Mikhail Minakov https://www.opendemocracy.net/taxonomy/term/19042/all cached version 14/07/2018 11:36:18 en Reconstructing the power vertical: the authoritarian threat in Ukraine https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/mikhail-minakov/reconstructing-power-vertical-authoritarian-threat-in-ukraine <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p class="western">Subverting the fight against corruption, whipping up patriotic publics and coopting the media and judiciary — this is the face of authoritarian drift in Ukraine.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/PA-31371893_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>May 2017: Ukrainian citizens rally against a presidential decree blocking the operation of Russian social networks in Ukraine. (c) NurPhoto/SIPA USA/PA Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>Eastern Europe has become a source of short- and long-term risks for the entire European continent. Inter-state conflicts, authoritarianism and illiberalism seem to permanently dwell here and increase the threats to democracy in other parts of Europe. With the commence of the Russian-Ukrainian war and annexation of Crimea, eastern European states are increasing their armies and military spending. An authoritarian belt running from Ankara to Moscow is growing stronger, tempting post-communist elites to take the same path. And an “illiberal belt” in Central Europe is fueling Euroscepticism and spreading neoconservatism on the EU’s eastern flank. The only promising event in eastern Europe over the last five years was the EuroMaidan Revolution and the subsequent attempt to implement liberal reforms in Ukraine.</p> <p class="western">The hopes inspired by the first peaceful protests in Kiev were connected with the idea that authoritarian trends in Ukrainian politics could be stopped, that Ukraine could move towards European integration, and that there could be a return to political and economic pluralism in Ukraine and elsewhere in the region. However, Russia’s annexation of Crimea and the subsequent invasion of eastern Ukraine, combined with the rise in extreme forces on the Maidan and perception of western support in ousting former president Viktor Yanukovych, meant that <span><a href="https://www.academia.edu/28870157/Euromaidan_War_and_the_Development_of_Ukraines_Political_System_in_2014_-2015">EuroMaidan’s liberal agenda</a></span> has faced an uphill battle.</p> <p class="western">Still, reforms continued apace despite annexation and war. Until 2016, this liberal agenda managed to drive <span><a href="http://carnegieendowment.org/2016/04/28/ukraine-reform-monitor-april-2016-pub-63486">political and economic reforms</a></span> in Ukraine, with the <span><a href="http://www.rferl.org/a/ukraine-parliament-coalition-agreement/26703123.html">post-Maidan coalition</a></span> pushing forward with decentralisation, anti-corruption reforms and efforts to improve the business climate in Ukraine.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">Ukraine is now following regional authoritarian trends and is betraying domestic and international hopes of democratic transformation</p> <p class="western">These reforms have had limited success so far. And their speed <span><a href="https://voxukraine.org/2017/05/19/imore-59-reforms-en/">has slowed down</a></span> dramatically — with some agonic oscillations. <span><a href="http://voxukraine.org/2016/11/21/budget-decentralization-en/">Decentralisation</a></span> has not established a real system of local self-governance; the fight against corruption <span><a href="http://databank.worldbank.org/data/reports.aspx?source=Worldwide-Governance-Indicators">has not led</a></span> to the institutionalisation of good governance; and economic reforms <span><a href="http://www.doingbusiness.org/data/exploreeconomies/ukraine">have not made</a></span> Ukraine a comfortable country neither for its citizens, nor for investors and/or entrepreneurs.</p> <p class="western">In short, since the fall of Yanukovych’s regime, Ukraine <span><a href="https://freedomhouse.org/report/freedom-world/2016/ukraine">has not become</a></span> a vibrant democracy. On the contrary, in 2016-2017 the informal power of the president and his entourage has grown considerably and democratic institutions have been eroded.</p> <p class="western">Ukraine is now following regional authoritarian trends and is betraying domestic and international hopes of democratic transformation.</p> <h2> <strong>An emerging personalist</strong><strong>&nbsp;regime </strong> </h2> <p class="western">2016 was a critical year for Ukraine’s development. EuroMaidan’s democratic potential was finally exhausted and its civil <span><a href="http://gazeta.ua/articles/grycak-jaroslav/_kinec-revolyuciyi/751588">revolution finally ended</a></span>. Rather than a flourishing democracy and civil society, 2016 brought the non-democratic and non-legal consolidation of power by and around the president.</p> <p class="western">According to Ukraine’s constitution, the country is a parliamentary-presidential republic. But in reality, president Petro Poroshenko has managed to informally create <em>de facto</em> <span><a href="http://voxukraine.org/2016/07/08/presidential-power-in-ukraine-comparative-perspective-en/">presidential</a></span> system. His clan controls most Ukrainian institutions: law-enforcement agencies, the executive, legislative, and judiciary branches of government, the electoral commission and the media.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">By law, the president controls the security services, army, diplomacy and prosecutor's office. Poroshenko has chosen to appoint loyal people to these institutions, regardless of their skill or experience</p> <p class="western">By law, the president controls the security services, army, diplomacy and prosecutor's office. Poroshenko has chosen to appoint loyal people to these institutions, regardless of their skill or experience. An extreme example of this is <span><a href="https://www.google.it/url?sa=t&amp;rct=j&amp;q=&amp;esrc=s&amp;source=web&amp;cd=2&amp;cad=rja&amp;uact=8&amp;ved=0ahUKEwjh14uNjYvSAhUJAsAKHezmC7MQFgghMAE&amp;url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.unian.info%2Fpolitics%2F1343771-lutsenko-appointed-prosecutor-general-in-ukraine.html&amp;usg=AFQjCNEFKWMOl2gXHZDGmxfkYL9EXYdXUA&amp;bvm=bv.146786187,d.ZGg">Yuri Lutsenko</a></span> who was appointed general prosecutor in May 2016 despite having no legal background. The president went to <span><a href="http://www.rferl.org/a/ukraine-prosecutor-general-lutsenko-no-legal-background/27731069.html">extreme lengths</a></span> to get a majority of deputies in parliament first to change the legal requirements for the job and then to vote for his ally.</p> <p class="western">Poroshenko managed to put his junior partner from his home region of Vinnytsia, <span><a href="https://www.ft.com/content/54eaa79a-0212-11e6-ac98-3c15a1aa2e62">Volodymyr Groisman</a></span>, into the prime minister’s seat after a long struggle for power with former prime minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk. The decision to appoint Groisman was made after <span><a href="https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-04-11/ukrainian-parliament-to-vote-on-pm-s-exit-amid-cabinet-wrangling">month-long discussions</a></span> between different clans and political groups in the presidential administration. Groisman’s appointment signaled the end of the balance between ruling clans that had characterised post-Maidan Ukraine. As of April 2016, the president <span><a href="http://www.kmu.gov.ua/control/en/publish/officialcategory?cat_id=247605901">controls 19</a></span> of 24 seats in the Cabinet of Ministers.</p><p class="western"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/PA-26078046-1_1.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="323" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>April 2016: Ukraine's president Petro Poroshenko and prime minister Vladimir Groysman celebrate the latter's appointment as prime minister. (c) Efrem Lukatsky / AP / Press Association Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>The president’s FGP has also gained informal control over parliament. The new speaker of the Verkhovna Rada, Andriy Parubiy, is a <span><a href="http://www.pravda.com.ua/cdn/graphics/2016/06/two-years-of-poroshenko/eng.html">close ally</a></span> of the president. The partnership between the president and speaker has led to a situation whereby the Rada was functioning without a ruling coalition (which directly contradicts Ukrainian constitution). This coalition <span><a href="http://www.politico.eu/article/ukraine-governing-coalition-collapses-loses-majority-political-crisis/">ceased to exist</a></span> as early as February 2016. However, the presidential administration and speaker have managed to convince different factions and minor MP groups vote for new laws, including constitutional amendments, for over a year now. <span><a href="http://newsonline24.com.ua/tomenko-rozsekretiti-sklad-koalici%D1%97-dopomozhe-sud">Parubiy has ignored</a></span> the opposition’s numerous demands that the speaker announce a list of factions and of the MPs that currently comprise the ruling coalition.</p> <p class="western">Ukraine’s judiciary cannot be considered an independent branch of government. Little has changed since the mid-1990s: the judiciary remains an integral part to the power base of Ukraine’s leading clans — currently, Poroshenko’s. As a result, public trust in Ukrainian courts is at <span><a href="http://en.interfax.com.ua/news/general/370072.html">an all-time low</a></span>. Shortly after EuroMaidan, the judiciary became one of the first targets of <span><a href="http://www.loc.gov/law/foreign-news/article/ukraine-judges-will-be-subjected-to-lustration/">lustration</a></span>. However, attempts to lustrate corrupt judges have failed miserably, as there are legitimate concerns about the <span><a href="http://www.venice.coe.int/webforms/documents/default.aspx?pdffile=CDL-PI(2015)027-e">competence and independence</a></span> of those involved in lustration efforts. Indeed, lustration has had rather unexpected consequences: the judiciary has become even more obedient to the ruling clans who saved them from civil society pressure.</p> <p class="western">Since defeating Yatsenyuk, Poroshenko has put an unprecedented amount of pressure on MPs to approve <span><a href="http://www.nobles-law.com/single-post/2016/06/07/Legal-Alert-Constitutional-judicial-reform-in-ukraine">constitutional changes to the judiciary</a></span>. In the ideal world, this <span><a href="http://www.cms-lawnow.com/ealerts/2016/06/amendments-to-the-constitution-of-ukraine-passed-ukraine-takes-a-major-step-towards-a-european-system-of-justice">reform</a></span> would make Ukrainian courts independent and fit to guarantee fair trial. However, the immediate result of this reform has been an even greater <span><a href="http://voxukraine.org/2016/06/29/pursuit-of-judicial-reform-in-ukraine-en/">dependence of judges on the president</a></span>, at least in the current transition period, which ends in 2019 (conveniently, the year of Ukraine’s next presidential elections). Behind the scenes, the presidential FPG is promoting itself as the only source of security for individual judges.</p><h2>Our man on the commission</h2> <p class="western">Another important center of power in Ukraine is the Central Electoral Commission (CEC). The vast majority of CEC members were to be rotated several years ago, according to Ukrainian law. Nonetheless, after Yanukovych’s ouster in 2014, authorities agreed to <span><a href="https://www.bti-project.org/fileadmin/files/BTI/Downloads/Reports/2014/pdf/BTI_2014_Ukraine.pdf">prolong</a></span> CEC members’ mandate so that presidential and parliamentary elections could be conducted properly.</p><p class="western">After the 2014 elections, the ruling clans started using the CEC to try to keep early elections from being held. In 2016, Petro Poroshenko <span><a href="http://www.epde.org/en/newsreader/items/opora-credibility-of-new-central-election-commission-in-ukraine-at-risk.html">proposed</a></span> a list of potential new members to the Rada that would ensure his unquestioned dominance in the committee. But even the subdued Rada did not endorse this list. Currently, there is a stalemate vis-à-vis possible early elections in Ukraine: the mandates of 13 out of 15 members on the CEC have <span><a href="http://www.pravda.com.ua/rus/news/2017/01/18/7132751/">officially expired</a></span>. This is a win-win situation for the ruling group: if there is a change in the CEC membership, they would have majority there; if the status quo remains, the group can go on ruling until 2019 without early elections.</p> <p class="western">Pressure on individual members of the CEC also ensures its loyalty: Mykhailo Okhendovskyi, the chairman of the CEC was put under investigation on <span><a href="https://www.unian.info/politics/1677382-head-of-ukraines-cec-faces-corruption-charges-in-case-of-party-of-regions-black-accounts.html">suspicion of having been bribed</a></span> by Yanukovych’s Party of Regions before EuroMaidan. Despite these charges and the expiration of his mandate, Okhendovskyi remains the chairman of the committee.</p><h2>Media decline</h2> <p class="western">Finally, the president’s group is expanding its control over media in Ukraine. Media pluralism is a living legacy of EuroMaidan, and Reporters Without Borders has observed some optimistic recent trends: Ukraine <span><a href="https://rsf.org/en/ranking">improved</a></span> its media freedom ranking in 2016 by 22 positions (from 129th in the world in 2015 to 107th in 2016).</p><p class="western"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/Sheremet_Funeral_0.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="286" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Kyiv says farewell to Pavel Sheremet. The famous journalist was assassinated in a car bomb last July. Image still: Radio Svoboda / YouTube. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>But this assessment seems to have been unrealistically positive. Media independence is actually in decline. In 2016, Ukraine witnessed a number of attacks on major TV channels that constitute the major <span><a href="http://www.slideshare.net/umedia/usaid-umedia-annual-media-consumption-survey-2016-eng">source</a></span> of information about politics for Ukrainians. This trend started in May 2016 with the <span><a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2016/06/01/opinion/ukraine-declares-war-on-journalism.html?_r=0">leak</a></span> of foreign journalists’ personal information by nationalist cyber-activists. Several weeks later, the highly respected journalist Pavel Sheremet&nbsp;was <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/serhiy-kudelia/what-does-murder-of-pavel-sheremet-say-about-contemporary-ukraine">murdered</a>.</p><p class="western">Then Inter, one of Ukraine’s most-watched TV channels, <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/maxim-eristavi/terror-against-ukraine-s-journalists-is-fueled-by-political-elites"><span>was attacked</span> and burned by activists</a>. Despite international pressure, authorities have heretofore made no real effort to investigate these attacks on journalists and media and bring those responsible to justice.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">Today, Poroshenko’s clan has considerable control over law-enforcement agencies, the executive, legislative, and judiciary branches, the electoral commission and the media. This control is empowering it to exist as a power vertical</p> <p class="western">Another major TV channel, 1+1, which is owned by Igor Kolomoisky, now a rival to Poroshenko’s clan, was involved in a <span><a href="https://www.unian.info/society/1712227-national-council-on-tv-and-radio-broadcasting-says-11-tv-channel-granted-broadcasting-license.html">months-long dispute</a></span> with the National Council on TV and Radio Broadcasting over a license to continue broadcasting. And over the last several months, the TV channels <span><a href="http://rian.com.ua/culture/20170119/1020632073.html">STB</a></span>, <span><a href="http://112.international/politics/112-ukraine-tv-channel-statement-9789.html">112</a></span>, and <span><a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IHeOGnIPJtI">NewsOne</a></span>, and the popular opposition radio station <span><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/valery-kalnysh/goodbye-radio-vesti">Vesti</a></span>, have described coming under increasing pressure from the authorities to change their editorial policies. There is a legitimate reason for this pressure: a new law requires that media outlets disclose who owns them. But it’s also political: authorities have ramped up pressure on media in order to gain control over outlets they believe they may need to get their message across in future election campaigns.</p> <p class="western">In addition to media control, there are attempts by the ruling groups to limit access to social networks. In May-June 2017, the most popular social networks VKontakte and Odnoklassniki were <span><a href="http://www.economist.com/news/europe/21722360-blocking-websites-may-be-pointless-it-could-help-president-poroshenkos-popularity-ukraine">prohibited</a></span> as “channels for Russian influence”. Even though there were <span><a href="https://www.google.it/url?sa=t&amp;rct=j&amp;q=&amp;esrc=s&amp;source=web&amp;cd=16&amp;cad=rja&amp;uact=8&amp;ved=0ahUKEwiE47DCy9PUAhVSb1AKHQM5BBc4ChAWCEAwBQ&amp;url=http%3A%2F%2Fdailysignal.com%2F2017%2F05%2F16%2Fas-russia-uses-cyberattacks-ukraine-bans-some-social-media-sites%2F&amp;usg=AFQjCNGeUUMV8i2iFDbMLv-TklhTJ-VH_w">some limited reasons</a></span> for government security concerns the decision is a way to far-reaching in terms of violation of the basic <span><a href="https://www.google.it/url?sa=t&amp;rct=j&amp;q=&amp;esrc=s&amp;source=web&amp;cd=4&amp;cad=rja&amp;uact=8&amp;ved=0ahUKEwi-5pv9ytPUAhUOblAKHZObCcEQFggyMAM&amp;url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.hrw.org%2Fnews%2F2017%2F05%2F16%2Fukraine-revoke-ban-dozens-russian-web-companies&amp;usg=AFQjCNFGleg8VgvR2my6W3ws9ubodVhw9Q">human rights</a></span>. And it has disrupted horizontal communication between families, friends and small groups across post-Soviet states.</p><p class="western"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/Screen Shot 2017-06-29 at 09.