Anton Dmytriiev https://www.opendemocracy.net/taxonomy/term/20308/all cached version 11/02/2019 08:41:09 en Why I didn’t vote in the Ukrainian local elections https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/anton-dmytriiev/why-i-didn-t-vote-in-ukrainian-local-elections <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/u554943/dmytriiev.jpg" alt="" width="80" /></p><p><span>Anton Dmytriiev, a journalist based in Kyiv, believes the recent elections in his country were pointless. <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia-3">на русском языке</a></span></p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span>I belong to that rare category of people who try to do something for their neighbourhood or their street off their own bat, although I work with the local authority on other issues. That’s why I didn’t vote in the local elections – I just didn’t see the point.</span></p><p>At the time of last year’s parliamentary elections, a lot of people felt sorry for me – after all, a few years ago I worked for Oleh Lyashko, who is now a prominent politician (leader of Ukraine’s Radical Party and former presidential candidate). And now that many of his assistants from back then are parliamentary deputies themselves, people were telling me I’d missed my chance.</p><p>But I believe it’s better to be free and to do what you want, rather than carrying out someone else’s orders, thinking only what you’re supposed to think and pretending to be enthusiastic about things you don’t agree with. So I decided to concentrate on journalism and start-ups, and leave politicking to others.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/8885012_0.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'>Polling station, Kyiv. (c) Maksim Kudymets / Demotix. </span></span></span><span>So what was the point of mentioning my time with Lyashko? The point is that I know many parliamentarians personally, know what they’re like as people, but I don’t want to vote, and won’t vote for them because I know why they’ve followed that path. I respect many politicians as people, but I’m not giving them my vote because they are not the people who make policies. They are either a ‘screen’ or an ‘entourage’ for those who place their own corrupt interests higher than those of the state or the public.</span></p><p><span>I also know many of the candidates for the local elections, and however much the various ‘alternative’ parties are trumpeted these days, none of these new or rehashed projects offer the voter anything really new.</span></p><p>The recent elections have one thing going for them: there have been a lot fewer old members re-elected to local councils. However, that doesn’t mean they have disappeared. It merely signals that the early parliamentary elections that are more and more likely will see an all out attempt by former president Yanukovych and his team to wrestle back the reins of power. </p><h2>Low turnout</h2><p>These elections had the lowest voter turnout of any since Ukraine gained independence with the collapse of the USSR. What can I say - I didn’t vote, and neither did dozens of people I know. But that’s no problem: it’s only in dictatorships that turnout is higher than 70-80%. So Ukrainians’ lack of interest in their local elections is, paradoxically, more a symptom of democracy than of apathy. </p><p class="mag-quote-right">The low turnout was a symptom of democracy, not apathy</p><p>But why were we all so turned off by this year’s elections? Thinking about myself and asking around my friends, I have come to three main conclusions. </p><p>Firstly, they didn’t coincide with parliamentary or presidential elections; fewer people bothered to vote because they were less important. </p><p>Secondly, the parties’ election campaigns were the least interesting for many years. Looking at many candidates, you felt like phoning the nearest psychiatric clinic to ask them to come and collect their patients. Most parties and candidates showed no creativity and had nothing new to say – even their publicity material was dull. The only emotion that any of them could awake in the electorate was disgust at their pathetic campaigns. </p><p>The third reason was that there was just nothing new – no new faces, no new policies and no vision for the future. Most party lists were full of people voters had already protested against, and whom they regarded as corrupt gangsters. But money triumphed, and so our local councils will be packed for the next four years with characters who should really be behind bars. And the big parties have totally failed to grasp a key trend – a demand for the renewal and public creation of engines of social mobility. </p><h2>Words can’t replace actions</h2><p>I, for example, am involved in LGBT issues, local social problems and urban planning. Not one party or candidate in the elections had anything sensible to say on these issues. And if you ask mayoral candidates in the big cities about them, you probably won’t get any answer. Ukrainian local government is incapable of solving local problems. </p><p>That is the trouble with the parties and politicians, even the young ones. We can all, of course, write clever comments, get worked up and discuss global issues on Facebook and Twitter, but let’s face it, social networks are pretty much the diametrical opposite of reality.