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Tomorrow’s parties – Where are they today?

May 26, 2014

Yesterday was one of those days my good lady hates – my day full of meetings with diplomats, representatives of international institutions and international NGOs, talking politics, policy and solutions – and she sat thoroughly bored throughout.

It was the sort of day that provides more than a weeks worth of blog entries if all that was discussed, debated and  agreed/disagreed upon was written about by unpacking it all into separate issues.

As always with such meetings, the Chatham House rule applies if I decide to write about any discussion. Of the numerous topics discussed with various people, I will concentrate upon a specific issue raised during several hours of discussion with those very clever people from Carnegie.

Having firstly thoroughly trashed the use of  the almost meaningless but en vogue term “decentralisation” in favour of “devolution”  for reasons of clarity of function and perception when it comes to the subject of moving power from the political and policy centre to the regions, we eventually, several stops later, reached the subject of this entry – the political party void on the horizon for Ukraine.

All acknowledged that Svoboda has peaked and will become little more than a regional party once more.

All agreed that Mr Akhmetov deliberately chose Mr Mikhail Dobkin to lead the Party Regions into oblivion, allowing the ballot box to kill it off rather than Mr Akhmetov simply withdrawing his funding prior to the public nod of approval to bury it.

There was no disagreement that Batkivshchyna will also split into 2 or 3 far less potent individual entities – in effect ceasing to exist as it does today.

UDAR, once Vitali Klitschko becomes Kyiv Mayor will also struggle to remain whole.

So much for the agreed consensus of opinion.

Our problem – and more specifically the problem for Ukraine, was what comes next?

The days of personality based parties in Ukraine are all but over, so where will the new parties come from to fill the void?  They will be ideologically driven if they are to capture the attention of the ever-growing post-Soviet electoral constituency.

Despite a particularly uncivil civil society predating EuroMaidan, the events in Kyiv from December to February created a civil society with clear purpose, enthusiasm and no shortage of previously missing traction with the public.

In a democracy civil society is normally a fertile breading ground for the civic minded to move through from lobbying and activism directly into politics and the legislature.

The current problem is that civil society sees the Ukrainian political class as corrupt, feckless and generally contemptible – which it is.  Therefore it intends to fight the good fight and try and keep the political class from straying from a righteous accountable and democratic path – fair enough, that is part of the role of a robust and vibrant civil society.

However, the most capable individuals within Ukrainian civil society display no desire to move into politics themselves, despite the fact that it seems clear the current party structures that have historically fought for power within Ukrainian politics are all about to fall apart at about the same time.

Of the very few unanswered questions of the evening, was how to move the better and untainted civil society individuals through from civic activist to the political class when they have no desire to do so, and how to generate ideologically founded political parties now, in preparation for the significant party void that will soon descend upon the RADA?

Whether such parties be ideologically centre-left, centre-right, or centre, and be they pro-European or pro-Eurasian, they will need to emerge to replace and/or resist what remains of the political vehicles/parties created 20 years ago simply for personality projection or interests protection.

Some new parties will be created from the splits amongst current parties that have already – or will very soon – manifest themselves.  Others will necessarily need to be born free from inherited political legacies – but from where with a reluctant civil society is a big question.

 

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