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A new way of doing politics – Ukraine? Ukrop

July 28, 2015

On 18th June 2015, Ihor Kolomoisky received official certification for his newly formed political party “Ukrop” from the Ministry of Justice of Ukraine.

Gennady Korban, who featured in yesterday’s entry in a rather, albeit deservedly, in a less than flattering way (as did his main rival), upon the registration of “Ukrop” – “A new chapter appeared in the history of Ukrainian politics. Remember this day. It can be a turning point for Ukraine and for those who care about the fate of our country.”

If the illegal and odious events surrounding his campaign activities in Chernigov are a new chapter in Ukrainian politics, then that new chapter would seem almost a carbon copy of the previous one.

As yesterday’s entry stated – “So having expected a complete farce as soon as it became clear more than two months ago that this election seat was little more than a proxy fight between President Poroshenko and Ihor Kolomoisky backed candidates, has it turned out to be the expected proxy battle and associated farce?

Undoubtedly so.”

and

“That (probably with the tacit approval or by discrete request) Governor Saakashvili arrived late into the campaigning to support the President’s man, Mr Berezenko, to be met in an unnecessarily ugly face to face by Ihor Kolomoisky’s MP Boris Filatov supporting Mr Korban, when the election was already a farce beyond doubt, raises questions of sound leadership, situational awareness, and domestic/international perception. A polished turd remains a turd, no matter who polishes it.

Yet another (and completely avoidable) proxy battle between Mr Kolomoisky and the President now wages via Messrs Saakashvili and Filatov.

As of the time of writing, exit polls have the President’s man, Mr Berezenko winning with 31.4% of the vote vis a vis Mr Kolomoisky’s man Mr Korban sitting on 17.1%. Whatever the voting results however, the 27 (and growing) officially recorded electoral violations must be investigated, and this public farce cannot be undone easily.

The question is now whether the CEC of its own volition (or via encouragement from upon high) will declare the election invalid – or not.”

Sadly the return to the all too familiar of the squalid politics throughout the history of an independent Ukraine surrounding majority single mandate seats in particular.

"For buckwheat and small change I'm not for sale"

“For buckwheat and small change I’m not for sale”

What then, with Ukrop’s first romp into Ukrainian politics being a carbon copy of all the cancerous and discredited politics of Ukrainian past, can in any way be deemed as “a new chapter” proclaimed by Mr Korban when Ukrop was successfully registered?

Presumably it can only be that Ihor Kolomoisky is not hiding the fact the he is behind this political party, when historically he backed certain parties and certain politicians across all party lines behind the curtain – no differently to all the major oligarchy.

Therefore we are to understand that “a new chapter” means the thinly veiled interference and odious influence of the oligarchy within Ukrainian politics has been lifted – at least in part – rather than “a new chapter” being strict adherence to electoral rules and the principles of democratic processes?

(No doubt Mr Kolomoisky will continue to fund other parties and specific individuals across the party lines as will other oligarchs such as Messrs Firtash, Lavochkin et al. – unless prevented.)

Clearly the “Ukrop” party will have extensive funding for the local elections that yesterday it announced it would take part in nationwide – again according to Gennady Korban who is also the head of the Ukrop Party political council.  (As you would expect as a former Deputy Governor to Governor Kolomoisky when he headed Dnepropetrovsk.)

Gennady Korban

Gennady Korban

The extensive funding, weighted campaigning upon Mr Kolomoisky’s media networks, and anticipated continued wiping of feet upon existing (or future) electoral laws, is perhaps contingent upon two things.

The first, an as yet unfulfilled agreement when the current Rada coalition was formed, to change the electoral laws (again), to remove external party funding, providing funding from the public purse, enforced transparent funding of political parties, political campaigning restrictions/equality, and genuinely “open” political party lists.

Will the current coalition make this unfulfilled agreement a reality early within the next parliamentary session with sufficient time to come into force prior to the local elections in late October?