</p><p>It’s one thing to produce memes, viral video clips and quirky ads, but it’s quite another to have proper policies on replacing slums with new, comfortable housing, or how and where to create car parks or create an accessible environment for disabled people and so on. And most of the people who have acquired some political power have little more clue than your average armchair orator. </p><p>Also, a peculiarity of Ukrainian politics is the fact that all parties and groups are identified first and foremost with their leaders. So everyone knows the number one candidate on a party list, but few have any idea about candidates further down the list, even in the top twenty. And this creates an unnecessary mystique, conspiratorial feeling and suspicion of this corrupt circle. </p><p>Naturally, I will not vote for people and things that I don’t trust, and nor will most of my friends.</p><p>I am, of course to open to criticism for ignoring the elections and then moaning about the bastards that rule us and why they don’t listen to us. But I have known these ‘bastards’ for years and encountered them in enough situations to know that it makes no difference whether we elect them or somebody else. Power, alas, is an intoxicant that makes people forget their promises, vital concerns and future projects. </p><h2>Ineptitude and indifference</h2><p>You can also look at the pointlessness of the recent elections in terms of renewal of local elites. This hasn’t happened and won’t happen, because of both the voters’ political immaturity and the politicians’ love of buying votes, rigging results and doing shady deals. </p><p>I, for example, come from Zaporizhia, in south-eastern Ukraine. This is a city where chaos has always ruled, no matter who is in power, and this suits the populace fine. They are happy to vote for anyone who will buy them free dinners and promises of a bright future, or simply a day off work. </p><p>The choice there was between a stooge of Ukraine’s richest citizen and an official who just mimics him in everything. Neither of them have any idea about how to fix the drains, campaign for clean air or get the trams and trolleybus services working properly. But everyone voted for them anyway. </p><p>Or take Lviv. It looks like the old cities of Western Europe and the tourists love it, but what’s it like to live in? I, as someone who lives in Kyiv, don’t like Lviv for its infrastructure problems, especially with transport and communications. None of the previous mayors have been able to sort this out, and nor has the current incumbent – but he still got re-elected. </p><p>The mayors of Kharkiv and Odesa will also probably keep their jobs. This is not because of what they have done for their cities: life has not improved there in the last few years; in fact the opposite is true – constant acts of terrorism in Odesa and an unstable situation in Kharkiv have done nothing to attract investment or positive attention to these cities, and their mayors have not made enough of an effort to resolve conflicts. </p><p><span>As for Kyiv, Mayor Vitaly Klitschko (and indeed the mayors of Ukraine’s other large cities) had no fear of rivals. The feeling one gets is that the parliamentary parties agreed in advance who would head the country’s key cities, so there was no real contest. In football, this kind of thing is known as ‘match fixing’ and is a serious infringement of the rules, and the perpetrators end up in court.</span></p><p>Most local parties and politicians have no strategies or agendas to offer, let alone mechanisms for solving problems, and they either concentrate on national issues which are outside the competence of local authorities or fall back on empty party slogans. </p><p>I was also struck by the fact that for the first time a widespread and active system of open voter bribery was in operation; parties and candidates didn’t even bother to hide it, as they knew they could do it with impunity. </p><p>In other words Ukrainians, like most of the peoples of the post-Soviet space, have once again believed the populists and completely repudiated the values of the Euromaidan Revolution of 2013-4 and European principles of local government organisation. Most of our citizens, alas, have become no wiser and have not learned to see elections as a contest of ideas and real political programmes. People choose slogans, not concrete issues and visions.</p><p>To make matters worse, Ukraine, with the active support of Switzerland, Sweden and Germany, is now undergoing a process of decentralisation. The danger here is that having elected a crowd of corrupt and populist politicians onto local councils, the voters have now entrusted them with greater powers and greater control of their budgets. So in the next four years these lovers of populism will pay a high price, out of their own pockets, for this fraudulent election, and will no longer be able to blame Kyiv or neighbouring countries for it. The imminent return of feudalism and spread of corruption will not be the fault of the president or parliament, but of the voters themselves (or those that bothered to vote). </p><p>Anyone who voted for any party needs to be aware of what their council actually does. Local government is not responsible for legal reforms, the army or police, the rooting out of political corruption or other problems that the candidates swore to solve on their election posters. Local elections and local councils are basically responsible for solving the local problems of their local population – that is the main point of local government. </p><p>But ironically, this particular point is of no importance to Ukrainian politicians and voters.