Ukraine Update 5/17: CEC Shuffle & Parubiy’s Parliamentary Proposals
Written by Brian Mefford
Central Election Commission Shuffle: Following the expiration of terms for 12 of 15 current members of the Central Election Commission (CEC) June, Parliament and the President are close to agreement on the new list of members. While the list is mostly unchanged since its formation in early December, a few changes have been made. Notably, Poroshenko Bloc MP Nataliya Ahafonova is now being touted as the next Chairwoman of the Commission. Second, the Opposition Bloc dropped their ridiculous demand for six seats on the commission and instead united behind the candidacy of incumbent CEC Chairman Mykhailo Okhendovskyi as their sole nominee.
Under the law, the President proposes candidates for approval in consultation with Parliamentary factions. Thus, the President will propose a dozen nominees but Parliament will have the final say on their approval. Of course, having the terms of 80% of the commissioners ending at the same time represents one of many changes needed in Ukrainian electoral legislation. If terms were staggered so that the President and Parliament could replace two members per year, this would allow the CEC to adapt to new political realities while simultaneously maintaining a division of powers. Staggering the terms of CEC members would also ensure continuity of operations, preserve institutional knowledge and result in more stability. For now though, Ukraine is stuck with its’ current system and Parliament is expected to vote today or tomorrow on the new list. There are 24 nominees proposed for the 12 expired positions on CEC. It is most likely that all Parliamentary factions will get at least one representative on the CEC, and People’s Front, as the junior coalition partner of the government, may get up to three. What is clear is that the Poroshenko Bloc will not get all 15 members it is proposing for the CEC. They could get as few as four members, with People’s Front adding three and the other factions having one each (perhaps in exchange for the Chairmanship). Alternatively, they may get half (six) of the posts and give People’s Front just one. Aside from which of nominees are actually selected from the Poroshenko Bloc, the number of seats they will receive is the only remaining intrigue.
The three current members who will remain on the CEC are Oleksandr Osadchuk, who was appointed in February 2010 and whose term ends next year, and Kateryna Makhnitska and Oleh Didenko, who were both appointed in April 2014 after Euromaidan. Their terms end in 2021.
Nominees from the Poroshenko Bloc include:
- MP Nataliya Ahafonova. Ahafonova (age 39) is currently a Member of Parliament in her second term with the Bloc of Poroshenko. She was first elected in 2012 with Vitaliy Klitchko’s UDAR party. Ahafonova is well regarded as a lawyer. She taught constitutional law at Taras Shevchenko University in Kyiv and is the Chairwoman of the Parliamentary Subcommittee on Constitutional Law and Justice. She did private sector legal work for Nestle in Ukraine. In addition to her nomination for the CEC, Ahafonova is being touted by the Presidential Administration as the next Chairperson of the CEC. The Chairperson, Deputy Chairperson and Secretary are elected by the 15 members of the CEC. Historically, the CEC Chairperson has always been indirectly selected by the President (under Yanukovych, Shapoval under Yushchenko, Kivalov under Kuchma, etc.), so assuming she is confirmed as a member this week, Ahafonova stands a good chance of serving as Chairperson.
- Svitlana Kustova. Kustova (age 37) is an honored Lawyer of Ukraine and currently works for the law firm Moor and Partners. She served as Poroshenko’s Representative to the CEC during the 2014 Presidential Election. Previously Kustova has been a Deputy’s Assistant to MP’s Mykola Katerynchuk, Roman Zvarych, Petro Poroshenko, and Iryna Friz. She was originally expected to be the new Chairperson of the CEC prior to Ahafonova’s nomination.
- Vitaliy Holovchuk. Holovchuk (age 32) is a law professor at the Research Institute of Management, Administration and Law of Vinnitsya National Agrarian University. In addition to Holovchuk hailing from Poroshenko’s hometown, his candidacy is believed to be pushed by former Yushchenko Deputy of Chief of staff Anatoliy Matviyenko (another Vinnitsya native). In 2012, Holovchuk was on the Parliamentary party list for UDAR.
- Serhiy Repetskyi. Repetskyi (age 37) is a lawyer who ran unsuccessfully for Kyiv city council as a candidate with Solidarity Party. In the 2014 Parliamentary election, Repetskyi served as the Chairman of the District Election Commission #219 in Kyiv (Sviatoshynskyi Raion) with the Green Planet Party.