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="323" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Igor Guzhva, editor of Strana.ua, <a href=https://strana.ua/news/78508-poyavilos-video-intervyu-glavnogo-redaktora-strany-igorya-guzhvy-posle-vyhoda-iz-sizo.html>claims</a> that Ukraine's presidential administration is behind the extortion investigation into him. Source: NewsOne. </span></span></span>Also the major opposition web-media Strana.ua found itself under pressure. On 22 June, <span><a href="https://www.google.it/url?sa=t&amp;rct=j&amp;q=&amp;esrc=s&amp;source=web&amp;cd=2&amp;cad=rja&amp;uact=8&amp;ved=0ahUKEwicjYvLzNPUAhWQUlAKHZ4mAIwQFggoMAE&amp;url=https%3A%2F%2Fen.censor.net.ua%2Fphoto_news%2F445145%2Fchief_editor_of_stranaua_huzhva_detained_for_bribe_extortion_lutsenko_photos&amp;usg=AFQjCNGDDf7NTGGd0yBDrrUO8kohn2sL3g">its office was searched and its editor was arrested</a></span>&nbsp;and accused by an MP of an attempt at extortion. Next day the pro-government media, bloggers and bot-groups started campaign in support for the closure of “non-patriotic and pro-separatist” media outlet.</p> <p class="western">Likewise, Ukraine’s Security Services (SBU) have increased their attempt to control media and social networks. Several days ago Vasyl Hrytsak, SBU chief, <span><a href="https://ssu.gov.ua/ua/news/1/category/2/view/3525#sthash.kz0uOF51.6AmjNEX8.dpbs">called</a></span> on “all patriots”, and <span><a href="https://www.ssu.gov.ua/ua/news/1/category/2/view/3547#sthash.ZC5gGIFA.hagtaRll.dpbs">later</a></span> patriotic journalists and experts to cooperate with the SBU in order to diminish impact of the Kremlin and its “fifth column” media in Ukraine. Later, the service set up a <span><a href="https://www.facebook.com/platformazmin/">special page on Facebook</a></span> where citizens can denounce their fellow Ukrainians for lack of patriotism.</p> <p class="western">Today, Poroshenko’s clan has considerable control over law-enforcement agencies, the executive, legislative, and judiciary branches, the electoral commission and the media. This control is empowering it to exist as a power vertical.</p> <h2><strong>Internal resistance to authoritarian trends </strong></h2> <p class="western">The major threat to Poroshenko’s consolidation of power is Arseniy Yatsenyuk and his allies. In the absence of institutional checks and balances, the joint rule of Yatsenyuk and Poroshenko’s clans was seen by many western countries as an acceptable temporary surrogate of checks-and-balances for a country at war and in need for reforms; the division of powers between the president and the parliament made it seem realistic that political pluralism would be safeguarded in post-revolutionary Ukraine.</p><p class="western"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/PA-25604690.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="297" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Is Arseniy Yatsenyuk, despite his lack of popularity, poised for a public return to Ukraine's power politics? (c) Kay Nietfeld/DPA/PA Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>And it was — until 2016. Today, the power of Yatsenyuk’s clan is based on several key elements. First, it has members in the Ministry of Justice and Ministry of Internal Affairs and its parliamentary faction (National Front) controls 81 seats. It also has strong ties to Oleksandr Turchynov, the secretary of the National Security Council Secretary, and Andriy Parubiy; both were once members of Yatsenyuk’s clan, though they are now loyal to the president.</p><p class="western">What’s more, many of the managers of state enterprises who appointed during Yatsenyuk’s tenure still support their former boss. Finally, through Arsen Avakov, the minister of interior and an oligarch in his own right, Yatsenyuk has influence over informal networks of civic activists, including some veterans’ unions and several <span><a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/denys-gorbach-oles-petik/rise-of-azov">rightwing</a></span> organisations. However, Yatsenyuk, whose image was highly damaged by his time as prime minister (support for National Front <span><a href="http://www.kiis.com.ua/?lang=eng&amp;cat=reports&amp;id=667&amp;t=3&amp;page=1">dropped</a></span> from 22 percent in 2014 to 1 percent in December 2016), has seen his influence greatly reduced.</p> <p class="western">In recent weeks, Kiev’s politicians have been discussing a possibility of creation of new “party of power” that would <span><a href="https://apostrophe.ua/article/politics/2017-06-05/ukrainu-gotovyat-k-dosrochnyim-vyiboram-neskolko-vajnyih-priznakov/12738">unite</a></span> the Poroshenko and Yatsenyuk clans. Every Ukrainian regime tried to establish a party of power (<span><a href="http://www.ukrweekly.com/old/archive/2002/130206.shtml">Kuchma</a></span>’s People’s Democratic Party, <span><a href="https://www.google.it/url?sa=t&amp;rct=j&amp;q=&amp;esrc=s&amp;source=web&amp;cd=4&amp;cad=rja&amp;uact=8&amp;ved=0ahUKEwj3tt26x9PUAhWLIVAKHSysBtsQFgg6MAM&amp;url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.rferl.org%2Fa%2F1057901.html&amp;usg=AFQjCNEjvO3XUcDxdemJfrfWZmI6RbSFKQ">Yushchenko</a></span>’s Our Ukraine Party, and <span><a href="https://www.google.it/url?sa=t&amp;rct=j&amp;q=&amp;esrc=s&amp;source=web&amp;cd=5&amp;cad=rja&amp;uact=8&amp;ved=0ahUKEwjtrKDLx9PUAhVNLFAKHXDpD_AQFghAMAQ&amp;url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.osw.waw.pl%2Fen%2Fpublikacje%2Fosw-commentary%2F2010-09-29%2Fparty-regions-monopolises-power-ukraine&amp;usg=AFQjCNG5wUJ-xvt0dkA62DlBczYDuvVvQQ">Yanukovych</a></span> Party of Regions). The same party exists in, for example, Russia: Putin’s United Russia. This type of eastern European political party is usually created to additionally control and unite ruling groups, ministers and governors, national and regional bureaucracies in a line controlled (officially or unofficially) by president. If the plan to create a new party of power would be realised, it would mean a new critical step towards establishment of the vertical of power in Ukraine.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">There are no systemic external obstacles to the functioning of the power vertical in Kiev today. Only internal conflicts within the president’s ruling group can slow down (or even revert) the establishment of Poroshenko’s personalist rule in Ukraine</p> <p class="western">Former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko (2007-2010) and her party Batkivshchina remain the most <span><a href="http://ratinggroup.ua/en/research/ukraine/poll_iri_dinamika_obschestvenno-politicheskih_vzglyadov_v_ukraine.html">popular</a></span> political group in Ukraine (however her negative rating is much higher than her support, which is the case for all leading politicians of Ukraine). Still, Tymoshenko is not popular enough to be able to unite different opposition groups and is currently polling just five to four points ahead of Poroshenko.</p> <p class="western">Yuri Boiko, leader of Opposition Bloc, the successor to Yanukovych’s Party of Regions, polls close to Tymoshenko and Poroshenko, though his and his party’s best days are behind them. The Opposition Bloc is not stable and in the recent years it was on a brink of <span><a href="http://blogs.korrespondent.net/blog/events/3803602/">split</a></span>, reportedly because of a dispute between the billionaire <span><a href="https://www.google.it/url?sa=t&amp;rct=j&amp;q=&amp;esrc=s&amp;source=web&amp;cd=2&amp;cad=rja&amp;uact=8&amp;ved=0ahUKEwiv753QkI3SAhWkCsAKHd7qD98QFgglMAE&amp;url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.forbes.com%2Fprofile%2Frinat-akhmetov%2F&amp;usg=AFQjCNHBCSGBGmVa_AC9UjvOmOvG0nqiwg&amp;bvm=bv.146786187,d.ZGg">Rinat Akhmetov</a></span> and <span><a href="http://file.liga.net/person/232-boris-kolesnikov.html">Boris Kolesnikov</a></span> on one side, and a coalition of smaller groups including Boyko and <span><a href="http://www.politico.eu/author/serhiy-lyovochkin/">Serhiy Lyovochkin</a></span>, on the others. Akhmetov’s group is eager to cooperate with the president’s cadre, while Lyovochkin’s allies are more directed at resisting Bankova street. Opposition Bloc is not in a position to seriously counter Poroshenko’s power, at least for now.</p> <p class="western">There are other small political groups that are also trying to resist the decline of power pluralism in Ukraine. But groups like <span><a href="http://samopomich.ua/en/">Samopomich</a></span>, the so-called <span><a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/minakov-webb-a-new-party-for-ukraine">Euro Optimists</a></span>, Mikhail <span><a href="http://www.dw.com/en/saakashvili-wants-a-new-political-class-in-ukraine/a-36671461">Saakashvili’s movement</a></span>, and <span><a href="http://www.dw.com/en/nadiya-savchenko-the-thorn-in-president-poroshenkos-side/a-19286742">Nadiya Savchenko</a></span>’s team are too disunited to be able to stop the slide into authoritarianism.</p> <p class="western">Local self-governance initiatives and new anticorruption bodies could have had the potential to counter Poroshenko. However, <span><a href="http://euromaidanpress.com/2016/12/05/decentralization-governance-ukraine-reform/">decentralisation reform</a></span>s have slowed, leaving local communities and leaders dependent on the central government in Kiev.</p><p class="western"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/PA-30429939_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>March 2017: a Kyiv court upholds pretrial detention for Roman Nasirov, Ukraine's former tax and customs chief, who is being investigated on fraud charges. (c) NurPhoto/SIPA USA/PA Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>The new anti-corruption bodies, namely, the <span><a href="https://nabu.gov.ua/en">National Anti-Corruption Bureau</a></span> (NABU) and the <span><a href="https://nabu.gov.ua/en/tags/national-agency-prevention-corruption">National Agency on Corruption Prevention</a></span> (NACP), might be able to have a more significant impact. NABU is still outside Poroshenko’s influence. Western governments and international organisations <span><a href="https://eeas.europa.eu/headquarters/headquarters-homepage_en/16805/Joint%20Statement%20on%20the%20occasion%20of%20International%20Anti-Corruption%20Day%20on%209%20December">continue to support its independence</a></span> against all <span><a href="http://foreignpolicy.com/2016/12/20/kiev-versus-kiev-poroshenko-ukraine-corruption-nabu/">attempts</a></span> to diminish its investigative powers or <span><a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/sergii-leshchenko/ukraine-s-corrupt-counter-revolution">subordinate</a></span> it to the General Prosecutor (and thus, to Poroshenko). But in absence of an independent court system, NABU’s effect on good governance and good politics is limited.</p> <p class="western">NACP was responsible for one huge step forward in fighting corruption: the <span><a href="http://www.ua.undp.org/content/ukraine/en/home/presscenter/articles/2016/09/09/e-declaration-for-public-servants-assets-public-scrutiny-to-curb-corruption-.html">electronic asset declaration system</a></span> that has been functional since August 2016. Over 100,000 politicians and officials have already <span><a href="http://euromaidanpress.com/2016/11/03/ukraine-e-declarations-wealth-corruption-oligarchs-reforms/">disclosed</a></span> their and their families’ assets, while in 2017 this number <span><a href="http://en.reporter-ua.ru/nacp-in-ukraine-began-the-second-wave-of-e-declaration.html">will grow</a></span> to one million. At the same time, NACP has shown its <span><a href="http://ti-ukraine.org/en/news/ti-ukraine-calls-for-the-hastening-of-declarations-verification-and-the-monitoring-of-top-officials-lifestyles/">inability to analyse</a></span> the now-public declarations, thus decreasing the expected impact of the system. Also, this system does not lead to proper investigations of assets hidden through subsidiary companies in offshores. Also one of the four NACP members, Ruslan Ryaboshapka has recently <span><a href="https://www.google.it/url?sa=t&amp;rct=j&amp;q=&amp;esrc=s&amp;source=web&amp;cd=4&amp;cad=rja&amp;uact=8&amp;ved=0ahUKEwj5isPUyNPUAhXJalAKHVbTCo4QFgg3MAM&amp;url=https%3A%2F%2Fintmassmedia.com%2F2017%2F06%2F09%2Fa-member-of-the-nacp-ryaboshapka-resigned-and-asked-parliament-to-reset-the-agency%2F&amp;usg=AFQjCNGANxy76aep8_fbs9licwQFK0hWyA">resigned</a></span>, saying he cannot agree with the agency’s inefficiency. Another NACP member Ruslan Radetsky is under pressure from the General Prosecutor’s office: last week there was a <span><a href="http://www.pravda.com.ua/rus/news/2017/06/15/7146986/">search</a></span> in his office. But there was one other effect of the asset declarations: they have provided Poroshenko with a new tool to control politicians and bureaucrats.</p> <p class="western">Thus, there are no systemic external obstacles to the functioning of the power vertical in Kiev today. Only internal conflicts within the president’s ruling group can slow down (or even revert) the establishment of Poroshenko’s personalist rule in Ukraine.</p> <p class="western">In recent months, three speakers from president’s entourage — <span><a href="http://www.liga.net/projects/marchuk/">Yevhen Marchuk</a></span>, ex-KGB officer, ex-presidential candidate and the current Ukrainian participant in Minsk talks, <span><a href="http://www.rnbo.gov.ua/news/2712.html">Oleksandr Turchynov</a></span>, secretary of Ukraine Security Council, and <a href="https://zn.ua/internal/cennosti-obschestva-i-gibridnyy-mir-krizis-modeli-zaschity-252420_.html">Volodymyr Horbulin</a>, director of National Institute of Strutegic Studies — have promoted giving up political freedoms and the “naïve European dream”, and instead concentrating power in hands of a “strong state”. If these ideas become reality, Ukraine could turn into just another link in the Eastern European authoritarian belt.</p><p class="western">&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/tetiana-bezruk/liberal-democracy-hard-choice-for-ukraine">Liberal democracy: a hard choice for Ukraine</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/kateryna-iakovlenko/disconnected-society-how-war-in-donbas-has-affected-ukraine">Disconnected society: how the war in the Donbas has affected Ukraine</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/devin-ackles/controversial-law-takes-aim-at-ukraine-s-anti-corruption-ngos">A controversial law takes aim at Ukraine’s anti-corruption NGOs</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/igor-burdyga/where-now-for-ukraine-s-brave-new-journalism">Where now for Ukraine’s brave new journalism?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/oles-petik-halyna-herasym/critical-thinking-at-stake-ukraine-s-witch-hunt-against-journali">Critical thinking at (the) stake: Ukraine’s witch hunt against journalism</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/tymofiy-mylovanov-mykhailo-minakov/ukraine-s-authoritarian-signals">Ukraine’s authoritarian signals</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/maryna-stavniichuk/ukraine-s-rulers-are-backing-themselves-into-corner">Ukraine’s rulers are backing themselves into a corner</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> oD Russia oD Russia Mikhail Minakov Ukraine Thu, 29 Jun 2017 09:05:38 +0000 Mikhail Minakov 111915 at https://www.opendemocracy.net A new party for Ukraine’s euro-optimists? https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/minakov-webb-a-new-party-for-ukraine <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>If it is to succeed in a turbulent political environment, the ambitious DemAlliance project must overcome Ukraine's tradition of centering political movements on personalities rather than ideologies.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/559247/DemAlliancePhoto.jpeg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>A public talk held by DemAlliance in Kyiv this summer, with Vasyl Hatsko (left), Yevheniya Kuleba (centre left), Viktor Chumak (centre right) and Serhiy Leshchenko (far right). Image: DemAlliance.</span></span></span>Ukraine has never been a land for liberals. In 25 years of independence, the country’s liberal, European integrationists have never had a legitimate political party to represent them. Numerous parties claiming to do so have operated as fronts for oligarchic interests or been too weak to affect national politics. &nbsp;</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span>Now, two-and-a-half years after the EuroMaidan Revolution, a new political party is taking up the mantle of Ukrainian liberalism. At the end of June, news</span><a href="http://m.nv.ua/publications/najem-zalishchuk-leshchenko-nefedov-gatsko-i-drugie-mogut-sozdat-novuju-partiju-uzhe-29-ijunja-156382.html"> broke</a><span> that Ukrainian MPs Svitlana Zalishchuk, Serhiy Leshchenko and Mustafa Nayyem — the core of the Verkhovna Rada’s “Euro-Optimist” caucus — were planning on joining Democratic Alliance, positioning the Kyiv-based party to appeal to a supposedly expanding constituency: Ukraine’s liberal, pro-European voters. Less than two weeks later, a rejuvenated DemAlliance held its first party congress in Kyiv, outlining a platform that</span><a href="http://dem-alliance.org/aims/programna-zayava-z-yizdu-politichnoyi"> emphasised</a><span> “transforming Ukraine into a modern European country.”</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span>Many of DemAlliance’s new, high-profile members defected from the Petro Poroshenko Bloc (BPP), the Ukrainian president’s eponymous parliamentary faction that, like other blocs in the Rada, is facing</span><a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/sergii-leshchenko/ukraine-s-verkhovna-rada-oligarchs-club-or-real-parliament"> renewed criticism</a><span> for its cozy relationship with the country’s oligarchs.</span></p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">Nayyem and DemAlliance’s other new members are clearly frustrated with the increasingly vertical power structure of Poroshenko’s government</p><p dir="ltr"><span>Indeed, Nayyem and DemAlliance’s other new members are clearly frustrated with the increasingly vertical power structure of Poroshenko’s government, the deferential parliamentary majority he commands and the pace of reform. In a</span><a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/sergii-leshchenko/ukraine-s-verkhovna-rada-oligarchs-club-or-real-parliament"> recent article</a><span> for Open Democracy, Serhiy Leshchenko criticised Poroshenko for laying the groundwork for “a ruling clan centred on the president himself.” When asked about further cooperation with BPP, Leshchenko</span><a href="https://www.rbc.ua/rus/analytics/demokraty-po-novomu-reportazh-sezda-demalyansa-1468141315.html"> responded</a><span>: “It’s up to them.”