</p><p>This is why I don’t vote: I don’t want to have to choose between one populist or gangster and another; I don’t see a single political agenda that focuses on local issues and I haven’t seen any candidate putting any real effort into improving peoples’ lives and the places where they live. And I am genuinely sorry for those who have yet again handed their villages, towns and districts over to kleptocrats, demagogues and dreamers.</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/vitaly-dudin/ukraine%E2%80%99s-labour-reforms-threaten-its-already-precarious-workers">Ukraine’s labour reforms threaten workers&#039; rights</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 Anton Dmytriiev Queer Russia Ukraine Politics Thu, 29 Oct 2015 12:18:53 +0000 Anton Dmytriiev 97232 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Anton Dmytriiev https://www.opendemocracy.net/content/anton-dmytriiev <div class="field field-au-term"> <div class="field-label">Author:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Anton Dmytriiev </div> </div> </div> <p>Anton Dmytriiev is a Ukrainian journalist and communications specialist. He works with several Ukrainian media platforms, such as <a href="espreso.tv">espreso.tv</a> and iPress, as well as independent Russian talk radio station <a href="echo.msk.ru">Echo Moscow</a>. He is particularly interested in urban transformation and LGBT rights.</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 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Anton Dmytriiev Thu, 08 Oct 2015 09:36:48 +0000 Anton Dmytriiev 96652 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Why Ukraine needs its own Harvey Milk https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/anton-dmytriiev/why-ukraine-needs-its-own-harvey-milk <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/u554943/dmytriiev.jpg" alt="Daniele Rumolo.jpg" width="80" />On 25 October, Ukraine will vote in local elections where not a single openly gay candidate will stand. The country’s LGBT movement and public<span>&nbsp;conservatism are both to blame. </span><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/антон-дмитриев/почему-украине-необходим-свой-собственный-харви-милк">на русском языке</a></p> </div> </div> </div> <p>Right now, the Ukrainian media is full of stuff about how there are several active gay organisations around—active like there’s no tomorrow. At the same time, we hear about how it’s all doom and gloom:&nbsp;<span>it’s</span><span>&nbsp;generally time to split.</span></p><p><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/devin-ackles/ukraine%E2%80%99s-european-integration">We’re supposed to be fighting for European values</a>, but only on the initiative of a few individual politicians and NGOs. It’s a planned spontaneous battle. It seems we were there on the Maidan together, fought the&nbsp;<span>‘</span><span>terrorists</span><span>’</span><span>&nbsp;together in eastern Ukraine, but neither the public nor the government has any values or impetus for change.</span></p><p>This month, <a href="http://www.osce.org/odihr/elections/ukraine/177906">people in Ukraine go to the polls to elect local government bodies</a>. Across Europe, and the Atlantic,&nbsp;<span>openly gay and lesbian mayors and local councillors have been elected in</span><span>&nbsp;post-Soviet Poland and Czech Republic, in Germany and France, in libertarian northern Europe and Mexico. As for transgender people, Anna Grodska is a member of the Polish Sejm, Vladimir Luksuria has been a member of the Italian parliament and even in Cuba Adela Hernandez won a seat in the national assembly.</span></p><p>That is what is meant by openness, freedom, LGBT political activism and a mature society. Even in communist Cuba. </p><p>Things are very different in democratic Ukraine. We spend our time being amazed at other people’s projects – bad mouthing and passing judgement on them – rather than creating our own. It’s so much easier to copy the history of Europe or the USA than come up with something for ourselves. </p><p class="pullquote-right">It’s much easier to copy European or US history than come up with something for ourselves.</p><p>Of course, it’s much more important to sit twiddling our thumbs or publicly campaign for things that nobody really cares about than to do something really earthshaking. </p><p>Dreaming about changing the world as we play in our sandpit is so much easier than trying to actually do it. </p><h2>Potemkin villages </h2><p>Let<span>’</span><span>s start with copying: </span><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/denis-gorbach/struggle-for-progressive-politics-in-ukraine">during Gay Pride in Kyiv</a><span> this summer, there was a lot of talk about Harvey Milk, the first openly gay person to be appointed to public office in the USA in 1977. But what's important here is that this only happened eight years after the Stonewall Riots in New York. During those years, the American public had gradually become aware of LGBT rights.