The second contingent was outlined in yesterday’s entry, “The question now facing the CEC, the President’s party, and ultimately the President, is whether to accept a clearly corrupted, grubby single seat win at the very public expense of the rule of law being seen to be applied.

Insuring the rule of law is fully applied now, and any offenders receive punishments as proscribed within the law, may yet set the tone for the local elections in a more positive light. Surely accepting a grubby little win in over a solitary seat now, will set a poor precedent for what follows in October.”

As the Criminal Code of Ukraine provides for heavy fines and the jailing of offenders involved in electoral fraud, coercion and bribery, will the nefarious, unabashed and blatant events surrounding the vote for Seat 205 be the platform upon which the police and prosecutors will eventually throw those involved in nefarious campaigning – which sadly includes several of the candidates themselves – in jail, thus making a public (and necessary) attempt at ending the orgy of electoral corruption that occurred, and forewarning those that will (undoubtedly) try the same tactics at the local elections?

Depending upon the answers to these questions and the repercussions they may have, the internal and external messaging may be particularly helpful – or not.

A new chapter appeared in the history of Ukrainian politics“?  Perhaps – but it may well prove to be the same dismal read as the previous one.  Page 1 at Seat 205 has been a very poor introduction.

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The electoral farce of seat 205 – Desnyanskiy (Chernigov)

July 27, 2015

Having entered into a voluntary state of “purdah” relating to the election that took place yesterday for seat 205, Desnyanskiy district in Chernigov, that self-imposed silence, post polls closing, can now be lifted.

So having expected a complete farce as soon as it became clear more than two months ago that this election seat was little more than a proxy fight between President Poroshenko and Ihor Kolomoisky backed candidates, has it turned out to be the expected proxy battle and associated farce?

Undoubtedly so.

To begin with there were 127 candidates registered to fight for this seat.  Seven of those were political party candidates, whilst the rest were “self nominees”, a large number of which were “technical candidates” put forward to split voters loyal to one or another of the “favourites” to win.

Indeed, on election day itself, 36 candidates canceled their participation whilst obviously still being upon the printed ballot.  That left 84 “self-nominees” and the 7 political party candidates.

Of these 7 candidates, two have been the front-runners.  In the Kolomoisky corner sits Gennady Korban and in the Poroshenko corner, Sergei Berezenko.

205From the very start of each of the campaigning in District 205, both candidates and campaigns have continually wiped their feet upon the electoral laws of Ukraine and continued to do so to the point that even a few weeks ago, so many electoral violations were so blatantly obvious as to concluded the entire process severely compromised.

As of election day however, a mere 27 electoral law transgressions had been officially recorded – despite dozens more being apparent to anybody that has been monitoring events.  To say this election has been a farce is to be too kind – it has been nothing short of a criminal farce, surpassing the usual nefariousness associated with hotly contested single majority seats in Ukrainian elections.

Bribery, coercion, fake seals, large scale candidate drop outs on polling day etc., – hardly meet any parameters that would suggest a free and fair election.  Voting day may have been free, but preceding events were certainly not fair, nor were they within the Ukrainian electoral laws – indeed many occurrences are expressly prohibited by the Ukrainian electoral laws.

Ballot

That all observers (worthy of the name) anticipated this farce as long ago as May – as any proxy battle between Ihor Kolomoisky and the President was bound to end up – should raise questions as to why such a farce was allowed to manifest, almost without limitation, by the authorities from the very outset of the election campaigning.

That (probably with the tacit approval or by discrete request) Governor Saakashvili arrived late into the campaigning to support the President’s man, Mr Berezenko, to be met in an unnecessarily ugly face to face by Ihor Kolomoisky’s MP Boris Filatov supporting Mr Korban, when the election was already a farce beyond doubt, raises questions of sound leadership, situational awareness, and domestic/international perception.  A polished turd remains a turd, no matter who polishes it.

Yet another (and completely avoidable) proxy battle between Mr Kolomoisky and the President now wages via Messrs Saakashvili and Filatov.