</span></p><h2><span>Competition for liberal votes</span></h2><p><span>DemAlliance is certainly trying to chart a new course. As party leader Vasyl Hatsko</span><a href="https://www.rbc.ua/rus/analytics/demokraty-po-novomu-reportazh-sezda-demalyansa-1468141315.html"> said</a><span> at the congress, “We need a complete reboot of Ukrainian politics.” And party’s leaders have lofty ambitions: they hope DemAlliance, which since its founding in 2010 has had a negligible national presence, will win 12-15% of the Ukrainian electorate in the next parliamentary elections.</span></p><p><span>Getting there won’t be easy, in part because they’ll likely have to compete for liberal votes with Mikhail Saakashvili, the former president of Georgia </span><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/victoria-narizhna/saakashvili-is-turning-politics-upside-down-in-ukraine">who is now governor of the Odesa region</a><span>. Saakashvili is said to be working with ex-deputy general prosecutors Vitaly Kasko and David Sakvarelidze, MP Viktor Chumak, and others to create another liberal party.</span></p><p><span><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/559247/PA-25103136.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="334" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>DemAlliance could face competition from Mikheil Saakashvili, pictured here. (c) Sergei Chuzavkov / AP / Press Association Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>Like the new members of DemAlliance, Saakashvili hopes his new “Wave” party will upend Ukraine’s political establishment when it launches this fall. “I predict this fall will be a hot one,” Saakashavili said in an </span><a href="http://day.kyiv.ua/ru/article/podrobnosti/miheil-saakashvili-kogda-ukraina-provedet-nastoyashchie-reformy-rezhim-putina">interview on 2 August</a><span>. </span></p><p><span>Although the parties may</span><a href="http://interfax.com.ua/news/political/358116.html"> work together</a><span>, Chumak has</span><a href="http://www.pravda.com.ua/rus/news/2016/06/28/7113089/"> indicated</a><span> that they will be distinct factions: “They decided to base their party on Democratic Alliance, we’re starting a party from scratch.”</span></p><p><span class="print-no mag-quote-center">In the absence of an oligarchic patron, DemAlliance’s leaders are trying to fundraise from small and medium-sized businesses</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span>Financing may also be an issue. In the absence of an oligarchic patron, DemAlliance’s leaders are trying to fundraise from small and medium-sized businesses, including those in Ukraine’s growing IT sector. And indeed, according to the party’s</span><a href="https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1oQ-oGDT_oLX7rWUiMc19tnumFyHJAfMugr1MR4rkNIA/edit?pref=2&amp;pli=1#gid=1590148596"> database of donors</a><span>, IT businessman Oleksandr Kardakov is the DemAlliance’s leading backer, having donated more than 500,000 UAH ($20,000) in January and February.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span>Still, DemAlliance’s opponents have attacked the party for allegedly receiving funding from gas oligarch Serhiy Kurchenko, though his name does not appear in the party’s donor database. One such</span><a href="http://112.ua/politika/leshhenko-rabotaet-na-diskreditaciyu-vlasti-i-dobivaetsya-vneocherednyh-vyborov-nardep-328966.html"> attack</a><span> came from BPP MP Ivan Vinnik, who claimed that DemAlliance was being “financed by money stolen from the country during the Yanukovych regime”.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span>Such allegations seem to be fabricated and are certainly politically motivated. Perhaps most importantly, they speak to the the way Poroshenko and his subordinates treat the liberals who were once the president’s allies.</span></p><h2><span>Party on, Ukraine style</span></h2><p dir="ltr"><span>In Ukraine, as in many other post-Soviet countries, parties are driven by leaders, not ideologies. This is in part because the ideology-based parties that formed in the early 1990s did not play an essential role in Ukrainian politics. Ukraine’s first president Leonid Kravchuk (1991-1994) did not belong to a political party during his entire term in office, nor did many ministers in his government.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span>The history of independent Ukraine’s party system can be broken up into three periods. In the early 1990s, when perestroika and demokratizatsiia were still powerful ideas, Ukrainian parties did their best to mimic western ideologies. Republicans, democrats, liberals, socialists and social democrats presented their party platforms to citizens of the new Ukraine in the hopes of coming to power on the strength of their ideas.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span><span>This effort failed. Power and wealth quickly became consolidated in hands of several regional clans. Traumatised by a socio-economic crisis and a wave of criminal activity in the mid-1990s, the Ukrainian population fell prey to the country’s power parties (e.g. president Leonid Kuchma’s National Democratic Party; the Social Democratic Party; president Viktor Yushchenko’s Our Ukraine; and Viktor Yanukovych’s Party of Regions from 2010 to 2014), oligarchic parties (Hromada; the Labour Party; and the Party of Regions from 2001 to 2010) or parties benefiting from secret cooperation with oligarchs and the authorities (the </span><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/denys-gorbach/after-ban-short-history-of-ukraine-s-communist-party">Communist Party of Ukraine</a><span> from 1998 until it was banned in 2015; the Green Party from 1998 to 2002; and the nationalist Svoboda party from 2010 to 2013).</span></span></p><p dir="ltr"><span>During this second period, Ukrainian parties abandoned ideological pretense and concentrated on “selling” their leaders, who were largely figureheads for oligarchic interests. Between the mid-1990s and 2013, there were 192 parties registered in Ukraine </span><a href="http://ddr.minjust.gov.ua/uk/ca9c78cf6b6ee6db5c05f0604acdbdec/politychni_partiyi/">according to the Ministry of Justice</a><span>. Some, like former president Viktor Yanukovych’s Party of Regions, had a huge number of official members and engaged extensive networks of local elites, but remained very much dependent on their leaders and oligarchic backers.</span></p><p><span class="print-no mag-quote-center">Ideology gave way to “political technologies” and “political marketing”. This turned parties into short-lived brands</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span>As a result, party ideologies and platforms lost all meaning. Ideology gave way to “political technologies” and “political marketing”. This turned parties into short-lived brands rather than lasting political institutions able to represent voters in parliament.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span>A third period started after the Euromaidan Revolution, as part of a renewed attempt to establish a democratic Ukraine. Yanukovych’s fall from power was such a shock that most of the old parties were unable to run their candidates in the presidential and parliamentary elections. Only </span><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/unlikely-return-of-yulia-tymoshenko/mikhail-minakov">Yulia Tymoshenko’s Batkivshchyna Party</a><span> was able to retain seats in the Rada after the 2014 elections. Other factions disappeared or reformed as new parties, including Poroshenko’s BPP, former prime minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk’s National Front, MP Oleh Lyashko’s Radical Party, Lviv mayor Andriy Sadovyi’s Samopomich, and Opposition Bloc, which inherited what was left of the Party of Regions.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span>Revolution and war brought new cadres into the political arena. Established oligarchs (like Poroshenko, Igor Kolomoisky and Vitalii Khomutynnik) and long-time figureheads (like Arseniy Yatsenyuk and Alexander Turchynov) were suddenly practicing politics alongside a new generation of political showmen like Lyashko, Maidan activists like the leaders of DemAlliance, and volunteer battalions’ commanders like Semen Semenchenko.</span></p><h2><span>Plus ça change...</span></h2><p dir="ltr"><span>But fresh blood hasn’t changed the essence of Ukraine’s political parties: they remain unable to represent and advocate the interests and rights of their constituencies, or oppose the </span><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/tymofiy-mylovanov-mykhailo-minakov/ukraine-s-authoritarian-signals">authoritarianism that is creeping back into Ukrainian politics</a><span>.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span>Since 2014, 156 parties have</span><a href="http://ddr.minjust.gov.ua/uk/ca9c78cf6b6ee6db5c05f0604acdbdec/politychni_partiyi/"> registered</a><span> in Ukraine. As ever, parties form and re-form around leaders</span><a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/tymofiy-mylovanov-mykhailo-minakov/ukraine-s-authoritarian-signals"> without</a><span> ever articulating a coherent ideology. They don’t so much have platforms as they are platforms — for personalities. These personalities are frequently oligarchs or their proxies.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/RIAN_02811358.LR_.ru__1.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="269" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>22 March: Nadiya Savchenko is sentenced to 22 years in prison prior to her release in May. (c) Evgeny Biyatov / VisualRIAN. All rights reserved.</span></span></span><span>Ukraine’s personality politics was put on display when Nadiya Savchenko was placed first on the party list of Batkivshchyna and elected in absentia to the Rada in 2014 while imprisoned in Moscow. Although Savchenko had no political experience, her value to Batkivshchyna was clear: her celebrity helped boost the party’s national popularity.</span></span></p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">It will be difficult for Nayyem, Zalishchuk and Leshchenko to give Democratic Alliance a Batkivshchyna-style PR boost</p><p dir="ltr"><span>It will be difficult for Nayyem, Zalishchuk and Leshchenko to give Democratic Alliance a Batkivshchyna-style PR boost. Despite their popularity in the west, their voices were muted as members of the Poroshenko Bloc, and they don’t have the national name recognition necessary to garner widespread support. A recent International Republican Institute (IRI) </span><a href="http://www.iri.org/sites/default/files/wysiwyg/2016-07-08_ukraine_poll_shows_skepticism_glimmer_of_hope.pdf">survey</a><span> found that 81% of people surveyed had never heard of Zalishchuk, the EuroMaidan activist who is the new co-chair of DemAlliance.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span>The results were not much better for Zalishchuk’s co-chair, Hatsko, who was the leader of the party when IRI conducted its poll in May and June. Seventy-four percent of people surveyed had never heard of Hatsko. More surprisingly, more than 58% of respondents had never heard of Leshchenko, who, like Zalishchuk and Nayyem, rose to prominence in the west during the EuroMaidan Revolution. Nayyem is the most well-known of the Democratic Alliance leaders, though his favorables stand at 20%, and 30% of Ukrainians still say they haven’t heard of him.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span>Compare these numbers to Saakashvili’s: of the Ukrainian politicians and members of government IRI polled respondents about, Saakashvili had the percent highest favorables (26%), and 99% of Ukrainians had heard of him (nonetheless, 62% of Ukrainians had a negative opinion of him).</span></p><h2><span>Ukrainian liberals</span></h2><p dir="ltr"><span>Over the last 25 years, a number of parties have championed liberal ideas, including the Liberal Party (launched in 1991), the Liberal Democratic Party (1992) and the Christian liberal party (1995). None of these parties, however, was ever particularly attractive to Ukrainian voters.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span>One bright spot was the nationalist-liberal “Reforms and Order” party. The party, which launched in 1997 and merged with Batkivshchyna in 2013, managed to become a springboard for several prominent politicians, including former minister of finance Victor Pynzenyk and MP Sergii Terekhin. But Reforms and Order proposed only economic liberalism, taking a nationalist-democratic approach to civil rights and the rights of minorities. After the Orange Revolution in 2004, this party was slowly devoured by Yushchenko’s Our Ukraine and Tymoshenko’s Batkivshchyna.</span></p><p><span class="print-no mag-quote-center">There have always been distinct pro-European elements in Ukrainian politics</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span>There have always been distinct pro-European elements in Ukrainian politics. For many years, Ukrainians</span><a href="http://glavcom.ua/publications/131075-shcho-ukrajintsi-dumajut-pro-ukrajinu-doslidzhennja.html"> associated</a><span> Europe with the rule of law, access to justice, and stability. Certainly, this liberal vision was used (and abused) by political parties in the post-Orange Revolution period.</span></p><p><span>Recently, Poroshenko and his bloc have co-opted liberal, European integrationist rhetoric from Maidan activists in order to broaden their constituency and bolster their mandate to govern.</span></p><h2><span>An anti-corruption party</span></h2><p dir="ltr"><span>DemAlliance will have to rely on the strength of its liberal ideas, not its personalities, to inspire voters and win their support. DemAlliance’s</span><a href="http://dem-alliance.org/aims/programna-zayava-z-yizdu-politichnoyi"> platform</a><span> outlines one core strategic goal (“transforming Ukraine into a modern European country”) and three core principles: openness and accountability to society, financial transparency and collective leadership.</span></p><p><span>This last principle is particularly important because of the absence of big names headlining the party: on the day DemAlliance launched, Nayyem</span><a href="https://www.facebook.com/Mustafanayyem/posts/10207133726087574"> wrote</a><span> on Facebook that “for systemic and irreversible change, the effort and zeal of one man are not enough. For that we need a team — partners and allies, united by one goal.”</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/559247/PA-26669819-1.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>21 June 2016: president Petro Poroshenko gives a press conference after a meeting with France's President Francois Hollande. (c) Thibault Camus / AP / Press Association Images.</span></span></span>Above all, however, DemAlliance seems to be positioning itself as the transparency and anti-corruption party. Zalishchuk is one of the founders of Chesno, an organisation that pushes for transparency and fairness in elections; Nayyem and Leshchenko are journalists who crusaded against corruption in the Yanukovych era and </span><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/sergii-leshchenko/ukraine-s-verkhovna-rada-oligarchs-club-or-real-parliament">have been critical of Poroshenko’s anti-corruption efforts</a><span> since the EuroMaidan Revolution.</span></p><p><span>This platform is appealing but certainly not novel. Corruption has been at the center of international and domestic debates about Ukrainian politics for more than 25 years, and Ukrainians consistently rank corruption as one of the most important issue facing their country. Indeed, anti-corruption promises lie at the center of nearly every Ukrainian political party’s platform — including that of the current president.</span></p><p><span class="print-no mag-quote-center">The roots of corruption, which lie at the foundation of Ukraine’s political economy, have never been properly addressed</span></p><p dir="ltr">The fight against corruption per se has become a surrogate for ideology: parties promise to punish “corruptioners” in order to win votes. However, the roots of corruption, which lie at the foundation of Ukraine’s political economy, have never been properly addressed. </p><p><span>What’s more, if and when Saakashvili’s new Wave party launches, it is likely to usurp the anti-corruption mantle from DemAlliance. Dating back to his days as Georgian president, Saakashvili has made his name fighting corruption. Recently, he’s been travelling around Ukraine on an “</span><a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/may/25/mikheil-saakashvili-ukraine-government-has-no-vision-for-reform-odessa">anti-corruption roadshow</a><span>” in an effort to drum up support for reforms (and himself).</span><span>&nbsp;</span></p><h2>Early elections?</h2><p dir="ltr">&nbsp;<span>The leaders of DemAlliance and those who are preparing to launch Wave — as well as the leaders of Opposition Bloc — seem to have their sights set on early elections, which many predicted would be held in the fall. Most prominently, in June, Savchenko called for early parliamentary elections, saying that they are necessary to “</span><a href="http://bigstory.ap.org/article/4caa09ef4c2a4508af7dffc51776a297/ap-interview-savchenko-calls-early-elections-ukraine">infuse new blood</a><span>” into Ukrainian politics.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span>But the push for early elections has not been widely supported. Parliamentary speaker Andriy Parubiy has said that he sees “</span><a href="http://en.interfax.com.ua/news/general/358126.html">no reason</a><span>” for a snap election, implying that Russian influence — a “scenario imposed from outside” — is behind attempts to organise them. Furthermore, the vice-chairman of Ukraine’s Central Election Commission stated</span><a href="https://www.rbc.ua/rus/news/osnovaniy-provedeniya-dosrochnyh-vyborov-1470282635.html"> recently</a><span> that the legal conditions necessary for snap elections to be held according to Ukraine’s constitution have not been met. At least for now, early elections are on hold.