</span></p><p>Milk served just 11 months in office in San Francisco, but in that time he sponsored an important anti-LGBT discrimination law for the city, and prevented the passing of a discriminatory amendment to Californian state law. This campaigning led to the assassination of Milk&nbsp;<span>along with San Francisco’s mayor George Moscone</span><span>&nbsp;in 1978.</span></p><p>Now here’s a question: how many Ukrainian and Russian gay activists – not just ordinary guys but the ones that give media interviews, lead organisations and spend grant money – were assassinated in 1991 when the Soviet Union collapsed?&nbsp;<span>The answer is: none.</span></p><p>Do you know why? Because none of these gay activists and their organisations present any threat whatsoever to public life, the government or the ethical values of any part of the population, and nor do they bring anything new to the political or everyday life of their fellow Ukrainians. </p><p class="pullquote-right">None of our gay activists or organisations present any threat to our public life or government.</p><p>This is not to say that people should aim for martyrdom,. But it’s all very simple – not one gay rights organisation represents the interests and hopes of even 1,000 people. It can aspire to this, but in Ukraine, more often than not, NGOs (including LGBT ones) are like Potemkin villages – pure facades, set up to satisfy somebody’s own personal interests. </p><p>To put it another way, if our conservative society fails to react to the ideas and proposals of LGBT activists, this is because these ideas and projects never reach beyond the offices of a niche social group. It’s all just a simulation of frenzied activity. </p><p>You can read on social media about this or that gay activist receiving a grant to travel abroad, organising a training workshop or once again upsetting the Orthodox Church hierarchy. But has any of this done anything to reduce public hostility to people of another ethnicity, religion or sexual orientation? Not one bit!</p><p>What have gay rights activists done to break the stereotypes created in people’s minds by the politicians, our national culture and the media? Nothing. </p><h2>The capital effect doesn’t even work in Kyiv</h2><p>Of course, it's cool to live in Kyiv, organise parades, processions, festivals and cultural activities. But it won’t change public attitudes to anything. And sitting round a table in some official building and discussing some law that no one takes any notice of is even more absurd, given Ukrainians almost total disregard for any law. </p><p>It’s a truism that, in any post-Soviet country, the capital is completely unrepresentative of the place as a whole. This is the case in Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan and, naturally, Ukraine as well. So until we have gay parades in Kharkiv, Donetsk, Lviv and Odesa we can’t talk about an organised movement and activism. </p><p>Talking of Odessa: its governor, <a href="http://www.rferl.org/content/ukraine-odesa-bans-gay-pride-festival/27189482.html">the ‘great democrat’ Mikheil Saakishvili banned a Gay Pride parade</a>&nbsp;in Odessa earlier this year, causing a storm of protest from Europe and the US. There are basically two explanations for this. In the first place, back when Saakishvili was president of Georgia, he refused to allow gay parades in Tbilisi. In 2013, <a href="https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2013/05/georgia-homophobic-violence-mars-tbilisi-pride-event/">the first Gay Pride event to take place in Georgia (after his resignation) was disrupted by homophobic violence</a>. In the second, the organisers of the Odessa event were not a broad group, but a dubious organisation with a dubious past. </p><p>All this had predictable consequences: an Odessa court banned the parade; gay groups complained about censorship and curtailment of their rights; the EU and the US embassy sent messages of support, and both radicals and church authorities had another chance to pronounce that LGBT and Odesa were incompatible. </p><p>Everyone, in short, was happy and got what they wanted – apart from the public and gay people themselves. </p><h2>Harvey Milk and the local elections </h2><p>Many LGBT activists, thanks to their close relations with the centres of power, have connections with and are known in political circles. People from president Petro Poroshenko’s political bloc even took part in the Gay Pride parade in Kyiv in June this year, and Poroshenko himself said he would not interfere with the event. But will we see the first real gay and lesbian candidates at the real local elections? Far from it.&nbsp;</p><p>The simplest explanation of this is that Ukraine's political parties are conservative. They have no desire to sully their unblemished image by consorting with members of the LGBT community. But that’s a double lie: the parties’ reputations are less than spotless, and they would be happy to welcome gays and lesbians, but only<span>&nbsp;if the activists were real activists, involved in advocacy campaigns and lobbying. There is no problem about coming to an agreement with a party or an individual politician – it’s just a question of social impact and the influence of the activist.