Sunday, November 25, 2012

Dynamo Kyiv fans protest against alleged injustice against one of their own

Today, Sunday, a mass protest by many thousands of Kyiv Dynamo football club supporters took place in the centre of the capital. Video here

They were protesting against the harsh sentences passed on two supporters' leaders, Dmytro Pavlychenko, and his 19-year old son Serhiy, who were found guilty of murdering a judge in March 2011.

The victim, Judge Serhiy Zubkov, had previously ordered an extension to their apartment to be demolised.

Evidence presented by the prosecutors at the trial was highly suspect and circumstantial. Another court had ruled against the Kyiv prosecutor's office for flagrant procedural violations during the investigation of the murder.

Zubkov was shot twice and stabbed in what looked like a professional 'hit'. He had previously been involved in high-profile Kyiv property construction disputes, so it is possible the Palvychenko's are merely the 'fall guys'.

More photos from 'Segodnya' here 

Sunday's demonstration seemed to pass by peacefully, but the anger and determination of the marchers was unmistakeable. It is fair to conclude, that if people feel strongly about and injustice, they will go out on the street to protest - a worry for the authorities...

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Quiet revolution, stage one

I liked this follow-up analysis on last month's parliamentary elections:

"....this election was heavily ruled by the protest sentiments, although they had remained unnoticed by sociologists up until election day. Therefore we believe we have witnessed a quiet revolution. A sort of a latent Maydan * [Maydan (Ukrainian for square) is deemed a symbol of the Orange revolution]. It might not have fully evolved into a revolution yet but it is its first stage because, as we see it, the first stage of the Orange revolution happened when the opposition won the 2002 election. Even though back then President Kuchma's administration managed to snatch the initiative and form the parliamentary majority, two years later the same parliament backed up the Orange revolution....Unless the authorities understand the scale of the protest sentiments, they will be hit by the second wave of the tsunami.."

And with a possible/probable? economic crisis looming....will there be only one way to go?

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Break for a week or two..

Your blogger is currently experiencing a few problems, which should be resolved in a week's time or two. Hopefully I will be able continue posting then..LEvko


Monday, November 12, 2012

Kozhara has no credibility

Several brave members of Ukraine's Central Electoral Commission, including its deputy head, Zhanna Usenko-Chorna have been highly critical of the manner in which last month's parliamentary elections were conducted - their comments resonate with the damning assessments produced the OSCE/ODIHR and other international observers.

The head of the CEC, Volodymyr Shapoval, has been critical of judges who had interfered in the electoral process, and has called for them to be punished.

Shapoval agreed with some of his CEC colleagues who wanted results in several constituencies to be annulled, but he, and they were outvoted.

Now Foreign Policy Advisor to the Ukrainian President, Leonid Kozhara, who has been set to visit western capitals to whitewash the election process and results, has publicly criticised these people on PoR's official website: "The CEC is not a political body and its members should stay out of politics. Any inconsiderate frivolous political statements undermine the Ukraine's image in the world, and those who resort to dirty political insinuations have to understand this."

Your blogger considers the CEC's job is to conduct free and fair elections. They have every right to make comments on whether they succeeded or not in their task, and provide details of specific failings.

p.s. Kozhara's trip has been terrible. Last Friday he was torn to pieces by a well-briefed BBC interviewer on the 'Hardtalk' programme. His arguments looked as phony as his dodgy hairpiece....He may even get promoted soon..

Friday, November 09, 2012

Opposition candidates in disputed constituencies will continue to fight despite Azarov's offer

PM Azarov, in an official statement on the government site, has just said:

"The Government is seriously concerned about the situation which arose regarding the counting of votes in the elections to the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine in some single member districts.

As Prime Minister of Ukraine I've repeatedly spoken out about this.

Meanwhile, succession of events encourages us to officially call upon political parties and candidates, who're caught up in conflicts of counting votes, to stop these conflicts and to start a dialogue with each other."

I watched several opposition candidates from the 13 disputed single mandate constituencies as they were interviewed on Thursday's Mykola Knyazhytsky show on TVi. What struck me was their quiet dignity, intelligence and determination.

The stories they told were all very similar. The 'protocols' resulting from parallel vote counting at the lowest level were generally satisfactory [primarily because when these votes were 'totted up' at polling stations there was little chance of knowing for sure how the vote was going overall in the constituencies.] These protocols are in the public domain.

