Monday, December 26, 2011

Corruption and Authoritarianism

Below is a precis of Vitaly Portnikov's latest blog in 'Korrespondent'

After last week's failure to initial the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement, Viktor Yanukovych has tried to put on a brave face on this foreign policy debacle.

Initialing the text of the documents may eventually take place in the months to come, but signing and ratification of the agreement by the parliaments of EU countries members in the current circumstances is just a pipe dream.

Clear conditions have been set by the EU in order to move the Ukraine's Euro-integration forward.

Not only does there have to be a stop the judicial system being used to prosecute the president's main political rivals, but the next elections have to be seen to be fair.

Fair elections in this context means unfettered participation by the opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko. This is not just about the decriminalization of articles used to convict her, but about the creation of conditions under which her name can appear in the ballot. And, of course, the government has to ensure voting and counting procedures are 'squeaky clean'.

Given that preparations for falisification are now in full swing, [without them the current ruling coterie cannot retain their power and income] further integration with the European Union can be put back for several years, if not forever.

The summit which has just taken place illustrates what happens when government agencies and institutions exist, but the state itself is absent. There is a president, but he is not really concerned with the public interest, only with his own well-being, residences, hunting lodges, helicopters, and his sons' success.

There is a government, but it comprises billionaires who are concerned only about their own security and the prosperity of their businesses. Most of the deputies in parliament share the same concerns so parliament's role is not to legislate, but exists for other purposes. There are courts, but no-one would turn to them in the hope of a fair decision. Law enforcement agencies exist but their aim is to fulfill the wishes of those in power or to provide cover for groups related to them. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs can prepare agreements with foreign counterparts, but their diplomatic work is frequently in vain because of insurmountable political obstacles.

The state should primarily be about values and social control over its agencies and institutions. Neither one nor the other is apparent in Ukrainian society. That is why Ukrainian citizens continue to vote for 'big chiefs', not political ideals and economic programs - and when they become disenchanted with them they feverishly search for new messiahs.

That is why very few people in Ukraine, from the President down to an ordinary citizen, can understand what these pernickety Europeans want from them.

To release Tymoshenko? What do they want her for? - It is costing them closer ties with Ukraine. Surely it is not worth pushing Yanukovych into Russian arms for her? And was the Ukrainian judicial system less politically dependent and corrupt before the arrest Tymoshenko ? These are the questions being asked by authors of internet blogs, by opposition politicians, and propagandists for the power structures. And just setting these questions demonstrates the extent of their non-Europeaness.

There is no doubt, corruption exists in the judiciary in many countries; their dependence on the authorities can be seen in some of the new members of the European Union.

But it is quite another thing when this relationship is used to clear the political field of battle and establish an authoritarian regime. Whatever anyone may say, this is the first time this has happened in Ukraine.

Neither Tymoshenko at the time of her first arrest in 2001, nor Boris Kolesnikov nor Yevgen Kushnaryov in 2005 were leading political figures. Their detentions could give rise to resentment or excuses could be made for them, but it did not fundamentally change the situation in the country. That is why the West reacted cautiously to the arrests of officials which began after Yanukovych came to power, and even to the arrest of Yuriy Lutsenko.

But Tymoshenko's arrest changed everything because it became obvious the main intention of the new President was to deprive the people of the very possibility of choice, to remove from politics the person receiving roughly the same number of votes as himself in the last presidential elections.

This intent is what distinguishes corruption from authoritarianism; and also distinguishes Europe from the former Soviet Union, the methods and principles of which have returned in contemporary Ukraine.

LEvko's comment: The EU was created was to ensure authoritarian regimes led by dictators such as Hitler, Franco, Ceau┼čescu, Honecker etc. etc. would never be seen again in Europe.

You get elected, put in a shift running the country, then move on. After this it is someone else's turn. If you are in opposition law enforcement agencies and judiciary are not be used to keep you out of power. And once out of power your are not arrested for political decisions that you made.

This is a non negotiable core value in the EU - hence their reaction to Tymoshenko's treatment.

p.s. Jose Manuel Pinto Teixeira, the European Commission’s Ambassador to Ukraine, recently claimed he had been invited to take part in the widely viewed 'Shuster Live' programme on 14th October, but the invitation was 'pulled' at the last moment. Shuster at that time offered Pinto Teixeira an opportunity to appear on his programme in late December, after the EU-Ukraine summit. A TV appearance by the top EU man in Kyiv would seem entirely appropriate in the current circumstances, but to date, Pinto Teixeira has yet to appear on the show..

Arseniy Yatsenyuk, probably the most popular opposition politician not in custody, has been repeatedly denied access to the 'Shuster Live' show..


Anonymous said...

"And just setting these questions demonstrates the extent of their non-Europeaness."

The trouble was that the Europeans were very quiet until the moment that Yulia was arrested. They said nothing, for instance about Yanuk buying up the opposition members in 2010 since they thought oh good stability. They then said a great deal about Yulia and made her release the one factor of Ukraine's "passing the exam". The reaction of all those bloggers etc that the writer criticises was on a par with the Europeans handling of the whole situation in Ukraine since Yanuk's election.

Anonymous said...

I do not think you can call Yatsenik Popular. He certainly does not instill confidence let along any skill or policies for change.

Nor has the EU made clear what its requirements are in order to consider Ukraine for EU membership.

Constitutional and judicial reform are top of the agenda. The EU needs to list all of the recommendations made by PACE and the Venice Commission. The Venice Commission should re required to draft a model constitutional and the necessary laws required to be implemented. These recommendations should not only apply to prospective member states but should also be considered by existing member states.

Top of the list should be that Ukraine remove presidential power and authority and adopt a full parliamentary model of representative government.

As long as Ukraine remains beholden to presidential authority and rule it will NEVER be an independent free democratic state.

If Ukraine wants to become a member of teh EU it should follow in the footsteps of Estonia and Latvia, both of which rejected the Soviet presidential system and adopted a European Parliamentary model.

The greatest achievement of the Orange revolution was the agreement for a Constitutional Change. This was a step in the right direction.

The decision of the Constitutional Court in October 2010 was a backward step.

Constitutional reform must again be at the forefront of any reform. The removal of presidential power must be the main priority.

The opposition needs to address this issue and hopefully find some common ground and agreements in how best to implement change., Change that wil serve Ukraine into the future and no subject it to the whim and subordination of it's president.

Ukraine must take collective responsibility for its own governance, A parliamentary system based on a fair equal representative model is the only way forward.

Failing that Ukraine should not be considered for anything other than associate EU membership.

Democracy denied said...

Is Ukraine democratic?

In what is an alarming concern Kyivpost had originally published an Op-Ed by British Ambassador, Leigh Turner. As is normally the case discussion and comments were allowed. In fact Leigh Tuner was calling for comments.

In an surprising move, not the first time, Kyivpost has sought to sensor public debate and has removed all comments from the article WHY?

They espouse the need for Free speech and Free Media yet they actively seek to sensor debate. The comments published were critical of the author and Freedom House in particular. Could it be that Freedom should only apply if you agree with the Publishers political opinion?