Razumkov is no longer Rada's chairperson. What's next?
Rubryka examines the story of the former speaker's conflict with the presidential team, finds out whether there could be another finale in this story, and reflects on Razumkov's future.
Dmytro Razumkov was fired from the post of Verkhovna Rada chairperson. And since his powers were taken away as expected — moreover, it would be a sensation if, after his massive attack, the "Servant of the People" faction let him lead the parliament — we shouldn't nostalgically remind that Razumkov was one of those who not only made Zelenskyy president but also headed the electoral list of his party. One shouldn't draw parallels between him and the stories of Andrii Bohdan and Oleksii Honcharuk, other people whom Zelenskyy first gave great opportunities to change the country and about whom everyone has already forgotten.
And not to say the banal words "love lasts three years and we're convinced of this again on the example of Razumkov and Zelenskyy/'Servants,'" we simply quote a piece of this book: "The first year they say: 'If you leave, I'll take my life.' In the second year, they say, 'If you leave, I'll be in pain, but I'll survive.' In the third year, they say, 'If you leave, I'll wash it with champagne.'"
So while the uncorked champagne is being drunk, let's try to figure out what the Rada will be like without a speaker balancing between all political forces, who instead of focusing exclusively on the majority, tried to take into account the interests of all factions, making the parliament a single force, and what Razumkov himself will do next.
A brief history of the conflict
After the Rada passed the law on oligarchs, the leader of the Servant of the People faction, Davyd Arakhamia, actually admitted that the history of voting for this document was a point of no return in the conflict between the political force and the Office of the President of Ukraine (OPU) and Razumkov, who was sick with COVID-19 at the time and was on self-isolation.
"I think that Razumkov wouldn't support the procedure of shortened consideration of the draft law. If he were at work, we would insist and it would be a bifurcation point (non-return – ed.) for our troubles," Arakhamia said at the time.
And a week later, when he began collecting signatures for the resignation of the chairperson of the Verkhovna Rada, Arakhamia confirmed that the authorities attacked Razumkov in open war because he disagreed with the party line on anti-oligarchic law.
"You've observed what, in recent weeks when we started passing the law on oligarchs, was happening… First, there was an incident with the Venice Commission (Razumkov sent a request for an opinion on the law on oligarchs – ed.), unfortunately, after that our disputes became public. Then, as the faction calls it, the 'Cold Regulatory War' began. I remind everyone that this speaker's chair belongs to the 'Servant of the People.' If a person isn't a 'servant of the people' anymore or their opinion is different from the one of the faction, this person will simply be replaced," Arakhamia gave a verdict to Razumkov.
A few days after his removal from the Verkhovna Rada, right within the Verkhovna Rada, Razumkov himself said that his principled position on the anti-oligarchic law cost him his job: "Any violation of the law is bad for the authorities. Then they can be accused of usurpation. For me, the last vote with gross violations of the regulations on the draft law on oligarchs was notable. Knowing and following the regulations isn't always the same thing."
However, Razumkov started a conflict with "Servant of the People" and the President's Office long before that. So long that the beginning of this conflict can be traced back to the very first meeting of the Rada after the 2019 elections. At that time, the speaker didn't want to obey the then head of the presidential office, Bohdan, who demanded to pass 73 laws on the first day of the new Rada's work in the "turbo regime." He justified his decision, by the way, by the same reluctance to rape the regulations.
Moreover, since the end of the same 2019, Razumkov, among other things:
- demonstratively didn't participate in "5 questions from Zelenskyy";
- publicly criticized the ideas of the Secretary of the National Security and Defense Council;
- ridiculed in the media from various surrogates of the OPU;
- refrained from imposing sanctions against Medvedchuk's channels;
- commented on the statements of the Secretary of the National Security and Defense Council regarding the oligarchs.
Or in short: at the beginning of his speech, Razumkov directly defined himself as an independent politician who isn't afraid to contradict his party or even the president.
