Decentralization is a choice of civilizations in practice. Changes to Constitution are needed to de-sovietize Ukraine – expert


Kyiv, December 9, 2015. Main aim of decentralization is to overcome the hierarchical state structure, changes to the Constitution on decentralization are needed to de-sovietize Ukraine, said Yaryna Zhurba, executive director of Analytical platform “November 21”, coordinator of UCMC project “Government communications reform in Ukraine” at a press briefing at Ukraine Crisis Media Center (UCMC). According to her, introducing changes to the Constitution as to the decentralization will lead to a number of considerable changes. “Decentralization is a choice of civilizations implemented in practice. The centralized system of power coming from one center was imposed on us and was repressive. By introducing decentralization we are returning to the organizational model of power that was typical for us before that historical period,” noted Zhurba. According to her self-governance is written in the genes of Ukrainians.

According to Yaryna Zhurba the second argument proving that decentralization leads to de-sovietization is overcoming the monopoly: political, managerial and financial. When the financial resources and managerial tools are not concentrated in one pair of hands, it creates a pretext for dignity and freedom, the expert is convinced. “In a centralized and repressive state the person’s dignity and freedom are constantly under threat. Whenever there is a leader in whose hands the power is concentrated the risk that the authorities will be abusing the power is quite high and unfortunately we have had such experience recently,” emphasized Yaryna Zhurba. The decentralized state is safer for its citizens. Moreover, decentralization will lead to diversity through opening the potential of each community. It makes the communities demonstrate leadership and initiative, qualities that the Soviet system used to oppress in the people, explained Zhurba.

By introducing the changes to the Constitution on decentralization the laws “on de-communization” can be implemented namely as to renaming cities the names of which refer to the totalitarian communist regime, said the coordinator of UCMC project “Government communications reform in Ukraine”. The actual Constitution in its Article 133 establishes the names of regions. Thus in order to rename Dnipropetrovsk and Kirovohrad regions the Constitution needs to be changed, explained Zhurba. When talking about renaming cities she noted that for many people old names are often just a habit, thus in order to avoid certain civil resistance that might arise the discussion needs to be shifted to the choice of values. “The question asked in public opinion polls is: ‘Do you support change of the name?’ Maybe it’s worth asking ‘Do you agree that your city is named after the person who was involved in starting Holodomor, was killing Ukrainians?” made an example the expert.

The expert notes that despite the positive issues the draft law on introducing the changes to the Constitution on decentralization has certain drawbacks. First of all she thinks the use of “prefect” term is unjustified, a more natural term would be “governor”. Another drawback is that the changes reinforcing the basic level of local self-government – communities and those introducing executive committees within the regional councils are coming in force simultaneously. “There is a risk that local self-governance, while being a more powerful governance unit, will lead to a situation when communities will be increasingly avoiding responsibility as well as that local self-governance will be taking up some of the communities’ responsibilities,” thinks Yaryna Zhurba. She suggests introducing executive committees at regional councils for example after two election cycles from the moment when the communities are established.