- Bohdan Dubas. Dubas (age 59) is a Lviv native who was passed up for appointment as the regions’ Governor last year. Dubas’ appointment is lobbied by First Deputy Prime Minister for Economy and Trade, Stefan Kubiv. Dubas is a former Lviv Oblast Deputy, who served as Deputy Premier of Crimea under Yushchenko (2008-2010), and Deputy Mayor of Kyiv from March to June 2014.
- Iryna Shvets. Shvets (age 38) is the Acting Director of the Stolytsia communal enterprise (“Capital”). In 2014 she served as a Member of the Kyiv City Election Commission for UDAR Party and her candidacy is supported by Mayor Vitaliy Klitchko.
- Yuliya Kyrychenko. Kyrychenko (age 39) a constitutional lawyer and expert with the Reanimation Packet of Reforms. Kyrychenko has experience working at both the Constitutional Court and Supreme Court of Ukraine, where she currently serves as an Assistant to the Chief Justice. She also worked in Yushchenko’s Presidential Secretariat as the Head of Constitutional Reform in 2006.
- Alina Zahoruiko. Zahoruiko (age 32) is an assistant to current CEC member Yuliya Shvets. Prior to that Zahoruiko worked from 2007-2012 as a Specialist to Parliament on Legislative Support for Law Enforcement which headed by Shvet’s father, Viktor Shvets. Shvets has worked as a lawyer to Yuliya Tymoshenko.
- Olesiya Zubrytska. Zubrytska (age 37) an assistant to Poroshenko Bloc MP Oleksandr Tretiakov (Kyiv District #129 Sviatoshyn Raion and former Deputy Chief of Staff to Yushchenko). Previously Zubrytska worked as an assistant to MP’s Roman Zvarych and Valeriy Karpuntsov (both currently Poroshenko allies). Zubrytska campaigned unsuccessfully for city council in Kyiv last October as a Solidarity Party candidate.
- Semen Stetsenko. Stetsenko (age 42) is the First Deputy at the Institute of the Penitentiary Service. Stetsenko’s candidacy is perhaps the most controversial due to his long history in the Russian military. Stetsenko graduated from the Kirov Military Medical Academy in Saint Petersburg in 1997. In 1998 he was the Head of the Medical Service Training Center and Military Academy of the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation in Saint Petersburg. In 1999 Stetsenko served as the Head of the Research Laboratory of the State Institute for Advanced Training of the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation in Moscow. Stetsenko began his work in Ukraine in 2004 when he became the Head of the Department of Administrative Law and Management of the Internal Affairs of Kyiv National University of Internal Affairs. In 2007 he switched to become Head of the Theory of State and Law Department of Legal Disciplines of the National Prosecution Academy of Ukraine. Finally in 2013 he joined the Institute of the Penitentiary Service in his current post.
- Olha Zheltova. Zheltova (age 52) is the Deputy Head of the Secretariat of the Parliamentary Committee for Legal Policy and the Judiciary. Her candidacy is supported by the Chairman of the Committee, MP Ruslan Kniazevych (Poroshenko Bloc). She also worked as an Assistant to former MP Yuri Kliuchkovskyi, one of the foremost lawmakers in Ukraine’s history and a specialist in electoral legislation.
- Volodymyr Kovtunets. Kovtunets (age 60) an election lawyer who previously worked as a top expert for a USAID funded election administration program (2001-2008). Kovtunets, a mathematician by education, was elected to Parliament from Rivne from 1994-1998. In addition, Kovtunets is well regarded by the diplomatic community in Kyiv and his candidacy has the support of OPORA, CVU and the Reanimation Packet of Reforms.
- Mykhailo Verbenskyi. Verbenskyi (age 61) served as the Chief of Staff to the Interior Ministry under Yuri Lutsenko from 2005-2010. Since March 2014 he has served as the Director of the Department of Monitoring and Organizational Inspection Work at the Interior Ministry. In September last year, he unsuccessfully submitted his name for consideration to serve in the Accounting Chamber.
- Olha Lotiuk. Lotiuk (age 43) is a constitutional lawyer. She campaigned for Mykola Onyshchuk in the 2002 election when he was a candidate with “For a United Ukraine”. Onyshchuk later became Justice Minister under Yushchenko (2007-2010). Lotiuk candidacy is more recent than the others proposed by Poroshenko’s team.