</span></p><p><span>Where does this leave DemAlliance? With a laundry list of issues to address: How can Ukraine diminish the social, economic and political power of the oligarchic class while boosting the middle class? How can it reform its super-centralist government and its dangerous post-Soviet-variety presidentialism? How can Kyiv begin to talk to populations on both banks of the Dnieper? How can Ukrainian politics become a forum for ideologies rather than personalities?</span></p><p><span>Despite a host of challenges that lay before it, DemAlliance, more than any other contemporary party, seems eager to answer these questions.</span></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/sergii-leshchenko/ukraine-s-verkhovna-rada-oligarchs-club-or-real-parliament">Ukraine’s Verkhovna Rada: an oligarchs’ club or a real parliament?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/tymofiy-mylovanov-mykhailo-minakov/ukraine-s-authoritarian-signals">Ukraine’s authoritarian signals</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/maryna-stavniichuk/ukraine-s-rulers-are-backing-themselves-into-corner">Ukraine’s rulers are backing themselves into a corner</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/oles-petik-halyna-herasym/critical-thinking-at-stake-ukraine-s-witch-hunt-against-journali">Critical thinking at (the) stake: Ukraine’s witch hunt against journalism</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> oD Russia oD Russia Isaac Webb Mikhail Minakov Mon, 15 Aug 2016 14:42:20 +0000 Mikhail Minakov and Isaac Webb 104770 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Post-Soviet parliamentarian drama: a view from ‘the gods’ in Kiev https://www.opendemocracy.net/westminster/mikhail-minakov/post-soviet-parliamentarian-drama-view-from-gods-in-kiev <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The political history of Russia’s neighbours can be described in terms of one long conflict between a presidential authoritarian tendency and democratic parliamentarianism. Parliaments are the key.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/westminster"><img alt="howDoParls-banner@2x.png" width="100%" src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/u555228/howDoParls-banner%402x.png" /></a></p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/555228/18845555513_778788e7c7_z.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555228/18845555513_778788e7c7_z.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="302" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Ukraine's parliament, the Verkhovna Rada. Martin Schulz/Flickr. (CC 2.0 by-nc-nd)</span></span></span></p> <p>Contemporary post-Soviet nations’ achievements and setbacks directly coincide with the development of representative parliaments, fair electoral systems and political pluralism. National dialogue and orientation for the public good is supported mainly by the parliaments – at least in those former Soviet countries (fSU) that still have them.</p> <p>Post-Soviet polities are quite a recent invention. Fabricated out of Soviet totalitarian and post-totalitarian institutions, the ‘perestroika’ political inventions, and liberal-nationalist experiments of the early 1990’s, the development of the newly independent states has been fuelled by a tragic tension between authoritarian and democratic trends since 1991 until the present day. </p> <p>In this 25-year-long political drama, post-Soviet presidential institutions have been a cradle for despotic inventions while parliaments (central and local) were busy limiting anti-democratic tendencies and – though with meagre results so far – were able to promote democratic politics.</p> <h2>Parliamentarian traditions</h2> <p>The parliamentarian and local self-governance traditions of the late Russian imperial era (1864-1917) ceased to exist during the revolutionary experiments of 1917-1924. Imperial parliamentary processes started from the local self-governance reforms of the 1860’s that ended up in the creation of the central imperial parliament in 1906. The February revolution in Saint-Petersburg, the launch of a temporary republican cabinet and preparation of an establishment assembly, the movement of the councils of workers and peasants (Soviets), not to mention the creation of national parliaments in the former imperial provinces (i.e. <em>Tsentralna Rada</em> [Central Council, 1917-18] in Ukraine, or <em>Sfatul Ţării</em> [the Country Counsel] in Moldova 1918) – these are just a few examples of the political creativity of those nations that generated new forms of emancipatory political institutions between Warsaw and Vladivostok. </p> <p>Yet most of them were short-lived. The victory of the Bolsheviks and establishment of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics broke with most of the parliamentary traditions in swift succession, while the emancipatory potential of the Soviets was corrupted by the totalitarian practices of the Bolshevik party.<sup><a class="footnote" href="#fn1" id="ffn1">1</a></sup></p> <h2>Supreme councils</h2> <p>The Soviet Union formally preserved its parliaments in the form of the USSR Supreme Council, and republican supreme councils. Yet the elections to these parliaments were a tragicomic imitation of citizens’ voting. The supreme councils were a place neither for decision-making nor for debate. They were totally controlled by one party. </p> <p>However, the repetition of certain practices from one generation to another can take an institutional form. In the case of the Soviet parliaments, this was a strange configuration, whose major task was the imitation of public debate and fake representation of constituencies. The Soviet-imitated parliament, having become habituated to the belief that strategic decisions are made by some informal group (whether this is the Politburo, Central Committee of the ruling Party, a group of oligarchs, or a presidential administration)<sup><a class="footnote" href="#fn2" id="ffn2">2</a></sup> while the formal public space is unworthy of notice. Soviet political culture promoted (and still promotes in many fSU countries) the civic instinct that a parliament is an imitation of due political process. </p> <p>This tradition was questioned and somewhat ruined in 1988 when the first free elections took place into the USSR Supreme Council. In the following year the republican parliaments were also elected. These parliaments buried the USSR in 1990-1991 and started a new era of political development oriented towards political pluralism and market economy.</p> <h2>Perestroika’s two faces</h2> <p>Simultaneous with the democratic parliamentary process, the <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-31733045">perestroika era</a> of the USSR also established a new political institute with strong authoritarian potential: a president. The first Soviet president was elected in 1990 by the USSR Supreme Council. It was Mikhail Gorbachev, the Communist Party leader, who proceeded to use legislation to shore up his dominant position through parliament. </p> <p>With the fall of the Soviet Union, presidential and parliamentary institutes entered into competition in most post-Soviet countries. The political history of independent Belarus, Georgia, Moldova, Russia, and/or Ukraine can be described in terms of a long-term conflict between a presidential authoritarian tendency and democratic parliamentarianism. </p> <p>Conversely, in certain moments, the presidents could promote liberal agendas while the parliamentary democratic consensus was being shaped by extreme anti-liberal programmes. An example of the latter is the military subjugation of Russia’s Duma by President Yeltsin in 1993.<sup><a class="footnote" href="#fn3" id="ffn3">3</a></sup> Another example was the struggle (also deploying the use of military force) of Zviad Gamsakhurdia and the Georgian Supreme Council in 1990-92.<sup><a class="footnote" href="#fn4" id="ffn4">4</a></sup></p> <p>By the beginning of the twenty-first century, post-Soviet regimes in Belarus, Russia and the Ukraine had stabilised after the political and socio-economic crisis of the 1990’s. Economic stability brought with it normalised markets and some entrepreneurial successes. But political stability was gained mostly as a result of the parliaments’ subjugation at the hands of the presidents. </p> <h2>Subjugation</h2> <p>In Belarus, President Lukashenko established an undisputed authoritarian regime where the Cabinet and parliament were once again a set of institutions imitating government, whereas the presidential administration informally took the government reins for itself. The Soviet legacy was probably the most influential here in shaping the formal and informal institutional setup. Up until today, both parliamentary culture and political pluralism are almost entirely absent from this country.<sup><a class="footnote" href="#fn5" id="ffn5">5</a></sup> </p> <p>In Russia, the liberal reforms of the 1990’s were reversed by the long reign of President Putin. A slow decline of parliamentarianism in 2003-2011 coincided with the degeneration of media freedoms and the fake imitation of party pluralism. With the destruction of NTV’s independence, all major mass media fell under the undisputed control of the Kremlin. Political parties controlled by the presidential administration have slowly become the only parliamentarian forces. Political power as it has become concentrated in the so-called ‘power parties’ has grown to resemble that of the Soviet CPSU. </p> <p>Other dependent political groupings shaped a ‘systemic opposition’ that imitated criticism and debate while supporting the president in all of his initiatives. The independent political parties have moved to the margins of the political process. Oligarchic groups, which initially supported political pluralism in the Yeltsin era, have signed off the first Putinist social contract and have been subsequently removed from political decision-making in favour of guaranteed economic stability and property rights. The rest of the population has been slowly entering into the patron-client networks that distribute the oil money. Under such conditions, client-voters were bad citizens, and supported the decrease in civil freedoms.</p> <p>“Putin’s revolution” in 2011-13 used the achievements of established authoritarian governance to destroy any remaining liberties. Peaceful association, civic assemblies, political opposition, minimal sectoral media freedoms, the autonomy of local authorities, and the residual rights of the federal lands were all legally devastated.<sup><a class="footnote" href="#fn6" id="ffn6">6</a></sup> All these decisions were formally endorsed by the Russian Duma. </p> <p>An institution imitating parliament, the Duma, turned out to be a space for declaring the most odious political ideas and anti-democratic initiatives: war with neighbours, anti-western propaganda, accusations against liberal NGOs alleged to be foreign agents etc. The quintessence of the parliamentary degeneration in Russia was well expressed by Boris Gryzlov: “Duma is not a place for discussions!”</p> <p>Unlike Belarus and Russia, Ukraine’s Verkhovna Rada (Supreme Council) has been an institution that in critical moments in recent history has managed to defend its own independence and the civil liberties of its constituencies. In the last 25 years Ukraine has survived two revolutionary cycles (1991-2004 and 2005-2014), and it was the Rada that twice provided the platform for conflict resolution and the defence of core human rights.</p> <p>The aforementioned revolutionary cycles started with the promise of political liberties and economic freedoms in 1992 and 2005. Quite soon the oligarchic groups and presidents started forgetting their promises. In the competition between the financial-political groups (FGP) that controlled major private sector industries, publicly-owned companies and core posts in government, parliament and courts, one group usually took over the presidential post. In the clash of FGPs the public good disappeared soon enough from the political agenda, parliament degenerating fast through the marginalisation of the opposition, and the co-optation of the judiciary into an integral part of the ‘power vertical’.<sup><a class="footnote" href="#fn7" id="ffn7">7</a></sup> With time, presidents promoted the interests of their groups to the extent that they united other oligarchic groups and grassroots protesters against these authoritarian rulers, jointly chasing them down. </p> <p>And at moments of the deepest political crisis, with a totally dysfunctional central government exacerbated by separatist insurgencies in 2004 and 2014, it was the Rada that found a way to save the polity and afford the Ukrainian republic one more chance at a democratic solution. </p> <h2>After Euromaidan</h2> <p>After the Euromaidan, the annexation of Crimea and the most bloody period of the on-going Donbas war (August 2014 – August 2015), parliament remains one of the major factors of Ukraine’s democratic reconstruction and a space promising to reinstate public dialogue in a country severely fragmented by war, separatism, and poverty. </p> <p>After relatively free and fair elections in October 2014, the ruling coalition united pro-reform factions with a sufficient number of MPs to alter the constitution, taking critical measures to limit corruption in the public sector. Those reforms that have already been introduced in Ukraine have made government more responsive, as well as bringing order to the dispensing of public services, granting some autonomy to local authorities, and making fair elections possible. The de-centralisation and de-oligarchisation of the justice sector, and implementation of tax reforms are much less successful so far.<sup><a class="footnote" href="#fn8" id="ffn8">8</a></sup> Yet the parliament is still a place where you can hear different voices and look for a nationwide consensus. </p> <p>Among the biggest risks for parliamentarian democracy in Ukraine is the marginalisation of the opposition. Those groups who entered the electoral campaign opposing government in 2014 head none of the parliamentary committees. The leaders of the parliament’s opposition groups are under criminal investigation. Basically, the post-Soviet tradition of polymorphous pressure on the opposition is intact and in place in post-Maidan Ukraine. </p> <p>Another risk for any functioning parliament in Ukraine is the way the coalition works. Although Ukraine is formally a parliamentary-presidential republic, where coalition is a tool for the oversight of the government, the leaders of the executive branch use it to legalise their initiatives without further discussion. The infamous ‘de-communisation’ laws were approved in exactly this manner.<sup><a class="footnote" href="#fn9" id="ffn9">9</a></sup> </p> <p>In 2015, too many laws were approved without proper discussion and through simplified procedures. The exclusion of MPs from proper legislative processes and the systemic intervention of the president and the prime minister into parliamentary processes with the aim of limiting discussions resulted in several crises for the coalition, and a stalemate for constitutional reform. Some MPs, groups, and one faction have already abandoned the coalition.</p> <p>Yet, despite the fact that these perverse forms of post-Soviet politics are present in the work of the Ukrainian parliament, the Rada remains the place for debates and for the representation of most of the constituencies of Ukraine. </p> <p>There is a more disturbing situation with the parliaments of Central Asia. Here, the post-Soviet controversy between presidents and parliaments was soon resolved through the establishment of despotic regimes. Rulers of Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan have created isolated authoritarian regimes that combine post-Soviet totalitarian institutions with traditional Central Asian monarchic modes of domination.<sup><a class="footnote" href="#fn10" id="ffn10">10</a></sup> Kazakhstan and Tajikistan are more open societies and economies, but their authoritarian rules are strict and inflexible.<sup><a class="footnote" href="#fn11" id="ffn11">11</a></sup> </p> <p>Kyrgyzstan’s parliament tells a somewhat different story. A weak link in the chain of Central Asian dictatorships, the Kyrgyz citizens have tried to restore their republic. The Tulip Revolution (2005) triggered an ambivalent process: it opened up an opportunity for the Zhogorku Kenesh (the Kyrgyzstani parliament) to restore its public and representative nature; however, this was swiftly overtaken by tragic civil conflict and attempts to establish authoritarian rule.<sup><a class="footnote" href="#fn12" id="ffn12">12</a></sup> The parliamentary elections in October 2015 showed that society in Kyrgyzstan enjoys political pluralism, yet this has not so far ensured that Kyrgyzstan joins the ranks of representative democracies. Still, for the future of democracy in post-Soviet Central Asia, Kyrgyzstan plays a critical role: its mild authoritarian pluralism leaves space for the slow strengthening of parliamentary democracy and civil society.