Archive for January 21st, 2012


A Ukrainian future – according to Chatham House

January 21, 2012

Looking to the future of Ukraine and to 2020?

Those very clever people at Chatham House (one of the few think-tanks I admire – but I would as a member) have been playing with 3 very different scenarios relating to Ukraine and its future heading towards 2020.

Those scenarios for discussion were, a fragmentation from failed authoritarian rule, national consensus leading to real reform or latterly strategic authoritarianism.  All 3 are worthy of conversation and none can be readily dismissed.

Fragmentation and failed authoritarian rule was set within the parameters of ” President Victor Yanukovych and his Party of Regions (PoR) monopolize power.  Their divisive policies and failure to restore economic growth generate significant dissatisfaction, but the opposition radicalizes and fragments, enabling Yanukovych to remain in power throughout the decade. Local needs and expectations become of paramount importance—to the detriment of national unity.”

National consensus leading to reform ” Worsening economic conditions and a poor response from the Yanukovych
administration galvanize opposition politicians, small-business owners, and young bureaucrats into action. When some oligarchs join this opposition coalition, the balance of power shifts decidedly against Yanukovych, paving the way for a pragmatic, reform-oriented leader to come to power and lead change in Ukraine.”

Lastly, strategic authoritarianism defined as “Yanukovych establishes himself at the apex of a power vertical, which he manages to maintain throughout the decade by exploiting the weakness of his opposition and meeting the expectations of his elite backers and the public for “stability” and economic growth.”


So which are most likely?  The discussion can be found here.

What do I think?  I think scenario 3 is the most likely and indeed is work in progress.  Should that fail, scenario 1 will takes its place.

Scenario 2?   That is extremely unlikely looking at the political and social landscape from within.  The reality is, even if Ms Tymoshenko was not in jail, she is far too divisive amongst other opposition figures for them to unite around, an issue quite apparent when she was Prime Minister of a coalition government that held a majority of 1.

Svodoba are simply too extreme for 90+% of Ukrainians to rally behind so a Ukrainian Reich is not going to happen for the self-proclaimed nazis.

Arseny Yatseniuk is too quiet, fails to inspire and is also going to suffer from being Jewish amongst a small but significant amount of voters.  Despite all that he is probably the only real hope for any real democratic reform amongst the current political figures.

Celebrity politicians like Klitcho have little following outside of Kyiv.  Currently non-political well known academic, journalistic or public figures leading a new party on a platform of anti-corruption (for example) coming through?  Unlikely now the two biggest parties in Ukrainian politics voted through a 5% voter threshold count in any elections.

A business/oligarchical figure breaking ranks from either the ruling or opposition ranks?  Possible but unlikely before the next parliamentary or presidential elections.

Nobody has the national recognition, history or personality to unite and lead the opposition parties against the PoR.  That is a simple fact.  Should anybody emerge who could, they will not want Ms Tymoshenko, her ego or her baggage along for the ride.  Can they win over her die hard supporters?  Probably not.

What the discussion at Chatham House fails to discuss is that aside from the extremely right wing Svoboda and the far left Communists, no other party has a clearly identifiable political ideology.  The “democratic parties” as the opposition frames itself, are no more democratic than the PoR.  5 years of experiencing them in power and 5 years of no reforms in the recognised democratic pillars of society (law, media, politics etc) are not so easily forgotten by the Ukrainian public.  In almost all areas of public life, the current opposition parties were an abject failure when in power delivering almost nothing to the public by design and only by default.

There is no political force that stands firmly on a platform of anything definable when it comes to domestic policy or domestic reform.  If it wasn’t for the reforms needed relating to the DCFTA with the EU, one wonders if any reforms would happen at all if left to the devices of parliamentarians from any party.  None in the past 10 years have proven themselves to be effective against any of the corrosive issues within Ukrainian society.

None have proven themselves able to change anything either within the personal spats  that  play out along the corridors of power in Kyiv nor have they got to grips with the patriarchal fiefdoms that are the regional administrations.

Scenario 2 therefore seems about as likely as my cat giving birth to a rhinoceros for the foreseeable future unless external circumstances conspire to form the perfect revolutionary storm.  Even if such circumstances were to form, Ukrainian society does not live in a bubble.  It has seen the results of the recent revolutions and their aftermath.  Thus far none of the recent revolutions have met the expectations of those involved.

Ukrainians are well aware of unintended consequences after revolutions.  They lived with 70 years of communism as a result last time.  If you wish to count the “orange revolution” of 2004, that proved to be equally as deflating when the results became apparent.

We are really left with scenario 1 or scenario 3.  Looking at the political actions from 2010 to present, it seems scenario 3 is work in progress and scenario 1 is a Plan B contingency.

The net result in any event, given current circumstances, is President Yanukovych until 2020.

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