Sunday, November 30, 2008

Orange fresh. Who is responsible for the failure of the Ukrainian democratic breakthrough of 2004?

Better late than never. Here is the topic I promised to write about yesterday, based on a letter of Joseph Gregg from San Antonio, Texas. Mr. Gregg is not a professional political analyst, but he is following the Ukrainian politics with a big interest. In the last two years he spent several months in Ukraine; he has also visited Russia a lot. In his letter addressed to me as an author of this web page, he expressed some thoughts about the President of Ukraine Viktor Yushchenko and the nature of failure of the Orange Revolution’ hopes and promises, and asked me for a follow-up opinion. At first, some quotations from the letter:

After the attempt on his life and subsequent events of Maidan, the goodwill of
the world was made available to him. Instead of promises delivered, he was
not interested in the running of the business of the country, only in its
ceremonial leadership with a tone of condescension. The shame is that
these things needed to be done are yet devalued by his other pernicious and ego
led actions. Convinced he is Messiah, he fails to notice no one longer

No matter whom you support, we are all embarrassed and diminished
by his actions to the PM. His latest protestations for her to
pay the Gazprom debt make him the lap dog of Medvedev at the expense of
every Ukrainian. It is as if he would gladly shout “Fire!" in a crowded
theater hoping someone might trample "the Braided One's" toes without even
momentary consideration of other lives that might be lost in the

The problems are huge, the solutions deceptively simple:
direct vote of the citizens for their representative to the VR; equality under
the law and the responsibility for it by elected officials and government
workers; a judiciary that is independent and righteous.

Let me start from the end. I agree that the problems Ukraine is facing today are huge, but the solutions are not as simple as it may seem. Ukraine is in need of deep structural reforms – yes, we have to improve our judicial system, but also we need structural economic reforms, new tax policy, land reform, changes in the model of local budgeting, re-building of a system of social security, new energy strategy, and a lot of other things, which are important and urgent. To accomplish these goals, first of all, we need the Parliament, which is able to work effectively. The experience of the last three years demonstrated that Ukraine will never get such a Parliament, using proportional system of vote – no matter, what kind of party list we would adopt (closed or open).

Ukrainian political parties do not have mass membership. They are built not on the values that have a strong public support, but around the charismatic leaders. “Batkivshchyna” party (and even Block of Yulia Tymoshenko) is nothing without Yulia Tymoshenko; the Party of Regions will break up without Viktor Yanukovych. The election of Viktor Yushchenko as an official leader of “Our Ukraine” is nothing more than an attempt to save the party, which is falling apart. All political system of Ukraine is highly corrupt, and even the essential democratic institutions like the Constitutional Court or Central Electoral Commission are fully packed with main parties’ protégés.

One of the public reasons of switching to the proportional voting system was the idea that it will help to build up a real party system in Ukraine. In fact, it just has led to the paralysing of the lawmaking branch of the state power. To cure that disease we should move back to majority vote – at least to give an opportunity for regional leaders to be present in the Verkhovna Rada, not selling themselves to any party (personality).

Next point I would like to mention concerns the President of Ukraine personally. I do not agree with people making from Viktor Yushchenko a kind of anti-hero, badly treating the country and innocent lady Prime Minister. For example, in the question of Russian Gazprom debt neither he nor she was an independent observer. The current non-transparent scheme of gas supply (and transit) in Ukraine was established after the Orange revolution, and was not changed in times when Yulia Tymoshenko was not a Prime Minister.

I agree that the ideals and promises of the Orange Revolution were ruined to a large extent because of Viktor Yushchenko personal weakness. Standing on Maydan, he declared that “criminals of Kuchma times” will be in prison, but in less than a half of a year he was shaking hands with people, whom he previously publicly called as thieves. In other words, he just failed to be tough with his opponents. The main problem of Viktor Yushchenko was that he talked a lot about the changes, but in fact didn’t change anything essentially. Except of his friends (the current team of Mr. Yushchenko is almost free from his comrades of Maydan times).

I want to believe that Viktor Yushchenko is a good person and a sincere patriot of Ukraine. But he is not good enough as the President. He would be a great leader of a country with well-developed democratic traditions, a country, which is not situated on the edge of geopolitical interests of the world powers. Ukraine is definitely not such a country. To govern Ukraine is a big challenge for every politician.

It’s easy to blame Viktor Yushchenko for political impotence. But let me remind that he wasn’t standing on Maydan alone. All the people leading the Orange Revolution are equally responsible for the weakness of today’s Ukraine. The leaders of the Orange revolution had a lot of nice-sounded slogans, but also a total absence of strategy on future governing. They asked us to shout, “Kuchma go away”, and “Yushchenko, yes!”, but in fact they didn’t even think, what to do after Leonid Kuchma would really go away. For almost four years the Orange leaders haven’t worked out a clear step-by-step plan on how to make Ukraine prosperous and democratic. They go on thinking how to get rid of each other. That’s the main problem of contemporary Ukraine. We are in terrible need of new fresh leaders who will end the deadlock. But there are no sigh of such a new movements. Just show me that growing-up centre of progress in Ukraine, and I will join this team.


elmer said...

Well, I was with you until the very end.

In fact, the Orange Coalition was built on a step-by-step plan, which included specific points, for example:

- eliminate parliamentary immunity ("one law for all")

- eliminate corruption

Yushchenko even had a program, "10 steps towards the people." He even fired all of the notoriously corrupt traffic police (whose practice is to demand bribes from automobile drivers - along with the practice of the people to pay them), and the head of the traffic police. The head of the traffic police was re-instated.

In other words, there was, or seemed to be, a specific set of points to build up the country. Tymoshenko even said "let Ukraine build the best government in the world."

But, as you point out, Yushchenko, and the others, failed to follow through.

Instead, today, Yushchenko relies on a thug like Baloha. How on earth did a corrupt punk like Baloha wind up in the Presidential Secretariat?!!!

Each time that there was an Orange Coalition, there was a written set of goals to accomplish.

But they blew it.

elmer said...

Tetyana, I think you wrote an excellent analysis.

But here's my question, in response to "we need new democratic leaders" to implement democracy:

don't the people in Ukraine need to know democracy as well?

Democracy is not just about voting for parliament, or voting for the president. It doesn't stop there.

It's also about understanding when there is a bad system in place, and demanding the implementation of changes to fix the problem.

Example - the party list system in Ukraine.

It leads to Yanukovych's son being a member of parliament, for no apparent reasons other than he's Yanukovych's son, and Akhmetov being a member of parliament, who never shows up, because he has people do that for him, and who use his electronic voting card for him.

It leads to the members of parliament not knowing who their constituents are, and simply representing the interests of a few oligarchs, as has been noted.

There's more.

But don't you think overall that the people in Ukraine need to be a bit better informed, a bit more educated about democracy?

Doesn't the electorate also have some responsibility?

Democracy can't just consist of waiting for a messiah who will do everything, who will put everything on a platter for the people.

Otherwise, the people just keep voting for the same old thugs.