Fight for the capital or, local election in Kyiv

15 October 2020
Fight for the capital or, local election in Kyiv
Home > Local elections 2020 > Fight for the capital or, local election in Kyiv

Kostiantyn Shokalo, Mariia Kvitsinska, analysts of the Centre of United Action, for

Less than two weeks left until the local elections on October 25. Traditionally highly competitive race for mayor’s office and seats on Kyiv city council continues at full speed. The mayor of Kyiv and Kyiv councilors have substantial powers and access to distributing money, land, and other resources. After the decentralization reform, the influence of local politicians in Kyiv has increased even more.

Kyiv city council and the mayor of Kyiv

The capital of Ukraine has special legal status defined by the Constitution and other laws. For that reason, local self-government in Kyiv functions a little bit differently from local governments of other regions of Ukraine.

The system of local self-government in Kyiv city includes the territorial community of the city, mayor, city council, executive bodies of the city council, raion district councils (they have not been created yet), and bodies of popular self-organization. Real representation in local government, though, local inhabitants have mainly via their mayor and city council, and the upcoming elections will decide who will govern the city in the nearest future.

Kyiv city council has 120 seats and represents 2 mln 114 thousand voters (71% of the Kyiv population).

Боротьба за столицю або місцеві вибори у Києві

The local government of the Kyiv territorial community is the first link in the chain of power, closest to its community. The local council has to know the problems that bother the community and how to solve these problems. Kyiv local government has many powers in practically every significant sphere of the city’s life and has a huge budget to exercise these powers: budget spendings in 2019 were ₴61.12 bln, 2.5 times more than in 2014.

Let’s look at the local government’s powers by reviewing the problems that inhabitants of the capital have. According to the polls, inhabitants of Kyiv consider the poor healthcare system as one of the biggest problems in the capital. COVID-19 pandemic, though, proved that this problem is uniformly acute throughout the country. Local governments have to ensure that there is enough medical personnel, that the infrastructure is adequate, that every citizen has access to high-quality medical services. In practice, this means that the Kyiv city council is the final judge on questions about which hospitals to create, close, reorganize, or restructure. Local governments are responsible for repairs and winterization of hospitals and polyclinics, establishing of new hospital wards, equipment procurements, and provision of medications to vulnerable people.

Traffic jams and streets overcrowded with parked vehicles are an acute problem of Kyiv city and its neighboring communities. The root of the problem is in chaotic city development: the population steadily grows while the city infrastructure develops much slower and without rational planning. Kyiv local government prepares and approves city construction plans and municipal site plans. These plans have to cover all infrastructure junctions: road widths, bypasses, standards for pavements and bicycle paths, etc.

In addition, local authorities manage lands within the territory of the Kyiv community. Kyiv city council makes decisions on the privatization of the land or assigning it for use, issues construction permits. In other words, local governments have to not only issue construction permits but also make adequate city infrastructure development plans.

The same goes for traffic. If people park their cars on pavements or leave them on roadways, you are not supposed to walk around them or remain stuck in traffic jams forever. It is the responsibility of local authorities to solve these problems. Local councils organize parking and parking lots, approve the vehicle evacuation procedure for removing illegally parked cars to impoundment lots. Local authorities can also create or expand public utility companies that provide passenger transportation services. Such a strategy makes traffic less dense, provides citizens with cheaper transportation, creates jobs, and gives additional revenue to local budgets.

The local council bears full responsibility for the quality of roads and pavements owned by Kyiv city. It ensures roadway replacements and pothole repairs, constructs new and repairs old cross-overs, creates pedestrian areas and bicycle paths. The mayor appoints the heads of public utility companies specializing in road repairs.

Kyiv city council is not responsible for roads owned by state, raion, and oblast councils. That authority belongs to the Kyiv city state administration (KCSA). As a rule, the head of the KCSA is the mayor of Kyiv (the decision is up to the President). Thus, the quality of raion, oblast, and state roads in part depends on the city mayor.

As for housing and public utilities, local governments set standard rates of consumptions, control the quality of drinking water, approve development plans of heat supply systems, ensure the stability of water supply and adequate sewerage. Unlike most Ukrainian cities, Kyiv does not set tariff rates on heat and water (that is done by the national regulatory agency). At the same time, tariffs on the household waste collection are set by the Kyiv city state administration chaired by the mayor.

Issues of air, soil, and water pollution in the capital are also the responsibility of local authorities. They have significant powers to control the situation with environmental protection. Kyiv local council develops and implements local policy on environmental protection via a mandatory special-purpose city program. Local governments set land tax, charges for use of natural resources, fines for environmental pollution and other ecological damage, tariff rates on the use of communal and sanitary networks of their localities.

Kyiv city council oversees the territories and sites of local nature reserve funds and other territories with special status. It also has to publish geospatial data and metadata created with funds from its local budget or international technical assistance.

On top of powers in particular spheres, Kyiv’s local government manages the property of the territorial community. That includes public utility companies, schools, hospitals, kindergartens, museums, theaters, markets, resorts, orphanages, etc. Kyiv city, for example, owns PUC Kyivzhytlospetsekspluatatsia (Kyiv housing special maintenance), cultural establishment Kyiv Municipal Academic Puppet Theater, PUC Zhytnii market, etc.

In comparison to other cities, Kyiv has a different situation with its mayor. Because the mayor of Kyiv is usually also the head of Kyiv state administration, he has more powers than mayors of other localities do. This is because the executive body of the Kyiv city council is the Kyiv state administration that also exercises state executive powers. This is a peculiarity of Kyiv city. As a result, the mayor is de facto responsible for the decisions and actions of all executive bodies of the city.

The mayor decides how many people work in the executive body of the city council (in the KCSA), what departments and units have to cover each policy issue, how many finance managers are to be in each, etc. As we have mentioned already, the mayor is the head of the executive committee of the city council (the KCSA) and thus signs all its decisions. In addition, the mayor is the chief budget manager responsible for the budget approved by the city council. If city funds are spent inappropriately, the first person responsible for that is the mayor.

In conclusion

Amidst the variety of political advertisements, Ukrainian voters have hard times trying to understand which candidates are really going to improve their communities and which just want to take care of their own well-being. Still, the election results will have a direct impact on your health and quality of life, the quality of your healthcare system, road safety, air and water pollution, affordability and availability of public transportation, etc. Is that not reason enough to thoroughly read election platforms and look up the political history of candidates that aspire to run your city for the next five years?

The most important thing to consider while making a decision for which candidates to vote is whether their election platforms and criticism they raise against their opponents have anything to do with powers of a local government. If not, such candidates either do not know what local government is supposed to do or are consciously trying to manipulate public opinion.

To know more about the powers of local governments, please read our article.