Archive for April 12th, 2013


US Aid 2014 and Ukrainian Feckless Plurality

April 12, 2013

It seems amongst a total of approximately $88.5 million allocated by the US to aid Ukraine in 2014, $54 million of that is to support democracy and reform.

To quote the US Department of State:

“U.S. assistance [of $54 million to Ukraine] aims to promote the development of a democratic, prosperous, and secure Ukraine, fully integrated into the Euro-Atlantic community as it struggles to overcome the effects of the global financial crisis and worsening backsliding on democratic reform,” according to the Department of State’s FY 2014 Executive Budget Summary.

The Department of State, in particular, noted that funding would strengthen democratic institutions and processes, and accountable governance, support civil society, independent media, judicial reform, and anti-corruption efforts, improve conditions for investment and economic growth, improve energy security, and help bring the damaged Chornobyl nuclear facility to an environmentally safe and stable condition and properly store its nuclear waste.

 These funds belong to the so-called Economic Support Fund, which the U.S. uses to advance its interests by helping countries “meet short- and long-term political, economic, and security needs.” 

A big ask indeed.  If all that could be achieved on such funding in Ukraine, the promotion of democracy globally would cost no more than a few dozen drones.

Of course it cannot be achieved on such funding and nobody expects it to be achieved – even with all the pooled funding numerous global actors provide relating to these areas of Ukrainian “democratic development”.  The end game of a consolidated democracy in Ukraine – both vertically and horizontally – is not much closer than it was in 1991 when independence was rudely dumped into the lamp of Ukraine.

If we are to stick to the scholarly terms of “opening” – where democratic opportunity appears and gives chance to replace a previous non-democratic regime, or “breakthrough” where democracy actually replaces the old governance system – often rapidly and normally on that back of a new legal foundation (Constitutions), and lastly “consolidation” whereby the state institutions, civil society, judiciary and all other horizontal democratic institutions are reformed, together with vertical of regular elections and the habitual recognition by society of the rules of democracy, it is quite clear that no democratically elected Ukrainian government has ever got anywhere near achieving the consolidation of democracy – particularly so when it comes to the horizontal.

What Ukraine does have is a rather hollow – or lacking – horizontal which needs to be addressed with far more political will and effort than the issues with the vertical at this moment in time.  Whilst laws addressing these issues may now be getting written, they will be useless unless implemented and monitored both fairly and consistently by an independent and competitive horizontal.

There are few Ukrainian politicians past or present, who would not classify as being part of a rather nicely named scholarly group of “feckless pluralists” – and “feckless pluralism” is certainly where Ukraine would find itself seated in most academics eyes by way of theory definition over the past decade.

Those few which do not would generally fall into the category of “feckless pluralists” would fall into the category  “dominant power” politics whereby the State and the leader/ruling party become almost indistinguishable rather than necessarily clearly defined.  Ex-President Kuchma would probably be the closest to a Ukrainian period where “dominant power” politics prevailed in the 1990s.

Sticking rigidly to scholarly definition, President Yanukovych, despite prima facie efforts to move back towards “dominant power” politics would not manage to fully meet all the necessary theoretical determining markers – Thus it is with a wry smile that I write that he currently remains “feckless”, and with all the other politicians of Ukraine, is  engaged in the “feckless pluralism”.

The definition which so encapsulates Ukrainian politics:

“Countries whose political life is marked by feckless pluralism tend to have significant amounts of political freedom, regular elections, and alternation of power between genuinely different political groupings. Despite these positive features, however, democracy remains shallow and troubled. Political participation, though broad at election time, extends little beyond voting.  Political elites from all the major parties or groupings are widely perceived as corrupt, self-interested, and ineffective. The alternation of power seems only to trade the country’s problems back and forth from one hapless side to the other. Political elites from all the major parties are widely perceived as corrupt, self-interested, dishonest, and not serious about working for their country. The public is seriously disaffected from politics, and while it may still cling to a belief in the ideal of democracy, it is extremely unhappy about the political life of the country.”  Thomas Carothers – End of the Transitional Paradigim, 2002.

What part of feckless pluralism doesn’t fit the Ukrainian political class from 2005 – present?

I doubt Yanukovych will manage to complete a move back to the “dominant power” politics of Kuchma due to internal and external pressure and economic realities, and thus Ukraine swings as a pendulum between absolute fecklessness and fecklessness with a dominant streak – none of which provides anything more than a hollow democracy of sorts, and provides leadership past and present that has not or is not overly interested in, or capable of, moving Ukraine entirely into the solid territory of a consolidated democracy.  All have, or will have a democratic legacy deficit rather than a positive democratic legacy to draw upon when times are hard and democracy is deemed to be failing rather than producing the results society expects.

So it is with more than a little pessimism that I look at the latest US funding announcement when it comes to Ukrainian political Dollar deliverables.

That is not to say that either feckless pluralism or dominant politics cannot move to establish a consolidated democracy – but it takes sustained political will, with oft hard and unpopular work to accomplish – not US$ or Euro when all is said and done.

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