But once the protocols together with voting slips were delivered to constituency electoral commissions and it quickly became clear from the numbers on the protocols that bad news awaited the pro-authority candidates, the 'funny business' started. This took the form of power cuts and black-outs inside the building, unnecessary 'time-outs' and delaying tactics by the counters, seizure of votes in back-rooms by unknown persons of 'sporting appearance', tampering of bags containing the votes, and so on.

Most of these opposition candidates on the tv show were academics, doctors, bosses of small to medium businesses etc. They were standing against very prominent multi-millionaire businessmen who, in many cases, employ hundreds of persons [including security staff ]in the areas where they were standing for election...

These high-power businessmen say in self-justification of their criminal behaviour: 'Look, I have grown my business here and brought hundreds of jobs...what have these opposition candidates brought, what can they do for you?' As if this gives them the right to cheat...

Encouragingly the opposition candidates who considered they were cheated, declared they will continue their fight for justice using the enormous amount of evidence they have accumulated for as long as necessary. They complained however, that the dozens of law suits already put before judges challenging results, have all been, so far, treated with contempt and ignored.

p.s Yevheniya Tymoshenko on British Channel 4 TV interview here

Thursday, November 08, 2012

The opposition's dilemma

Because the Central Electoral Commission have so far not been able to complete their count in some single mandate constituencies the authorities [under the instruction of the president] have grudgingly approved legally highly dubious reruns of the elections in five of the more than one dozen most hotly disputed simple majority constituencies. These  re-elections could take place, by next March at the earliest, maybe. It seems the three opposition forces that will enter parliament have, kind of, agreed to this.

In your blogger's opinion both the authorities and the opposition are not behaving entirely correctly and are 'jumping the gun'.

According to Ukrainian law, the Central Electoral Commission have until next Monday to produce final election results..The CEC have not finished their task until this deadline is reached - they should not yet be allowed to 'wash their hands' of their responsibilities. The evidence of malfeasance which they must obviously possess has to be passed to law enforcement bodies to deal with.

If the CEC's stance remains unchanged until after next Monday, the opposition should make it absolutely clear - there is solid evidence of fraud in the 13 disputed constituencies and they will not accept the swearing in of any deputies for these constituencies. The opposition should insist any possible rerun election must first be preceded by criminal proceedings against wrongdoers in these constituences whose deeds made it necessary for additional elections to be held.

Mykola Knyazhytsky in his blog describes the opposition's dilemma. It should not tamely accept the authorities' ideas of compromise - but because the legal system in the country is in the firm grip of the president, fair judgements are unlikely too.

He goes on: "For the opposition the position is very uncomfortable. Despite the high vote of confidence which the opposition parties received, they are not strong enough to resist an organised and cynical government machine. It would be better to gather strength and present a united front in the next presidential election [in 2015].

But the government has placed the opposition in a position where it will be impossible for them to acquiesce to cynical fraud in some consitituences. That is why the government must revoke their decision and recognize the unfalsified election results according to the original protocols [which are already in the public domain], or the atmosphere will gradually becomes revolutionary, despite all of the  talk that Ukrainians are most unwilling to take such radical steps. If the opposition agrees to this current brazen lawlessness, it will have to take some of the responsibility for it because it will be with their tacit consent that Ukraine turns into authoritarian regime of the type seen in Belarus and Russia."

p.s. From a cynical point of view many of the so called independents who have won in the single mandate consitituencies [and also the communist deputies] would be delighted to see a finely balanced parliament. It would make their vote far more valuable in monetary terms....

The Communists did surprisingly well too and will be no pushovers....why should the 'independent' new members of parliament declare with whom they will vote if the Communists have not yet made their own position clear....PoR will have to dig deep into their depleted money bags..

p.p.s. A good explanation for the rise of 'Svoboda' here 

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Opposition leaders sell out...

There are 13 electoral constituencies were journalists and local opposition forces claim systematic cheating took place during last week's elections:- constituency numbers 11, 14, 20, 90, 94, 132, 183, 194, 197, 211, 214,216, 223. Many serious allegations and much evidence of fraud have been accumulated in these constituencies. Any perpetrators found guilty of election fraud should go to prison for many years.

