Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko is lobbying two loyal judges to remain on the Supreme Council of Justice should he lose the presidential elections, MP Serhiy Leshchenko of the Poroshenko Bloc alleged in a television news broadcast on February 11.
A congress of lawyers will occur on February 15-16 to determine who will occupy two seats of the 21-member council, an oversight body responsible for appointing and dismissing judges, reviewing complaints, and approving their arrest. “In the hands of a president usurping power, the Council can serve as a billy club to enact reprisals. For those who lose power, it can be used to stop undesired rulings against them,” Leshchenko said.
Two candidates being advocated by Poroshenko – with the help of several MPs – are already members and their reappointment would violate the Constitution, Leshchenko said. They are Pavlo Hrechkivskiy, who was accused of taking a half-mn-dollar bribe by Prosecutor General Yuriy Lutsenko in 2016. The criminal case was dismissed by a court. Oleksiy Malovatskiy, who served as the deputy head of the legal department of Poroshenko’s presidential campaign in 2014, is being investigated by the National Anti-Corruption Bureau for his role in enabling a company in Poroshenko’s entourage to secure natural gas extraction rights, alleged Leshchenko. NGO activists confirmed that these two candidacies are under consideration at the congress.
“It’s rather common for politicians in developing democracies to appoint judges loyal to their interests. What’s interesting about Leshchenko’s claims is that the Poroshenko administration is preparing for the possibility that he could lose his re-election campaign. Instead, we are confident that Poroshenko will not allow a scenario in, which another candidate is declared the winner, particularly since his opponents are fierce rivals that could seek revenge. We believe he can resort to extreme measures to avoid that scenario including finding pretexts to postpone the elections indefinitely, manipulating the vote process or delaying the establishing of results indefinitely. So we see this alleged attempt to appoint loyal judges more as banal corruption rather than preparing for an election loss,” Zenon Zawada of Concorde Capital said in a note.