I had never been at a parliamentary session before, and I had certain expectations. I imagined everyone being very professional and calm working together at a brisk pace to get bills and laws passed (especially in an urgent situation like this). This was not what happened.
The deputies were all dressed professionally but not everyone acted the way they looked. Voices were raised, speeches were booed and disrespected and people talked over each other. This can be excused because we are all human and our emotions take over sometimes. But what really surprised me was the lack of initiative that spread through the room as time passed like a common cold.
I was only there for the first 6 out of 10 hours, but I saw people’s energy begin deteriorating after the first hour. When I went down for lunch 3 hours into the session, there were at least 10 deputies eating, ignoring the repeated message over the speakers asking them to “return to the room to vote on a very important matter”.
It got worse after they voted for the main matter of the day. Electing the new judges for the Constitutional Court seemed to be a secondary issue on some deputies’ minds – many just seemed to be there to promote their political parties. An hour after they cast their votes, the session leader had to announce that a technical problem had occured with the voting process. At first I assumed that technical meant that the machine counting the votes was wrong… Turns out a large amount of deputies didn’t mark their ballots correctly: twenty-five of them made incorrect check-marks, whatever that means.
This caused more yelling, finger pointing and accusing those who made mistakes of sabotage. As I was leaving, deputies were being summoned once again to return to their seats to vote – but it did not start over until an expert was called forward to explain to all the deputies how to properly check off boxes on the ballot.
One outraged deputy took the mike saying that even the most elderly village-folk know how to vote, and maybe one of them should be called in to teach the esteemed politicians how to do it. This followed with the leader of the session pointing out how embarassing and damaging this is to Ukraine. Another vote was done and finally four judges were elected.
It was a long day for everyone. Just look at those deputies. Jokes aside, Ukraine has 450 deputies so it’s no surprise that not everyone agrees and that coming to an agreement can take a very long time. Especially at times like this when they are stressed and under more pressure and scrutiny from the public than ever before.