As of the time of writing, exit polls have the President’s man, Mr Berezenko winning with 31.4% of the vote vis a vis Mr Kolomoisky’s man Mr Korban sitting on 17.1%.  Whatever the voting results however, the 27 (and growing) officially recorded electoral violations must be investigated, and this public farce cannot be undone easily.

The question is now whether the CEC of its own volition (or via encouragement from upon high) will declare the election invalid – or not.

The President, despite clearly wanting to beat Mr Kolomoisky in this proxy battle (seemingly to the point of allowing the electoral laws to be flouted almost daily) after such a farce needs to lift himself above this squalid political display and odious disregard for electoral law – and there is seemingly only one way to do that, even if at the expense of “his candidate” and the result.

There is a requirement now for the President to rise above this mess and insist that each and every electoral law transgression is met with the full force and by the letter of the electoral law.  Those guilty have to be held accountable – including his own candidate who has hardly distinguished himself.

That almost certainly means a new election – but if the rule of law is to be respected, the President wants to restore his image after allowing this farce to occur (and his candidate to run amok), and given the gross violations of the electoral law that have occurred, then so be it.

The President needs to have one eye on the local elections taking place nationally in October, elections that have just as much chance of such electoral irregularities and criminality occurring as has just been witnessed in  Chernigov wherever a majority single mandate seat presents itself.

In fact the local elections provide a perfect opportunity for this farce to be corrected with a simultaneous re-run of this election taking place.

The question now facing the CEC, the President’s party, and ultimately the President, is whether to accept a clearly corrupted, grubby single seat win at the very public expense of the rule of law being seen to be applied.

Insuring the rule of law is fully applied now, and any offenders receive punishments as proscribed within the law, may yet set the tone for the local elections in a more positive light.  Surely accepting a grubby little win in over a solitary seat now, will set a poor precedent for what follows in October.

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The Venice Commission on Constitutional/Judicial reforms – Ukraine

July 26, 2015

Probably one of the most underrated acts of the current president, cabinet of ministers, and sitting Rada, was the accommodation of almost all Venice Commission “recommendations” with regard to the constitutional amendments that facilitate “decentralisation“.

Time will now tell whether the Constitutional Court will have issues with the proposed “decentralisation” amendments, and if they deem all satisfactory, whether the 300 (plus) votes required for a constitution changing majority can be reached within the Rada ranks when the matter is placed before them once more, as stated here previously.

However, the constructive attitude of the Ukrainian political class was not unnoticed.

“I very much welcome that the Constitutional Commission of Ukraine approved on Friday draft amendments to the Constitution regarding decentralisation. The text approved integrates most of the recommendations made by the Venice Commission and I would like to thank the President of the Constitutional Commission and Speaker of the Verkhovna Rada, Mr Volodymyr Groysman, for the excellent co-operation with the Venice Commission and congratulate him on the results of this co-operation.

Decentralisation is one of the key reforms required for the democratic development of the country in line with the aspirations of the people expressed during the revolution of dignity. The speedy adoption of the text by the Verkhovna Rada is now very important with a view to the local elections, which will take place in October, and the continuing negotiations in the framework of the Minsk process.

The Venice Commission stands ready to provide its assistance for further reforms, in particular the constitutional amendments concerning the judiciary.” – Gianni Buquicchio

Very good – or at least good, for whilst the Venice Commission may well have known the detail of proposed constitutional amendments designed to achieve “decentralisation”, the constituents of Ukraine were almost entirely in the dark, notwithstanding very broad brush-stroke remarks in the media that could have meant almost anything.

2751_venice_commisionSadly, the same blanket lack of knowledge relating to proposed constitutional amendments in the public realm exists when it comes to providing a pathway for judicial and prosecutors reforms.

However, the Venice Commission has released some preliminary opinions upon the matter, per the proposed constitutional amendments it has been sent.  Thus there is some insight into the proposed constitutional changes.