Yet now Yatseniuk, Klychko and Tyhnybok have timidly agreed to a recount in just five of these - numbers 94, 132, 194, 197, 223, and forgotten entirely about the remainder.

They have sold out...they have sold out their supporters who so bravely have tried to protect their constitutional right to free and fair elections across the country.

They have crumbled so publicly that the electorate will never trust them to carry out any of their manifesto proposals again were they were ever to get into power [not much likelyhood of that now]. Even though the parties of Yatseniuk, Klychko and Tyhnybok received about 48% of votes cast, compared to Regional's 30% by the party lists, even despite this moral victory, they have crumbled, thus providing more ammunition to those who declare the so-called opposition leaders have been 'bought out' a long time ago -  it certainly looks like it.

p.s. Excellent analysis on Ukraine's elections from Mykola Riabchuk here 

Sunday, November 04, 2012

President struck dumb

The situation following last Sunday's parliamentary elections is rapidly spinning out of control. For the sake of a handful of disputed single mandate constituency seats, mainly in the Kyiv area, the ruling coalition are making a mockery of Ukrainian democracy [an oxymoron if ever there was one].

There is a strong possibility that the combined newly-elected opposition forces will rip up their mandates and not enter the V.R. causing a constitutional crisis, probably forcing a second election.

Where is the president? Your are supposed to be an authoritarian fixer, not an indecisive bozo!

Show some leadership!

Have no doubt, the gangsters are back..

'KyivPost' ran this story on Friday:  'Bloody vote count in Mykolayiv Oblast as police clash with opposition'

However, they missed much of the important background to this story...

Just over a month ago I posted a blog about  how V.R. deputy Artem Pshonka, son of current Prosecutor-General Viktor Pshonka, was trying to seize the Mykolayiv-based 'Agrofirma Kornatskykh' agro-company by the dirtiest of means. 'ORD' website call Pshonka Jr. 'raider No.1 in Ukraine'. His dad Viktor  is an old pal of Yanukovych from the bad old days in Donetsk...

It so happened that  the owner of this agro-company, Arkady A. Kornatsky, was an election candidate in the oblast despite being forced to go abroad because of possible risk of arrest...and he won the election, beating his closest rival, Deputy Chairman of the Oblast State Administration and PoR candidate, Vitaliy Travyanko, by about 4000 votes or 39.66% of votes cast against 34.09%. These results were posted on the official Central Electoral Commission website on 29th October.

'ORD' now describes how after news of Kornyatsky's victory spread, all hell broke loose. The 15,000 hectares of land Pshonka Sr. was attempting to steal from Kornatsky could possibly slip out out of his grasp as a result.

During the evening of 30th  October police stormed the premises of District Election Commission number 132 in Pervomaysk, Mykolaiv led by the Regional Governor, Mykola Kruglov. [Kruglov was PM Azarov's deputy when the latter ran the State Tax Administration]. A squad of 'Berkut' special forces, some still in civilian dress, blocked the entrance of the building, kicked out the head Constituency Electoral Commission, and unknown persons entered to feed 'fresh data' into the election commission computer.  A few minutes later the Central Electoral Commission website was amended and Travyanko declared the winner. These guys did not even bother to change the figures from some stations for other candidates on the list, they added other votes to Travyanko only on the summary page so their fraud was obvious.

'ORD' reports  "In Pervomaysk there is almost a civil war. "KAMAZ" trucks have blocked the centre and all entrances to the city. Twice, on the night of 1st and the 2nd November 2012 "Berkut" troops used tear gas in the premises of the district election commission.  Prosecutor General Pshonka and Governor of Mykolayiv region Kruglov are brutally preventing the declaration of the owner of the Arcadia farm, Kornatsky, as winner of the elections because Pshonka wants to seize the15 000 hectares he owns for for his son."

It is clear that without personal guarantees of immunity from Prosecutor General of Ukraine, from Pshonka himself, no-one would have dared to steal the results in such an open manner or involve "Berkut" in this shocking deed.

There have been many protests, beatings, and much unrest as these crooks, having committed their fraud so crudely, are left with no option but to destroy voting slips favouring Kornatsky.

