In wild attempt to stall ‘anti-Kolomoisky’ bill, MPs propose over 13,000 amendments
In an apparent attempt to stall a banking bill crucial for Ukraine’s new, hotly anticipated deal with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Ukrainian lawmakers have proposed over 13,000 amendments to the original text.
It’s by far the largest number of amendments proposed to a single law in Ukraine’s parliamentary history. The previous record was held by the land market bill, which saw over 4,o18 proposed amendments that stalled the bill and paralyzed parliament for nearly two months.
The bill that received the unprecedented quantity of amendments would prevent nationalized banks from being returned to their previous owners.
Colloquially known as the “anti-Kolomoisky law” after oligarch Ihor Kolomoisky, the bill’s adoption is the main requirement for Ukraine to secure a much-needed $8-billion loan program from the IMF.
The bill was passed in its first reading on March 30, and was expected to be put up for the second and final vote in early April. But the proposed amendments will postpone it by weeks unless the parliament’s leadership finds a reason to dismiss them.
If adopted, the law would prevent Kolomoisky from regaining control over PrivatBank, Ukraine’s largest bank, which he owned before it was nationalized in 2016.
An independent forensic audit by Kroll, a U.S.-based consulting firm, revealed that $5.5 billion were allegedly siphoned from the bank under the ownership of Kolomoisky and his business partner Gennady Boholyubov.
As a result, Ukraine’s National Bank, together with now state-owned PrivatBank, filed lawsuits against Kolomoisky and Boholyubov in the United Kingdom, Switzerland, Cyprus, Israel and Ukraine, seeking to get the money back.
The oligarch is countersuing in Kyiv, accusing the state of raiding his property. Back in November, Kolomoisky told the Kyiv Post that he wants his bank back.
If parliament proceeds with the amendments, its work will be halted for the foreseeable future. The land market bill, which had 4,018 amendments registered to it, took 52 days to see a vote.
However, some say stalling the law won’t prevent it from passing.
“If I were to be asked whether this will topple the law, I would say no,” Yaroslav Zheleznyak, deputy head of the finance committee in the parliament and a member of the 20-member Voice faction, told the Kyiv Post.
Zheleznyak says that the governing 248-member Servant of the People party, led by President Volodymyr Zelensky, will look for ways to bypass the need to review all the amendments.
“I believe the law will be adopted closer to Thursday (April 9),” said Zheleznyak.
Filibustering crucial legislation
Certain Ukrainian lawmakers have been working hard since February to prevent two crucial laws demanded by the IMF from passing the floor. Ukraine requires foreign financial assistance to stay afloat amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, which, as of April 6, has killed over 70,000 people worldwide, 38 of them in Ukraine.
As a result, Ukraine’s gross domestic product (GDP) is expected to fall by 4.8% by the end of the year, while state budget revenue in 2020 will decrease by Hr 123 billion ($4 billion).
First on the list was lifting the moratorium on selling farmland. Ukraine was among the last remaining countries to ban people from freely buying and selling land for agricultural needs.
The law passed in its first reading in November, yet was stalled since February by 4,018 amendments proposed by the two main forces opposing the bill: the pro-Russian 44-member Opposition Platform – For Life party and the 24-member Batkivshchyna party.
Both parties rely on voters largely opposing the sale of farmland. According to an October poll by the Rating Group sociological agency, over 70% of Ukrainians are against lifting the moratorium on selling farmland.
Lawmakers took the allowed minute to talk each amendment over, sometimes going on unrelated rants, such as speaking in Hungarian or reading comments from Facebook.
The law was eventually passed on March 30, yet the amount of land allowed to be acquired by a single farmer was decreased from 200,000 hectares to only 100. The number will rise to 10,000 in 2024.
Next in line is the bank law. Initially proposed by the Cabinet of Prime Minister Oleksiy Honcharuk, the law was recalled soon after Honcharuk was fired by parliament on March 4.
The law, demanded by foreign lenders, was later registered by the parliament’s financial committee led by the Servant of the People party, and was passed in the first reading on March 30.
Now the opponents of the bill, a handful of lawmakers with connections to Kolomoisky, are trying to make the bill’s path to becoming a law as long and difficult as possible.
As of April 6, the bill has over 13,000 registered amendments. But the number may still rise, since not all amendments have been registered in parliament.
One lawmaker went the extra mile to block the bill from passing. Independent lawmaker Anton Polyakov singlehandedly filed 6,000 amendments.
Polyakov was elected on the Servant of the People party ticket, but was expelled from the party in December for not supporting its legislation.
He also strongly opposed lifting the farmland moratorium.
“I’m somewhat amazed that they were able to draw up 13,000 amendments,” says Zheleznyak.
Yet he is confident that the law will be passed soon.
Zheleznyak says that his party, Voice, will support the bill. Most likely, so will the 24-member European Solidarity faction. Its members called for the law to adopted as soon as possible, saying that Ukraine requires the IMF loan to avoid default on its debts.