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Zelensky will hardly manage to disband Ukrainian parliament, analysts say

The challenge facing Zelensky is still greater than the one Poroshenko had to contend with in 2014
Vladimir Zelensky Anna Marchenko/TASS
Vladimir Zelensky
© Anna Marchenko/TASS

KIEV, April 22. /TASS/. The outcome of the Ukrainian presidential election runoff, in which Vladimir Zelensky, the candidate from the Servant of the People party, emerged the winner, may trigger a political crisis. After a tiresome duel with Pyotr Poroshenko the new president has another serious test in store for him - a standoff with a disloyal parliament capable of derailing most of his initiatives. Without a faction in parliament and reliable men in the government to rely on Zelensky will hardly succeed with his own policy.

"In the current situation Zelensky will be a president legitimate to the maximum extent, but also a weak one," the head of the Ukrainian Institute of Analysis and Management of Policy, Ruslan Bortnik, told TASS.

The challenge facing Zelensky is still greater than the one Poroshenko had to contend with in 2014.

"Everything looks very complex," Bortnik speculates. Zelensky, too, is well aware that he will confront a parliament he does not control. He repeatedly acknowledged that ahead of the polling day.

In this connection many politicians and experts advise Zelensky to disband parliament and call early elections. The president-elect earlier said that he would be prepared to dissolve parliament on the condition this decision will not violate the law.

"I’m not going to become a law-breaker. If we manage to meet the tight six-month deadline before the next election, then we will have the right to disband parliament," Zelensky said.

Deadlines to be met

Under Ukrainian legislation the Central Election Commission has ten days after the election day to complete the vote counting. In other words, the procedure is to be over no later than May 1. That done, the CEC will have another three days for the official publication of the returns in the media. This is to happen no later than May 4. The process of summarizing the election results will be considered officially completed only after that.

Then there will begin a 30-day period during which the president-elect is to take office. The deadline for Zelensky’s inauguration is June 3. And this is his main problem, if he really plans to disband parliament.

The current Verkhovna Rada cannot be dissolved during the six-month period before the expiration of its five-year term of office. The current parliament’s members were sworn in on November 27, 2014. That means that the president can use his parliament dissolution powers no later than May 27. If he fails to take office by that date, he will be unable to terminate the parliament’s powers ahead of time and will be forced to coexist with it till October 27, when the scheduled parliamentary elections are due.

Moreover, it is none other than the Verkhovna Rada that selects the inauguration date. In the meantime, most legislators are not very enthusiastic about the idea of an early election. The new president will have to enter into negotiations with the legislators. If no agreement is produced within the established deadline, the inauguration day is to be set by the speaker of parliament.

Analysts speculate that the lawmakers will prefer to procrastinate, although some of them, first and foremost, the Opposition Platform - For Life are for self-dissolution. For the time being they are in the minority. Pyotr Poroshenko Bloc members have already declared that the inauguration might take place only between May 28 and 31, that is after the deadline.

Moreover, as Bortnik believes, Ukraine’s western partners will be trying to use Ukraine’s parliament as a counterbalance to President Zelensky and for this reason will not permit its early dissolution.

"Early termination of the parliament’s powers ahead of time is unlikely. Ukraine’s western partners will oppose it, too, for they see Zelensky as a menace, an uncertainty, and a dark horse, so they will do their utmost to keep something handy to offset him," Bortnik said.

Reasons for dissolution

To disband parliament and call early elections the Ukrainian president is to offer an official reason - the absence of a ruling coalition in parliament.

"At the moment this is the sole argument available in favor of early elections," parliament member from the Self-Reliance political party, Yelena Sotnik, said on ObozTV.

Before he can point to the absence of a parliamentary coalition, though, the president is obliged to take certain steps. "Option one is the president addresses the Verkhovna Rada with a special request. The Rada has 30 days for holding consultations and creating a new coalition. No chance here to meet the deadline," Sotnik said.

Another scenario is to demand through a court law a confirmation from the parliamentary speaker there really exists a parliamentary coalition. "Again, from the legal point of view, even if the president gets a confirmation no coalition exists, the Verkhovna Rada will have 30 days to try to create one," Sotnik explained, adding that the deadline would be hopelessly missed in that case as well.

Stalemate till autumn

Analysts believe that in any case Zelensky will have to look for allies in the Verkhovna Rada and each time try to raise support from casual backers depending on the situation.

Political scientist Vladimir Fesenko says that before the October parliamentary elections Zelensky may count on the votes of no more than three dozen legislators, who for various reasons will be loyal to the new head of state.

"Their votes may be not enough even to appoint government ministers in accordance with the presidential quota - the foreign and defense ministers - let alone secure the adoption of some fundamental bills," Fesenko believes.

Zelensky’s team vows that the president-elect feels no fear of an aggressive Verkhovna Rada.

"If this parliament rejects (our bills) now, they will be adopted in the autumn by the next one," the Zelensky team’s speaker, Dmitry Razumkov, said ahead of the election.

All experts are unanimous on this score. Only the emergence of the Servant of the People party in parliament can set the process in motion. However, before the election of a new parliament on October 27 the lawmakers may support part of Zelensky’s bills (such as those on the impeachment of the president, the lifting of immunity from legislators, the president and judges and also on the revocation of lawmakers) - just to woo the electorate.