Here's Why Ukraine's Parliament Can't Choose An Ombudsman
8 June, 2017
Photo: Serhiy Beiko, Hromadske

Voting for the new Ombudsman was supposed to be on the agenda of the Ukrainian Parliament on Tuesday June 6, 2017. However, at the beginning of the plenary session Parliamentary Speaker Andriy Parubiy announced that the National Agency on Corruption Prevention had not checked the declarations of the three candidates for the position.

Earlier Hromadske wrote about the controversy around choosing the new Ombudsman and the question of the candidates' integrity.

Since the vote did not take place on Tuesday, Hromadske investigated why the Parliament hasn't chosen an Ombudsman.

The Ombudsman, a National Human Rights Institution, is the government's human rights defender with a broad mandate. They are responsible for reporting on human rights in Ukraine, intervening in cases where the right to access public information is violated, monitoring and documenting abuse and torture in closed detention facilities and more.

After the Parliamentary Speaker announced that voting on the Ombudsman would not take place on June 6, Chairman of the Committee on Human Rights Hryhoriy Nemyra said that the election process should start all over again.

According to Nemyra, the 20 day nomination period for candidates for the position had expired and the law made delaying the voting any longer impossible. The office of the acting Ombudsman Valeriya Lutkovska also stated this.

The law clearly says that the candiates nominated need to be voted on no later than the twentieth day of their nomination. However, there are no provisions for what to do if the nomination period expires.

The three original candidates are Andriy Mamalyha, the nominee from the Radical Party (who is often referred to in the Parliament as the "personal lawyer" of Radical Party leader Oleh Lyashko), Petro Poroshenko Bloc nominee, MP Serhyi Alekseev, and People's Front candidate Liudmyla Denysova.

Are Declarations The Reason? 

Hromadske asked the Deputy Head of the National Agency on Corruption Prevention (NAZK), Ruslan Radetsky why there was a problem checking the candidates' declarations. Radetsky responded, saying there was no problem:

"We checked if all the documents had been submitted to the board and they had all been received. The test is completed. I cannot comment on Parubiy’s [the Parliamentary Chairman–ed.] words. I’m a lawyer not a politician.”

"Well how could it be completed?" said People's Front candidate Liudmyla Denysova, who met with Hromadske in the halls of the Parliament. "He [the Deputy Head of the NAZK–ed.] told me on Friday: 'This needs clarification, give more details.' I answered that it's 8 pm, how am I supposed to give more details if the vote is on Tuesday at 12? And he told me: 'well try something'," she complained.

According to Denysova, she has security papers in occupied Crimea and another candidate has unfinished house there.

"Now everything there has been 'nationalized'. How can I confirm them? We were all sent back to clarify [our declarations–ed.]," she explained.

At Hromadske's request Denysova initially agreed to share the document the National Agency on Corruption Prevention allegedly sent to her. She later said she needed to consult with her lawyer.

Who's Voting for Who: Overheard in the Parliamentary Corridors

In an effort to figure out why there was no vote on the Ombudsman, Hromadske listened to the deputies in the halls of the parliament. They all spoke openly on the condition of confidentiality.

"They just didn't have enough votes," said a deputy from the Petro Poroshenko Bloc.

"It's a secret ballot, you know, no one knows how people vote," explained an MP from the People's Front party who works on the Human Rights Committee. The same MP also told Hromadske that they had agreed to collect votes for the People's Front party candidate and that the head of the Radical Party was also promoting their candidate and collecting signatures to support him. The MP suspected that Denysova, the People's Front nominee, would get the position because she was already a minister from 2007-2010.

Liudmyla Denysova. Photo: Oleksandr Kosarev, UNIAN

Some positions have already been traded in the Parliament, but it seems not even members of the People's Front don't want Denysova (a member of the party) to get the position.

"Liudmyla Denysova was a human right activist for two days when Tymoshenko [ former PM of Ukraine–ed.] was in the hospital. After that her activism ended," joked deputies from the Batkivschyna party, whose leader is former PM Yuliya Tymoshenko.

Out of Alternatives From Civil Society

"We already have eight committees without leaders," said Chairman of the Committee on Human Rights, Hryhoriy Nemyra. "No anti-trust head, no head of the National Bank, and there was no change in the composition of the Central Election Commission. It benefits the President to have everything under control. In the current Ombudsmen case: they say that something needs to be clarified for the NAZK. How long will they take to clarify it? This re-interpretation of the law goes a long way."

A deputy for the Petro Poroshenko Bloc, who joined the Parliament from the public sector told Hromadske that since there are no appropriate candidates there is no one to choose from.

"We have collected 113 signatures in the hall for nominations of a truly worthy candidate, but unfortunately the human rights organizations have not offered one. They offered four candidates. I told them, two of them don't want to be in this position, and unfortunately civil society did nothing about choosing a normal Ombudsman."

/By Nastya Stanko

/Translated by Eilish Hart