Of course, "from up high" such behavior didn't find approval. Especially since the President's Office opened a recent poll one day and saw: the rating of people's trust in Razumkov is 32%, and in Zelenskyy, 33%. It has become very difficult to regard this as a normal manifestation of ambition, one should talk about direct competition.
And then there was the above-mentioned address of the speaker to the Venice Commission. Which, according to the UP, "was considered by the President's Office as a personal blow on Zelenskyy's initiative and as the speaker's attempt to subjectivize himself in the eyes of the oligarchs."
Therefore, the OPU decided that they needed a new chairperson of the Verkhovna Rada.
Was there a possibility of reconciliation?
There was an opportunity for reconciliation between the collective Zelenskyy and Razumkov. Probably, the president even wanted this at some level. After all, assuming that tolerating the flirtation of the Verkhovna Rada speaker with the opposition and positioning as a separate player in the presence of more loyal people ready to lead the Rada and not having hopes for resolving contradictions is difficult.
However, if this had been the case, of course, it would've been before the story with anti-oligarchic law.
But whether Razumkov himself wanted this is a question.
"Perhaps the business forces, ready to become potential sponsors of Razumkov required him to consistently defend a specific position on the anti-oligarchic law. Probably, he felt his weight and personal ambitions came to the fore. And this naturally and inevitably led to such a finale," says political expert Volodymyr Fesenko.
However, the opposition of the speaker and the majority about the law on oligarchs buried any possibility of reconciliation. After all, making concessions to both sides would mean admitting even a partial, but defeat.
Therefore, according to experts, Razumkov wasn't invited to Truskavets. That's why he didn't go there himself.
"Dmytro Razumkov will be able to work as a non-partisan, to show himself. And the question of his inclusion in the 'Servants of the People' faction, if he raises it, will be decided by the faction by voting '70 to 30.' But after what we've heard for the last 2 weeks, I wouldn't support such a decision," said Oleksandr Kornienko, the first deputy head of the Servant of the People faction, on the eve of Razumkov's removal from the Verkhovna Rada.
"I think the president is aware of what's going on. So it doesn't make sense to discuss it… If you wanted to talk to me, I would be invited to Truskavets. I think it's the team you spent some time with during the election campaign, and after that two years in parliament… It would be right to let two positions be heard. And if they don't want to do it, you won't be able to prove it. I won't make excuses. But I could've defended my position," Razumkov said on the day of his removal.
"Razumkov didn't want to go to Truskavets to make peace with the 'servants', because that would mean capitulation for him and the loss of the image of an independent leader. But the 'servants' also refused his offer to meet and talk, obviously because they no longer trust him," Fesenko said.
There was no alternative to dismissal
Globally, Razumkov's resignation means only one thing: the Rada will again be headed by a speaker "imprisoned" to carry out the tasks of the government, which, appointed him. As has long been the case in Ukraine.
"The situation when the speaker of the Verkhovna Rada begins to act in the interests of the opposition, rather than his team, is very unusual for Ukraine. In the history of independence, we haven't had such a thing," Fesenko explains Razumkov's non-typical behavior and inconvenience for the OPU to Rubryka.
He notes: Volodymyr Groisman and Andrii Parubii chaired the Verkhovna Rada in 2016-2019 and 2014-2016 in the interests of the majority formed in 2014: "Parubii generally blocked attempts to verify the reality of having the required number of members in the coalition."
"Lytvyn (Speaker of the Verkhovna Rada in 2002-2006 and 2008-2012 – ed.) acted in the interests of Yanukovych and was, in fact, part of the regime. Under Yushchenko, there was a majority crisis, which was resolved by removing Yatseniuk from the post of Speaker. And he acted in the interests of the president," Fesenko emphasizes.
Instead, Razumkov from the beginning tried to be "the speaker of the entire parliament," not a specific force. Of course, the president's team couldn't like it.
"Dima came to us and said: what will the other factions say? We were shocked: 'Why the f*** do you look at other factions? You have 250 deputies of your own!' He says: 'What will I say to Tymoshenko?' 'Tell he to *** off!'" the UP quotes the words of one of the respected representatives of Ze! Team, said by him in 2019.