The major issues can be summarised as follows:

“The proposed amendments are a generally positive text which deserves to be supported. The amendments are well drafted.  Their adoption would be an important step forward towards the establishment of a truly independent judicial system in Ukraine.  The Venice Commission welcomes in particular:

– The removal of the power of the Verkhovna Rada to appoint the judges;
– The abolition of probationary periods for junior judges;
– The abolition of the “breach of oath” as a ground for dismissal of the judges;
– The reform of the Public Prosecutor’s Office, the guarantees for its independence (notably the removal of the power of the Verkhovna Rada to express no confidence in the Prosecutor General) and the removal of its non-prosecutorial supervisory powers.

The text, however, still presents some shortcomings, especially with respect to the powers of the main State organs in this field.  If not corrected, these shortcomings might create a new danger of politicisation of the judiciary and perpetuate the problems of the current system.  In this respect, the Venice Commission formulates the following main recommendations:
– While the ceremonial role of the President to appoint judges seems well justified, this is not the case for his power to dismiss judges, which should be removed from the text;
– In addition, not only the President, but also the Verkhovna Rada should have a role in the election/ appointment of a limited number of members of the High Judicial Council.”

Do read the entire text of the Venice Commission preliminary “opinion”.  There is some nuanced wordsmithery in connection to a number of much smaller issues – but issues nonetheless – that should also be accommodated by the Ukrainian leadership.

Hopefully the same political will found to accommodate the Venice Commission recommendations for the “decentralisation” amendments, will again be found with regard to the Venice Commission recommendations (both major and minor) to come relating to the judiciary and prosecutors.

Unfortunately, it seems unlikely that the Ukrainian leadership will enlighten the electorate with details of proposed constitutional amendments (and their ramifications), and thus only the reasonably constant monitoring of the Venice Commission website is likely to provide clues to the detailed proposals made.

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Odessa – The Singaporean Model?

July 25, 2015

Iran has been in the news a lot recently for reasons of non-proliferation (and a much less discussed lifting of conventional arms embargoes in due course).

Yesterday, the Iranian Ambassador to Ukraine, Mr Mohammad Beheshti-Monfaredom together with a fairly large delegation, met with Governor Saakashvili, long-time friend of this blog and head of the Odessa MFA Konstantin Rzhepishevski, and an equally sizable Odessa delegation.

Odessa Iran

Now, as most of the world is aware, Governor Saakashvili is an “ideas man” (amongst other things).  Occasionally it is difficult to discern whether he speaks from an agreed agenda with Kyiv (or others), whether ideas simply come to him mid-sentence and are blurted out without due consideration, or whether his preconceived ideas are “dangles” with the tacit approval of Kyiv (or others) for whichever audience he is addressing (or is listening internally or externally but not actually present in the room).

During yesterday’s meeting with the Iranian Ambassador and delegation, Mr Saakashvili dropped the “idea” of an Odessa Development Fund based upon the Singaporean model, and announced the first “Oblast Council for Economic Development”.

The plan then, to turn Odessa into some form of a “city-State”, based upon incorruptibility, high efficiency and vitality?  A model reformation for the nation?

Well why not – at least within the parameters of Ukrainian sovereign integrity and unity?

The USA has clearly labeled Odessa as the front line for the fight with corruption, which can only help (for the most part) rather than hinder the Governor’s vision.  To paraphrase W Clement Stone, there’s nothing wrong with aiming for the moon, and if you miss hitting a star – although it is a wise politician that manages the expectations of their constituents.

Ignoring the very high concentration of millionaires Singapore boasts, as well as being an established trading centre in southeastern Asia, there is a lot that Odessa can and should emulate – starting with the efficient and consistently incorruptable One-Stop-Shop planned to begin work in October.

If Odessa doesn’t have the power to repeal the now 20+ Ukrainian laws (and the list is still growing at the Oblast Administration) that simply stifle and complicate business, it can at least make the bureaucratic process as swift, cheap, and painless as possible.  Likewise the streamlining of property registration and unbiased enforcement of contracts within the Oblast would also go hand-in-hand with the idealism behind the One-Stop-Shop.  In all these things Singapore excels, though it has the ability to change the laws as a sovereign State, unlike an Oblast within Ukraine.

