Second Wave: What Does Zelenskyy’s Servant of the People Party Promise to Ukraine?
12 June, 2019
The President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy (L) on his inauguration day on May 20. Presidential Administration of Ukraine

According to the Head of the Servant of the People party Dmytro Razumkov, Ukraine needs changes and Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s victory in the country’s presidential election was “the first wave [of those changes].”

The recent polls bear this out. Approximately 87% of Ukrainians polled want “radical change,” according to a May survey conducted by the sociological group Rating. And Servant of the People (SOTP), a party that just a few months ago nobody heard about, scores a whopping 48.5% of support among those who are going to vote in the July 21 parliamentary election and have decided for whom. That’s nearly half of the 424-seat Verkhovna Rada (technically, it’s 450 seats but 26 seats remain empty because the areas those MPs are meant to represent are currently occupied and no elections can be held there). A pretty impressive result for a party whose Facebook page didn’t even exist this time last month.

Razumkov refers to the upcoming parliamentary elections as “the second wave.” The third wave would then be “the formation of a professional government of national trust, a restart of the executive authorities and law enforcement bodies.”

Hromadske takes a look at the party’s program and what it promises to the nation and their voters.

Part 1: The Government Detox

Revoking parliamentary immunity and reinstating responsibility for illegal enrichment were some of Zelenskyy’s team’s loudest promises in the lead up to the 2019 presidential election. If the president’s party’s election program is anything to go by, then the party continues to pursue this “restart of the government” idea.

In that way, the SOTP promises legal responsibility and a mechanism for sacking the MPs who “lost the support of their constituencies.” The nation will apparently be able to veto “recently approved laws” and “influence the government’s decisions via referendums.”

READ MORE: Zelenskyy Set to Reinstate Illegal Enrichment Law

Among SOTP’s other undertakings is “decentralization of the government according to European standards,” which is explained as “maximum responsibility to the executive committees of local councils” and “state administrations turned into European-style prefectures.”

Interestingly enough, Zelenskyy’s SOTP also vows to rid media outlet owners of the power to influence editorial processes. Lack of media freedom in Ukraine has long been a concern among international watchdogs. Ukraine is currently ranked 102nd of 180 countries in terms of its freedom of the press situation.

Among the cleansing section are also the previously promised “illegal enrichment law, open MP lists (which the party, sort of, started practicing by publishing 100 names on their party list - ed.), [and] cancellation of MP immunity.”

READ MORE: President Zelenskyy Announces His Party Members

Part 2: End of Corruption

Corruption fight was one of the cornerstone promises that helped Volodymyr Zelenskyy win the presidential election. So, no wonder a substantial part of Servant of the People’s program is precisely on that. In its battle against systemic corruption, the party says it will“radically cleanse and restart the General Prosecutor’s Office of Ukraine (GPO)” and strip the GPO, as well as other state institutions like the SBU and the National Police, of the “atypical for them function of pressuring businesses.”

The program also mentions “obligatory confiscation of corrupt officials’ property” and a “guaranteed financial reward for citizens who expose corruption.” There is also a mention of “securing independence of anti-corruption bodies.”

READ MORE: Ukraine Takes Aim at Its Anti-Corruption Agencies

In line with Zelenskyy’s team previous focus on digitalization and hopes for a “country within a smartphone,” the program also mentions “transfer of as many as possible state services into online [sphere].”

READ MORE: Zelenskiy’s Head Digital Marketer on Their Winning Election Campaign

Part 3: Defense

Defense is one of the most vital sectors for Ukraine, a country at war. Hromadske previously talked to a highly-regarded within Zelenskyy’s team defense advisor Ivan Aparshyn about how the team plans to deal with the war in the Donbas. A part of Ukraine’s eastern region areas has been occupied by Russia-backed forces since 2014. Now, the political party’s agenda when it comes to defense is officially made clear.

READ MORE: How Zelenskyy's Team Plans to Deal with Ukraine's Most Crucial Sector – Defense

In that way, SOTP promises to “renew the reform of the Armed Force of Ukraine according to NATO standards.”

Following what probably was one of the biggest corruption scandals in modern Ukrainian history — the investigation by that exposed high-profile corruption in the defense area — Zelenskyy’s party says it will ensure“the most severe punishment for corruption and stealing within the Armed Forces and the defense ministry.” But then this is something former President Petro Poroshenko repeatedly promised, too.

READ MORE: Investigation Links Ukraine’s State Agencies to Defense Corruption

Part 4: Economy and Business

SOTP has some bold promises when it comes to Ukraine’s economy, which experienced a crisis following the 2013-2014 Euromaidan revolution and the war in Donbas. Zelenskyy’s party promises to carry out a “national audit” in cooperation with local and international companies.

In the “Business” section, Servant of the People promises to also audit the functions of the state and, correspondingly, reduce the number of state bodies and their employees.

