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Political Will (and application) – A matter of trust

March 30, 2012

It’s not often the opportunity arises to pop your head above the barricades to find both government, opposition and media all talking about the same thing at the same time and all leaving themselves open for a quick volley of fire before ducking back down behind the barricades and allowing them to play their games amongst themselves once more.

Our targets today are Prime Minister Azarov, Natalia Korolevska and an article in The Moscow Times.  The subjects justice, corruption and the political will to provide improvements to both.  All three see political will as the answer to the problems within the Ukrainian and Russian society.  I think it is something far more fundamental – Trust.

To keep matters simple, let us concentrate on their recent comments on justice systems and tackling corruption which apparently can be tackled by political will alone according to two out of three of them.  Only Azarov briefly  mentions the key underlying factor that regardless of political will accomplishing legal or systemic changes amongst the administrative arms of the State and judiciary, is required for any changes to be successful – That factor is trust.

No matter how well designed, no matter how tried and tested, no matter how safe and protective in an accident, or how beneficial to society and the environment an electric car may be, if you don’t think it will perform well, you won’t buy into the concept.

Similarly society must have trust in the political and judicial systems.  They are two foundational pillars of society and they have to be trusted to be effective.

Let us start with The Moscow Times article and this quote from it –  “Of course, no particular political willpower is required to dismiss someone whom a court of law has found guilty of corruption, but it is needed in large supply when firing someone whom a leader has good reason to believe — based on media reports or other evidence — has been involved in corrupt practices. No doubt the person who gets sacked will raise a clamor, remind his employer of their long personal friendship and possibly even threaten to sue for wrongful dismissal. The senior official will simply have to endure the unpleasantness, remind his old friend that nothing can justify taking kickbacks on state contracts and that he is free to seek justice through the courts if he feels he has been wronged. In other words, all that is needed to stop corruption is a little personal integrity and political willpower.”

Now there is nothing to disagree with contained in that quote whatsoever – if you have trust that the courts will back up your decision to sack the individual in question and that the individual in question is not better connected or in a financial position to influence the outcome of the court.  Unfortunately both Russians and Ukrainians are well aware that influence or money can provide a legal outcome that is completely opposite of what the evidence displays.

Just because you are somebody’s boss doesn’t necessarily mean you are more powerful than them in the grand scheme of things.  So distorted are matters that you may well sack somebody for corruption to then discover they are far more connected than you assumed, you lose in court when they appeal and find yourself sacked instead,  whilst they take your position as the boss.  9 times from 10 things wouldn’t go to court, however it only takes one instants to change your life in a surprisingly bad way.

Thus there is an absolute need to trust the judicial system if challenging the patriarchal system.

Next, let’s see what pearls of wisdom Natalia Korolevska returned from Brussels with after her Korolevska Foundation forum there a few days ago.  The answer is obviously no new pearls of wisdom at all, and she is saying nothing that dozens of RADA MPs haven’t already said over the last decade or more.

Unfortunately for Ms Korolevska, some of us have better memories than others and she herself acknowledged that all RADA members know what the problems are but don’t do anything about it back in 2006 – “It seems that everyone here is well aware of the difficulties, but nobody makes an attempt resolve them and to help the people.” – Ms Korolevska, you are working with and talking with the same people you mentioned in 2006.  Your latest statement, as you well know, means nothing as they all already know what you have tried to imply is a visionary way forwards.

She is hardly setting an example either.  Somehow she has managed to amount a net worth (as estimated in Focus magazine 2009) of almost $250 million and recently has expanded from her food empire and entered coal.  Claims she no longer has business interests and all business assets are in her husband’s name and under his sole control are understandably met with a great degree of cynicism.  Again, trust is the issue with making such a claim.