<sup><a class="footnote" href="#fn13" id="ffn13">13</a></sup> These processes may have an emancipatory impact on all neighbouring nations. </p> <h2>An overview</h2> <p>To sum up, 25 years after gaining independence the post-Soviet political geography is now defined by five groups of countries and territories if measured by the effectiveness of their parliaments:</p> <ol> <li>Fully-functioning democracies with strong parliaments (three Baltic countries);</li> <li>Partially-functioning democracies whose parliaments are guardians of democratic practices (Armenia, Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Ukraine);</li> <li>Fully-fledged authoritarian regimes without functioning parliaments (Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan);<sup><a class="footnote" href="#fn14" id="ffn14">14</a></sup></li> <li>Un-recognised authoritarian polities of Abkhazia, Karabakh, South Ossetia and Transnistria, where parliaments are important parts of political systems, functioning to preserve some civil rights for their constituencies;<sup><a class="footnote" href="#fn15" id="ffn15">15</a></sup></li> <li>Un-recognised military-run territories of Donbas without representative legislatures. </li> </ol> <p>Since the first group of countries has detached itself from the post-Soviet space, their successful experience of introducing EU standards of political life is not applicable for the more than 12 other fSU countries. The future of democracy in the post-Soviet region is fully dependent on the successful reforms of Ukraine and similar countries. The key player in making reforms successful and creating stable support for democratic practices is a parliament. </p> <hr /> <ol id="footnotes"> <li id="fn1">See Hannah Arendt’s (1965) <em>On Revolution</em> (London: Penguin Books). <a href="#ffn1">↩︎</a></li> <li id="fn2">The role of informal institutions in the post-Soviet political institutions is described in detail here: Mikhail Minakov, ‘<a href="http://carnegieendowment.org/2016/02/03/decisive-turn-risks-for-ukrainian-democracy-after-euromaidan/itf4">A Decisive Turn? Risks for Democracy in the post-Maidan Ukraine</a>’, Carnegie Endowment for Democracy, February 3, 2016. <a href="#ffn2">↩︎</a></li> <li id="fn3">Stephen White (1997) ‘Russia: Presidential Leadership under Yeltsin’, in: Ray Taras, ed., <em>Postcommunist Presidents</em> (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press), p. 57ff. <a href="#ffn3">↩︎</a></li> <li id="fn4">For more information please see: Glenn E. Curtis (ed.) (1994) <em>Georgia: A Country Study</em>, (Washington: GPO for the Library of Congress). <a href="#ffn4">↩︎</a></li> <li id="fn5">For more information please see: Andrew Wilson (2011) <em>Belarus: The Last European Dictatorship</em>, (Stamford: Yale University Press). <a href="#ffn5">↩︎</a></li> <li id="fn6">For more information please see: Richard Sakwa (2014) <em>Putin Redux: Power and Contradiction in Contemporary Russia</em>, (London: Routledge). <a href="#ffn6">↩︎</a></li> <li id="fn7">On post-Soviet ‘power vertical’ political systems please see: Vladimir Gelman and Sergei Ryzhenkov (2011) ‘Local regimes, sub-national governance and the “power vertical” in contemporary russia’, <em>Europe-Asia Studies</em> (63:3), p.449ff. <a href="#ffn7">↩︎</a></li> <li id="fn8">More in-depth bi-monthly assessments of the Ukrainian reforms are available from <a href="http://carnegieendowment.org/specialprojects/Ukraine/%5D."><em>Ukraine Reform Monitor</em></a> (Carnegie Endowment for International Peace). <a href="#ffn8">↩︎</a></li> <li id="fn9">For more information on these laws, see this <a href="https://wcd.coe.int/ViewDoc.jsp?id=2400293&amp;Site=DC">balanced assessment</a> from the special commission of the Council of Europe. <a href="#ffn9">↩︎</a></li> <li id="fn10">For more information please see: David Lewis (2015) ‘“Illiberal Spaces”: Uzbekistan's extraterritorial security practices and the spatial politics of contemporary authoritarianism’, <em>Nationalities Papers</em>, (43:1), 140-159; and Abel Polese and Slavomir Horák (2015) ‘A tale of two presidents: personality cult and symbolic nation-building in Turkmenistan’, <em>Nationalities Papers</em>, (43:3), 457-478. <a href="#ffn10">↩︎</a></li> <li id="fn11">For more information please see: Matthew Stein (2013) ‘Unraveling the violence in Kazakhstan’, <em>Small Wars &amp; Insurgencies</em>, (24:3) 394-412; and Lawrence P. Markowitz (2012), ‘Tajikistan: authoritarian reaction in a postwar state’, <em>Democratization</em>, (19:1), 98-119. <a href="#ffn11">↩︎</a></li> <li id="fn12">For more information please see: Andrew Baruch Wachtel (2013) ‘Kyrgyzstan: between democratization and ethnic intolerance’, <em>Nationalities Papers</em>, (41:6), 971-986. <a href="#ffn12">↩︎</a></li> <li id="fn13">An interesting perspective is provided here: Baktybek Beshimov and Ryskeldi Satke, ‘<a href="http://thediplomat.com/2014/03/kyrgyzstan-the-next-ukraine/">Kyrgyzstan: The Next Ukraine?</a>’ <em>The Diplomat</em>. <a href="#ffn13">↩︎</a></li> <li id="fn14">More assessment of the two above country groups is made by Freedom House Index ‘<a href="https://freedomhouse.org/report/freedom-world/freedom-world-2015#.VrohbTYrLUo">Freedom in the World</a>’. <a href="#ffn14">↩︎</a></li> <li id="fn15">Political systems of these polities are under-studied. But there is enough evidence to show that the parliaments here play important roles in advocating basic rights of their populations. For more information about un-recognised post-Soviet nations please see: Laurence Broers, Alexander Iskandaryan and Sergey Minasyan (2015) ‘Introduction: the unrecognised politics of de facto&nbsp;states in the post-Soviet space’, <em>Caucasus Survey</em>, (3:3) 187-194. <a href="#ffn15">↩︎</a></li> </ol> <div style="background-color: #f9f3ff; width: 100%; float: right; border-top: solid 3px #DAC2EA;" class="partnership-in-article-banner-infobox"> <div style="margin-bottom: 8px; padding: 14px;"><span style="font-size: 1.2em; margin-bottom: 8px;">This article is published in association with the <a href="http://www.wfd.org/">Westminster Foundation for Democracy</a>, which is seeking to contribute to public knowledge about effective democracy-strengthening by leading a discussion on openDemocracy about what approaches work best. Views expressed herein do not necessarily reflect those of WFD. WFD’s programmes bring together parliamentary and political party expertise to help developing countries and countries transitioning to democracy.</span></div></div> <p>&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/westminster"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/u555228/howDoParls-sideBar%402x.png" alt="howDoParls-sideBar@2x.png" width="140" /></a></p> <div><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/westminster/graeme-ramshaw-alex-stevenson/introducing-new-partnership-how-do-parliaments-shape-democracy-and-dem">Introducing a new partnership: How do parliaments shape democracy? (and democracies shape parliaments?)</a></div> <hr /> <div><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/westminster/victoria-hasson/parliaments-in-context-parliament-s-relationship-with-democratic-trends">Parliaments in context: a parliament’s relationship with democratic trends</a></div> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> westminster oD Russia Mikhail Minakov Mon, 22 Feb 2016 06:30:17 +0000 Mikhail Minakov 99873 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Ukraine's constitution: reform or crisis? https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/mikhail-minakov-maryna-stavniichuk/ukrainian-constitution-reform-or-crisis <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/u555493/13405861785_20a4ff20a5_z.jpg" alt="13405861785_20a4ff20a5_z.jpg" hspace="5" width="160" align="right" /></p><p>Constitutional reform was supposed to put post-Maidan Ukraine on a firmly democratic footing. Two years later, this process has gone seriously off track.</p><p>&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span>Today, Ukraine is a country that can lose its chance at democracy. The victory of Euromaidan provided Ukrainian citizens, and our post-Soviet neighbours, with the prospect of building a polity that could grant political liberties, economic freedoms and local self-governance — <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/anar-valiyev/azerbaijan-and-ukraine-crisis-rogozin-lavrov-nagorno-karabakh">an important example in a region of dictatorships</a>. Two years later, <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/mikhail-minakov/requiem-for-euromaidan">Ukraine’s democratic dream seems to be as far from reality as in the bloody February of 2014</a>.</span></p><p>In an array of reforms that were promised by the country’s post-revolutionary leadership, constitutional reform was a key state-building initiative. Constitutional reform should have ensured that Ukraine would not find itself in an authoritarian dead-end and painful revolution for the third time in its 25 years of independence. </p><p><span class="print-no mag-quote-center">Constitutional reform should have ensured that Ukraine would not find itself in an authoritarian dead-end and painful revolution for the third time in its 25 years of independence</span></p><p>Now, in February 2016, it is time to say that the direction and method of constitutional reform was wrong and misleading. Two precious years have passed in vain. And an authoritarian alternative remains possible in a country with weak democratic institutions.</p><p>This conclusion may seem far-fetched in comparison to positive assessments of two packages of constitutional amendments — decentralisation and reform of the judiciary — that were promoted by President Petro Poroshenko. For example, in October 2015, experts of the European Commission for Democracy through Law (hereinafter, the Venice Commission) <a href="http://www.venice.coe.int/webforms/documents/default.aspx?pdffile=CDL-AD(2015)027-e">admitted</a> that “the latest version of the constitutional amendments prepared by the Working Group on the Judiciary of the Constitutional Commission of Ukraine is very positive and well-drafted, and deserves to be fully supported.”</p><p>Some months earlier, the Venice Commission also <a href="http://venice.coe.int/files/CDL-PI(2015)008-e.pdf">acknowledged</a> that “[t]he draft amendments introduce a form of decentralisation in the exercise of state power which is largely compatible with the European Charter of Local Self-government.” Ukraine’s partners from western democracies also continue to praise Ukrainian reforms, albeit with increasing alarm.</p><p>Now, why do we assess the reform in such negative terms? Here are our arguments.&nbsp;</p><h2>Who and how changes the Constitution?</h2><p>After Euromaidan, Ukraine was presented with a choice in regard to constitutional reform.&nbsp;<span>The new polity could have been built through either a new constitutional assembly, or by applying the existing constitutional mechanism to update the current constitution. Whichever reasons were used to deny the radical choice in 2014, the alternative to amend the existing constitution (in accord with the procedure its prescribes) still provided the possibility for democratic process and result.</span></p><p>The current Ukrainian constitution has a clear stipulation on the process of its amendments (Chapter 13, articles 154-159): </p><p>• Amendments can be proposed by the president or by a 150+ group of MPs</p><p>• The approval of amendments is to be made by parliament twice: first time by a simple vote (226), and then by 300 votes at “the next session in turn”</p><p>• If these amendments are not approved at “the next session in turn”, they can be approved no less then a year after voting on them in parliament</p><p>• Before the voting in parliament, the Constitutional Court has to take preventive constitutional control by reviewing the draft amendments in relation to Articles 157 and 158: amendments cannot decrease or violate human rights, civil liberties, Ukrainian independence and/or territorial integrity of Ukraine; amendments must follow the procedure. Furthermore, the constitution cannot be amended in situation of the martial law or a state of emergency </p><p>In the realpolitik of post-Maidan Ukraine, however, these stipulations are going on through a very disturbing process.&nbsp;<span>Both packages of amendments were finalised by anonymous groups in the depths of the Presidential Administration. The prepared documents were submitted to the Constitutional Commission, a body called to givesome additional legitimacy and transparency to the process of constitutional reform, as demanded by civic activists.</span></p><p><span class="print-no mag-quote-center">The presidential institution has often been a source of anti-democratic initiatives in post-Soviet states. This pattern is now being repeated in Ukraine</span></p><p>The Commission included recognised experts in constitutional law, MPs and civic activists. It was the place to help newly elected president and parliament to make the constitutional process democratic, thought-out and effective.</p><p>Despite expectations, the role of the Constitutional Commission was limited to formal support of the president’s initiatives. On several instances, and only after the Commission’s formal support, members of the Commission expressed their “personal opinion” on the president’s constitutional drafts in public . But the voice of dissidents was heard neither by president Poroshenko, nor by parliament. </p><p>One such example of dissent was the “personal opinion” of Oksana Syroiid, vice-speaker of Verkhovna Rada and a member of the Constitutional Commission. In July 2015, Syroiid was one of many voices against the norms contained within the decentralisation amendments that are dangerous for Ukraine’s democracy and territorial integrity. </p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/13405861785_20a4ff20a5_z.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Maidan, March 2014. CC streewrk.com / Flickr. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span><span>The role of Constitutional Court has been limited to an institution of formal approval of whatever comes from the Presidential Administration. The most recent scandalous decision of the Constitutional Commission was made on 20 January, 2016, when the Constitutional Court </span><a href="http://search.ligazakon.ua/l_doc2.nsf/link1/KS16001.html">cleared the package of amendments to the judiciary without any remarks</a><span>. And after that, 10 of 13 judges of the Constitutional Court who reviewed the case publicly criticised the legislative initiative.</span></p><p>The most critical opinion <a href="http://www.ccu.gov.ua/doccatalog/document?id=299898">was presented by Mykola Melnyk</a>, a member of the Constitutional Court, who blamed the Court for being too formalistic and not noticing the decrease of civil rights and liberties in the draft constitutional amendments. </p><p>So far, the Constitutional Court has continued its long history of loyalty to presidents, and betrayal of civil liberties in Ukraine, which it committed on several occasions under Viktor Yanukovych (reinstating an older version of Ukraine’s Constitution in 2010 that increased presidential powers) and Leonid Kuchma (such as the decision to permit to Kuchma to run for the third term in spite of direct prohibition in the Constitution). </p><p>The role of the Ukrainian parliament in the constitutional reform is unjustly limited. Once brave defenders of democracy and Ukraine’s European choice in the days of Euromaidan, new MPs have slowly turned into humble voting devices for the initiatives above. It seems that political aims justify remarkably biased legislative decisions. Instead of a democratic tool for government oversight, the pro-European ruling coalition has become a mechanism for voting in favour of the president’s constitutional initiatives. </p><p>The most striking example of anti-constitutional behaviour of the parliament happened just several days ago. The pro-presidential majority of MPs <a href="http://w1.c1.rada.gov.ua/pls/radan_gs09/ns_golos?g_id=5678">supported changes to parliamentary procedures</a>, and permitted the parliament to postpone final approval of decentralisation amendments to the constitution despite the constitutional demand. It was made partially due to the fact that the controversial norms of the proposed constitutional amendments cannot gather the necessary 300 votes even in the loyal parliament. </p><p><span class="print-no mag-quote-center">Once brave defenders of democracy and Ukraine’s European choice in the days of Euromaidan, new MPs have slowly turned into humble voting devices&nbsp;</span></p><p>Consequently, the role of president in the constitutional reform has become hegemonic. The presidential institution has often been a source of anti-democratic initiatives in post-Soviet states. This pattern is now being repeated in Ukraine. The exceptional position of president in the constitutional process is reflected in the norms that increase powers of the president, decrease role of parliament and limit — or even reverse — the role of local governments. </p><p>Again, a recent example: the abolition of parliament’s oversight over the office of General Prosecutor was one of the issues that provoked an otherwise obedient parliament to mildly disagree with the president upon the judiciary package. In late January, president Poroshenko had to propose changing judiciary amendments (which by that time had already been cleared by the Constitutional Court and Venice Commission) and return the right of the parliament to control General Prosecutor. Parliament supported this bargain, and demanded the Constitutional Court to review the change at an unprecedented speed. The court did so just within one day. </p><p>The process of amending Ukraine’s constitution to create a legal, political and institutional infrastructure for a new democracy has seemingly taken an all too familiar “historical path”, and one that leads to the consolidation of power by the president and a reaction to presidential omnipotence in the form of Maidan. </p><p>The constitution of Ukraine is being reformed without wide and inclusive public dialogue. It remains business as usual for a limited number of participants with undisguised hegemony of the president.<span>&nbsp;</span></p><h2>What are the aims of constitutional reform?</h2><p>But it is not only process that is destroying the democratic constitutional reform in Ukraine. Major risks are hidden in the absence of a response on strategic questions: What form of government and state model should we have in Ukraine? How is the rule of law guaranteed? What are the major balances between power branches, as well as central and local governments?</p><p><span class="print-no mag-quote-center">The informal financial-political groups inside the state were allowed to solve the conflicting interests of institutions for their private gain, and the common good remained outside the constitution’s care</span></p><p>Legal documents still use words like “democracy”, “rule of law”, and “European legal and political culture”. Yet there are disturbing innovations behind this rhetoric, including the establishment of a new presidential ”power vertical” with minimal or no control over it included in the amendments. </p><p>The current constitution established many imbalances between branches of power, and introduced an institutional conflict within the executive branch. A result of consensus in November 2004 (in the midst of the Orange Revolution), this institutional conflict was expected to limit presidential power by increasing the powers of the prime minister, cabinet and parliament. </p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/11606697916_a667a7fec2_z.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Maidan, December 2013. CC streetwrk.com / Flickr. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span><span>Instead, this conflict diminished the efficiency and transparency of government, and increased the role of informal groups in the Ukrainian state. The informal financial-political groups inside the state were allowed to solve the conflicting interests of institutions for their private gain, and the common good remained outside the constitution’s care.</span></p><p>So, constitutional reform had to return the common good back into picture. So far this re-orientation of constitution was expected to be articulated in the form of two packages of amendments — decentralisation and judiciary. </p><p>In essence, the decentralisation package of constitutional amendments responds to the demands of citizenry to make the Ukrainian state more responsive to the needs of its population. It was expected that principles of subsidiarity would become dominant in the process of re-balancing the authority of central and local governments. Throughout 2014-2015, there were several modest steps made to provide regional authorities with some budgetary independence. </p><p>At the same time, the constitutional amendments create a new structure headed by the president to control local councils, and, if needed, to overrule local decisions. This new vertical has no control over it. The constitutional reform became a field of competition between president Poroshenko and other centres of power, and the president is winning, keeping regions, parliament and the Cabinet of Ministers under his/her influence. </p><p><span class="print-no mag-quote-center">For decades, the political system and socio-economic model of Ukraine were based on dependent and corrupt courts. To increase the chances for democracy, access to justice and independence of judiciary had to be established</span></p><p>The judiciary part of the constitutional reform was to balance executive and legislature influence over the judiciary, and make justice accessible for all Ukrainian citizens. For decades, the political system and socio-economic model of Ukraine were based on dependent and corrupt courts. To increase the chances for democracy, access to justice and independence of judiciary had to be established. </p><p>Instead, for almost two years, the judiciary has remained outside systemic reformation, and under strict political pressure on judges. Throughout this period, political and financial-political groups have promoted distrust towards the judiciary. </p><p>After this unjustified delay, the judiciary reform started. Most of its democratic aims and solutions are critically needed today. If supported by parliament, the judiciary will be transparent and independent of politicians, and will be able to provide citizens with justice in reasonable term. </p><p>Yet the amendments diminish parliament’s ability of impacting the selection process of judges, while presidential influence remains. The political practices of 2014-2015 shows that this ability will be used to make judges loyal to those in power, and would not increase judicial independence. The Constitutional Court did not notice these loopholes in the amendments. </p><p>But the real situation is even worse. The judiciary reform, with its positive and negative innovations, will be considerably delayed. Its norms will not be introduced until 2019. For the next three years, temporary provisions will rule Ukraine’s judiciary with some peculiar rules:</p><p>• The Highest Council of Justice, a core body providing transparency and independency for the judiciary, will have to start working only in 2019, or a slightly later. Strangely enough, this date coincides with the presidential elections in Ukraine. So the to-be-democratic judiciary system will start evolve only after the new (or old?) president is elected</p><p>• In the intervening period, the president has the privilege to replace judges from one court into another, as well as to establish, restructure and dissolve courts at his discretion </p><p>• The judges of the Constitutional Court will remain in place until their term expires. So the independence of this important constitutional body may be delayed for even longer time </p><p>The current constitutional reform does not provide Ukrainians with any answers regarding fundamental questions about its political and legal order.<span>&nbsp;</span></p><h2>War and legitimacy of constitutional process.</h2><p>An undeclared war is going on in Ukraine. And it has an impact on the constitutional process and its legitimacy.</p><p>• De jure, Ukraine has not declared war against Russia. For this reason, the Constitutional Court decided that the constitutional reform may go ahead </p><p>• The Minsk-22 agreements have a direct impact on today’s constitutional process. De facto, Ukraine’s sovereignty in the process of constitutional amendments is limited. External players have a direct impact on its outcomes, especially in the case of self-administration of some territories in Donbas region</p><p>The participation of the Venice Commission has also been misused by the managers of constitutional reform. The Commission’s role in the support of constitutional reform could be therapeutic, yet due to manipulations, the Commission was used to increase presidential influence upon the Constitutional Commission and parliament. </p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/13300858193_34c6d6fc47_z.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Maidan. CC streetwrk.com / Flickr. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span><span>For example, in July 2015, the Venice Commission received a package of amendments that was different from what the Constitutional Commission approved. Later, after receiving the commission’s assessment of these amendments, the Rada’s speaker and presidential ally Volodymyr Groisman announced only the positive remarks of European experts; the criticism was hidden from the public. Later, the tragic events outside the Ukrainian parliament on 31 August were directly connected to the untransparent constitutional process and political manipulations of Ukrainian leadership and their political opponents.</span></p><p>Another disturbing case relates to the fact that, a month after the Venice Commission gave its opinion on the judiciary constitutional amendments, these amendments were further elaborated in the presidential administration in a way that all the positive changes were postponed for two to four years.</p><h2>Conclusions</h2><p>Constitutional reform in Ukraine is unsatisfactory neither in terms of the quality of the process, nor in its content. The proposed amendments are too humble where they must be brave, and too radical where they should establish a balance of powers. The presidential dominance and a lack of inclusivity in constitutional reform is diminishing the legitimacy of the political order and adding to risky developments in Ukraine. </p><p>These drawbacks have naturally provoked debate. After open discussions among experts, politicians and diplomats in December 2015, the European Union Ambassador to Ukraine Jan Tombinski <a href="#http://en.reporter-ua.ru/tombinski-ukraine-most-likely-need-a-new-constitution.html">issued a statement calling for Ukraine to draft an entirely new constitution, not just amendments</a>. There is a new initiative of civic activists to re-start the constitutional reform and call for a constitutional assembly to be established. However, so far, these ideas remain at the margins of political processes in Ukraine. </p><p>It is time to re-think the approach to constitutional reform in Ukraine. The direction and method of Ukrainian constitutional reform was incorrect and misleading. It does not respond to the critical questions of Ukraine’s democratic and sustainable development; it does not have a vision for country’s prosperous and free future. In procedural part, the constitutional process provided an opportunity for influence from outside country.&nbsp;<span>These drawbacks make the entire constitutional reform a hazardous endeavour that diminishes the formal and all too real democratic and constitutional legitimacy of order in Ukraine, and adds to future risks of existence of our republic.</span></p><p>The parliament must stop manipulations with the constitutional reform and increase its leadership role. The Constitutional Court and president must adhere to their role as guarantors of constitutional order in Ukraine. Ukraine’s state building should not be a hostage of personal ambitions and group interests. The common good and rule of law must be reinstated as orienteers of constitutional reform.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/vitaly-dudin/dark-side-of-ukraine%E2%80%99s-constitutional-reform">The dark side of Ukraine’s constitutional reform </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/denys-gorbach/that-obscure-object-of-desire-reforms-labour-code-and-progressive-agenda-in-">#DontFuckWithUs: labour reforms and the progressive agenda in Ukraine</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/vitalii-atanasov/mariupol-elections-will-donbas-voters-be-represented-in-ukrainian-politic">Mariupol elections: will Donbas voters be represented in Ukrainian politics?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/andrii-portnov/how-eastern-ukraine-was-lost">How ‘eastern Ukraine’ was lost</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> oD Russia oD Russia Maryna Stavniichuk Mikhail Minakov Ukraine Politics Tue, 16 Feb 2016 10:11:14 +0000 Mikhail Minakov and Maryna Stavniichuk 99826 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Ukraine is caught between war and reform https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/mikhail-minakov/ukraine-is-caught-between-war-and-reform <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/u554943/6039461.jpg" alt="" width="160" /></p><p>Two years on from the protests that ignited Maidan, Ukraine is suffering from a clash of agendas.</p><p>&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>Two years ago, in November 2013, what became known as EuroMaidan began. Civic protesters in central Kyiv demanded ‘Europeanisation’, which for Ukrainians meant liberal democracy, political and media pluralism, rule of law, economic freedoms, differentiation of branches of power and separation of government and business. </p><p>Two years on, the ‘Europeanisation’ agenda remains unfulfilled, and Ukrainians—now facing a<a href="http://www.usnews.com/news/articles/2015/11/20/while-west-focuses-on-syria-ukraine-conflict-flares"> new wave of violence in Donbas </a>and <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2015/11/22/world/europe/ap-eu-ukraine-electricity.html?ref=world&amp;_r=2">explosions in the south of the country</a>—are divided in opinion whether this agenda is a priority. With not unreasonable doubts about the success of the Kyiv-led transition, two of the biggest Ukrainian cities, <a href="http://www.ecfr.eu/article/commentary_five_lessons_from_the_local_elections_in_ukraine4087">Kharkiv and Odesa</a>, have now elected mayors with strict ties to the previous regime. </p><p>To understand the general course of Ukraine’s development in 2014-2015, we should pay attention to the clash between this agenda, set by the EuroMaidan movement, and another, the ‘war agenda’, stemming from the conflict in the Donbas. The fundamental contradictions between these two agendas has undermined both democratic change and security in Ukraine, and provided new and old oligarchic groups the chance to gain control over centres of power, influence and money.</p><h2>Clash of agendas </h2><p>To cope with the monopolisation of power and economy in the hands of one group led by ex-president Viktor Yanukovych, the EuroMaidan movement needed to consolidate different opposition groups, often rivals, by a set of shared goals. Diverse political parties, civic organisations, human rights groups, far right and new left networks, and masses of individuals were united by common goals.</p><p class="mag-quote-right">Pervasive corruption is a problem that not only impedes government and stymies reform, but complicates Ukraine’s future relations with the west.&nbsp;</p><p>The short-term perspective was to topple Yanukovych and destroy Ukraine’s <a href="http://www.civicsolidarity.org/article/880/ukraine-brief-legal-analysis-dictatorship-law">emerging authoritarian regime</a>. But another important set of goals had a much longer timescale. It included fostering <a href="http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2013/12/what-europe-means-to-ukraines-protesters/282327/">European </a>integration and <a href="https://www.change.org/p/to-journalists-commentators-and-analysts-writing-on-the-ukrainian-protest-movement-euromaidan-kyiv-s-euromaidan-is-a-liberationist-and-not-extremist-mass-action-of-civic-disobedience">national liberation</a>. </p><p>In the post-Soviet context, ‘European integration’ means much more than just formal association with the European Union: for those on the streets of Kyiv in the winter of 2013-2014 it meant rule of law, democratic pluralism, a de-monopolised economy, responsible government, accessible justice, representative parliament and strong local self-governance. </p><p>National liberation, meanwhile, included lesser dependence on Moscow’s integration projects and better citizen control of elite behavior. </p><p>But another set of developmental goals evolved in response to Russian aggression in Crimea and separatist rebellion in eastern Ukraine. In essence, the post-Maidan government was put on the defensive immediately after its appointment: the state of war demanded a ‘disciplined’ society led by one leader and one team, fast reforms of the security sector and a concentration of resources—economic, human, and administrative—to effectively fight a strong opponent such as the Kremlin. </p><p>This ‘war agenda’ privileges national security over civil liberties, centralisation over local self-governance, military discipline over democratic discussion and a military economy over the free market. </p><p>The origins of the war agenda can be traced to the period from March to May 2014, when separatists attempted to form ‘People’s Republics’ in the Kharkiv, Luhansk, Donetsk, Zaporizhzhia, Dnipropetrovsk, Mykolaiv, and Odesa regions, following Russia’s annexation of Crimea. Ukraine’s interim government was incapable of defending Crimea and, with support from Maidan self-defense groups, launched a military operation to secure these regions of south-east Ukraine (the so-called ‘Anti-Terrorist Operation’). </p><p>In effect, Ukraine’s government was forced to set aside democratic reform ambitions in order to defend the country’s sovereignty. As a result, the original EuroMaidan agenda has not been fully implemented.</p><p>But the reforms of the ‘war agenda’ have not been implemented either. Despite the pressing security situation, the Ukrainian government has neither declared a state of war, nor has it expedited reform of the armed forces.</p><p><span><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none_left caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/554943/9069548.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/554943/9069548.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>During local elections emerging oligarchic groups gained control of territories and may now oppose democratic and anti-corruption reforms. (c) Nazar Furyk/Demotix </span></span></span>Instead, the ATO policy is used as a hybrid remedy. On the one hand, the ATO gives the government a chance to deploy armed forces without a state of war being declared, and, on the other, elites can continue to rule uninhibited. Viktor Yanukovych made a similar decision in December 2013 by declaring an ATO against EuroMaidan, permitting the head of state to fight and continue business as usual. In the short run, this policy had its merits. </span></p><p><span>But in the longer term, it proved harmful for regime survival. Undecidedness is probably the worst form of decision making, but also the most characteristic of Ukrainian elites.</span></p><h2>Slow implementation</h2><p>The clash of these agendas has made it impossible to promote necessary changes in Ukrainian society. Today, Ukraine is as far away from the rule of law and liberal democracy as it was in March 2014. At the same time, the security ministries are inefficient and lack resources.</p><p>The implementation of Maidan’s ‘European’ agenda is very slow. The Association Agreement (AA) with the European Union, one of the cornerstones of the revolution, has not been wholly enacted, <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-28052645">though it was signed by the EU and Ukraine on 21 March, 2014</a>. The Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area (DCFTA) was signed in June 2014, with the agreement to come into force on 31 December, 2015 at Moscow’s insistence. </p><p>At the May 2015 Eastern Partnership summit in Riga, Ukraine was unable to secure either a visa liberalisation agreement with the EU or even a clear path forward for formalising its closer relationship with the EU. Even though the ratification of AA was finished in November 2015 by the EU member-states, the Netherlands is yet to hold an upcoming referendum on association with Ukraine in April 2016. </p><p>The way the laws needed for EU visa regime liberalisation were approved in the fall of 2015 in Rada has also shown that the new Ukrainian political class are unprepared for real integration. The EU's values, norms and practices are shared by a depressingly small amount of MPs and citizens.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">There are now two leading groups that have spread throughout Ukraine's executive, legislature and judiciary: one around President Petro Poroshenko, the other around Prime Minister Arseniy Yatseniuk.</p><p>That said, in February 2014, parliament managed to reinstate Ukraine’s 2004 constitution, which diminished presidential powers, increased the role of the Cabinet of Ministers and parliament, and enforced the possibility of separating the branches of power. Political realities, however, show that the financial-political groups that took over centres of power after EuroMaidan continue to disrespect the separation of powers. The same groups have installed their representatives in Ukraine’s executive, legislature and judiciary, and promote their group interests—political and private simultaneously. </p><p>There are now two leading groups that have spread throughout the executive, legislature and judiciary: one around President Petro Poroshenko, the other around Prime Minister Arseniy Yatseniuk. They have a strong presence in the Cabinet of Ministers and Verkhovna Rada, Ukraine’s parliament. The pro-Poroshenko group controls 11 ministries and 11 parliamentary committees, while the pro-Yatseniuk group controls 4 ministries and 8 committees. At the same time, these groups are in control of the majority of newly elected members of the High Judiciary Council, a key body of the judiciary’s self-governance. </p><p>With local elections recently passed, these groups will soon have control over many mayors and local councils.