Kharkiv mayor Hennadiy Kernes, who was being treated for coronavirus in Germany, died on the night of December 17, 2020. has been figuring out how and when the elections of the new Kharkiv mayor could take place and who could become the new mayor.
Kernes was admitted to the hospital with bilateral pneumonia in September. He was diagnosed with COVID-19 in a severe form. He was last seen in public on City Day—23 August 2020.
On the night of December 17, 2020, Kernes died of coronavirus complications. His death was confirmed by his wife Oksana Gaisynskaya, son Rodion Gaisynsky and the Kharkiv City Council Secretary Ihor Terekhov.
Kharkiv authorities decided to declare December 17, 18, 19 as days of mourning, the city council press service reported.
"These days the state and the city flags will be lowered on the buildings of local authorities, enterprises, institutions, and organizations. All entertainment events and concerts, sports competitions are also canceled."
Kernes will be buried in Kharkiv at the beginning of next week, the local publication 057 reports.
Who will replace Kernes in Kharkiv
Until the appointment of early local elections by the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine, the Kharkiv City Council Secretary Ihor Terekhov will discharge the duties of mayor. This is determined by the law on local self-government.
Previously, wrote wrote that Terekhov became deputy mayor in 2010, and in 2015 — his first deputy. In the same year, Terekhov became a deputy of the Kharkiv City Council of the 7th convocation. In the local elections of 2020 he became a deputy of the City Council of the 8th convocation. In December 2020, he was appointed Secretary of the Kharkiv City Council.
According to the politicians and parties database Chesno, during his tenure, Terekhov missed more than 50% of his commission session, and in 2020 gave out Easter cakes branded with his name.
Legally: how the new Kharkiv mayor should be elected
As Kyrylo Krolevetsky, head of the Kharkiv branch of the Ukrainian Bar Association, Chair of Krolevetsky & Partners SC commented to , according to the law on local self-government in Ukraine, in the case of the mayor's death, his powers are exercised by the city council secretary until the new mayor takes office. The new mayor is to be elected in the special elections. Or he will exercise the mayor’s powers until the opening day of the relevant city council’s first session of the relevant city council elected in the next local elections.
In the case of Kharkiv, the powers of the mayor from December 17, 2020 will be performed by the Kharkiv City Council Secretary Ihor Terekhov.
Not later than on the fifteenth day after the mayor’s death, that is, not later than January 2, 2021, Terekhov must apply to the Verkhovna Rada with a petition to call special elections of the Kharkiv mayor.
Such a petition must be considered by the Verkhovna Rada no later than 90 days from the date of the Kharkiv mayor’s powers early termination, that is, until March 18, 2021.
Thus, the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine is the body responsible for the announcement of the Kharkiv mayor special elections.
In practice: three scenarios of the eventuality with the Kharkiv mayor election
According to Kyrylo Krolevetsky, in practice, there were cases when the Rada did not call the mayor special elections within 90 days. For example, on March 2, 2013, the mayor of Mykolaiv, Volodymyr Chaika, died. At that time special elections were scheduled in 11 months—on February 27, 2014. They were supposed to take place in May 2014. Thus, 14 months have passed since the mayor’s death until the new elections.
"Unfortunately, today there is a gap in the legislation regarding the parliament responsibility for the untimely calling of elections, so only time will tell everything that will happen if the elections are not scheduled by March 18."
The worst and longest-lasting scenario could be if the Rada does not call special elections. Then Kharkiv residents will elect a mayor in the next elections in 2025. A similar situation already happened in 2014 with the Kremenchuk mayor’s elections after Oleh Babayev’s death. At that time the Rada did not call special elections, and the new mayor was elected in the next elections in 2015.
Another question concerns the date of the special elections. According to the Electoral Code, special local elections are held twice a year—on the last Sunday in March (28 March 2021) and on the last Sunday in October (31 October 2021). Special local elections must be called no later than sixty days prior to election day.
"Thus, so that the calling of the elections is not delayed, and the elections themselves have already been held on March 28, 2021, it is necessary that the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine calls Kharkiv mayor special elections no later than January 26, 2021. If the elections are scheduled later, they will take place on October 31, 2021. Until that time, the powers of the Kharkiv mayor will be performed by Terekhov."
According to Kyrylo Krolevetsky, there are three scenarios of the eventuality:
- The parliament will call Kharkiv mayor special elections until January 26, 2021, and already on March 28, 2021, Kharkiv residents will be able to elect a new mayor.
- Parliament will call Kharkiv mayor special elections later than January 26, 2021, but until March 18, 2021. Then the elections will take place on October 31, 2021.
- Parliament will not call special elections at all until the next regular elections. In this case, the mayor will be elected in 2025.
Who can become the new Kharkiv mayor
According to sources, most likely, Mykhailo Dobkin will become the new Kharkiv mayor. He was already the mayor of Kharkiv from 2006 to 2010.
He ran for the Kharkiv mayor in the 2020 local elections, but later withdrew it in favor of Kernes. Prior to that, Dobkin was going to run for the Kyiv mayor.
However, according to him, it would be blasphemous to talk about who will participate in the Kharkiv mayor elections right after Kernes's death.
"First of all, I would like to express my condolences to Hennadiy Adolfovich's family, his relatives and friends. Unfortunately, in this world we can control a lot, but there are things that even those people who would not like to admit such situations cannot control them. After Kernes passed away, Kharkiv has been orphaned. Since 2006, he has participated in Kharkiv development and revival. And today to perceive Kharkiv without being associated with Kernes is both unusual and bitter, and still painful. It will take some time to get used to this idea," Dobkin said on the air of the TV channel Ukraine 24.