Archive for December 1st, 2013

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Tensions within – Ukraine and the Party of Regions

December 1, 2013

Way, way back on 4th November 2012, just over a year ago, I wrote an entry relating to an apparent although slow moving split within the Party of Regions.

A quiet, much needed, slow burning. internal revolution within the PoR may just have started!

I have mentioned it several times since then during the course of the past year, most recently when writing about the selective prosecution of Igor Markov.

Today, based on conversations with several within the Party of Regions this afternoon – who must naturally remain nameless lest I put them under undue pressure from above and within – I am going to mention the possibility of a  split once more.

It seems a matter of time until – rather than “if” – a significant split will occur unless the party regains some control over its leadership, rather than the leadership running completely amok and expecting the party to blindly follow along trying to justify actions as is happening now.

The sense of disquiet and unhappiness with these select few was almost palpable.

There seems to be a genuine disappointment with some Party of Regions members over the lack of signing of the Association Agreement – and why wouldn’t there be – the heavy-handedness of the dispersal of the Євромайдан protesters over which none were happy with whom I spoke, and a few resignations already, including the President’s own Chief of Staff whose wife took part in the  Євромайдан protests, and MP Inna Bohoslovska from the party.  More will follow.

There are now three questions relating to momentum in the immediate term.

The first is whether the civic Євромайдан movement will retain momentum and defend its civic identity from a politically partisan takeover?

The second will be just how long the Party of Regions can hold itself together under the current President before it tears itself apart?

18 months from now, the odds – as of the time of writing – on more than one Party of Regions candidate being on the presidential ballot are remote.  That said, 18 months ago, the quite candid and scornful remarks I heard this afternoon relating to the current leadership would never have been said in my presence, if said at all.

The last question is who or whether anybody will exploit the growing split to its fullest potential?

Still, if you don’t feed the beast, the beast will eventually feed on you.

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Civil Society and Євромайдан – What comes next according to Lutsenko?

December 1, 2013

In my entry yesterday, I wrote “Listening to the civil society discussion in Vilnius yesterday, I was somewhat saddened by what I heard from what appeared willing and energetic, but seemingly clueless Ukrainian civil society actors, as to what to do next that would have impact. Some apparently expecting others to give them a plan to carry out.

Perhaps somebody will take pity today and provide one. If not, just as євромайдан began from a Facebook call by Mustafa Nayyem, undoubtedly society rather than the feckless political class and ineffective civil society will deliver an answer once more.”

Well, Yuri Lutsenko, ex-politician and self proclaimed civil society leader, was fairly swift at coming up with a list of 10 actions (actually 12) – some of which are quite reasonable and some of which are perhaps in need of a little refinement – or abandonment.

Yes I know there are two number 5’s and two number 6’s, but that it how it was published.  If I were to renumber it, undoubtedly somebody somewhere would see something nefarious in such an act, so it stays in the flawed order is was delivered.

My initial thoughts are in italics beneath each point and run in the numerical order he published them in.

1.  Nominate 15 March as a deadline for President Yanukovych  to sign the EU Association Agreement.

What comes before or after this date by way of action and impact, I really am not sure – or the significants of this date, unless he means March 2015 when the next presidential elections take place, but that is unclear.

Why ignore the February 2014 EU-Ukraine Summit as a strategic date for a solid reminder to all of the past few days?     

2.  Create a movement “Euromaidan” comprising of the leaders of the opposition, students and civil society, to coordinate protests and political campaigns.

Євромайдан as a “movement” within society exists as we have all borne witness to.  I thus believe he means to do so via bureaucratic necessities as a legal entity.

One of the great successes of Євромайдан was – albeit it took 5 days for the opposition leaders to see common sense at the behest of Mustafa Nayyem and others how began it all – the removal of party political flags, leaving almost entirely Ukrainian and EU flags to rally behind.  

For reasons of inclusiveness when it comes to the 47% of Party of Regions voters who actively favour the signing of the Association Agreement, the national flag, together with the flag symbolic of the ideology, values and direction these protests were originally founded upon, was a victory for the civil organisers and common sense.  Inclusiveness is key – particularly when almost 50% of the President’s own voter base are in favour of the agreement he failed to sign.

To exclude them now, by way of re-branding and mixing political campaigns with the a-political party civil movement would be an error.  The active support of 47% of the President’s own voter base must be encouraged and not discouraged.  It has already caused the resignation of Mr Lyovochkin, the President’s Chief of Staff, whose wife was at the Євромайдан protests.

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Thus what is a political campaign and what is a civic protest must remain clearly identified to any that would participate or risk losing support for the civic movement at the expense of party politics.

3.  Euromaidan requires Prime Minister Azarov’s resignation and new elections.

For months the opposition, including Yuri Lutsenko, has been stating the decision to sign the Association Agreement – or not – lay solely with President Yanukovych.  He alone was responsible.  It therefore sends a confusing message that Prime Minister Azarov is to be the head that should roll earlier than it eventually will,  and not that of the man they all claimed was solely responsible.  

