"Lifetime sentence for corruption, and marijuana legalization:" what's wrong with Zelenskyi's national poll
Almost every Ukrainian on October 25 will receive a dozen ballots. Besides electing the mayor and the local councils' deputies, they'll have to answer 5 presidential questions.
As Volodymyr Zelenskyi believes, a year and a half after his victory in the elections, it is time for Ukrainians to take a national poll. Which one? Not even the guarantee giver himself speaks of it. Some lawyers are already "ringing the bells", since his idea may be absolutely illegal.
What Zelenskyi undertook on October 25, what questions the Ukrainians will see, and whether it's legal, Rubryka analyzed.
Corruption, marijuana, and Donbas
In his video message, the president stated, "I will ask you 5 important questions that we discuss on the streets, in the kitchen, and on the Internet, that we argue with friends, parents, or taxi drivers about." In fact, we are talking about an all-Ukrainian national poll for October 25, in parallel with the local elections.
They have already announced the first and second questions: "Do you support introducing life imprisonment for the especially large-scale corruption?" and "Do you support creating a free economic zone on the territory of Donetsk and Luhansk regions?" They still keep the remaining 3 ones, secret.
Davyd Arakhamia, the head of the SP (Servant of the People) party stressed in parliament that questions contain nothing that would harm the sovereignty or territorial integrity of the country. "I can assure you, there's no treason. Nothing about Donbas. About the special status. No questions about language that political opponents are now trying to play out. These are normal issues argued about in society," Arakhamia added.
As our source in the Servant of the People party told us, the party didn't know about the president's idea until recently. That is why the political forces disowned the initiative and shifted all responsibility to the Office of the President. Zelenskiy will announce future questions one at a time via video messages.
Topics may include medicine and coronavirus and infrastructure. "They'll try to take the most hype topics interesting to the people. They take sociology as a basis in such cases and then analyze the request from society. The first question is about corruption. It worries many," the source explained.
The adviser to the head of the President's Office, Mykhailo Podoliak, said in a commentary to Strana that one question would concern legalizing soft drugs (marijuana).
It's interesting that on October 25, some voters will have to deal with a dozen questions. For example, residents of district No. 208 in the Chernihiv region will have to choose a future people's deputy (after the death of Valeriy Davydenko), mayor, deputies of local, district, and regional councils, and also take part in a presidential poll. That's not a simple task.
What lawyers say, and why many people dislike the idea
A few days ago, Rubryka wrote about the idea to postpone the elections scheduled for late October. The idea has indeed been discussed to some extent both in the Office of the President and in the CEC because of the coronavirus pandemic.
But with his statement, Zelenskyi de facto brushed aside talks about canceling the elections. Thus, the authorities assumed full responsibility for what would happen at the polling stations on X day.
Now, let's get back to Zelenskyi's poll. From the point of view of the law, the idea doesn't stand up to criticism. According to the ex-deputy head of the CEC, Andrii Mahera, conducting a poll is a grim prospect for Volodymyr Zelenskyi from the legal point of view.
"I haven't seen a document that would somehow explain what the president wants. There is neither his decree nor any government decree. There is no legal basis.
In addition, the question of the legality of funding arises. If they carry it out for private money, then there is corruption and a conflict of interest. If for the budget, then the law doesn't provide for money for such an event," Mahera explained to Rubryka.
The lawyer of the Center for Political and Legal Reforms Oleksandr Marusiak, who specializes in developing legislation related to referenda, shares the same opinion.
"Wouldn't it be better, for example, to develop a draft law on a local referendum and offer a real opportunity to residents of any village, town, or city to resolve issues of local importance related to the jurisdiction of the territorial community independently, instead of discussing those "5 important questions" with them?
A nationwide poll of citizens combined with local elections, without a legal basis and proper organizational and technical preparation, will look extremely dubious and illegitimate. Its results will be the same," Marusiak stressed to Rubryka.
Regarding funding, the question really still remains a mystery, because there're no specifics. According to the deputy head of the Servant of the People party, Yevheniia Kravchuk, the poll definitely won't take place on the territory of the polling station. In addition, they won't allocate the money from the budget to finance it, because the project is on a volunteer basis. Though, according to Kravchuk, the Office of the President should announce other details soon.
From a political point of view, the poll looks like a PR campaign on election day. There are several logical explanations.
The very idea appeared literally at the last moment, exactly two weeks before the vote. Nobody prepared the society in advance, and they keep the questions secret to this day.
It suggests that the Office of the President simply decided to save the situation two weeks before the elections and give interest to them. And also indirectly stimulate the voters of the SP presidential party to come to the polling stations. More so, the poll has no legal effect. If the Ukrainians say "yes, give the corrupt officials a life sentence," then this decision will mean absolutely nothing in the legal direction.
It's another attempt by the Office of the President to pass off wishful thinking. By manipulating public opinion, Zelenskyi is trying to lure Ukrainians into another trap promising democracy, which means nothing on paper.