While governments across the globe continue to implement extraordinary measures to flatten the curve, Ukrainian MPs decided to protect themselves against the virus as well. However, their current attempts are on the illegal side.
On March 23, Ukrainian MPs registered a draft law which violates the standards of the Constitution and undermines the democratic system. This document suggests holding Parliament meetings and committee meetings in the video conference format for 60 days from the moment of the law coming into effect.
This decision of MPs seems to make sense and be completely in line with global trends to switch to online work. So what’s wrong with that?
The thing is, this draft law is unconstitutional for several reasons.
First, the proposed provisions violate MPs’ rights and contradict the idea of representative democracy. The Constitution stipulates principles of MPs’ work, such as openness of the Parliament’s work, personal voting, the right to legislative initiative, representative mandate, etc.
Besides, the text of the draft law does not clarify how the openness of Parliament meetings will be ensured in this format and whether there is a specific plan for the resolution of the technical part. Evidently, the proposed provisions and the format restrict the rights of MPs as subjects of legislative initiative. It is suggested to adopt laws without a discussion, provisionally and completely at once. What is more, the speaker is supposed to sign the draft law right away.
There is no opportunity to dispute the vote, or for the public to discuss the proposed laws.
And that’s not it. It is yet another draft law which says that the President really needs uncharacteristic powers. TI Ukraine has reiterated numerous times that the system of checks and balances needs to be effective and prevent any single branch of power from dominating, instead making them interdependent. During the emergency, like now, it is critical that this system needs to function effectively. And yet, lawmakers suggest giving the President an opportunity to initiate Parliament meetings via video conference. This power constitutes direct interference with the activity of the legislative agency.
What is more, any change in the format of the Parliament’s work should not mean that the Parliament undertakes the functions of the Cabinet. It is the government that should analyze all needs and risks, establish at what level these issues need to be resolved, and only after that approach the Parliament with a full list of legislative initiatives. Needless to say, probably, that there was no statistical information, analysis or extra reasoning provided to support the draft law. Or is it that citizens just need to be more understanding about the MPs violating the constitution?
Another aggravating factor is that the draft law does not stipulate any limits as to what draft laws it will be possible to review online. It may be a broad range of issues, from prevention of COVID-19 to questions of national security and economy which have nothing to do with the pandemic. Essentially, MPs will be able to vote for just about anything online, and there is nothing to stop them. Can this harm Ukraine and Ukrainians. The question is, sadly, rhetorical.
MPs should understand that this law would in no way show a comprehensive approach to their work or resolution of the current problem. It is the government that needs to analyze the problems in counter-pandemic legislative initiatives and approach the Parliament with a full list. Looking for quick and easy solutions, on the other hand, can disrupt the democratic system in Ukraine.