If you are going to overtly claim to be pro European integration and hold all within the Association Agreement as “the way”, whilst also claiming to be the “democratic” opposition, then inherently that means doing things the European way and democratically.  Opposition credibility relating to rule of law and legitimacy in wearing the democratic label require it to set the example and work within the frameworks that exist to achieve their goal.  

So aside from emotive (and opportunistic) drivers, what legitimate and legal grounds are there for calling new elections now?  Many European eyes will not simply be looking at the actions of the authorities from now on, but also the opposition just as closely.

4.  The opposition leaders announce a coordinated team for positions of President, Prime Minister and RADA Speaker.

That was always going to be the deal for opposition cooperation, the only interesting thing is who would agree to sit in what seat now – none would commit so far from the presidential elections, to be the RADA speaker for example if there is a chance of being the president.

5.  Expand student strikes to cover all students and universities.

And if not all students are interested?  You would hope most are as it is their future being so robustly fought over, but there will be a minority that will want to continue to be taught regardless – particularly final year students.  Perhaps encourage (voluntary) student involvement would be a far better framing?  Perhaps actions on a particular day nationally on a coordinated but ad hoc basis?

6.  Parliamentary opposition blocks parliament.

Well it had to be there didn’t it?  Gift wrap President Yanukovyvh an excuse not to continue to reform due to the opposition preventing it.

Perhaps a more nuanced and strategic way would be to prevent anything other than European reform legislation passing through the RADA with a partial blocking when any other type of legislation is scheduled?

It would be a saddening sight for European eyes looking in, to see the opposition reverting to the usual zero sum tactics at the expense of everything including European integration.  

A return to the political trenches guaranteed even at the expense of Association Agreement orientated legislation does not necessarily endear the opposition to many of the protesters either.

5.  Businesses in Kyiv and other cities go on strike.

Fanciful – For those that want to, fair enough.  But people need to eat, buy fuel, medicines and the other basics of life requiring some  businesses stay open even if they would like to strike in a particular location.

Times are also that good that businesses can afford to close voluntarily and indefinitely?

Perhaps, as with the students, coordinated single days of closure would be a more realistic option for all?  

Can there be perhaps a more nuanced and strategically surgical method  is via personal spending power, which boycotts product X or Y, or business X or Y, for ideological purposes en masse?  Why hurt the entire economy when targeting assets of those most closely associated with the Vilnius Summit can be surgically boycotted?

6.  Achieve political decision to return to parliament the powers of the 2004 Constitution.

Now I am all for parliamentary governance at the expense of presidential powers.  Empowering a single individual in a single political office has done this region no good whatsoever.  Exceptionally limited and radically reduced Presidential power would seem a very good idea given the experiences of the FSU nations.

However, not a single Ukrainian President or Prime Minister has been happy with the 2004 Constitution.  Ms Tymoshenko complained on several occasions that it made the country ungovernable – or perhaps that is the goal until the current president is replaced.  

Maybe a thorough overhaul of the Constitution if/after an opposition candidate becomes President?

7.  Victory of pro-European forces, the formation of a new government that immediately passes all necessary laws for integration.

Given that 15th March nominal date mentioned in “Number 1” is some 18 months away, it would be perhaps wise to draft the legislation slowly and carefully with consideration not simply for the immediate results they bring but also the long term implications of them?  Why not try and draft something of genuine quality for a change?  There is time to involve civil society, academics, the legal profession and even the Venice Commission after all.

8.  Sign the Association Agreement.

Absolutely.

9.  Create a system of international monitoring for the Presidential elections.

Absolutely – but there is no need to reinvent the wheel.  International monitoring organsiations have done this many times over and fine tuned their systems.  Ask them what works and what doesn’t.

10.  The election of a new administration that will carry out deep “Euroreform”.

“Euroreform”?  Whatever – A government that will actually implement anything it legislates effectively will be a refreshing change.  So whilst you are at it, why not liaise with civil society now and arrive at a monitoring strategy as it is they that will be measuring this “deep Euroreform” and telling the EU how well – or not – it goes.  

As Yuri Lutsenko now regularly claims to be a civil society leader, this seems far more like a political plan for the opposition, rather than a strategy for civil society.  That does not bode well for the civic movement that gave birth to Євромайдан.

Whilst I robustly believe Ukraine will head toward European integration with or without a signed agreement over time anyway – via the different ideology of the generational demographics now coming into play –  I am also very well aware of ability of the opposition parties to completely mismanage and misinterpret  a tide of public will and opinion to the point of destroying it.

There was only one demand of the Євромайдан and that was for the Association Agreement to be signed.  That is how it should remain.

Anyway, these initial ideas of Mr Lutsenko were to be thrashed around last night.  It may well evolve and be tinkered with (or hatcheted in places) to something resembling a realistic and workable plan over the next few weeks.

I have to say though, nowhere in that plan does there seem any method or even desire to expand the attraction of the EU Association Agreement with those who still don’t really understand it – even if forced to print 46 million leaflets and deliver them to every soul in the nation to be sure they know what they think they are in favour of – or against – if factually based.

I suppose we will have to see what the next few weeks bring with regard to a competent strategy for civil society.

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