Infrastructure, education, efficiency in public administration and services, innovation, political stability and rule of law, are also the hallmark of Singapore.

Odessa on the other hand, currently can claim to have the education (although some centres of excellence would seem a good idea) and a certain amount of innovation (the latest i-Hub in the city courtesy of the sovereign fund of the Kingdom of Norway), but nothing approaching quality or sustainability in any of the other areas.

That said, the US is investing a huge amount of political and diplomatic energy in the Oblast directed at rule of law, customs and customs procedures, and advice upon civil service reform.

As your author told the last US diplomatic mission, (and hopefully it was their “takeaway”), to reform Odessa Oblast (and city) there needs to be three things – rule of law, structure and  sustainability.  The rest will sort itself out fairly swiftly without any heavy-handed or overly intrusive governance.

There is a long way to travel, and it will be a marathon and not a sprint, but both marathon and sprint begin with the first step – and those first steps (even if some are rather unstable) are being taken.  Hopefully it will not be a case of one step forward, two steps back, but undoubtedly there will be some meandering and mis-steps along the way.

If there is to be a rule of thumb regarding reform and anti-corruption measures for the Oblast, it should be one that makes it quicker and cheaper to do things legally, than it is to resort to corruption and cronyism to get things done.  Quite simply, undercut corruption and cronyism for speed and cost throughout all Oblast bureaucratic machinery.

There are, of course, issues with sustainability for Odessa should this Singaporean model prove to be even half-way successful, but such issues are a long way down the road.

The Iranians expressed interest in certain areas of development – specifically in infrastructure and agriculture.  (Unsurprisingly, as recently France has also stated interest in development in exactly the same areas within the Oblast, and China is many $ billions “in” already over the past 5 years, as are corporations like Cargill for $ hundreds of millions.)

Whether or not Governor Saakashvili’s “city-State” Singaporean “Odessa Development Fund” and “Oblast Development Council” concepts have been run passed Kyiv, or whether he sees such scope within the “decentralisation” of powers to the regions due before the year end and thus hasn’t mentioned the idea, is a question worthy of asking – for the Singaporean model involved a good deal of governmental intervention and planning (albeit not a rigid plan) that on occasion swung as a pendulum between “plan” and “free market”.  Indeed, during its rise to economic stardom, the best possible label to put upon the Singaporean model is probably “structural”.

Rule of law, structure and sustainability – three reoccurring themes in this blog.

Whatever the case, and it is extremely unlikely Odessa will be the next Singapore as much due to Ukrainian politics as anything else, if the only part of the model that is adopted and consolidated is incorruptible efficiency, that would qualify as a major success in and of itself.

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FBI to train 50 police in Odessa

July 25, 2015

According to Governor Saakashvili (and not unsurprisingly if true), the Oblast and the FBI have reached agreement upon training 50 police officers.

These 50 police officers will be trained separately from the rest of the Oblast police – necessarily so, for detective training, if done properly, is a very intense and fairly long course that concentrates upon specific areas of policing rather than traffic or general policing.

It is unclear whether these 50 officers will be drawn from the existing ranks or not, although every police officer should have a full understanding of general policing prior to specialising, so from amongst the existing ranks would seem most likely.

It is also unclear as to the purpose of this 50 officer team.

If the FBI are training them, then presumably a good deal of time will be spent upon learning how to get the most from witnesses and the contents of witness statements, interview techniques (which is an art if done properly – especially with the most uncooperative of suspects), evidence chains and evidence chain integrity, crime scene management, some basic surveillance techniques, what is – and is not – agent provocateur vis a vis participating informants/undercover work, informant motivation, recruitment, handling, controlling  etc.  The usual stuff of investigative training, none of which is rocket science but none of which offers any short cuts if it is to be done properly.

So be it.  No doubt a necessary step as a stop-gap whilst all eyes and attention will remain upon the new “Police” that begin patrolling in late August and will undoubtedly be monitored for a year or so before significant funds and expertise are thrown at the specialised police units.