- Vitaliy Plukar. Plukar’s nomination takes the place of Olha Aivazovska the Director of the OPORA civic watchdog organization. Aivazovska declined to be a nominee (as she was apparently announced without her consent) and is currently being considered as an election negotiator for Ukraine to the Minsk Group. Plukar (age 30), is currently the Head of the Department for Monitoring the Activities of Local Authorities for the Department of Local Government and Decentralization in the Presidential Administration. Plukar formerly served as a Deputy’s Assistant to MP Valeriy Karpuntsov who was the Head of the Legal Department for Klitchko’s UDAR party.
Yatsenyuk’s People’s Front is hoping that their junior partner status in the coalition will result in more than one representative on the CEC. Speaker Andriy Parubiy and Justice Minister Pavlo Petrenko were personally involved in the selection of the factions’ nominees, although the faction did confirm their choices by a vote.
- Incumbent Deputy Chairman Andriy Mahera. Mahera has served two terms on the CEC dating back to February 2004 and was reconfirmed in 2012. Mahera was one of three CEC members (with Davydovych and Stavniychuk) who refused to sign the protocol certifying Yanukovych’s fraudulent “victory” in the November 2004 Presidential Runoff Election. More recently, following the impeachment of Yanukovych, Mahera has de facto been running the CEC since the Chairman, Mykhailo Okhendovskyi’s ties to Viktor Medvedchuk make him suspect. Mahera has consistently proven capable and objective during his 11 years on the commission. The Reanimation Packet of Reforms is also backing Mahera’s candidacy.
- Leontiy Shypilova constitutional lawyer and an adviser to Speaker Andriy Parubiy. Shypilov teaches international law at Kyiv Mohyla Academy and has the support of “Maidan Self-Defense” deputies in Parliament (associated with Speaker Parubiy). Shypilov previously was a member of Klitchko’s UDAR party.
- Hanna Onyshchenko. Onyshchenko (age 32) was the Minister to the Cabinet of Ministers. Prior to that, Onyshchenko served two months as Deputy Justice Minister (March to May 2014), six month as the Head of the Registration Service Department of Ukraine, and for ten years as a lawyer for the firm A-Lex, which represented both Privatbank and UkrNafta (businesses largely controlled by Ihor Kolomoiskyi). Justice Minister Pavlo Petrenko is her biggest advocate.
Nominations from other factions include:
Mykhailo Okhendovskyi from Opposition Bloc. The Opposition Bloc humbled itself and withdrew their six previous nominees, in exchange for the united candidacy of current CEC Chairman Mykhailo Okhendovskyi. Okhendovskyi (age 43) was re-appointed to the CEC by Yanukovych in 2013. He remains a close ally of former Kuchma Chief of Staff Viktor Medvedchuk who is currently involved in the Minsk negotiations for Ukraine. Medvedchuk has long been a controversial figure in Ukrainian politics, and Vladimir Putin is ‘godfather’ to his son. Nonetheless, Okhendovskyi has avoided scandal during his time as CEC Chairman and is currently serving his third term (since February 2004). The consolidation of Opposition Bloc’s candidacy behind Okhendovskyi greatly increases his chance of remaining on the commission.
Yevhen Radchenko from Samopomich. Radchenko is the Development Director at Internews Ukraine and previously held key positions with the OSCE and Committee of Voters of Ukraine, an election watchdog organization. Radchenko is also a Member of the Venice Commission since 2009.
Oleksiy Kocharmin from Radical Party. Kocharmin (age 30) is an assistant to MP Oleh Liashko. Kocharmin worked in the Crimea Prosecutor’s Office in 2013 (pre-annexation) supervising observance of laws in the defense sector. MP Liashko filed suit in summer citing the President’s failure to propose new nominees to Parliament for the CEC in a timely manner. In an interesting Ukrainian court decision, the Higher Administrative Court of Ukraine acknowledged that the President failed to act in a timely manner while simultaneously refusing to require the President to actually submit the list of nominees to Parliament. Kocharmin ran unsuccessfully for Parliament as the Radical Party candidate in Yevpatoriya (District #4) in 2012, and unsuccessfully for the Kyiv City Council last October.
Zhanna Usenko-Chorna from Motherland. Usenko-Chorna (age 43) is a current CEC member that has been nominated for reappointment. Usenko-Chorna has served on the CEC since December 8, 2004. Since June 2007 she has served as Deputy Chairperson of the CEC. Prior to that, she served as a consultant to the Secretariat of Parliament on legal policy.