The brave deputy head of the CEC, Zhanna Usenko-Chorna, has said: "The whole country watched, international observers...electors. For many hours we witnessed that Kornatsky was victor, winning by 4299 votes. Then after a very short time, changes were introduced into the system, and by very peculiar means, data is introduced in favour of Vitaliy Travyanko, votes begin to dribble in from two candidates/donors.".

The head of the Constituency Electoral Commission may had suffered a heart attack...and the CEC are going to 'rework'  the results from the Pervomaysk constituency, 'checking every comma'. [The Prosecutor-General's office will no doubt be informed of any fraud, eh?]

Scenes such as these described have been repeated elsewhere in Ukraine these last few days, though in Pervomaysk thelaw enforcement officials have been particularly brutal and most determined to crush any protests against falsification. PM Azarov claimed these elections to have been the best in the history of independent Ukraine....

p.s. more photos from Pervomaysk here

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Steamroller beginning to stutter?

Interesting discussion in tonight's 'Politklub' with Vitaliy Portnikov on the independent TVi channel.

Below is a summary of some of the comments made by journalists taking part:

On the topic of whether western observers should pull their punches in their election reports:
"We cannot expect [or demand] our decent west European friends to call black white just so Ukraine does not somehow drift eastwards...we should not expect them to compromise their principles.."

Not unexpectedly, there have been significant reports of election fraud during the counting of votes, but we should really scrutinise how seriously law enforcement agencies react and deal with these allegations...this will be the true test of fair elections..

The sentence for election fraud is 3-5 years in prison...and there is great suspicion of the bodies involved in running the election, because of bad experiences in the past...The ugly scenes and battles in several high-profile constituencies, particularly around Kyiv, over just a few seats, risks making things appear much worse that they were. It was therefore a bad mistake for the pro-ruling party candidates to so deliberately and openly attempt to cheat in these few seats. It was widely reported on the day immediately after polling day, that from what western observers saw, the results of elections would be acceptable to EU countries. This prompted a second wave of frauds, particularly in the single mandate, simple majority constituencies, where counting was being deliberately drawn out.

Some of these 'mazhorytarka' candidates are former Party of Regions' deputies who were excluded from their party lists, because they were deemed to be not important enough to figure on the higher rung positions where the likelihood of entering parliament on the party list would be higher. They were left to some degree to run and fund their own campaigns. There are some grounds to assume these guys will take their deputy responsibilities more seriously, having run their own campaigns, and they may even harbour some bitterness toward their party bosses who put them out in the cold to fight their own battles whilst favouring others having 'better connections'.

As a result, the fresh parliament will not be stable....the new boys will have their noses in the air [looking toward the 2015 presidential elections] will be difficult for authorities to maintain a solid majority...every law,..especially those linked to taxation and the economy and affecting the 'madzoritarshchyky;, most of whom are significant businessmen in the own right, will have to be negotiated.  The 50% party list, 50% 'mazhorytarka' system that produced a 'tilted playing field'  may well turn out to have weakened internal discipline inside Party of Regions.

'Svoboda' seem to be the only party not controlled by Ukraine's oligarchic political puppetmasters. They seem to be the only party ready to stand up for the common man against oligarch-controlled parties..including those of the opposition. [The stout defence of their candidates in disputed constituencies bears this out]. This may account for their success particularly in the Kyiv region where, until now, they have been nowhere.

The Communist party was the only realistic place where anti-PoR voters could go in the eastern part of the country, even though everyone was aware they could well side with PoR again. Inside their hearts, the Communists will be bitter that many of their votes were stolen by their probable allies. Their leader, Petro Symonenko may fancy one more shot at the presidency in 2015 - this will also affect his attitude to PoR inn the new parliament.

These views were not all held by the guests on Pornikov's programme, by any means, it's just I thought they seemed to be the most reasonable ones.

p.s. IMO Svoboda may have benefited from the imprisonment of Tymoshenko and Lutsenko. Voters who voted for Svoboda because they felt it was time to 'fight fire with fire', may well have voted otherwise -  for Batkivshchyna - had the two opposition leaders been free. Their undoubted electioneering skills would have been most useful during the campaign, it is reasonable to assume therefore that their imprisonment  did affect the result of Sunday's polls.

p.p.s. Polish periodical's estimate of how much was spent on the election campaign: