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Democracy Watch, 2011 - Issue 19

06-30-2011 10:43 AM CET | Politics, Law & Society

Press release from: People First Foundation

With Party of Regions focused on election law in the quest for power, an opposition member is commended in Europe. As Ukraine remains frozen on the topic of corruption, the President tries to offset debt with investment in sport.

Proposed election rule changes would secure total dominance for the governing party

The website of the Ministry of Justice has recently published an updated draft of legislation governing the protocol of parliamentary elections – including the parliamentary elections of 2012. It is worth remembering that both the National Democratic Institute (NDI) and the International Republican Institute (IRI) have opted out of the advisory group on account of the governments repeated disregard for recommendations from foreign organisations.

The latest adaptations introduce a mixed-member proportional system, increasing the minimum required threshold for representation from 3% to 5% and the excluding political blocs from all elections. The legislation also removes the ‘none of the above’ option form voting ballots. Political observers have noted that the new legislation is likely to result in only 3 or 4 parties ever making it into Parliament – effectively removing the majority of Party of Regions competitors. Also the protest electorate, which now accounts for over 10%, will lose the ability to register dissatisfaction with their political options – raising the likelihood of street protests.

Total government control over the election of half of the deputies in majority constituencies would mean certain death for Ukrainian parliamentarianism and does not bode well for democracy.

People First Comment:

Red flags on Veterans Day… legislative engineering that may well result in a one party state… next thing you know they will have us all singing Sovietsky Soyuz as the national anthem. What is so incredulous about these attempts to retain to power at all cost is that Party of Regions seem to think that we and the rest of the intelligent world will not notice. One does have to question the intellectual basis for this legislation and their seemingly unending arrogance. “We understand… you want all the power and all the responsibility of government for the next few decades so that only you can rob the nation blind. You don’t have to dress it up in quasi democracy.” A coup is a coup irrespective of whether it is by the military or by creeping legislation.

Further more we have to ask just who is going to vote in these sham elections or perhaps it won’t matter as those in power will most likely rig the result. To refuse the people the right to say “no”, to falsify the elections and to prevent any form of protest vote is an objective all Ukrainians understand regardless of their political affiliation. But the governing elite and the opposition fail to realise that even the sands of Sahara will not hide them in the new globalised world. Ukraine surprise the world with its slave-like resignation and disorganisation as is currently epitomised by an opposition whose only recent achievement is capitulation and a government that has everything but is so disinclined to care for the country and its people.

Ukraine: punch-drunk with corruption

Several international organisations believe that Ukraine is losing the fight against corruption. According to the latest report from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Ukraine has failed to implement the plan for fighting corruption, which is likely to have a negative impact on its investment potential. The report primarily attributes the issue to the lack of an independent state body tasked with investigating corruption, in addition to legislative loopholes regarding conflicts of interest in public service and the lack of transparency in budget spending.

The GRECO (Group of States Against Corruption) evaluation is similarly negative. Not only did they feel it necessary to reiterate their previous concerns over the lack of substance in anti-corruption legislation, but also highlighted 13 areas of inconsistency between Ukrainian legislation and European legal standards. The final assessment of Ukraine’s ‘war’ against corruption was delivered by the head of the Delegation of the European Commission to Ukraine, Jose Manuel Pinto Teixeira, who noted that Ukraine had made no progress whatsoever in its fight against corruption in 2010.
At the same time President Yanukovich has signed a number of anti-corruption decrees that will prevent $2.5 bln. from escaping Ukraine’s budget.

We can only hope that the President comes to understand the depth of the issue, and the extent to which it threatens his country.

People First Comment:

It would be great to think that the government are taking the issue of corruption seriously as it is costing the nation millions and increasing the cost of living way beyond realistic proportion. But such a 180 degree change seems highly unlikely. In an ideal world the Ukrainian authorities would fly down to Georgia and learn just how to do the job properly but this again is highly unlikely as at present, even 20 years after the breakdown of the USSR, too may of the party faithful have their fingers in the till. But their may well be a half way method that could have massive social and political benefits.

Corruption at the very top in reality has very little impact on the majority of society. It’s all the mid level corruption that bleeds wallets and breed social discontent. If the administration were to create legislation to clean up all the petty corruption and put in place anti corruption units within the SBU to root it out and prosecute the perpetrators then this would be seen as a step in the right direction. Cleaning up the militia would earn the government respect from just about every motorist exactly as it did in Georgia, cleaning up the tax police and customs service would have the same effect on business and investors and appease just about every SME owner, cleaning up the fire department and local administrations would speed up property development… the list is endless. Such a campaign would practically guarantee a second term for the President without the need for rigged elections and, more importantly, would provide him with a personal safety net for when his term comes to an end… as end it will.