Moreover, Razumkov has been discussed for about a year now as an influential political figure who acts solely based on his ratings and prospects and doesn't work for the party and Zelenskyy. Logically, they couldn't tolerate this for a long time in a system where everyone openly works for the rating of the central figure, neglecting time (or, perhaps, for a time) and their ambitions.
"When Razumkov began to act not in the interests of the presidential team, but the interests of the opposition and himself, there was no other way out but to change the speaker of the Verkhovna Rada," Fesenko summed up his resignation.
Of course, now Razumkov will be a direct opponent of Zelenskyy. He may even try to increase his rating by revealing the nuances of the Ze! Team. In any case, the authorities gave him an opportunity with their not so polite behavior towards him (it will just suffice to mention not inviting the first person of the "Servants of the People" electoral list to the party congress in Truskavets).
"Razumkov's strength lies in his political 'drive': the head of the Verkhovna Rada can squeeze the most out of small resources. And most importantly, he knows how to use the power of the Internet," political expert Mykola Davydiuk told Rubryka at the beginning of the political season when Razumkov's resignation was possible but unlikely to happen any time soon.
However, it is most likely that the main task for Razumkov will be to shortly create his parliamentary group with its further development to a serious center of influence in parliament. In any case, this is stated by the ex-speaker himself.
"The main thing is to remain a human being with the values, promises, and principles with which we came here. I want to stay that way. I know that there are enough such people in the Rada, although it's difficult for them. And I'm sure that together we will achieve the results by which we were sent to these walls in 2019," he said in parliament on October 5.
However, these words will most likely remain just a statement of intent, and Razumkov will defend his principles in proud solitude. The reason is simple: his supporters, who exist in the "Servant of the People" faction, will not dare to follow him for fear of losing the deputy mandate.
"These people's deputies are 'listers', i.e. elected on the party list. And by law, such deputies, in case of withdrawal from their faction, must resign," Fesenko said.
And without his group, it will be very difficult for Razumkov to stay in the elite of Ukrainian politics for a long time. After all, although shortly he will remain one of the central figures, he will "leave" solely because of inertia from his former position. And over time, he'll move to the category of the half-forgotten.
Therefore, most likely, in the next 2 years, before the new elections to the Rada, Razumkov will focus, first, on creating and providing sponsors of his party, with which he'll go to the polls; and second, on maintaining the rating which will become a basis for attracting voters.
"Razumkov has potential. He's a young capable politician who has a small but noticeable presidential rating (about 3%). And he'll create his party. It can also be said unequivocally that he'll easily find investors for it. However, he'll have to make significant efforts to maintain his rating. Otherwise, sponsors will turn away from him," Fesenko said.
For Razumkov, the time has come for self-determination
But even if Razumkov maintains or even increases his rating, even if there are more sponsors than he expects and they are more generous, he will have to solve one of the defining problems long before the election: the positioning of his party.
In other words, who, and most importantly, how he will campaign for himself.
Razumkov currently positions himself as a centrist. And considering that it is due to this image that he created his rating, there's no reason to believe that he will abandon it soon.
However, the fact is that 2 more serious players are playing on the same field with the same ambitions as the former speaker's and ratings: the mayor of Kyiv Vitalii Klychko and the former prime minister (and, symbolically, also the ex-chairperson of the Rada) Volodymyr Groisman.
"Razumkov will have to explain to people not only how he differs from Zelenskyy, but also people like himself, Groisman and Klychko," Fesenko said.
He emphasizes that the possibility of a strong union of the three leaders to achieve a common goal is minimal, because "it's unlikely that any of them will give up their ambitions": "Situational cooperation in the case of passing to parliament is possible. Full cooperation is unlikely."
For now, one thing can be said about Razumkov's future: his expulsion from the speaker's chair was not a political death for him. Moreover, it finally allowed him to act independently and at his discretion. It remains only to successfully use it.