Why Does Ukraine's Zelenskyy Want to Strip Kyiv Mayor Klitschko of Power?
4 August, 2019
Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko during a press conference on the political situation in Kyiv, July 26, 2019 Photo: EPA-EFE / SERGEY DOLZHENKO Photo: EPA-EFE / SERGEY DOLZHENKO

The past month has seen a series of disputes over the powers of the Kyiv mayor and the Kyiv City State Administration (KCSA) head. Currently both posts, in accordance with a 2003 Constitutional Court decision, are held by former boxing champion Vitali Klitschko. 

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and his team don’t like this and are determined to split the powers and take away the role of city administration head from the mayor. They even asked the government to dismiss Klitschko.

Online newspaper Ukrayinska Pravda earlier wrote that the Servant of the People party is considering two candidates for the role of KSCA chair – Oleksandr Tkachenko – the CEO of 1 + 1 media holding (owned by oligarch Ihor Kolomoisky) and businessman Andriy Kholodov – both in the Servant of the People party.

On July 30, Presidential Administration head Andriy Bohdan, during a briefing, accused the mayor of depending on developers and said that he planned to contact law enforcement agencies to look into alleged abuse of power by the authorities. 

Bohdan also said that he was offered a share of $40 million to ensure Klitschko remain as head of the Kyiv City State Administration.

Klitschko on August 1 posted on Facebook that he approached the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine (NABU) to open criminal proceedings into the statement about the alleged bribe offer. 

“I did not authorize anyone to conduct such ‘negotiations’,” he wrote. “I am convinced that NABU has every opportunity to investigate the published information and establish the truth in this matter. And I hope that Mr. Bohdan will contribute to the investigation. If the head of the President’s Office told reporters the truth, of course.” 

The day before, Klitschko also published a photo with the former New York City mayor, and now the lawyer of Donald Trump, Rudy Giuliani with whom he discussed the “importance of developing local self-government”. Thus, the Kyiv mayor demonstrated that he had connections with the US President’s team, where there was plenty of dissatisfaction with Bohdan’s appointment as head of the Ukrainian president’s office. 

Can Zelensky fire Klitschko? How would the city council work then? And why is the current self-government system in Kyiv flawed? Hromadske explains. 

Can Zelenskyy Dismiss Klitschko?

Yes, but only from the position of the Kyiv City State Administration head. A separate clause was even introduced as part of the “Local Administrations" law for this under ousted ex-President Viktor Yanukovych. This allows for the possibility of dismissing heads of administration "at the initiative of the President of Ukraine."

In this case, Klitschko will remain mayor until the next local elections. 

Shouldn't Heads of State Administrations Resign When a New President is Elected?

Despite the fact that such a statement was made at a  press conference by Bohdan, there is no provisions in the law on this. It says that the heads of regional state administrations, including Klitschko, should continue exercising their powers until new heads of local state administrations are appointed. 

Therefore, if Zelenskyy decides to replace the Kyiv City State Administration head, he will have to take the initiative to first dismiss Klitschko, and then appoint a new head.

Who Can Head the Kyiv City State Administration? 

Klitschko’s people are pointing to a 2003 decision of the Constitutional Court, which says that only the elected mayor of the capital can be the head of the Kyiv City State Administration.

The logic there is that since the Kyiv City State Administration is the executive body of the Kyiv City Council, the mayor should head it. For example, Kharkiv mayor Hennadiy Kernes heads the executive committee of the Kharkov City Council and Lviv mayor Andriy Sadovyi, the executive committee of the Lviv City Council.

The President’s Office believes that the 2003 Constitutional Court decision is not relevant,  because since then the law “On the capital of Ukraine – the hero-city of Kyiv” has been amended several times. If the president decides to appoint a new head of the Kyiv City State Administration, that may not be Klitschko.

Why is Control Over the Kyiv City State Administration Important?  

Because it is the executive body of the Kyiv City Council. Take the controversial construction on Protasiv Yar, for example. In 2007, the city council allocated a plot of land (3.15 ha) to a firm  for development. However, the preparation of documents proving the right to land use was done by the main land administration of the KSCA. Thus, the city council makes the decisions, and the city administration performs them. 

Klitschko is comfortable in two ways, says Yury Hanushchak, an expert on territorial organization of power: In the morning he makes a decision as mayor, and after lunch, as head of the Kyiv City State Administration, he evaluates it for legality and puts it into operation. And you don’t have any control.

On the other hand, if the KSCA is headed by a representative of the president who is opposed to the elected mayor, he will be able to block or sabotage the decisions of the city council. Then, Klitschko says, he would become “the Queen of England”, with his job reduced to laying flowers and cutting ribbons. 

What Could Happen Next?

Hanushchak is convinced that the powers of the mayor and the head of the Kyiv City State Administration should have a line between them on a legislative level. The head of the city administration should exclusively have control and oversight functions: to monitor whether local authorities are complying with the constitution and laws, make decisions regarding state property and coordinate the territorial bodies of central executive bodies.

Meanwhile, the Kyiv City Council would have its executive committee, headed by the mayor, which will be responsible for the implementation of decisions made by city council representatives.