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none_left caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/554943/4975131.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/554943/4975131.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>The Ukranian army's recruitment practices are provoking growing remorse among many Ukrainians. (c) Oleg Pereverzev/Demotix</span></span></span><span>These groups are separate, but their political and administrative omnipresence is balanced and does less damage to Ukrainian democracy than might be expected. </span></p><p><span>The practice of ‘power verticals’, <a href="https://www.chathamhouse.org/sites/files/chathamhouse/19412_0511ppmonaghan.pdf">a post-Soviet alternative to western democracy</a>, thus remains customary in Ukraine’s political system. Power verticals are based on merging branches of power and undisputed control of local communities by central government. This key mechanism of post-Soviet political systems, which is counter to democratic rule, is alive and well in Ukraine and, at a later date may re-create Yanukovych-style rule.</span></p><h2>Don’t delay</h2><p>The war reforms agenda also remains unimplemented. Despite concentrating large military forces in the ATO zone, the security of Ukraine remains fragile. Different security agencies continue to work without sufficient coordination, often with public conflicts among them. </p><p>Meanwhile, the draft is supposed to provide Ukraine’s ineffective army with personnel, but the <a href="http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2015/05/02/ukraine-draft-dodgers-in-fight-against-separatists/26462801/">recruitment practices </a>provoke growing remorse among many Ukrainians. To carry out the fifth and the sixth call-up waves, regional military commissars had to conduct manhunts on the streets, supermarkets and university <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5PP2Yxkid14">dormitories </a>around Ukraine. Moreover, the army lacks the necessary financial and human resources to equip and train new recruits.</p><p>This clash of agendas leads to an ironic contradiction in public life: when you ask senior officers in the security services why they’re so inefficient, their usual answer refers to the lack of ‘legal tools’ to carry out their military tasks without declaring a state of war; when you ask political leaders why democratic reforms are lagging behind, they refer to the de-facto state of war. This contradiction is not only an obstacle to progress in Ukraine, but also an environment conducive to corruption.</p><p>Pervasive corruption is a problem that not only impedes government and stymies reform, but complicates Ukraine’s future relations with the west. Despite growing intolerance towards corruption, an International Republican Institute poll from May 2015 reveals that a majority of citizens still deal with bribery and nepotism in their everyday lives. </p><p>Though the Poroshenko administration has created a number of anti-corruption agencies, Ukraine seems unprepared to tackle what may be the next wave of corruption: in 2016, <a href="http://www.intellinews.com/ukraine-s-new-privatisation-effort-likely-to-focus-on-jewels-500446615/?archive=bne">the Cabinet of Ministers plans to embark on a new round of privatisation of government assets</a>. The long list of enterprises slated for privatisation includes the country’s most important plants and ports—all of which contain ample potential for graft. Furthermore, <a href="http://en.censor.net.ua/news/330723/president_poroshenko_initiates_discussion_on_introduction_of_market_for_land_in_ukraine_administration">Poroshenko seeks to liberalise the land market</a>—another area that could fuel corruption. The proposition of mass privatisation and the prospect of land reform has inspired old and new oligarchic groups to increase their coercive pressure on key public institutions in the centre and the regions. The tenders for these privatisations have to be closely monitored.</p><p>The competition between emerging oligarchic groups and the old ones are growing. The new groups, however, are much better at fulfilling their tasks and controlling centres of power that they have forced the well-known figures from the Forbes-Ukraine list to try and consolidate. In August, <a href="http://blogs.pravda.com.ua/authors/leschenko/55c1023769875/">the older oligarchs had to call for a meeting to discuss combined responses to the growing competition from new groups</a>. During local elections, they established control over certain territories and may now better oppose democratic and anti-corruption reforms. </p><p>Ukraine’s <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/vitaly-dudin/dark-side-of-ukraine’s-constitutional-reform">current constitutional reform</a> was driven by the EuroMaidan agenda. The <a href="http://www.kyivpost.com/content/ukraine/mayhem-inside-outside-rada-as-parliament-passes-decentralization-bill-396894.html">recent tragic and disuniting clashes around constitutional changes</a> have shown that competition between the Maidan and war agendas has reached an unprecedented level, and could lead to highly damaging processes far from the frontline in the Donbas. </p><p>The delays in choosing either of the reform agendas not only creates an opportunity for oligarchic groups to restore their rule, but later, as has happened twice previously in Ukraine, result in an authoritarian figure taking presidential office. </p><p>The fundamental contradictions between the Maidan and war agendas is undermining both democratic change and the ability to maintain peace. The choice must be made between the two, reforms implemented and a democratic Ukraine established.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/mikhail-minakov/requiem-for-euromaidan">Requiem for EuroMaidan</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/vitaly-dudin/dark-side-of-ukraine%E2%80%99s-constitutional-reform">The dark side of Ukraine’s constitutional reform </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/denys-gorbach/that-obscure-object-of-desire-reforms-labour-code-and-progressive-agenda-in-">#DontFuckWithUs: labour reforms and the progressive agenda in Ukraine</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/valery-kalnysh/mukacheve-puts-ukraine-to-test">Mukacheve puts Ukraine to the test</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> oD Russia oD Russia Mikhail Minakov Ukraine Politics Fri, 27 Nov 2015 12:17:03 +0000 Mikhail Minakov 97980 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The unlikely return of Yulia Tymoshenko https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/unlikely-return-of-yulia-tymoshenko/mikhail-minakov <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/u554750/2000619.jpg" alt="2000619.jpg" hspace="5" width="160" align="right" /></p><p>The success of post-Maidan Ukraine depends on the effectiveness of the ruling coalition. Does Yulia Tymoshenko want to join the party or spoil it?</p><p>&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>A long-time rival to Petro Poroshenko and critical competitor to Arseny Yatsenyuk, Yulia Tymoshenko continues to demonstrate her talents in post-Maidan Ukraine, targeting the soft tissue of her allies and responding to the growing dissatisfaction of Ukrainians. In the past two months, Tymoshenko has started channeling serious criticism against the government in power thanks to continued support from Batkivshchyna, her political base.&nbsp;</p><p>On 7 June, Tymoshenko managed to organise the support of several thousand protesters in central Kyiv, demanding the sacking of the Cabinet – one of the largest protests witnessed by Kyiv since the days of Maidan.&nbsp;<span>Though accusations to the effect that it was a paid action (still a common occurrence in today's Ukraine) have since emerged, the protest was well organised and its participants were sent – in many cases – by regional party units of Batkivshchyna.</span></p><h2>Internal opposition</h2><p><span>Elected in October 2014, the current Ukrainian parliament has managed to create an unprecedentedly large coalition. Formally, the five-party coalition has over 300 votes, which makes it possible for President Petro Poroshenko and Prime Minister Arseny Yatsenyuk to change the constitution and push through a desperately needed package of reforms. </span></p><p><span>The coalition assigned all the parliamentary committees to representatives from the five parties, leaving opposition groups little room for influence. With each passing week, the coalition demonstrates its loyalty to the task of reforms and passes laws quickly, rarely giving time for MPs to read them. It looks to be almost the ideal situation forl the cause of reform.</span></p><p>But the dynamics of voting shows that, after two months of mass voting at the end of 2014, the coalition's voting capacity has now fallen 230-240 votes. Given that a majority in the Verkhovna Rada equals 226 votes, these votes are still enough to pass laws. But this situation also indicates that the coalition's unity is slipping.</p><p>How has it happened that pro-Maidan political elites are losing unity once again, and repeating the shame of 2005?</p><p><span>The coalition has, it seems, created its own internal opposition. But rather than Opposition Bloc, the party formed from the debris of the Party of Regions, and several small MP groups, this opposition is led by Tymoshenko, leader of Batkivshchyna – a member of the ruling coalition alongside Petro Poroshenko Bloc, People's Front, Samopomich and the Radical Party.</span></p><p class="pullquote-right">Pani Yulia continues to demonstrate her talents in post-Maidan Ukraine, targeting the soft tissue of her allies</p><p>An ingenious opposition leader (2001-2004, 2005-2007, 2010-2014), a failing majority leader forerunner (2005, 2007-2010) and one of the best orators from among post-Soviet Ukrainian politicians, Tymoshenko was bitterly missed by many of us standing on Maidan. We remembered her abilities to communicate with the opponents of the Orange Revolution in 2004 and effectively respond to the militia terror. </p><p>Yet when she came to the stage on Maidan on 22 February 2014, sick and tired after more than two years in prison, Yulia failed to repeat her success of March 2001. That was the day when she left jail, a humble but brave businesswoman facing up to the emerging autocrat Kuchma, who had had Tymoshenko arrested on charges of forgery and smuggling. Allegedly, <a href="http://www.newrepublic.com/article/world/kiev-chameleon">she had illegally transferred one billion dollars out of Ukraine and bribed Pavlo Lazarenko, Kuchma's former prime minister and opposition figure of the time</a>. Indeed, Lazarenko had assisted Tymoshenko's meteoric rise in forming United Energy Systems of Ukraine in the mid-1990s.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/554750/2000619.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>In June 2011, Tymoshenko was charged with embezzlement and abuse of power. (c) Anatolii Stepanov / Demotix.</span></span></span><span>The image of the unjustly imprisoned 'Gas Princess' gave Tymoshenko's confusing and often contradictory political career a kick start. Thirteen years later, this miracle failed to repeat itself.</span></p><h2>Times have changed</h2><p>Ukrainians have considerably changed after Euromaidan. And Tymoshenko has had trouble finding not only the right words, but even the right tone to take charge of a deeply traumatised society. </p><p>I remember a very negative reaction among the pro-Maidan activists following Tymoshenko's first words after release: 'Do you remember who made this revolution possible?' </p><p>With bodies on Maidan still waiting to be buried, Tymoshenko's references to her own achievements were insulting. <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qgMsC69lAZQ">Her speech on the Maidan stage was too emotional, too well expressed and too misguided</a>. Her former allies, Yatsenyuk and Turchynov, avoided communicating with her during the critical period of power division at the end of February 2014. A political giant of pre-Maidan Ukraine, in February 2014, Tymoshenko had lost her political capital.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/554750/Yulia_Tymoshenko_addressing_Euromaidan_with_a_speech._Kyiv,_Ukraine._Events_of_February_22,_2014..jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Tymoshenko addresses Maidan participants, 22 February 2014. CC Wikipedia / Mstyslav Chernov.</span></span></span><span>Though Tymoshenko tried to gain power during the short presidential campaign in the spring of 2014, she was excluded from the very start. Sources from circles close to Poroshenko and Vitaly Klichko, mayor of Kyiv, have spoken of talks behind the scenes back in March 2014. The participants of those talks, </span><a href="http://www.kyivpost.com/content/ukraine/firtash-takes-credit-for-poroshenkos-election-as-president-klitschko-as-kyiv-mayor-387540.html">as now partially leaked by Dmytro Firtash and Sergei Lyovochkin</a><span>, included Poroshenko, Klichko, other pro-Maidan politicians and oligarchs (foremost Firtash and Ihor Kolomoiskii). These were the talks that probably led to Poroshenko's victory in a manner all too familiar: Poroshenko's major competitors in the form of Klichko and Yatsenyuk did not take part in the presidential elections, and Poroshenko was elected in the first round.</span></p><p>Excluded from the talks that were critical for the restoration of political order in Ukraine, Tymoshenko's presidential campaign harked back to the Orange Revolution in terms of message. </p><p>She was right about taking aim at the oligarchs as the major enemy of Ukrainian democracy. Yet she was wrong about the readiness of Ukrainians to hear that bitter truth. Patriotic oligarchs – <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/victoria-narizhna/team-kolomoisky">with Kolomoisky taking the lead</a> – became heroes in fighting the separatist threat in the regions of south-east Ukraine. Moreover, her campaign's anti-corruption slogans did not tally with Tymoshenko herself, still remembered as the prime minister of the 2008-2009 Cabinet, which was far from transparent. Tymoshenko's deals with Kolomoisky's Privat Group and the Industrial Union of Donbas, her decision to take away budgetary functions of local governments, and hide information on Ukraine's economic crisis are still remembered by many.</p><p class="pullquote-right">Tymoshenko was right about taking aim at the oligarchs as the major enemy of Ukrainian democracy.</p><p>Furthermore, in both form and content, Tymoshenko has continued to make references to the Orange Revolution. But the majority of voters have long ago decided that the Orange Revolution was a fiasco, and this failure should not to be repeated. </p><p>As a result, <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/ukrainians-head-to-the-polls-to-elect-a-new-president-except-in-the-restive-east/2014/05/25/2680fad4-e9f7-4118-923e-852b01351b39_story.html">Tymoshenko received 12.8% of support at last May's presidential election</a>. Not only did she lose the campaign, but her leadership of Bativshchyna was left in tatters.</p><h2>Reset</h2><p>In March 2014, the Ukrainian party system was in ruins. New (and those who wanted to look new) political leaders tried their best to start new 'party projects'. Only Batkivshchyna, with its huge network and strong central group of politicians, carried over from the old order.</p><p>But Tymoshenko has nevertheless failed to preserve party unity after her presidential defeat. Following extended talks with Oleksandr Turchynov and Yatsenyuk in summer 2014, Tymoshenko did not approve their quotas in the Batkivshchyna party list for the up-coming parliamentary elections. And party leaders, such as Arsen Avakov, Andrei Paruby, Sergei Pashinsky, Pavlo Petrenko (as well as others) left Tymoshenko for National Front, Yatsenyuk's new political project. As a result of many miscalculations and internal divisions, Batkivshchyna barely crossed the 5% threshold for entrance into parliament in October's parliamentary elections, while their former comrades received the best electoral result with 22%. </p><p>Since defeat in October, Tymoshenko has disappeared from the public scene. Her small faction became a minoritarian – and obedient – member of the ruling coalition, receiving two ministerial posts and three parliamentary committees in return. </p><p>Yet Tymoshenko has not given up, it seems. Over winter 2015, she has re-built her regional party units, constantly meeting young and mid-career politicians from the regions with a view to offering them positions. She has stayed away from the conflicts among Poroshenko, Yatsenyuk and the oligarchs regarding de-monopolisation (particularly for Kolomoisky's Privat Group and Akhmetov's DTEK) over the past few months. Instead, Tymoshenko has launched a public campaign criticising Yatsenyuk for his 'inhuman' reforms.</p><p>A hero of the recent parliamentary elections, Arseny Yatsenyuk has lost his popularity. In May 2015, National Front was supported by 4.2% of surveyed voters. The Ukrainian public has labelled Yatsenyuk the primary reason of economic decline and a deteriorating situation in everyday life (communal services, exchange rate, roads, police, transportation). The bold promises of prosperity and military victory in 2014 have come back to haunt Yatsenyuk. <a href="http://kiis.com.ua/?lang=ukr&amp;cat=reports&amp;id=526&amp;page=1">Tymoshenko now polls at 7%, and Batkivshchyna – 15%</a>. While Tymoshenko is far from Ukraine's most popular politician, she is beginning to capitalise on people's growing concerns regarding their economic prospects.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/554750/7556281.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Tymoshenko greets WWII veterans on 8 May in Kyiv. (c) Vitaly Holovin / Demotix. </span></span></span><span>Today, Batkivshchyna and Opposition Bloc are trying to expand their influence precisely on the basis of the population's protest feelings. But unlike Opposition Bloc, Tymoshenko has a strong party organisation with young politicians aiming to succeed in the upcoming local elections and possible early parliamentarian elections.