SOTP also strives to put an end to shadow economy in Ukraine by introducing a one-time legalization procedure at preferential rates for money that was earned in legal ways. Withdrawn capital will be taxed as soon as the necessary for this economic conditions appear, the party says.

The party also vows to fully transfer all the tax and customs procedures into a digital format.

Also in its election program, SOTP boldly promises to increase Ukrainian salaries and life quality to “above the average level for Europe.”  Currently Ukraine has one of the lowest wages in Europe.

Part 5: Infrastructure

Despite the substantial amounts of money invested into repairing the Ukrainian roads (just in 2019, the State Road Service of Ukraine, Ukravtodor, received $1.1 billion for road construction and repair), they remain to be a mystery phenomenon. According to government estimates, 97% of Ukrainian roads require total refurbishment or ongoing repairs.

SOTP claims to deal with all these problems in the future. They promise to implement “independent quality control over road construction and refurbishment processes,” as well as “legislative prerequisites for the construction of concrete roads.”

The party also says it will demonopolize “passenger and freight transfers via rail transport.” Unlike countries like the United Kingdom where dozens of train operators exist, Ukraine’s train services are monopolized by the state-run Ukrzaliznytsia enterprise.

Part 6: Law Enforcement and Justice

Servant of the People likes to use the term “restart” and when talking about courts is no exception. In that way, the party promises to “restart the Supreme Council of Justice and the High Qualification Commission of Judges.” The program also vows “full-fledged institutes of justices of the peace and jury trials.”

With law enforcement, the party promises an end to business raids, as well as ensure the“inevitability of punishment for police officers, prosecutors and the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) for abuse of office” and protection for eyewitnesses.

Zelenskyy previously spoke in favor of legalizing prostitution and medicinal cannabis and against the legalization of weapons. SOTP’s program only mentions the weapon issue. The fact that Ukraine has a problem with illegal weapon export and sale was acknowledged to Hromadske both by the current Head of the National Police Serhiy Knyazev and former Head of the Ukrainian Security Services’ Main Investigation Office Vasyl Vovk.

“Unfortunately, these problems arise in any country at war,” Knyazev told Hromadske in March 2017. “In October alone we registered more than 2,000 cases of weapons seizures. And since the beginning of the year we have seen more than 8,000 such cases.”

 READ MORE: A Hello to Arms: Is There a Black Market for Guns in Ukraine?

Zelenskyy’s team ambitiously promises to regulate weapon ownership rights on the legal level.

Part 7: Image Domestically and Abroad

Zelenskyy’s party wants to implement humanitarian politics aimed at cultural, civil, and spiritual unification of the citizens of Ukraine. In line with Zelenskyy’s inaugural speech, SOTP states it will “develop state programs for contact with Ukrainian diasporas.”

READ MORE: Full Text of Volodymyr Zelenskyy's First Speech as President of Ukraine

The party also promises “informational reintegration” for the residents of Ukraine’s occupied territories.

What’s interesting is that the party of Zelenskyy, a Russian speaker, also vowed to focus on “supporting Ukrainian language and culture with the aid of fiscal stimuli and priority governmental funding.” Previously, Zelenskyy sparked concern among some Ukrainian speakers of the country when he stated he will review the recently adopted language law.

READ MORE: Ukraine's New Language Law, Explained

Far from the interior image, SOTP also focuses on Ukraine’s global image. In that way, the party promised to continue the country’s European integration, a process kicked off by Poroshenko.

“We will adopt the laws required for the implementation of the Agreement about the Association between Ukraine and the E.U., as well as further the cooperation with the European Union and NATO,” the program reads.

Part 8: Energy and Environment

SOTP says it will cancel all electricity pricing formulas such as Rotterdam+, the controversial coal pricing scheme launched in 2016. Critics claimed it was implemented for the financial benefit of energy tycoon, Donetsk-born oligarch Rinat Akhmetov, as well as the allies of ex-President Poroshenko.

The party also promises to demonopolize energy markets, increase produce of energy resources and eliminate the corrupt elements within the creation of tariffs.

The development of the renewable energy market, with the prevention of any risks of monopolization, is also on the table. In 2015, renewable energy sources — such as wind, water and sun — accounted for only 4% of Ukraine’s energy supply, more than three times less than the average in European Union.

READ MORE: Deforestation of Ukraine’s Carpathians: Where Do We Go From Here?

Servant of the People also promises to reinforce the law to stimulate the construction of recycling factories and fight illegal deforestation.

READ MORE: How Ukraine Can Learn to Control its Waste Problem

Part 9: Healthcare

Zelenskyy’s party’s healthcare promises are centered around obligatory health insurances, easier to understand healthcare packages, and the development of preventive healthcare, which echoes the policies of the U.S.’ former President Barack Obama colloquially known as "Obamacare."

READ MORE: Forget Trump, Zelenskiy’s Win in Ukraine is More Like Obama’s in 2008, Argues MEP

Besides those, SOTP says there will be better equipment for hospitals and that all medical documentation should be digitalized.

/By Maria Romanenko