration: illusion or reality?

The Verkhovna Rada (Ukrainian parliament) adopted a so-called “lustration law” which started the global makeover of Ukrainian political elite. It is not clear yet as to the final version of this law and what would be the results of “staff turnover”. This law is the first precedent in the history of Ukraine, since earlier attempts to “purge” the officials were immediately quashed. 

On the day of the law’s adoption, August 14, the Members of Parliament complained about the lack of votes on the sidelines of the parliament. Meanwhile, the activists gathered outside the Verkhovna Rada building, demanding to immediately vote on the law. People blocked the streets and threatened to set the tires on fire anew, as in the days of Maidan. As a counter to the activists, the large cordons of police, up in arm and on full combat alert, were gathered near the Verkhovna Rada. It is not clear what exactly pushed the adoption of the law, the activists’ protests or the so-called political will, yet the MPs adopted the Law “On Purging” №4359a in the first reading without any debates.

“We showed our country that when we rise, unite and come out on the streets, set our political representatives the clear tasks, - they get it done. Sure many of the politicians do not want this purge. But we understand how crucial it is. And there are millions of “us”. That’s why it will work out. We’ll act the same in future. We thank everyone who fought. Government is us!” said the Head of the Lustration Committee of Ukraine, Egor Sobolev.

The starting point for the law is a far-reaching inspection of a wide range of officials. It includes the Speaker of the parliament and his deputies, the Prime Minister and his deputies, Ministers, the Heads of the Security Services of Ukraine and all the staff, the National Bank of Ukraine and the Auditing Chamber, the General Prosecutor and the staff members of the Prosecutor’s Office. All the MPs, Armed Forces staff, judges, law enforcement officials and tax officers will be also inspected. Moreover, the officials who would like to take up these posts will be also checked.

The high-ranking officials (including the President, Prime-Minister, Ministers, and the Head of Security Services, the General Prosecutor and the Head of the National Bank and some others), who held a post from February 25, 2010, until February 22, 2014, are listed as those who failed the checks. They are automatically blacklisted and loose their right to hold positions in state bodies for the period of ten years.

Special commissions, created by the National agency on state services issues, will be tasked with inspections. The law is silent on the rules of the composition of such commissions. The law indicates that the commissions should include one public representative and one representative of media. The members can be elected for the term of 1 year, with no right to be reelected. 

Close attention will be drawn to the income declarations of the governmental officials for the past three years of occupying the post. Moreover, the closest relatives also fall under control: spouses, parents, children, brothers and sisters, grandparents, grandchildren, grand-grandchildren and civil partners. If any inconsistencies in declarations to be found an official is obliged to provide explanations or correct the declaration within 5 days. This opens up the possibility of corruption and abuses, likewise the fact that the law does not provide for establishment of an independent body to carry out the inspections. New-comers will be checked by the same departments they apply for, and the currently employed people will be checked by the commission of the agency on state services issues, the composition of which is not yet clear from the law.

Political experts do not see any problem in the fact that the law does not provide for a clear procedure on commission’s composition. Political expert Taras Berezovets, the Berta Communications company director, says that the same approach was taken by the eastern European countries, in particular, Poland and the Czech Republic. In this countries commissions established by the force authorities carried out the inspections. Therefore, according to the expert, the absence of a specific body tasked with controls is not a problem as long as the members to the commission are thoroughly selected. Otherwise it may result in sabotage.

The authors of the law believe that all concerns about the gaps in the lustration law are groundless, because the provisions of analogous laws from Western countries (The Czech Republic, Poland, Lithuania and Latvia, Estonia, Romania, Hungary, Germany, Georgia) were used to underpin this legislative act. In their views, the composition of lustration committee at this stage will result in another corrupted body.

The opponents of lustration law are confident that the law will not bring any results for the parliament purge and will only serve as a means of eliminating political undesirables and appointing “loyal” people.

Political expert Vladimir Fesenko, the Head of the Center of Applied Political Sciences “Penta”, gives a serious thought to the threat of staff deficit. “Everyone concentrates on lustration problems. No one thinks who will be replacing the fired officials. The law is silent on this matter. Speaking about the Prosecution, judges, these are the jobs requiring high-level qualifications. The issue here is a new personnel policy. In my opinion, there is a great misbalance: by solving one problem, we create another one. Our international partners may criticize the law on lustration in case it creates a lacuna in governmental bodies. We need to strike balance between the revolutionary rationale and the principles of law. For now, the law on lustration lacks consistency”, says the expert.

One of the lustration law drafters, Valeriy Patskan, says that the old officials should be replaced with young specialists. “There is no other way. When we were drafting the law, we stressed that now is the moment for the government purge. There will be no lacuna, because there are lots of young people who are willing and are able to work”, states the MP.

The Law “On Purging” was forwarded to the committees for adjustments. The MP Yuriy Derevianko stated that the law in the second and final reading should be adopted prior to autumn elections.

“Now when the Verkhovna Rada voted for the Law “On Purging” in the first reading, the time for the final battle has come. This is how I suggest we could win. Firstly, those who have bright ideas on tightening the law, share it with the drafting lawyers. Secondly, it is very important to publicly discuss the amendments. The enemies of lustration are actively trying to tear the guts of it. We suggest that all meetings of the drafting team were held in the presence of the press. It’s time to declare every Member of Parliament who blocks the final adoption of the law our personal enemy for the future elections. Let’s start with those who did not vote for the law in the first reading while their political parties speak in favor of lustration. We will post their portraits in social media and share with friends!” declared Egor Sobolev. The Head of the Lustration Committee notes that Yuriy Derevianko will be in charge of all suggestions and amendments. He has already invited the group of the President’s representative Ruslan Kniazevich. “Studying all the suggestions in the parliament may take up to several weeks time. After this we will insist on the law enactment. That is where thousands should gather in a manifestation”, reasoned the activist.

 

Ukrainian authorities lustration: illusion or reality?
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