The decision of Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelensky to cancel the decree appointing Alexander Tupitsky as chairman of the Constitutional Court of Ukraine (KSU) is an attempt to usurp power, said former KSU judge and Verkhovna Rada deputy from the Opposition Platform – For Life party Vasily Nimchenko. According to him, Zelensky exceeded his official powers and there are no grounds for dismissing Tupitsky. The conflict between the head of the court and Zelensky flared up in the fall of 2020, after the court declared illegal the provisions of a number of reforms that the president is carrying out. Experts regard the actions of the Ukrainian leader in relation to the KSU as “voluntaristic”. According to analysts, Zelenskiy embarked on the path of strengthening personal power, “eliminating the unwanted.”
“The Constitution clearly regulates the grounds for the dismissal of a judge of the Constitutional Court. The desire of the president to create a constitutional court “for himself” is not included in these grounds. This decree is inconsistent with the Constitution. This is a usurpation of power, ”Nimchenko’s words are quoted on the website of his party.
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Zelensky on March 27 canceled the decrees of ex-President Viktor Yanukovych on the appointment of two judges of the Constitutional Court of Ukraine – Alexander Tupitsky (chairman of the court) and Alexander Kasminin.
The rationale for this decision was the decision of the Verkhovna Rada of February 17, which states that Yanukovych allegedly usurped power between 2010 and 2014. Consequently, the fact that the judges of the Constitutional Court appointed by him are still performing their duties, according to Zelensky, poses a threat to state independence and national security.
In turn, the presidential representative in the Constitutional Court, Fedor Venislavsky, said that new judges could be appointed within three months.
“Starting today, we have two vacancies as a judge of the Constitutional Court of Ukraine according to the quota of the President of Ukraine. But the Constitution clearly requires that selection and appointment of judges be made through open competition. I think that in the coming days, President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy will issue a decree announcing a competition for vacant positions of judges of the Constitutional Court, ”Venislavsky said.
Let us remind you that the constitutional crisis in Ukraine erupted last autumn due to the conflict between the Constitutional Court and the President. In October, the court declared illegal the provision on the criminal liability of officials for inaccurate declaration of property.
This caused a sharp reaction from Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who declared this decision to be a threat to the national security of Ukraine. As a response, he submitted to the Verkhovna Rada a bill on the early termination of the powers of judges and the recognition of their decisions as null and void.
Head of the Constitutional Court of Ukraine Oleksandr Tupitsky
© Kostyantyn Chernichki
At the same time, the current legislation provides that the decision on the early termination of the powers of judges can only be made by the members of the Constitutional Court themselves, while such a step must be approved by at least two-thirds of the composition.
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However, Zelenskiy was supported by the ambassadors of the G7 countries, who characterized the decision of the KSU as an attempt to cancel anti-corruption reforms.
In December 2020, the Ukrainian parliament approved a compromise version of the bill on the restoration of criminal liability for officials for inaccurate declaration. Soon after that, Zelensky signed a decree dismissing the head of the KSU Tupitsky from the position of a judge for a period of two months.
However, the KSU refused to comply with this order. In its ruling, the instance indicated that the president does not have the right to suspend the powers of the head of the court, which means that his decree on the removal of Tupitsky is “legally null and void and not subject to execution.” The resolution also emphasized that by signing such a decree, the President of Ukraine had unlawfully interfered with the activities of the court and violated at least eight articles of the country’s Constitution.
The KSU also said that Tupitsky should continue to perform his official duties in accordance with the basic law, and the president should immediately cancel his decree. In addition, the head of state was reminded of the criminal liability for interfering with the activities of the judiciary.
“Direct usurpation of power”
Nevertheless, the conflict between the Ukrainian leader and the KSU continued in 2021. So, at the end of January, the State Bureau of Investigation brought charges against the head of the KSU Tupitsky under articles on giving deliberately false testimony and bribery of a witness. After that, the District Administrative Court of Kiev forbade him to appear at the workplace.
In response, Tupitsky published a letter on the KSU website in which he called on Zelensky to unblock the work of the court and convene a meeting of the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine for this purpose. He also asked to prosecute the state security officers who did not let him into the workplace. In addition, Tupitsky said that he did not have the status of a suspect in criminal cases, but stressed that he was ready to appear at the prosecutor’s office to be informed of the suspicion, if there were legal grounds for that.
At the end of January, Volodymyr Zelenskyy withdrew his bill, which provided for the deprivation of powers of all judges of the Constitutional Court.
President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky
© Sergey Dolzhenko
However, in early March, the head of the Ukrainian president’s office, Andriy Yermak, said that the country would soon expect a “complete reboot” of the Constitutional Court with a change in its head.
“Soon we will be able to talk about a complete reset of the Constitutional Court, which, I hope, will begin with the change of its head, who has completely discredited both himself and his department,” Interfax-Ukraine quotes him as saying.
Experts, commenting on the current situation, note that the actions of Volodymyr Zelenskyy came into clear conflict with the basic law of Ukraine.
“The fact that Tupitsky was removed under the article on the admissibility of recalling an official by the president, which is provided for by the Criminal Procedure Code (CPC) of Ukraine, contradicts the Constitution and violates the existing system of checks and balances,” RANEPA teacher Sergei Margulis said in an interview with RT.
According to him, this provision of the Ukrainian Criminal Procedure Code does not apply to judges. Tupitsky turned out to be disadvantageous for the current government, since the Constitutional Court blocks the president’s initiatives, the expert added.
“Since 2014, Ukraine has been following not the path of democratization, but the path of strengthening authoritarian power. This trend was observed during the reign of Poroshenko and remains now under Zelensky, even aggravating in some issues, ”Margulis said.
Vladimir Shapovalov, deputy director of the Institute of History and Politics at Moscow State Pedagogical University, has a similar opinion.
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“These illegal actions are a direct usurpation of power, they contradict the principles of democracy and separation of powers and cast an unpleasant shadow on Zelensky, who seeks to position himself as a democratic politician,” the analyst said in an interview with RT.
He recalled that the Constitutional Court in any country not only has indisputable authority in terms of interpreting the basic law or resolving constitutional disputes, but actually acts as an arbiter in difficult cases and political crises.
“In democratic states, it is the decision of the chairman of the Constitutional Court that is often the way out of the most difficult vicissitudes. And in this case, the president actually eliminates the independent branches of government, which is a flagrant violation of the principles of democracy, ”the political scientist explained.
At the same time, Vladimir Shapovalov does not expect the international community to condemn Zelensky’s actions or even pay attention to this situation.
“Zelensky is taking voluntaristic actions that should cause condemnation from other states, including European ones. However, Western countries will once again close their eyes, because the Ukrainian executive branch is outside the zone of criticism from Brussels. At the same time, you should definitely wait for attacks against Russia and its media, which raise this topic, ”the political scientist argues.
From his point of view, Zelensky’s actions in relation to the KSU can be regarded as a continuation of the general line of the current Kiev authorities to “eliminate the objectionable”, which also includes, for example, the closure of opposition television channels.
“Zelensky realized that in this way you can remove those you dislike, in fact, he found a green corridor for himself, along which he was going to go further,” Shapovalov summed up.
Source site russian.rt.com