</span></p><p>However, the fact that a gay activist who works as an aide to a parliamentary deputy close to Yulia Tymoshenko can’t even stand as a candidate in a local or municipal election is an indicator of his social worth and his organisation’s influence, even at local level. </p><p>As it happens, in Kyiv nobody will stop a gay candidate from standing for mayor. Again, it’s the capital effect: there have been openly gay mayors in Paris and Berlin, and the mayor of London, Boris Johnson, although he’s not gay, is a far cry from the grey bureaucrats of eastern Europe. But Kyiv hasn’t produced any colourful candidates. </p><p>And would the armchair and Facebook activists have the guts to follow in Harvey Milk’s footsteps not only in inspiring tens of thousands of his fellow Americans, but in sharing his tragic fate? </p><p>This is the main problem for Ukraine’s LGBT community: most of those who call themselves its leaders would rather sit in their armchairs, speak at meaningless conferences and dispute with the perennially conservative Orthodox Church. This is the vicious circle of LGBT activism in Ukraine. </p><p class="pullquote-right">The leaders of Ukraine’s LGBT community would rather sit in their armchairs and speak at meaningless conferences.</p><p>All the members of our organisations are also terrified of being murdered, as Milk was. For in spite of all the assurances it gives the west, the Ukrainian public’s level of tolerance has not noticeably risen in the last few years – indeed, if anything it has fallen. </p><p>Of course, it is easy enough to condemn some politician who makes a provocative demand for a ban on abortion or the criminalisation of single-sex relationships – this is in fact what most Ukrainians do, and they even derive some sado-masochistic pleasure from it. </p><p>But at the same time the self-appointed leaders of our country’s gay movement are incapable of standing for election openly, as members of our community, at even a local level. Many of the activists that I know hide their fear and impotence behind protests that they ‘are destined for higher things’ and are aiming for membership of the Verkhovna Rada, the national parliament. What of it, they ask, that Harvey Milk started small? We Ukrainians can make it to the top in one go. </p><p>So why bother, then, with the activism and bravery, or the human rights and awareness-raising activity that all these LGBT groups engage in? Is it to raise their leaders, on the bones and wounds, the stigma and discrimination experienced by thousands of gay men and lesbians, to their desired lofty place in a high-ceilinged cabinet in the corridors of power? Why? </p><p>To satisfy their own egotism and prove to themselves that all their demonstrative but worthless efforts for the LGBT movement can be transformed into not only money, but real power. Power for power’s sake. </p><h2>Ukraine can’t reproduce western LGBT movements </h2><p>That’s it. In Europe and the USA the battle for gay rights was always accompanied by radicalism and frequent violence (both justified and otherwise) on the part of all sides in the conflict. It was also gradual and attracted members of different social groups. And public opinion was often swayed by openly provocative actions by LGBT activists and groups, especially at local level. </p><p>Ukrainians will never hear sexual minority voices, selectively transmitted through their somewhat amorphous LGBT organisations, simply because these prefer intrigue, backroom deals, alienation from processes, arrogance and non-interference to confrontation and real activism.</p><p>In other words, LGBT groups, instead of fighting for their rights, continue their mere semblance of activity: talking about draft laws, amendments, decisions, constitutional changes and other bits of waste paper. None of this has any connection with the real world and real people – the law here has never shaped how things actually happen.</p><p><span>In the 24 years since Ukraine became an independent country, o</span>ur gay activists, living in their imaginary, mythical world, have found themselves unable to organise an open and bold political campaign, to show that Ukraine could produce a gay mayor or parliamentary deputy. </p><p class="pullquote-right">Thousands of LGBT Ukrainians are still forced to lead a double life and live in fear.</p><p>Meanwhile, thousands of LGBT people in Ukraine are still forced to lead a double life and live in fear, just because the people who call themselves their leaders are even more cowardly, unself-sufficient and dependent on foreign grants. </p><p>These activists and organisations are no use to Ukraine. They don’t help it become better, and think broadly and globally. We need to take our cues from Harvey Milk.</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/nadzeya-husakouskaya/sex-change-commission-in-ukraine">The sex change commission in Ukraine</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 4.0 </div> </div> </div> oD Russia oD Russia Anton Dmytriiev Queer Russia Rights for all Thu, 08 Oct 2015 08:45:31 +0000 Anton Dmytriiev 96650 at https://www.opendemocracy.net