Alla Baslaieva from Renaissance. Baslaieva (age 35) is a Darnytsia Raion Judge (Kyiv City) and as the former Head Legal Consultant to the Secretariat of the CEC which represented the body to the courts.
Vitaliy Maksymiak from People’s Will. Maksymiak (age 48) is the Head of the Parliamentary Secretariat’s Human Resources Department since 2011. Maksymiak originates from Volyn where he served as Deputy Chief of Staff to the Governor in 2010. Volyn is the base of the People’s Will faction as the late MP Ihor Yeremeyev and his business partner MP Stefan Ivakhiv both represented districts in the oblasts.
As mentioned, there are three current members who will remain: Osadchuk, Didenko and Makhnytsia. Oleksandr Osadchuk (age 55) was born in Zhytomyr and graduated from the university in Volyn. He is an “honored lawyer of Ukraine” and was appointed by Yushchenko in February 2010. Oleh Didenko (age 36) is from Ivano Frankivsk and has worked in politics since 2003. In 2007 he was part of the legal team for Our Ukraine. Kateryna Makhnytsia (age 34) is a military institute graduate who began working as an assistant at the CEC in 2009. With election fraud remaining a constant threat to Ukraine’s democratic development, the composition of the CEC members remains an important leading indicator of the government’s commitment to Western values.
Parubiy’s Parliamentary Reforms: Newly elected Speaker Andriy Parubiy wasted no time in announcing a series of internal reforms for the Ukrainian Parliament. The Parliament of Ukraine has long been the most hated institution of public life. In the latest poll by the International Republican Institute (IRI) for example, 88% of Ukrainians viewed the institution unfavorably (and just 5% viewed it favorably). The mix of parliamentary immunity from prosecution, MP’s voting for other members, and the overall perception of massive graft and corruption are all contributing factors to this negative view.
Therefore, in an effort to clean up the institution’s image, Speaker Parubiy announced three key reforms. First, Parubiy advocated increasing the number of plenary meetings from two weeks to three weeks per month. Plenary sessions are the equivalent of voting meetings and are typically a group of four consecutive days (Tuesday to Friday). With an average of just eight days per month currently allotted (unless 150 MP’s call for an emergency session or Parliament agrees to add additional days), it is no wonder that little legislation –and even fewer reforms- get passed. One of the first decisions passed by the post-Yanukovych Parliament in February 2014 was to return to a Parliamentary model of government (instead of the model of Presidential rule). If Parliament is sincere in being the governing body for the country, then clearly more voting days per month are needed. Parubiy also proposed the creation of a “council of committees” which would be held following regular committee meetings. This “council of committees” would then propose the agenda for the next plenary week of Parliament, i.e. what items will be voted on. It remains to be seen how the “council of committees” will function in reality, but the addition of another plenary week (voting days) is clearly a positive.
Second, Parubiy signed an order not to pay the salaries of MP’s who are absent from plenary meetings of Parliament. Since being a Member of Parliament provides immunity from all prosecution (even premeditated murder), it often attracts individuals who are more interested in protecting their business interests rather than serving their constituents. Subsequently, those individuals are frequently too busy managing their financial affairs to show up at plenary meetings of Parliament. Therefore, Parubiy proposes to dock salaries of members pro rata for their missed plenary sessions. The names of those absent members would then be published for public consumption in Holos Ukrainiy(Voice of Ukraine) newspaper, which is the official medium used to post government information. Given that MP’s salaries are a mere $660 per month equivalent (17,000 hryvnas, plus rent, transportation, and staff salaries), their official salaries are not what they are living on. The average price for voting in favor of a non controversial piece of legislation is $20,000, and was as high as $10 million dollars for switching factions during the Yanukovych regime. Thus, the order by Parubiy is symbolic in nature, but a step in the right direction. More specifically, Parubiy is aiming to tackle the so called “piano voters”. That is, MP’s who vote for other members in the same way that a pianist touches many keys on the piano. If an MP is not present and his/her named is published in the official state newspaper as absent, then clearly there is no way they could vote on a particular issue. In other words, it will potentially expose multiple voting by MP’s who seek to falsify the official vote counts on pieces of legislation. Parubiy then proposes to ban those MP’s who vote multiple times (or are excessively absent), from participating in foreign delegations and/or banning them from the session hall for several sittings. Given existing parliamentary immunity, that is the extent of punishment available at this time, but at least it draws attention to the problem.
