Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky introduces bill on decentralizing Ukrainian government authority
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has introduced a new bill for consideration in the Verkhovna Rada, Ukraine’s parliament. The bill, which was published on the Rada’s website on December 16, includes a new scheme for territorial designations in the country.
In the document, Zelensky proposed a three-tier local and regional governance system with a separate Autonomous Republic status available to Crimea. The bill does not mention any special status for the breakaway regions of Donetsk and Luhansk. However, it does propose replacing the president’s current right to appoint regional leaders with a voting system within local and regional legislatures. Those bodies would appoint executive committees whose leadership positions would last a single year. Prefects appointed to three-year terms by the Ukrainian president would then wield significant checks, including some veto powers, on regional governments.
The Minsk Protocol, a set of international agreements regulating the conflict in Eastern Ukraine, provides for a special status for Donetsk and Luhansk and indicates that any decentralization reforms in Ukraine should be negotiated with the leaders of those regions. Those negotiations have not taken place in this case.
In order to pass the new decentralization bill, Zelensky’s Servant of the People party will require some support from the party of his predecessor, Petro Poroshenko. A similar bill had previously passed its first reading under Poroshenko’s administration, but it did not reach any further rounds of voting.
Zelensky’s team emphasized that the new bill is not aimed at weakening his government’s central authority in areas like defense, security, human rights, and foreign affairs.