How Long Between Promising and Performing? The Experience of MPs
How the MPs met election promises in the first year of Parliament
Лєна Шуліка, VoxUkraine
Bigger pensions, lower bills, better infrastructure, and even better medicine! Ring a bell? Then you must have seen at least one party’s brochure with election promises. Everyone has the best of intentions on paper. But do they meet them?
Last summer, before the parliamentary elections, we collected the promises made by the parliamentary race leaders. A year later, we looked into what the MPs managed to do during their first year of work.
It is clear that the parties had different opportunities to keep their promises. For instance Servant of the People could introduce most legislative initiatives and vote without outside help thanks to the mono-majority in Parliament.The other parties could only join in important votes or publicly boycott the initiatives contradicting their promises. Therefore, the Servants holding first place in terms of the proportion of kept promises is something to be expected.
Servant of the People
The Servant of the People met the largest number of their program promises over the year compared to the other parties in Parliament. Despite this, according to the Committee of Voters of Ukraine, the MPs from Zelenskyi’s faction implemented an average of 10-15% of their promises. The “forgotten” promises include introducing punishments for police officers, prosecutors and the SBU for abuse of office, creating a national economic strategy, demonopolizing key industries, creating a mechanism of people’s veto of the newly adopted laws, etc.
With the “turbo-mode” of the first six months, not one of the program promises was met in the new year.
We collected the party’s most grand-sounding promises and reviewed their implementation.
“We will lift the immunity of MPs.”
Apart from the SoP, two other parties promised to lift parliamentary immunity – Opposition Platform – For Life and Holos. ES and Batkivshchyna did not include this item in their program, despite repeatedly advocating such a step in public. A bill to lift parliamentary immunity was voted in September 2019. However, it was not entirely to the credit of the SoP, as this bill was submitted to Parliament back in October 2017. The Verkhovna Rada later referred it to the Constitutional Court that delivered its findings on June 19, 2019.
The whole of the Servant of the People supported the bill. Other factions and parliamentary associations also added their votes – Batkivshchyna, Holos, European Solidarity, group For Future, and almost all non-affiliated groups.
The only party that did not vote for the lifting of immunity is Opposition Platform – For Life.
“We will introduce a system of monetary rewards to citizens for reporting corruption.”
Only the Servant of the People made this promise part of its program. The respective whistleblower law came into force on January 1. It provides for a reward of 10% of the amount of a corruption-related crime or of damage to the state. The reward cannot exceed 3,000 minimum wages. Reporting corruption can be anonymous.
Center for Democracy and the Rule of Law earlier evaluated the bill as positive. However, for this mechanism to work in Ukraine, a whole set of new procedures still needs to be developed. There are currently no cases of anyone being rewarded for reporting corruption. No such cases ever reached the court, so there is no case law on this either.
”We will overhaul the High Council of Justice and the High Qualifications Commission of Judges.”
Following the October 2019 amendments to the Law On the Judiciary and the Status of Judges, the composition of the High Qualifications Commission of Judges was renewed. The Law also introduced strict disciplinary measures against judges and members of the HCJ and the HQCJ. The updated law also stipulates that the number of judges of the Supreme Court will be halved, from 200 to 100.
However, the law came under criticism. On the one hand, according to the Venice Commission, a vetting of all Supreme Court judges when there are doubts about the integrity of a few of them is clearly not proportionate. The reduction of the number of judges could probably be achieved by means of retirements or voluntary transfers. Otherwise, the question of criteria arises as to what criteria some judges leave the court and others do not.
On the other hand, according to DEJURE Foundation, the newly established Ethics Commission that can initiate the dismissal of unethical members of the HCJ and the HCCJ, as well as Supreme Court judges, will indeed be able to overhaul these bodies. However, the Commission’s international expert members will have to work on this together with those they will evaluate and probably dismiss. Also, the term of their evaluation is limited to only one month. Therefore, only a proactive position taken by the Commission’s international members coupled with significant public attention to this process and public pressure will be able to prevent the abuse of the Law’s vague provisions on the part of HCJ members.
“We will introduce an open-list proportional elections system and electronic voting.”
This promise is also only partially fulfilled, with an open-list proportional electoral system being enshrined in law. Although electronic voting is not introduced, the election process has some “online innovations”. For example, the Central Election Commission launched an e-service to change one’s electoral address online. To make the change, you need to identify yourself using your electronic signature, through a bank or tax service.
“We will introduce mandatory forfeiture of property of corrupt officials.”
The Verkhovna Rada passed the respective law, which was also signed by the President. According to it, corrupt assets of high-ranking officials can be forfeited based on a court decision. It also reinstates criminal liability for illicit enrichment.
An official having undue wealth amounting to 6.5 thousand minimum non-taxable incomes (currently, over UAH 6.5 million) must be held criminally liable. According to the law, they can be imprisoned for a term of five to ten years with deprivation of the right to hold certain positions or engage in certain activities for up to three years.
However, according to Transparency International Ukraine, the amount should be 1,000 minimum non-taxable incomes, as the approved version reduces the number of potential cases of illicit enrichment.
Opposition Platform – For Life
OPFL representatives fulfilled only one promise. They supported the law on the transition from a mixed electoral system to an open-list proportional system and introduction of the new Electoral Code. But a reduction in tariffs promised by them as a result of direct gas supplies from Russia never happened, as there were no deliveries in accordance with OPFL’s plan.
European Solidarity is actually the only parliamentary faction with no program promises fulfilled to date. The thing is that most of the promises related to governmental tasks rather than Parliament, continuing the reforms and decentralization. But this party has no representatives in the Cabinet of Ministers. However, ES publicly reacts sharply to any pro-Russian initiatives and organizes thematic events, so the promise to protect Ukraine’s European course is being implemented in part.
Technically, Batkivshchyna also fulfilled one promise from its program, specifically that of keeping the gas transportation system in state ownership. On October 31, Parliament passed amendments to some laws separating natural gas transportation from its production. The bill provides for the creation of a separate GTS operator owned by the state. Batkivshchyna supported the initiative.
The nuance is that the GTS was not intended to be privatized, nor was the managing company designed to be withdrawn from state ownership.
The members of the smallest parliamentary faction met six promises from their election program. In Parliament, they supported legislative initiatives on civil forfeiture, corrupt assets, reinstating criminal liability for illicit enrichment, issues of academic dishonesty, open-list elections, guaranteeing military servicemen access to all military medical facilities, and restricting the mass purchase of land.
To meet more of their campaign promises, MPs often promise what is already done, manipulating data. You can read about MPs’ manipulations during the previous year in this VoxCheck article.
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The authors do not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and have no relevant affiliations