FBI

The purpose of these 50 officers, however, remains somewhat unclear at the time of writing.

Are they to act as a nucleus of investigative detectives for the entire Oblast that are FBI trained and free (presumably) of corruption?  If so, who decides which incidents get the FBI trained and (presumably) untainted detectives, and which continue to get the probably inadequately trained and sullied detectives?  Who decides who decides, for the police should be a-political and therefore allocate its resources as it deems appropriate.

Would they, and indeed will they, be tasked with policing the police?  An Oblast complaints and discipline team tasked with investigating complaints against other officers and/or rumours of incidents and/or corruption that would have significant disciplinary implications?

Clearly those tasked with “policing the police” internally within Odessa Oblast do a very poor job currently.

Will they perhaps be tasked with investigating the regional “big fish” with regards to their criminality and nefarious “business” activities?  Some form of “Oblast Crime Squad” with a broad mandate to tread upon certain parts of the SBU, shestoe otdelenie milicii po borbe s organizovannoy prestypnostu (aka UBOB), and other empirical toes?

Their task to deliver cases with all points to prove covered, all statutory defences negated, all evidence and evidence chains maintained complete integrity, to the point the corrupt and/or inept Odessa prosecutors have no choice but to proceed, and the corrupt Odessa judiciary can find no fault in the investigation or evidence presented?

That such a team is apparently to be formed and trained in the Oblast, hopefully would indicate that there is sufficient flexibility in the Oblast police structure to create such teams to target specific local area policing requirements.

If that be so, then hopefully there is sufficient flexibility for the Oblast to dissolve or merge other existing units.  That flexibility however, remains to be seen, for there are the inevitable turf wars over who has accepted responsibility for what sphere of policing, and also between the management of those spheres and units within – a situation not unique to Ukraine of course.

Which brings us to the next question.  Under whose direct policing roof, will the new FBI trained team sit?  Directly under the Oblast Police Chief, or under the existing heads of the criminal, organised crime, or whatever existing policing branch within the Oblast, who after all answer to the Oblast Police Chief anyway?

Questions of Oblast policing structure and policing plans and unit purposes once again arise.

It is perhaps time for Giya Lordkipanidze to present an Oblast policing plan and outline the policing structure that is to be.

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“Where’s Lutsenko’s head at?”

July 23, 2015

A few days ago your author was chatting with a member of a diplomatic mission passing through Odessa – as is often (these days) the case.

Amongst issues, discussed, problems aired and potential solutions mulled, the subject of Yuri Lutsenko was raised, rather unexpectedly, when the conversation had been almost entirely policy and not personality orientated.

The question was, roughly translated, “Where is Lutenko’s head at?” – In other words, he has become increasingly difficult to read even to those that regularly interact with him.

The immediate reaction to that question was to suggest that he has become more than tired of being the Head of the Solidarity/Poroshenko Party in the Rada and is seeking to move onwards and upwards to more influential things – presumably within the inevitable Cabinet reshuffle in the Autumn.

Whether his resignation as Party Head after the failure to prevent an entirely retarded and populist vote regarding loans being converted from $ to UAH passing through the Rada was simply frustration at the enormous number of retarded populists with which he is charged with shepherding, or whether it was a declaration that he is irked by remaining in such a “lowly” role for so long are a few of the options.

Perhaps he simply did so whilst enjoying one too many, as he often does.

It maybe that he no longer feels suitable for his current role.  He is not the brightest or best politician in Ukraine, nor is he a particularly good disciplinarian within party ranks.  What he does well, and has always done well, is strike compromises and deals behind the Rada curtain both within and without whichever party he is member of at the time.

Come April(ish) next year, don’t be surprised if he is charged with sowing together another coalition as the current Rada inevitably grinds to a halt (if a coalition is needed).  Historically the 3rd/4th sessions of any Rada sees it functionally grind to a halt, meaning nothing gets done for the rest of the term, or early elections are required.