Third, Parubiy has called on committees to render decisions on legislation, beyond a simple passage or rejection. For example, the Budget Committee should not only pass legislation for a vote by the whole of Parliament, but also offer its analysis of the legislation’s effect on tax revenues. This is common practice in the United States and other Western democracies, but has been absent so far in Ukraine. Parubiy’s proposed Parliamentary reforms coincide with 52 reform recommendations from a technical mission of the European Parliament led by Pat Cox. The reforms were developed to improve the efficiency and transparency of Parliamentary operations in Ukraine. However not everyone is happy with the proposed EU recommendations and Parubiy’s proposals. Motherland MP Serhiy Vlasenko said, “Let’s perhaps postpone the issue of so-called reform of Parliament for a little while. I understand that it arose and how it arose, but let’s maybe postpone it and try to observe the current Parliamentary Rules of Procedure and see what areas we need to reform and which we do not need to reform.” Vlasenko also spoke against Parubiy’s proposal for reforming the work of committees.
In addition the proposed Parliamentary reforms, Parubiy expressed his hope that Parliament will pass judicial reform before the end of the current session in July. The legislation has already passed on the first reading (vote) with a majority, but requires a 2/3 vote (300 members) on the second reading to take effect due to Constitutional changes contained within the bill. Parliament almost must pass decentralization in the second reading, although they are at least 35 votes short at this time. Time will tell if Parubiy’s proposed reforms improve the performance of Parliament. Nonetheless, he is making moves in the right direction and these efforts deserve the support of the Western community.
Personnel Moves: The Parliament confirmed President Poroshenko’s appointment of Yuri Lutsenko as Prosecutor General last week. Lutsenko was backed by 264 MP’s. However the appointment of Lutsenko was made possible only by a change in the requirements for the position. Law #4645 eliminated the requirement of a legal education as a prerequisite to holding the Prosecutor’s post. The vote of 258 MP’s in favor of Law #4645 paved the way for Lutsenko’s confirmation. Out of 224 MP’s in the Poroshenko Bloc (143 MP’s) and People’s Front (81 MP’s), 130 and 76 respectively voted for the law. They were joined by 20 MP’s from the Renaissance faction, 14 MP’s from the People’s Will faction, 14 independent MP’s, three Opposition Bloc MP’s, and one Radical Party MP. The appointment of Lutsenko fills the vacancy of Viktor Shokin who resigned in March under intense international pressure. The ouster of Shokin had been called for since late summer, and a long assortment of candidates names were floated as possible replacements. In the end, Poroshenko’s ally Yuri Lutsenko was simply the ‘last man standing’ following the parade of pretenders for the post. Lutsenko, while lacking a legal education, is still viewed positively by the West due to his efforts to fight crime as Interior Minister under former President Yushchenko. This reserve goodwill, combined with a promise to make MP Dmytro Storozhuk the First Deputy Prosecutor, carried the day. Storozhuk, age 30, is a well regarded lawyer and former Deputy Head of Yatsenyuk’s party’s legal department. Thus, Lutsenko will be the public face of the Prosecutor’s Office and Storozhuk will be the actual legal mind behind the office (assuming his appointment is soon approved). The confirmation of Lutsenko gives the President continued control over the Prosecutor’s Office, in addition new control over the Prime Minister’s post with Groisman. The highest ranking official who is not a direct Poroshenko ally is Speaker Andriy Parubiy. Parubiy quit after just two months as the Chairman of the National Security and Defense Council in the summer of 2014, due to Poroshenko’s handling of the war effort in the Donbass. While Poroshenko and Parubiy have since mended fences, it will be interesting to watch if tensions are soon renewed over policy differences.
Taking Lutsenko’s place in Parliament is 58 year old former Culture Minister, MP and Ukrainian singer, Oksana Bilozir from Lviv. Replacing Lutsenko as Chairman of the Poroshenko Bloc faction is MP Ihor Hryniv. Hryniv, a savvy political veteran, has played an increasingly important role for the President of late. He is responsible for persuading former Polish Finance Minister Lech Balcerowicz to serve as an adviser to the new government.
In addition, Hryniv is rumored to be replacement for Vitaliy Klitchko as the new Chairman of the Bloc of Poroshenko political party. Due to the new civil service law which took effect on May 1st, high ranking public officials are denied the right to be members of political parties. This resulted in Klitchko’s resignation on Tuesday. Of course, this is a silly prohibition which sounds good on paper, but results in nothing but cosmetic change. Only people who still believe in the tooth fairy actually believe Klitchko will be any less political. For that matter, was the United States served poorly by Kennedy and Roosevelt’s membership in the Democratic Party, or by Lincoln and Reagan’s membership in the Republican Party? Politicians, especially high ranking politicians, are political by definition – with or without party labels. Such cosmetic changes to the civil service law serve only to placate Brussels bureaucrats, who measure progress by paper trails rather than real results. Despite the silliness of the new regulation, the forced resignation may actually benefit Klitchko, who is said to have regretted merging his UDAR party with the Poroshenko Bloc in August 2015. The political proximity to the President has taken a toll on Klitchko’s approval rating which stands at 19% favorable and 65% unfavorable nationally in the latest IRI poll . As evidence of the “Poroshenko pull” on Klitchko’s rating, Klitchko’s numbers mirror the President’s who stands at 19% favorable and 73% unfavorable. Admittedly, Klitchko’s approval among Kyiv voters is far better at 40% approval and 47% disapproval, but some distance from the President may prove to be a good thing for the aspiring Klitchko.
The new civil service law also has had an effect on the surrounding of Odesa Governor Mikheil Saakashvili’s team. German citizen Sasha Borovikand Russian citizen Masha Gaidar, both offered their resignations as oblast administration officials to comply with the new law. Both will remain as “advisers” to Saakashvili and clearly will continue to play an important advisory role to the former Georgian President, while simultaneously maintaining their foreign citizenships. Another Georgian, First Deputy Interior Minister Eka Zguladze, was forced to resign as well rather than give up her dual French and Georgian passports. However Zguladze, who is credited with the introduction of Ukraine’s new police patrol units, will also remain in an advisory role to the Interior Ministry. “Advisory” roles do not require a foreigner to give up their native passports. Hence, that was the mechanism Hryniv used to install Balcerowicz and former Slovak FinanceIvan Miklos as “advisers” to the Groisman government.
Meanwhile due to recent ministerial appointments, there are several new Poroshenko Bloc MP’s including Valeriy Karpuntsov, Oleh Velikin, and Maksym Savrasov. Karpunstov is the former Head of the Legal Department for Klitchko’s UDAR party and is well regarded as a sharp legal mind. Belikin comes from the business sector and is the General Director of Kyivtorgservis. Savrasov is the Head of the Secretariat for Solidarity/Bloc of Petro Poroshenko. If Poroshenko Bloc MP Nataliya Ahafonova becomes a Member of the Central Election Commission, then her position in Parliament will go to Yuri Buhlak. Buhlak, age 51, is the Head Legal Adviser for Roshen Candy which is owned by the President. People’s Front, the junior coalition partner in the majority, replaced two MP’s who became ministers as well. Yaroslav Yedakov, the Director of the Soter company in Boryarka (Kyiv oblast), and Khvycha Meparishvili, who was the First Deputy General Director for the Municipal Enterprise of the Kyiv City Council/Administration. The Poroshenko Bloc has 143 members in its faction and the People’s Front has 81.
Finally, Motherland will soon add another faction member to increase its size to 20 (21 – if and whenNadiya Savchenko is released from imprisonment in Russia and returned to Ukraine). Former Odesa Governor and current independent MP Eduard Matviychuk was named on Monday as the Head of the Central Election Headquarters for the Motherland Party. Matviychuk, age 53, is an Uzhgorod native and successful businessman. Once a high school physics teacher, Matviychuk became a Senior Customs Inspector at the lucrative border point in Chop (the last town before Hungary and the European Union). Two years after becoming a Customs Inspector, Matviychuk became the President of the Uzhgorod soccer team “Verkhovnya”. In 2002, Matviychuk was elected to Parliament on the list of Our Ukraine. However when pressured by then Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych, he quickly switched to the Party of Regions in 2003. Matviychuk’s relationship with Yanukovych rapidly improved though and he was elected to Parliament in 2006 and 2007 on the Regions party list. Following Yanukovych’s election in February 2010, Matviychuk was a surprise appointment to serve as the Governor of Odesa. Odesa has a long history of imported Governors from other oblasts and Matviychuk filled the role for Yanukovych. However unlike previous Governors who were weak and mostly subservient to the city Mayor, Matviychuk used his friendly relationship with Yanukovych to assert his authority. Matviychuk’s “iron hand” contributed greatly to the horrifically fraudulent election of Oleksiy Kostyushyev in October 2010 Odesa Mayoral Election. Kostyushyev, the estranged father of Poroshenko Deputy Faction HeadOleksiy Honcharenko, proved incapable of managing the city and resigned under pressure a year after his election which was marred by fraud. Matviychuk seized upon the lack of mayoral leadership to further strengthen his position in the oblast. Following the impeachment of Yanukovych in February 2014, Matviychuk was removed from his post. However, eight months later he ran for Parliament as an independent in District #133 (Kyiv Raion in Odesa City) and narrowly defeated Dmytro Spivak from the Poroshenko Bloc by a 24-21% margin. The move by Matviychuk to Tymoshenko’s team is somewhat significant, as it suggests both her growing support politically as well as financially.
