Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Challenges for the new president

I liked this article written the day after the final round of the presidential elections by Viktoria Syurmar in 'U.P.' I've roughly translated portions below:

"On the first day after the presidential elections there are several challenges for Ukraine which have to be addressed otherwise the country will not develop, at least within its existing borders.

Challenge 1. Acceptance of the results

This will indicate whether Ukraine is a stable and democratic country. After the last five years national politicians have to understand that exchange of seats of power is the norm after elections and defeat is not the end of the world.

Fear of losing power should not mean a fear of punishment of loss of assets, but while this fear exists every change of power will carry a serious risk of physical confrontation. However, the more examples of peaceful transfer of power take place without a redistribution of property the faster these fears, which are are exaggerated in current times, will diminish.

Challenge 2. Political co-operation and arrangements for improved economic performance

The biggest problem faced by any new government will be in tackling the economic crisis. Effective prescriptions to overcome it are known and are common to both leading political camps.

The main branches of traditional industry will not pull the country out of crisis - the structure of the economy has to be reformed to encourage small and medium business, and the domestic market has to be reformed and redirected for increased consumption of domestic products. This will require a number of major economic decisions and the support of parliament. The ruling authorities must learn to share and not seek to introduce a monopoly of power by one political force, as this will automatically result in growth of opposition and further instability, making any reform impossible.
Taking power must not be a means of obtaining access to resources and tools merely for benefitting individuals' own business interests. This is a serious test for 'Regionaly' - if they did not pass it the next wave of the economic crisis will be their downfall.

If the government and parliament, instead of working for coherent economic reforms, engages in division and distribution of powers, as traditionally happens, neither this government nor this parliament will remain in being for long. As a result, in the current situation, being in power will be significantly less comfortable than in opposition.

Challenge 3. Politics of balance for improvement of the country's unity

Analysis of the 2010 election voting results show, once again, the country split - any abrupt steps may just break the country in half. The unexpectedly small gap between Yanukovych and Tymoshenko may be the result of rash statements on the introduction of Russian as a second state language by the former in the interval between the first and final voting round. Any attempts to introduce such measured during his period of leadership could even cost him his chair.

A complication for Yanukovich is that as president he will have to manage Ukraine not from Donetsk, but from Kyiv, a city he never really understood. [In the capital he received 25% of votes cast, compared to Tymoshenko's 65%. An astonishing 8% took the trouble of going to the polling station on a freezing cold February day and voting 'against all' - LEvko]

In the capital he cannot rule as he did in Donetsk. Any attempt to apply pressure or acts of repression, or to redistribute property will cause social unrest. At the same time it is also clear that Yanukovych will have to pay attention to his own voters too, otherwise he risks losing them as did Viktor Yushchenko and Oleksandr Moroz over the last few years. They were not forgiven for making agreements with Yanukovych.

Politics requires a balance of wisdom and political maturity. Success will only be achieved if and when both parts of society will understand any new government's policies.

Learning how to talk to the community is one of the first tasks to be mastered by the new president. He has to learn to explain the need to compromise to preserve unity, the need to "tighten belts" for the sake of stimulating the economy, the need to negotiate with various political forces, and to share power for the benefit of the country.

Whether he understands this will be revealed by his decision to attend or not attend an open forum initiated by dozens of NGOs in the near future. This will be the first test of openness and willingness to communicate with his people. Otherwise, the newly elected president will soon realise what a crisis of confidence is, and what threats it poses in times of economic crisis.

Challenge 4. Reforms to the political system

The large number who voted "against all" [in large cities up to 7-8%] exposed a serious crisis of confidence in all political forces and the current political system in general.

Many Ukrainian politicians are cut off from the Ukrainian society - they live their separate lives according to their own rules while the rest of society live their lives governed by different rules. Ukrainians have learned that they can solve many problems on their own, such as problems associated with their own homes and streets, either individually, or collectively in civic housing associations etc.

Despite the highly centralized budget system, local government today is more efficient than central government.

Similarly, Ukrainian businesses are alive and developing not because of, but rather despite the actions of the state. These businesses have learned to maintain social, civic and educational projects to the benefit of the country's development.

Ukrainians have learned to associate in professional associations and lobby effectively for their own interests. Despite the fact that Ukraine has outdated and ineffective laws on public associations, such associations are growing in number and are becoming more effective in protecting the interests of their members and society.

Non-governmental organizations, primarily competing for grants, have now learned to associate and work together for changes in the country. Active citizens from different social backgrounds together in various clubs and platforms and are looking for answers to questions on the development of society. These changes occuring in society are more progressive than what's going on in politics, which stuck at the level of banal populism and circus-like political television shows.

At the same time the Ukrainian politicum is an extraordinary closed shop. For new independent thinking people with radically new ideas to enter is impossible under the current electoral system

Any closed system without refreshment is doomed so either politicians realize this, reform themselves and introduce new appoaches to the process of governance, or they will be carried away by the energy that is now maturing in the depths of society.

p.s. At time of writing, with only just over 0.5% of votes to be counted and trailing by just over 3% Tymoshenko has refused to concede and will be challenging the election result in the courts.

No comments: