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Tymoshenko opposes open electoral lists

April 9, 2014

Eventually there will be new RADA elections.

Although all those currently sitting in the RADA are there on the back of a 2012 public mandate until 2017, either via the 50% of seats won via the first past the post system, or via the 50% of seats filled via the party list system, due to recent events in Ukraine there is a loud call for new RADA elections and a renewing of MPs legitimacy – perhaps rightly in lieu of the absence of any law providing for an MPs recall after some actions or inactions of RADA members that have raised the public ire far beyond the usual over the past 6 months.

There is little to say about this electoral construct that I did not say prior to, and during the 2012 elections.

In summary, the first past the post system is open to bribery, threats and nefarious deeds by candidates, their supporters, within the CEC, regional and local electoral commissions  – Not to mention well publicised deeds of inferred intent when influencing voters – such as the resurfacing of a road within an electoral district paid for by the MP (or their party) in order to curry favour with that specific constituency.

In short the issue is one of buying victory – or buying the defeat of a rival.

The closed party list system has been no less abused by the relevant party leaders either.

Almost without fail, if x% of the national vote has equaled y number of seats for a particular party, then the top y number of candidates from the party list fill them.  The ranking of those candidates numerically, done by the party leadership alone.  Hence it is called a closed list, as the voter has no say in the closed party list rankings.

This has caused financial bidding amongst candidates to sit high enough upon the closed party list to be assured of becoming an MP.  This bidding for high position on the list runs into many millions of dollars for each RADA seat – that money going who knows where?  (Rhetorical question.)

The going price today I have no idea – but in 2007 my good lady was approached by a major party inquiring if she would like to be placed on their party list – the fee then $5 million.  The return on this investment – aside from absolute  immunity with impunity regarding the law – was to at least double that investment during the 5 year term through illicit payments for her signature on documents relating to whatever governmental committee she ended up sitting upon, plus the occasional “thank you” for voting “the right way”.

The offer was politely refused as my good lady has no interest in politics or the “RADA business club”.  Regardless, there was and would still be a price to pay for sitting high upon any closed party list unless you are deemed to be a necessity, truly exceptionally gifted, or favourite of the party leader.

(In case you are wondering why my good lady was selected, many moons ago, she was something of a Soviet sports star and then went on to help set up NTV in Moscow – only to be in the building when Mr Yeltsin had his tanks shell it.  Thus she therefore holds some “recognition” amongst the 40 – 60 somethings who were sport fans/NTV viewers back in her day, and that is why she was approached – Life with me must seem somewhat sedate/dull for her I suspect.)

Anyway, the closed party list has hardly been a system where the brightest or the best flourish – but where the corrupt and nefarious do extremely well.

Historically there have been no end of calls from the electorate and some MPs alike to end the closed list system and swap to an open party list, whereby voters have some influence on who ranks where in that hierarchy.  Somewhat more democratic most would agree.

Open party lists were a PACE recommendation for the Ukrainian electoral code back in 2010.   17 EU member states use open lists of one form or another.  It seems to be generally an acceptable European thing to do.

And yet Ms Tymoshenko has now come out against the open party list – preferring the closed system.

Her reason given, an open party list will lead to the same bribery and nefarious acts that the first past the post system brings, and money must be separated from politics  She makes no mention that the closed party list potentially – and has – put a lot of money at her disposal, as explained above.

She does give something of a democratic nod insomuch as to say the Batkivshchyna list would be open to civil society to make comment upon candidates – but civil society is not the electoral constituency and neither is civil society elected into the role it adopts in democracy by society either.

However – open or closed lists – as the leader of Batkivshchyna Party, is it not Ms Tymoshenko’s responsibility to purge her party of all and any strongly suspected or known corrupt or nefarious candidates?  She has publicly promised to do it many times.  Is she not responsible for insuring any contaminated candidate fails to get on the party list as a matter of principle (and internal party policy)?

Her argument to have closed lists at a time when large parts of Ukrainian society are demanding transparency, good governance and greater democracy does not seem to fit the mood of the moment – and a good deal of politics is about timing.

Why then has she declared herself against it?  Is it a (party) financing issue?  Is it a control issue?   Does she fear that she herself would not make the list if left to public whim?  Is it that it possibly refuses her closest allies guaranteed seats, thus making promised rewards potentially more difficult to fullfil?

It does seem a rather odd thing to state when public opinion already has her trailing other presidential candidates and the demand to stay well clear of the old system has not quietened.

We can be quite sure that other presidential candidates and party leaders will now support the opposing and more democratic view advocated by PACE in 2010 – even if they aren’t particularly keen for the same reasons as Ms Tymoshenko.

Normally I can see method in madness, but I have to admit I am struggling to see how this will help her garner the popular vote with presidential elections on the immediate horizon – or endear Batkivshchyna under her leadership to the Ukrainian constituency when RADA elections eventually come to pass.

 

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2 comments

  1. It is truly amazing – no matter what, someone in Ukraine (I’m not referring to you, but to the political players) come up with a scheme to advance corruption and queer the deal. Truly amazing. I am still looking to see whether Tymo truly learned anything in jail.

    All this after much, much talk about making systemic changes so as to defeat corruption – this even comes from Tymo’s most recent appearance on the Savik Shuster show!

    So that Ukraine will finally be a country to be proud of, a country where people want to live.

    On another note – if your lady was in the building when Yeltsin sent his tanks against it, then no doubt she remembers when Berezovsky made his statement about calculating return on investment – the choice was between business and politics.

    Berezovsky made the statement that the greater return on investment was in politics.

    And after all this time, it seems that there are those who still want to hang on to the RADA business club, as you call it – good phrase.


    • She does indeed remember Berezovsky saying that. She knew him quite well – at least on first name terms. He has/had a little place where I live now, though it was seized/arrested last year by request of Russia when he died.



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