It is perhaps with half an eye upon this very real prospect that Yuri Lutsenko yesterday stated “We do not implement the coalition agreement. It was written with too much optimism.  It is not even technologically possible for parliament to pass such a large number of laws, as stipulated in the coalition agreement.  We have to revise the agreement.”

Maybe – maybe not.

It is perhaps the timescale that is the issue rather than the quantity (better not to mention quality) of legislative work that is the root of the issue.

If the expectation was to pass hundreds of new laws quickly, (rather than by 2020 to underpin the “Presidential Strategy”) and then sit back and watch them go unimplemented, then perhaps on such a restricted timescale he has a point.

If however, 2020 is the timescale to have a full and robust legislative framework to support, and partially achieve, the “Presidential Plan”, as well as meet Ukrainian ratified timescales regarding the implementation, and necessarily progressive legislative requirements of the DCFTA, then whining in July 2015 may be entirely inappropriate.

If the Rada is soon to grind to an Autumnal/Winter halt, being unable, or more to the point unwilling, to pass new legislation in a timely manner, then perhaps there are issues it can address for the next Rada before it dies an evermore expectedly premature death.

There is the issue of prioritising of course.  As has been written here several times before regarding the creation of legislation, “the first question is always “is it necessary?”.  If it is not necessary then it need not exist. The moment that a Ukrainian government actually goes through the existing statute and begin repealing a whole tome of unnecessary and/or Soviet inherited legislative nonsense cannot come too soon.  Which is more important, toppling statues of Lenin or toppling Soviet and nonsensical legislature to which we are all supposed to conform?

Thereafter there are probably two tests above all others relating to any law/proposed law.  The first and most obvious is whether the law advances justice for all.  If yes, OK – if not then it fails to advance justice and should not be adopted.

The next question is whether any new law/proposed law that would advance justice for all, would adversely effect the most basic and fundamental of human rights in doing so.  If yes it fails – if not then OK, bring it to the statute book.

Until any new law meets the “necessity” requirement, and passes the above two, admittedly but deliberately broad tests, then it is not fit for statute.  The aim is rule of law – it is not rule by law.  For rule of law to succeed, society must deem any law both necessary and fair or it will be ignored to the point of being effectively unenforceable when broken on a grand scale repeatedly.”

Thus, what legislation is necessary and what priority should it have in a limited timescale?  If it is not necessary, or is necessary but not a priority, let it wait until immediate legislative hurdles have been overcome.

If even that less ambitious tactic will soon be beyond the Rada at its next session, then spend time repealing a massive amount of entirely unnecessary law that is impeding the natural growth of business and societal ambition.  If there can be no agreement upon what new legislation should be, then perhaps it is easier to agree upon what laws shouldn’t be – and repeal them.

It would be a very productive thing to do anyway, more so if there is an inability to insert a new law where one is deleted, thus loosening the grip of the State where it need not be in a modern legislative and economic framework.

Should that prove too much, and it probably would, then perhaps this Rada could do the next one a big favour and deal with its own retarded internal processes.

The current processes are slow, cumbersome, and often unnecessary, on occasion overly elaborate, and seemingly deliberately weighted to prevent rather than encourage the legislative progress with any quality resulting .  Why not spend, what may otherwise be an unproductive Rada session by Christmas, agreeing and streamlining the internal processes of the Rada.  Make it a swifter, more responsive, nimble, flexible and yet robust set of processes capable of producing timely yet considered outcomes.

Just “where Lutsenko’s head is at” following his latest statement, presumably time will tell.  Perhaps he is unsure himself.  However, if he is admitting temporary defeat with regard to new passing huge volumes of new legislation by whatever notional date, then Ukraine has other fundamental issues to also address during any non-functioning Rada – administrative structures and processes also being priorities that have a pressing need for reform.  Rada processes are clearly amongst them.

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The US opens up a new front in Odessa?