An opposing Ukrainian voice is accepted into the heart of European politics

The recent appointment of Boris Tarasyuk to European power structures offer new channels of communication between Europe and Ukraine. Commenting on the appointment Jerzy Buzek, President of the European Parliament, mentioned that Euronest's main objective in all actions is to strengthen the fundamental democratic principles and values among member-countries. He hopes to establish an exchange of experience among Eastern Partnership countries in the sphere of democracy, human rights and the rule of law. The European Parliament also views Euronest as a tool for the leverage of integration in the political and economic spheres, particularly beneficial in negotiations over the Association agreement and visa liberalisation. Euronest has appeared at a time of growing anti-democratic activity in almost all of the Eastern Partnership countries – not least including Ukraine.

People First Comment:

They say that the best game keepers are all former poachers so perhaps there is some logic in Borys Tarasuk’s appointment, however the former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine has never been noted for is democratic credentials or his ability to influence anything of note in Ukraine.

This appointment can only be taken as further evidence of Europe’s growing concern over the state of democracy on their Eastern border and is an attempt to further isolate Kyiv in the event that nothing is achieved. Setting up an exchange of experience amongst Eastern Partnership countries will be a very one sided approach for all but Georgia who is the only former Soviet Block nation to truly break free from the past. All the rest seem locked into sovietism and corruption which will only change once the inevitable passage of time replaces the ‘sovietique’ with more liberated and more open minds.

Will turning Ukraine into the sports centre of Europe save the country from terminal debt?
President Yanukovych recently announced his intention for Ukraine to enter the bid to host the Winter Olympic Games in 2022. This announcement comes in the wake of Ukraine’s application to host the European basketball championship and a recent statement from the organising committee of Euro-2012 that all required infrastructure developments would be completed by the end of the year and that the costs, currently estimated at 8.3 billion dollars, would not increase further.

At the same time the Ukrainian public remains sceptical of the value of Euro-2012 to the country. Verkovna Rada Vice-speaker Mykola Tomenko commented that preparations for Euro-2012 have turned into a major business support campaign and noted that the national budget this year fails to provide any funding for youth sports in education establishments, whilst in Poland such programmes are supported on an on-going basis. According to experts Euro-2012 will bring nothing to Ukraine other than a couple of new stadiums and refurbished airport terminals. According to experts Euro-2012 will bring nothing to Ukraine other than a couple of stadiums and some refurbished airport terminals. Also Ukrainian roads will not be improved as predicted, as government officials explained: "UEFA does not have strict requirements for the condition of roads." Ukraine is unlikely to compensate for the developments expenses with a tourism boom due to its minimal choice of hotels and higher than European average prices.

With the current expenses for Euro-2012 included Ukraine’s external debt has again risen by 0.206 billion dollars and now accounts for record breaking 56.411 billion dollars.

People First Comment: In case anybody hasn’t noticed you do need a heavy and consistent annual snowfall to even qualify as a possible host of a Winter Olympics… that is unless you have somehow cornered the market in sugar frosting or snow making machines. Whilst the Carpathian Mountains are quite beautiful they rarely have enough snow for even the smallest of skiing industries let alone enough for an Olympic games. However there is a good deal of money to be made from cutting down the forest and selling off the land plots to build dachas for the elite and perhaps they will even be able to get the IMF to lend them the money to cover the cost.

To say that UEFA does not have a need for upgraded roads defies all logic as the sole purpose of spending all this money was to leave behind national assets that would be of benefit to the people of Ukraine. Somebody really should advise the authorities that this country is virtually bankrupt. Spending $8.3 billion on Euro2012, without any infrastructural benefits, is verging on the obscene. Quite how these finances have been managed defies description as South Africa spent half this amount on the World Cup and the nation got 10 new and refurbished stadiums, airports, motorways and business infrastructure. All Ukraine seems to have acquired for this hefty sum is a couple of new stadia, some very nice metro station seats and a couple of very expensive portable toilets.

The GDP is going backwards, the education system is looking backwards, the SME sector is teetering on the edge of collapse, few new jobs have been created and just in case nobody has noticed 78% of the population are on the verge of real and desperate poverty. The parallels between the public distractions of ‘Nero’s’ Rome and current day Ukraine are growing horribly similar and one should remember just how easily empires fall.

Quote of the week:

There is nothing mysterious about the foundations of a healthy and strong democracy. The basic things expected by our people of their political and economic system are simple. They are:
Equality of opportunity for youth and others;
Jobs for those who can work;
Security for those who need it;
The ending of the special privileges for the few;
The preservation of civil liberties for all;
The enjoyment of the fruits of scientific progress in a wider and constantly rising standard of living.

Franklin D. Roosevelt
The 32nd President of the United States (1933-1945)

Democracy Watch is the weekly monitor of the People First Foundation and serves to raise public awareness of how government and parliamentary action is impacting upon Ukrainian democracy and democratic due process. The information is copyright free and may be reproduced but we ask that any comments are reproduced in full and with reference to the People First Foundation.

People First Foundation
1 Skovorody Street, Kyiv 04070, Ukraine
Telephone: +38044 536 1508 / Fax +38044 536 1509

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