Prime Minister Honcharuk submits resignation: will he leave?

Prime Minister Honcharuk submits resignation: will he leave?
January 17, 2020.

UPDATE

President Zelenskyi did not approve Prime Minister Honcharuk’s resignation request. According to the law, the Prime Minister was supposed to submit the resignation letter to the Parliament not to the President.

President Zelenskyi met with Prime Minister Honcharuk in the evening on January 17. The Office of the President quotes Zelenskyi saying: “I have received your resignation request following the latest conflict situations or scandals, whatever one may call them. (…) You know my attitude to you personally and to your young government. (…) I have decided to give you and your government another chance.”

The President also put forward his demands for the Cabinet of Ministers. Zelenskyi emphasized that government work needs to be optimized, ministers and heads of state-own companies need to be justly paid, ministers that have not achieved actual results need to be removed from office, due dialogue with the Parliament needs to be established.

Legal confusion. The resignation that did not happen was marked by violations of the law where political moves took priority over procedures. According to the Constitution of Ukraine (Paragraph 12 of the Article 85), the Prime Minister can be removed from office by the Parliament, same concerns the dissolution of the Cabinet of Ministers. The President is not involved in the procedure. Had he abided by the law, Honcharuk would have sent his resignation note to the Parliament. The MPs would have then either approved it or not. Instead the Prime Minister sent it to the President leaving him the choice of submitting it to the Parliament or taking no action.

 

Who’s behind the audio leak? Hromadske.ua quotes two sources in the government suspecting that release of the recordings was plotted by the former PrivatBank co-owner Ihor Kolomoyskyi.

The notorious oligarch demands a compensation for the bank’s nationalization which he considers to be illegal. The government shares the International Monetary Fund’s position affirming that nationalization cannot be reversed. Government members did not make any official statements to call Kolomoyskyi responsible.

Hromadske.ua received a comment from the oligarch, he denies his involvement in the audio leak.

On January 17 Oleksiy Honcharuk, the Prime Minister of Ukraine, wrote a resignation letter. It happened shortly after audio excerpts of an alleged government meeting leaked online. Hocharuk’s resignation is now being considered by President Zelenskyi. In case the Prime Minister does resign, it is quite possible that other ministers will resign too. UCMC takes a look at the implications and possible scenarios, read on.

On January 17 Oleksiy Honcharuk posted on Facebook saying that he wrote a resignation letter and handed it to the President Volodymyr Zelenskyi.

Honcharuk explaining. The Prime Minister notes that the audio that leaked online could have created a false impression that he and his team are lacking respect for the President. Honcharuk reassures that it’s not true.

“I entered office to implement the President’s program. To me he is a model of honesty and integrity. In order to remove all doubt about our respect and trust in the President I wrote a resignation letter and handed it to the President for the latter to submit it to the Parliament,” the head of the government wrote.

Honcharuk noted that Ukrainians demonstrated an unprecedentedly high approval rating for President Zelenskyi, so that the latter has the undisputable right to assess efficiency of each team member.

Commentary by the Office of the President. The Office of the President acknowledged the receipt of Honcharuk’s resignation note.

“Head of the State will consider the claim. The Office of the President of Ukraine will communicate the results separately,” the statement reads.

What preceded the resignation notice? On January 15 theYouTube channel “Kak obmanut’ presidenta” (How to trick the President) posted three audio recordings. The tracks were allegedly recorded during the Prime Minister’s meeting with the government members. As suggested, other voices are of the Finance Minister Oksana Markarova, the National Bank Head Yakiv Smoliy, the First Deputy Head of the National Bank Kateryna Rozhkova and of the Deputy Head of the Office of the President Yulia Kovaliv.

What was in the audio? The conversation is presented as an offense to the President – it was said that the President has no clue about the economy.

The alleged leaked recordings suggest that Honcharuk called the meeting with representatives of the Finance Ministry, the Ministry of Economic Development, the National Bank etc. to discuss the consolidated communication position on most topical economic issues to later bring them up to the Office of the President and to President Zelenskyi personally. The voice attributed to the Prime Minister emphasizes the need to explain economic problems to Zelenskyi in plain words.

The description of the YouTube video reads: “A story of how Oleksiy Honcharuk, Oksana Markarova, Yakiv Smoliy, Kateryna Rozhkova and Yulia Kovaliv were preparing for a meeting with the ‘dumb president’ Zelenskyi.”

Due to the poor quality some parts are not audible.

Authenticity of the audio denied. “It’s not my voice on the tape,” Deputy Head of the Office of the President Yulia Kovaliv commented on the scandalous audio recording.

Authenticity of these recordings raises doubts. The meeting featuring these participants was held last month, in mid-December, the news section of the National Bank’s web site suggests. Press service of the Cabinet of Ministers said it “has no information on whether the audio and video recordings circulating on the internet are authentic.”

“Dzerkalo Tyzhnia” (Mirror of the Week) quoting its own sources says the released recordings are two pieces out of 14 total. The audio tracks were purposefully released before the scheduled meeting of the faction “Sluha Narodu” (Servant of the People) to create grounds for a no-confidence vote in the government.

At the January 15 meeting the “Sluha Narodu” faction was actively discussing the possible no-confidence vote in the Prime Minister following the release of the scandalous audio recordings. MP Iryna Vereshchuk confirmed it. She added that a test voting on Honcharuk’s resignation was held but refrained from reporting its results. According to the media outlet, not more than 20 MPs of the “Sluha Narodu” faction took a no-confidence vote in the Prime Minister.

Next day, on January 16 the YouTube channel “How to Trick the President” that released the audio recordings, was deleted.

What’s next? Lawyers comment. According to the Ukrainian legislation, neither the President, nor the Verkhovna Rada (the Parliament) can initiate the procedure and dismiss the government during the first year after the governmental program was approved, said a constitutional law expert Oleksandr Moskaliuk in a comment to the Ukrainian media “Slovo i Dilo” (Word and Action). 

“The Parliament cannot consider the government’s resignation one year after the governmental program was approved. It is stipulated by the part 2 of the Article 87 of the Constitution of Ukraine. Meaning that Honcharuk’s government is enjoying the year-long immunity as the government’s program was approved,” the lawyer explained.

“Similar precedents happened in other countries when the government chief could not be fired but as they were facing a strong social reaction they did resign in the end. A similar situation happened in Germany to the Defense Minister. We had one featuring Yatsenyuk (Arseniy Yatsenyuk, Prime Minister of Ukraine in 2014-2016 – UCMC). He could not be fired but in the end he resigned,” the lawyer reminded.

Moskaliuk does not rule out a scenario under which Honcharuk will file a resignation note but the Parliament will not vote it in, same as it happened to Yatsenyuk, so he can continue serving as the Prime Minister.

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