July 22, 2015

A few weeks ago an entry was published that stated, “Indeed the recent visit to Odessa by the US diplomatic corps was probably the biggest your author has ever met – the Ambassador, political attaché, naval attaché, press attaché, trade attaché etc (the list goes on). The clear “takeaway” and yet unsaid message for the local elites after meeting such a sizable diplomatic visit was that (despite the US wrestling with the prickly issue of just how close to hug Governor Saakashvili – or not) it sees Odessa as the front line in the fight against corruption and the full US diplomatic weight will be put behind reform in the Oblast – so local elites think on.”

Yesterday, Deputy Secretary of State Bill Brownfield was in Odessa, announcing, amongst many sensible things, the US signing of a Memorandum of Cooperation with the Oblast Administration to create effective central administrative services and customs reforms.

Brownfield

Some of those proposed customs reforms are definitely going to be found within this recent entry regarding corruption and smuggling through Odessa ports.

Much of what Deputy Secretary of State Brownfield has to say was entirely sensible – even if anybody who actually watches the interview he gave will consider it one of the most awful deliveries of a foreign statesman to a Ukrainian audience.

In short, the content was entirely right, but the delivery failed that line between speaking slowly and clearly (even though assisted by a capable interpreter) and appearing to lecture parent to child – a problematic balance when addressing foreigners in your own language, but nevertheless, a spectacular fail compared to the numerous US statesmen and diplomats that have been interviewed in Ukraine and come across as talking adult to adult.

Public speaking perceptions aside however, the content of what was said (and signed) clearly underlined the “takeaway” your author had when last meeting the very large US diplomatic turnout to Odessa at the beginning of July.  That takeaway being the USA “sees Odessa as the front line in the fight against corruption and the full US diplomatic weight will be put behind reform in the Oblast.”

Having mulled over and discussed (face to face with your author amongst numerous others undoubtedly) whether or not to tackle the ports as a US project within Odessa – and the likelihood of success vis a vis failure for the US taxpayers $ – clearly the decision has been to tackle the ports, which is a decision supported unreservedly by this blog.

Put simply, the Odessa economy is centered around the major ports.  Ergo to at least partially clean up the grey/black economy, begin to tackle ingrained institutional and business corruption, and present additional difficulties for organised crime simultaneously – albeit to various degrees – ultimately to have a measurable effect on Odessa itself, there will be few real, sustainable reforms, without taking on the ports.

Unfortunately, at the time of writing, there is no YouTube clip to show the comedy moment when documents, handshakes and the usual “press moment” descended into nothing short of an embarrassing comedy, with Deputy Secretary of State Brownfield having to resort to telling Governor Saakashvili, to paraphrase, “you give me yours and I’ll give you mine and we hold it in this hand, we shakes hands with our other hand, and smile for the cameras”.

A visual metaphor perhaps for the seemingly unresolved and prickly problem the US has regarding just how closely they want to/be seen to hug Governor Saakashvili – who remains characteristically “unpredictably excitable” and prone to “overstatement”.

Perhaps the way around that will ultimately be to hug him as is deemed prudent and necessary publicly, but also to be both seen and interviewed with as many other Odessa locals “faces”, political, academic, institutional, whatever, as is possible on any regular Oblast visits.  In short publicly presenting the perception of hugging the Oblast, rather than the governor (even if behind the curtain, hugging the governor so tightly his room for fumbles and excitable overstatements is reduced to almost nothing in return for US support).

Whatever the case, is it fair comment to state that the US has firmly and increasingly publicly decided to open up a new front, this front against corruption in one of the most corrupt Oblasts in Ukraine?

It certainly seem to be the case.

A lot of US political, diplomatic, US taxpayers $ will be spent when partnering – and let us be blunt, often having to drive – the national and regional leadership in tackling the entrenched, nefarious and corrupt interests of the local elites and organised crime in Odessa.

A fight it can win?  Certainly it can, if the definition of winning is a dramatic reduction in corruption and a dramatic increase in risks for organised crime.

Will it win?  Only if it stays the course, and that in no small part will be dictated by whether it has an equally willing Ukrainian/Odessa leadership in the years ahead – for this has to be a long term and determined effort if all will not be for naught.

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