KYIV (Reuters) – Ukraine’s parliament on Friday voted to appoint Ruslan Stefanchuk, a lawmaker from the ruling Servant of the People party, as the new speaker to replace Dmytro Razumkov after a dispute over a law targeting the influence of oligarchs.
President Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s party had this week voted to remove Razumkov, accusing him of putting his own interests above those of the party, in a move opposition lawmakers criticised as trying to silence independent voices.
In September the parliament, or Rada, passed a law that establishes a legal definition of an oligarch and stipulates that anybody falling under its criteria would be forbidden from financing political parties or taking part in privatisations.
Razumkov had been a member of Zelenskiy’s core election team when the president swept to a landslide victory in 2019.
But as speaker, he opposed the quick passage of the oligarch law, saying it should be vetted by the Venice Commission, a panel of constitutional law experts of the human rights body Council of Europe.
After his dismissal, Razumkov told Reuters in an interview on Friday evening he was not against fighting corruption but against Zelenskiy’s version of the oligarch law, which gave the president and his national security council the legal power to define who met the definition of an oligarch.
“It’s not normal if the authorities make decisions on who is good and who is bad for them. This is the direct conflict of interests,” Razumkov said.
He said the authorities were now trying to diminish parliament’s role as an institution.
It was important for the head of the Rada not to be just a representative of the president’s office, he said.
Razumkov had been suspended on Tuesday and his dismissal was confirmed by 284 votes in the 450-seat parliament on Thursday, where Servant of the People commands a majority.
Razumkov said he will stay in politics but declined to say if he plans to challenge Zelenskiy at the next presidential election, which is due in 2024.
(Reporting by Pavel Polityuk, Natalia Zinets and Ilya Zhegulev; Writing by Matthias Williams and Andrey Ostroukh; editing by Mark Heinrich)