Five Special Parliamentary Elections: Parliament voted to schedule special Parliamentary elections in five vacant districts on July 17th. The vacancies were due to ministerial appointments, elections to other offices, and a death. The special elections will take place in Volyn District #23 (villages around Manevychi), Dnipropetrovsk District #27 (October Raion of Dnipropetrovsk City), Ivano Frankivsk District #85 (Kalush City), Poltava District #151 (town of Lokhvytsya), and Chernihiv District #206 (Chernihiv City).
In Volyn District #23, the vacancy was created the death of oligarch and leader of the People’s Will faction Ihor Yeremeyev, who passed away from complications due to a horse riding accident. Yeremeyev won re-election as an independent in 2014 by a 41-22% margin, over Liudmyla Kydra with Motherland who was the Chairwoman of Manevytska Raion Administration at the time. A three term Member of Parliament, Yeremeyev was the owner of Kontinium Group which is involved in the gas business and banking among other spheres. His business and faction has been taken over by his business partner, fellow VolynMP Stefan Ivakhiv.
In Dnipropetrovsk District #27, Borys Filatov was elected last October as Mayor of Dnipropetrovsk with the Ukrop Party in a hard fought battle against the Opposition Bloc’s Oleksandr Vilkul, a former Dnipropetrovsk Governor and Yanukovych Vice Premier Minister. Filatov is a close ally of oligarch Ihor Kolomoiskyi and served as Deputy Governor when the latter was Governor of Dnipropetrovsk. Filatov was elected to Parliament in October 2014 as an independent, by a crushing 57-19% margin over independent Svitlana Yepifantseva, a Deputy Director of Vilkul’s charitable foundation. Filatov then defeated Vilkul himself in October 2015 by a 53-41% margin in the city Mayoral election. Filatov’s victory resulted in a vacancy in his Parliamentary district.
In Ivano Frankivsk District #85, former MP and Kalush City Mayor Ihor Nasalyk, won an easy victory as the Poroshenko Bloc candidate over National Guard Veteran Andriy Tironfrom the People’s Front, by a 52-19% margin in October 2014. Nasalyk, a businessman with experience in the energy sphere, was named as the Minister of Energy and Coal last month which created the vacancy in the district.
In Poltava District #151, Taras Kutoviy’s appointment as the Minister of Agriculture and Food Policy has created the vacancy in the Parliamentary seat. Kutoviy won easily in October 2014 as the Poroshenko Bloc candidate, defeating independent and businessmanRoman Kharchenko by a 63-13% margin.
In Chernihiv District #206, former Yushchenko era Governor, MP, agri-businessman, and Poroshenko Bloc candidate Vladyslav Atroshchenko demolished his 25 year old, independent opponent Anna Kovalenko, by a 51-9% margin. His election as Chernihiv City Mayor in October 2015 has created the vacancy in the Parliamentary district position. Atroshchenko defeated three term incumbent Mayor Oleksandr Sokolov by a 59-37% margin in October 2015 to claim the Mayor’s Office in the city.
Thus, in the special elections, the Poroshenko Bloc must defend three seats, Kolomoiskyi’sRenaissance faction must defend one seat, and the People’s Will faction must also defend one seat. Given the slim governing majority in Parliament, these five races will take on added significance as they could slightly pad the coalition’s numbers if things go well for the Poroshenko Bloc. Once candidates are registered, the dynamics of the race will become clearer.