</span></p><h2>A window of opportunity</h2><p>The current protests are connected with the dissatisfaction of post-Maidan Ukrainian society. After Maidan, there were&nbsp;<a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/mikhail-minakov/requiem-for-euromaidan">expectations of good governance, re-division of power between the central government and local authorities, diminishment of corruption and the restoration of security. </a></p><p>But a year after presidential elections and 18 months after the start of reforms by self-declared 'kamikadze' Arseny Yatsenyuk, the Ukrainian state has continued to create problems for its citizens, rather than helping to solve them. Constitutional reform (including decentralisation) is consistently delayed by the competition between champions of the pro-presidential and pro-parliamentary system. The promise of decentralisation remains a fantasy, while the appointment of governors reminds one more and more of the imperial practice of <em>namestnichestvo</em> – parachuting people aligned with central government into regions, where they bear no responsibility save to their central masters. </p><p>In everyday life, bribery and nepotism are still commonplace. And there seems no hope to ending the war in the east, despite promises of victory made by Poroshenko and Yatsenyuk. However, the political and economic pluralism does seem to be enjoyed by the majority of Ukrainians; and this creates momentum for an able populist to take the lead.</p><p>Tymoshenko is thus eager to ride the mounting wave of civil anger, and organise public protests. Indeed, in terms of protests, Tymoshenko finds herself in a privileged position: it is an unimaginable luxury for former members of Yanukovych's Party of Regions to subject the current government to ruthless criticism. Many of the latter are currently under criminal investigations. </p><p>The case of Sergei Klyuev, an MP from Opposition Bloc, <a href="http://www.kyivpost.com/content/kyiv-post-plus/after-he-disappears-ex-yanukovych-ally-klyuyev-put-on-wanted-list-390681.html">who lost his immunity several days ago following charges on economic crimes committed under Yanukovych</a>, reveals the limits of the opposition's efficiency. The Rada voted to remove his parliamentary immunity, and there are more cases being prepared against opposition MPs (and some members of the coalition). </p><p>Meanwhile, Tymoshenko has the privilege of being immune to these risks. She can criticise, for example, the Cabinet and its leader Yatsenyuk for increases to communal service charges. For now, she makes a point of being loyal to the coalition and keeping neutrality towards Poroshenko. But she is definitely turning into a member of the opposition and an alternative to the current prime minister.</p><h2>Vendettas</h2><p>So far, Tymoshenko has been successful in her vendetta with Yatsenyuk, who has recently started subjecting Tymoshenko to public criticism, <a href="http://www.kyivpost.com/content/ukraine/rada-proposes-setting-up-commission-to-check-fact-of-signing-agreement-by-ukrnafta-state-under-tymoshenkos-government-391031.html">blaming her for corrupt deals with Kolomoisky regarding changes to regulations governing Ukrnatfa's leadership back in 2009</a>. </p><p>From what I can observe, these attempts to discredit Tymoshenko have not been successful. For many Ukrainians today, Yatsenyuk is not a figure to be trusted: the unreasonable promises of 2014 have diverged too much with the current situation in Ukraine. </p><p class="pullquote-right">Prime Minister Yatsenyuk is not a figure whose words carry much confidence for the majority of Ukrainians.</p><p>Compromising material (<em>kompromat</em>) on&nbsp;Tymoshenko from other sources is a riskier business. Forbes.ua recently alleged that, in 2010, <a href="http://ukrainiancrisis.net/news/10976">Russia's Vneshekonombank financed her February 2010 presidential campaign with a $300 million payoff from a 2010 deal for a controlling stake in Industrial Union Donbas</a>, one of Ukraine's biggest corporations. <a href="http://en.interfax.com.ua/news/general/268317.html">Tymoshenko is yet to truly counter those allegations</a>. </p><p>Her popularity is on the rise, however, and <em>kompromat</em>&nbsp;detailing&nbsp;<span>past sins will not have the same impact as </span><a href="http://www.kyivpost.com/content/business/gas-rates-will-skyrocket-280-percent-heat-tariffs-will-soar-66-percent-381078.html">sky-rocketing communal tariffs</a><span>. Come local elections in October, Batkivshchyna's chances look promising, and perhaps the party will gain control of local authorities in central and western Ukraine.</span></p><p>And so, perhaps Yulia Tymoshenko has a chance at political rebirth, to return to the highest level of Ukrainian politics. She is eager to use the momentum from popular dissatisfaction with Yatsenyuk's reforms and the waning image of Poroshenko. She may also become an acceptable figure for the EU and Russia. </p><p>But the price of her victory could be the dissolution of Ukraine's grand coalition and the slowdown of reforms. Reforms that are already too late.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/otar-dovzhenko/media-in-ukraine-set-free-to-be-slaves">Media after Maidan</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/denis-gorbach/struggle-for-progressive-politics-in-ukraine">The struggle for progressive politics in Ukraine</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 3.0 </div> </div> </div> oD Russia oD Russia Mikhail Minakov Ukraine Politics Wed, 17 Jun 2015 10:17:43 +0000 Mikhail Minakov 93611 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Requiem for EuroMaidan https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/mikhail-minakov/requiem-for-euromaidan <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/554750/7204220.jpg" alt="" hspace="5" width="160" align="right" /></p><p>As Ukraine turns into an oligarch republic, civil society has few chances left to make itself the true victor of EuroMaidan.</p><p>&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span>Today, the significance of EuroMaidan for Ukrainian society lies in its intentions – to restore the Republic, establish the rule of law in economics and politics, and to secure control over elites via partnership with the European Union; a sizeable democratisation mechanism. And although Maidan enjoyed far from universal support, it spoke in the interests of all Ukraine's citizens.</span></p><p>Unfortunately, the results of our actions often diverge from the motivations behind them. The power elites that swept out the clans tied to the Party of Regions have not been able to consolidate the promises of EuroMaidan. This fiasco has several causes, but one of them merits particular discussion: the oligarchs' take-over of an unfinished autocracy.</p><h2>Requiem for EuroMaidan</h2><p>In recent days, Kyiv has found itself immersed in a new crisis. Ihor Kolomoisky, a pro-Maidan oligarch and governor of the eastern powerhouse of Dnipropetrovsk, allegedly used fighters from the Dnipro volunteer battalion to seize control of Ukraine's state-owned gas company, Ukrtransnafta.</p><p>One day prior, the Ukrainian government and parliament passed a law to take the management of Ukrtransnafta back under governmental control. Subsequently, President Petro Poroshenko accepted Kolomoisky's resignation as governor and now faces a challenge of possible civil unrest in Dnipropetrovsk. Local lawmakers in Dnipropetrovsk are already calling for a new Maidan. </p><p>Meanwhile, Prime Minister Arseny Yatsenyuk was accused of being involved in large-scale corruption by the former head of Ukraine's financial inspection service. The following day, the head of the Ministry of Emergency Services was arrested on corruption charges live on television during a cabinet meeting as Poroshenko and Yatsenyuk looked on.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/554750/7201280.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/554750/7201280.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="302" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Ihor Kolomoisky has recently been dismissed as head of Dnipropetrov'sk regional administration. (c) Inna Solokovska / Demotix. </span></span></span></p><p>For Ukrainian citizens who placed their hopes in a revolutionary president and prime minister, these events sound like a requiem for EuroMaidan.<span>&nbsp;</span></p><h2><span>Creative oligarchy</span></h2><p>In the post-Soviet space, it's worth remembering that an oligarch is not just a highly wealthy individual. An oligarch is someone who pursues their private interests (accumulating capital, receiving rents, monopolising certain sectors) with the help of public instruments.</p><p class="pullquote-right">Just as EuroMaidan defended the interests of all Ukrainian citizens, it also defended the oligarchs.</p><p>At the time of going to press, for instance, Ukrainian billionaire Rinat Akhmetov is no longer an oligarch, although he remains one of the richest people in Ukraine. Akhmetov no longer holds sway over Ukrainian public institutions, and he lives the life of a usual post-Soviet businessman – vulnerable to the police, tax inspection, fire inspections, and other agencies, which extort illegal payments. </p><p><span>The complex mechanisms of administrative and political&nbsp;</span><span>safeguards comprise one such 'public instrument': an oligarch's private interests and property are guaranteed by parliamentary deputies, political parties, and functionaries in the executive and judiciary. Without recourse to exploitation of public institutions, an oligarch is merely a very rich individual, unable to defend his property under the majority of post-Soviet political regimes.</span></p><p>Just as EuroMaidan defended the interests of all Ukrainian citizens, it also defended the oligarchs. They too suffered from Viktor Yanukovych's autocratic tendencies, just like everyone else. </p><p>By November 2013, though, even the oligarch groups at the core of the Party of Regions had been isolated from most budget streams and influential government posts. But after Maidan, the oligarchs were able to acquire greater rights and opportunities than any other group in Ukraine. This acquisition was made possible by the fact that, as a group, oligarchs have been far more effective in the pursuit of their own interests when compared with any other group of post-Soviet society, formal or informal. At the same time, the conflicts emerging between the victors' political programmes, have also contributed to oligarchic acquisition.</p><p>To understand why oligarchs are so effective, one has to look at their creativity. Their ability to survive and expand their influence never fails to impress; their ability to corrupt any half-decent public initiative never fails to frighten.<span>&nbsp;</span></p><p>Consider the threat posed by the Privat group, headed by Ihor Kolomoisky. Today, this group owns one of Ukraine's biggest private banks (Privatbank), which has 19m customers, Ukraine's biggest TV Channel (1+1), as well as businesses in energy, retail, and many other sectors, dozens of Rada deputies, several governors and mayors.<span>&nbsp;</span></p><p>Having lost major holdings in Crimea and Donbas in 2014, the highly congenial Kolomoisky managed to retain and even enlarge his assets, all the while positioning himself as the saviour of Ukraine, creating a personal army in the form of volunteer battalions, and building his own fiefdom out of several regions in Ukraine's south east. Kolomoisky's creative potential is sizeable. And so is the danger he poses to the (as yet unborn) Third Ukrainian Republic.</p><h2>Caught between the Maidan and war</h2><p>For companies like Privat Group, the opportunity to grow and develop arose due to the conflict between the demands of Maidan and the demands of fighting a war in the East.</p><p>The Maidan programme is one of civil revolution, and is aimed at the restoration of the republic with its three branches of power, and distribution of authority between the centre and local communities; in other words, political pluralism. It entails a free economy with opportunities both for entrepreneurs and ordinary citizens. The Maidan programme is for fair and accessible justice, as well as high-quality healthcare, accessible to all. It is also about controlling the elites.<span>&nbsp;</span></p><p>The demands of war, on the other hand, require victory over separatists and foreign influence in Donbas, the restoration of national sovereignty, and territorial security. It requires the concentration of resources (economic and human), and involves autocratic rule, as well as unaccountable authorities. The programme of war requires that we limit not only the freedom of information, but personal freedoms, too.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/554750/7204220.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/554750/7204220.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Ukrainians bid farewell to fallen soldiers at Independence Square. (c) Nazar Furyk / Demotix. </span></span></span><br /><span>The conflict between these demands is shaping Ukraine's future development. And the principles of oligarchic rule have crept into the gaps between them.</span><span>&nbsp;</span></p><p><span class="pullquote-right">The conflict between Maidan and the conflict in Donbas is shaping Ukraine's future development.&nbsp;</span></p><h2>Oligarch republic</h2><p><span>Today, Ukraine is practically an oligarch republic. Several pro-Maidan businessmen (among them Arsen Avakov, now Interior Minister, and Serhiy Pashinsky, former head of the Presidential Administration) have taken charge of key power posts, and started building – what appears to be – their own oligarchic domains. But the oligarchic system remains incomplete. There are still people, whether in the parliament, executive, or the army, who don't see eye to eye with the oligarchs.</span></p><p>The recent law on shareholder groups demonstrates that these conflicting programmes can strengthen one another. The necessity of collecting taxes to defend the country can still force the parliament to pass a law, which increases economic transparency. The attempt to force Ukrtransnafta, Ukraine's largest state enterprise to pay taxes and dividends is an important first step in pushing back against the oligarchs in Ukraine.</p><p>This step reflects the fact that there is still a chance for reforms, to create a third republic. But for this we need to take key measures that would cut across the oligarchs' ability to control state enterprises, avoid paying taxes, and use the Rada and Cabinet of Ministers to further their own interests. The perspective of a new unprecedented wave of privatisation only increases the oligarch's appetite, as well as the risks for Ukrainian democracy. If the anti-corruption service currently under construction does not launch, the planned mass privatisation will once again lead to the hijacking of Ukraine's principal industries, and will benefit only a few families, who will later require political guarantees for their property. The prospect of oligarchic success becomes more and more likely every day.<span>&nbsp;</span></p><p>A clearer division between the private and public sector, or 'de-oligarchisation', is not the silver bullet to Ukraine's problems. But it will create the conditions for developing an effective and accountable government and parliament. Economic competition continues to grow, and the pressure on small businesses is receding. The current government has made several steps to make life simpler for small businessmen and the self-employed.</p><p>People's dependence on patron-client networks is also decreasing. Civic activism and the lack of funds in the state budget is already eroding the huge clientele of those Ukrainians who are dependent on the state budget. A new poverty has already arrived in Ukriane. And its impact is a shock for many households; a shock and a challenge to become more active and entrepreneurial. But the survival techniques of the 1990s are not only a sign of desperation, they are&nbsp;<span>an opportunity to try and be free once again. In a time of economic crisis and military conflict, the government cannot dedicate up to 43% of its budget to state employees (the so-called <em>byudzhetniki</em>) any more. The citizenry is doomed to be free.</span></p><p>If the current chance is lost, a new Maidan is unavoidable. But now, just as Ukraine is acquiring more and more experience of conflict, a future political crisis could be even more terrifying.</p><p><em>Editor's note: a version of this article appeared first in <a href="http://www.liga.net/opinion/227732_demarsh-kolomoyskogo-kak-rekviem-po-evromaydanu-.htm?no_mobile_version=yes">Russian </a>on <a href="http://www.liga.net/">Liga.net</a></em>.&nbsp;</p><p><em>Standfirst: Ukrainians pay tribute to fallen soldiers on Independence Square, Kyiv. (c) Nazar Furyk / Demotix.&nbsp;</em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/fabian-burkhardt/vying-for-influence-in-ukraine">Vying for influence in Ukraine</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/nicholas-ross-smith-zbigniew-dumie%C5%84ski/rethinking-eurasia%27s-future">Rethinking Eurasia&#039;s future</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/manuel-veth/empire-that-is-shakhtar-donetsk-fc">The empire that is Shakhtar Donetsk FC</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 3.0 </div> </div> </div> oD Russia oD Russia Mikhail Minakov Ukraine Justice Conflict Business & Economics Fri, 27 Mar 2015 12:32:57 +0000 Mikhail Minakov 91590 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Mikhail Minakov https://www.opendemocracy.net/content/mikhail-minakov <div class="field field-au-term"> <div class="field-label">Author:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Mikhail Minakov </div> </div> </div> <p>Mikhail Minakov is Associate Professor at Kyiv-Mohyla Academy and President of the Foundation for Good Politics, Kyiv. He is also visiting professor at the Institute for European Studies, Europa-Universitaet Viadrina<span>&nbsp;and editor-in-chief of the journal <em>Ideology and Politics</em>.&nbsp;</span></p><div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Article license:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 3.0 </div> </div> </div> Mikhail Minakov Fri, 27 Mar 2015 11:12:37 +0000 Mikhail Minakov 91592 at https://www.opendemocracy.net