However, whilst we can broadly agree with most of what she states, this sentence we really do have to examine: – “Corrupt bureaucracy cannot be charged with implementation of reforms.”  – Sticking with the judicial system as the theme, it is simply impossible to remove all existing judges, prosecutors and advocats in Ukraine from the system as there are not enough to replace them all with new, uncorrupted, fresh out of the box replacements.  Accepting that, who else can implement the reforms?

If, as is desperately needed in Ukraine, the judiciary are allowed to be genuinely independent from their political and business masters (often one and the same thing), then it would be folly to grant them that independence and the necessary immunity from prosecution that goes with it (to prevent outside pressure influencing them), prior to reforms.

To grant them genuine independence and immunity prior to any reforms would leave the corrupt judges, prosecutors and advocats in place whilst also making them almost untouchable and exceptionally difficult to remove thereafter.

Also, the political appointing of judges would need to end.  As it currently stands in Ukraine, judicial appointments are made by the president in some cases and the RADA in others as per the Constition (Title VIII).  A completely non-political appointment system such as the UK’s Judicial Appointments Commission would need to be set up and have that authority, both to hire and to fire.

To do that the Ukrainian Constitution would need to be changed, but as Ms Korolevska and her opposition colleagues are refusing to participate in the ex-President Kravchuk led Constitutional Assembly tasked with working through the constitution and amending it, that work is stalled.

In the case of the judiciary, it seems impracticable to do as Ms Korolveska states and remove the existing personnel within the structure prior to those within it implementing any reforms.  The numbers of qualified and suitable replacements simply do not exist to take a hatchet to them all and then afterwards reform the system.

There is a very careful balance between the integrity of the judicial system, which at the end of the day is the absolute priority for any legal system, and the stability of it whilst reforming it (thus allowing it to function as reforms work their way through.)

Just how Ms Korolevska indeeds to reform the judicial system without those currently within it having a very large part to play in that I am not sure.  Hopefully she will explain how this can and will be done.  Maybe she has a cupboard full of brand spanking new and untainted judges, prosecutors and advocats ready to replace all those currently active within the Ukrainian justice system?

Lastly we get to the current Ukrainian Prime Minister, who at least manages to recognise that what is essential in any reform – trust.  He manages to use the word.

Unfortunately, for him, his government, the opposition and entire political class, trust is not a word used by society when referring to any of them.  Almost to a man/woman they have proven to be untrustworthy, opaque in their extra-political business dealings, corrupt and manipulative for their own ends.

If there is any trust between society and the political elite, it is that society trusts them to do what is right for themselves and not society more often than not.  When the entire RADA is made up of millionaires and billionaires in a nation that has a relatively poor GDP per capita income, society is obviously going to be suspicious of each and every one of them.

Under what circumstances does the average poorly paid Ukrainian trust a politician worth $ millions who made their money through opaque business practices or thievery from the public purse?

The politicians don’t even trust each other.  Why haven’t the opposition parties united?  Because they don’t trust each other.  To quote Ms Korolevska after she was expelled from Yulia Tymoshenko’s political block only 2 weeks ago, “Deputies from the so-called opposition have united with the majority factions; an anti-national majority consisting of representatives of the current and previous government has been formed in the Verkhovna Rada.”  – She doesn’t trust those she claims to be trying to forge a united opposition party with anymore than they trust her.  None of them trust each other.  They will not genuinely unite and they will remain dysfunctional because of this.

It is no surprise that so many Ukrainian politicians have family members in politics with them.  When there is no trust amongst colleagues then the patriarchal system brings with it that necessary but missing trust.

Therefore, political will and reform implementation are a matter of trust at its most fundamental level.  As it is, in Ukraine, the government doesn’t trust the opposition or the administrative arms of the State.  The opposition doesn’t trust the government or other the opposition parties, and they also don’t trust the administrative arms of the State.  Society doesn’t trust any of them.

So before there can be the political will, the reforms, the faith in administrative systems for individuals to act with personal integrity and know that there is a solid judicial system that will back them, there first of all needs to be trust.

That is something that will be incredibly difficult to produce.

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