Kiev’s ruling party is preventing members from quitting despite cancelled elections and the extension of martial law
Many Ukrainian MPs who want to resign are being prevented from doing so as the ruling party believes that all lawmakers must muster on, its top MP David Arakhamia said in an interview on Monday.
The current, ninth Verkhovna Rada (Ukraine’s parliament) was elected in July 2019 in a snap election called by President Vladimir Zelensky following his inauguration. The Servant of the People party, which had been created so that the former comedian could enter politics, secured an unprecedented majority. Martial law has prevented the renewal of the unicameral national legislature this year, effectively extending its five-year term.
Arakhamia, who has headed the ruling party in the legislature since its creation, discussed the challenges of working under parliamentary rules with a shrinking roster of MPs. Three resignations were confirmed last week, leaving the 450-seat body with just 400 members. A mandate is revoked if a majority of at least 226 sitting MPs votes for it.
“In fact, the number of people who want to leave the parliament is much larger, but we don’t let them out, tell them we won’t vote for it,” Arakhamia explained to the television audience. Current members, he added, “have to sit to the end and adopt legislation that the state needs.”
In the 2019 election, Zelensky’s party won 254 of the 424 seats up for grabs, since Crimea and parts of Donbass were both outside of Kiev’s control and suspended.
The number of seats shrunk again in 2022, when the Opposition Platform – For Life (OPZZh) party, which had the second-largest number of seats in the Rada, was banned by Zelensky’s government for allegedly being “pro-Russian.” Some of its MPs switched allegiance, others resigned, and still others were invalidated when the president stripped them of their citizenship.
The Servant of the People party lost members too. In August, with the party having lost 17 MPs and facing a potentially uncertain majority, Arakhamia suggested he may be forced to seek a coalition.
Some political observers in Ukraine have argued that the ruling party’s majority was de facto lost years ago, as MPs listed as its members would often vote against the president’s proposed laws.
Public support for the Servant of the People Party plunged in less than two years after its meteoric rise. In the October 2020 municipal elections, the party performed poorly, losing many mayoral offices to candidates from OPZZh and other rivals.
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