Questions of state importance: what does the President want to know?

16 October 2020
Questions of state importance: what does the President want to know?
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The President has announced that simultaneously with the local elections a national poll will be conducted. That is an important event because its results will definitely influence future political decisions and will have a significant impact on the citizens, business, government bodies and the balance between them. Today in our digest: what the poll is about, why it is wrong to conduct it, and what its consequences will be.

The national poll

What does it change:

  • the national poll will be conducted on October 25 at or near polling stations
  • the poll includes five questions. Their content and, which is no less important, exact phrasing has not been announced at once. The questions are to be announced separately, one by one
  • the poll results will not have any “direct legal consequences”

What is wrong:

  • according to the Constitution and the laws of Ukraine, the President has no authority to announce polls. Thus, the President has violated Article 19 of the Constitution that states that all government bodies are obliged to act only on the grounds, within the limits of authority, and in the manner envisaged by the Constitution and the laws of Ukraine
  • some vital information about the poll is still unclear: will it be a part of the election process, will it be conducted on the premises of polling stations or outside, who and how will gather information
  • the Election Code prohibits to conduct polls on the premises of polling stations
  • the poll does not meet the standards for polls and referendums, the questions are not specific enough for its participants to understand what exactly they support or oppose. It is unclear how many people have to participate in the poll to consider its results legitimate
  • the President is actively influencing the public opinion on the issues the poll addresses, so it is impossible to get unbiased results.

Why this is dangerous: the poll results will be interpreted in public discussions as the will of the people. As the President’s official website claims, “the political weight [of the poll] will be such that politicians will not be able to ignore the choice of the people”. That will be an overt, illegal, and unconstitutional pressure on government bodies.

For more details about the poll and its possible meaning, please check a blog by Oleh Rybachuk President’s dangerous experiments.

First question: Is life imprisonment for corruption necessary?

What is wrong:

  • the penalty is not proportional to the crime. If corruption is punished by life imprisonment, then what penalty is due for murderers, rapists, terrorists, and saboteurs?
  • the European Court of Human Rights in Petukhov v Ukraine has ruled that Ukrainian courts violate human rights by passing life sentences
  • it is unclear what exactly the President means by “corruption”. In the Criminal Code, the term covers not only taking bribes but also giving bribes, power abuse, etc.

Second question: is it necessary to establish a free economic zone in Donbas?

What is wrong:

  • some terms used in the question are vague:
  • Donbas: does it include only the occupied territories of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts, only the territories of these oblasts controlled by the Ukrainian government, or both whole oblasts?
  • a free economic zone: how and what exactly is proposed to be established?
  • it is unclear how the establishment of a free economic zone will help to deoccupy the territories, make the aggressor state to retreat, and restore the control over the border
  • the Constitution prohibits referendums on issues included in the poll, in particular taxes. The question about the free economic zone (whatever the meaning of the term) is definitely about taxes
  • without proper regulations, a free economic zone can become a center of illegal operations

Three other questions that are probably going to be included in the poll were published by the media:

  • reduction of the number of MPs
  • legalization of medical cannabis
  • motion for using the security guarantees stipulated in the Budapest memorandum.