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Re-re-branding “Solidarity”

March 11, 2015

In 2000, a then Rada MP called Petro Poroshenko set up a political party called “Solidarity”.

It is rumoured that Petro Poroshenko left the “Social Democratic Party of Ukraine” with the approving nod of the President Kuchma, who saw the benefit of splitting the SDP lest it become too large and potent for the Ukrainian political landscape of the time.

That same year it became “Party of Ukraine’s Solidarity”, with MPs from both “Hromada” and “The Peasant Party of Ukraine” – were ultimately being assimilated into what became “Party of Regions”.

That Party of Regions assimilation did not go particularly well, and in 2001, Petro Poroshenko put the original Solidarity name through a resurrection  process, which led to Solidarity being assimilated into “Our Ukraine” – whilst was Party of Ukraine Solidarity remained within Party of Regions.

Having been assimilated within Our Ukraine, Solidarity in effect disappeared from the electoral map, officially participating in no more elections.  On 31st December 2013, the party was officially struck from the political register by the Ukrainian courts due to non-participation in elections for 11 years.  During that decade however, numerous MPs associated themselves with the “Solidarity Faction” within Our Ukraine.

Thus whilst the party was, as Ukrainski Pravda stated “a myth with no website, unknown phone numbers and non existing addresses” – it was continually mentioned in political and public discourse by those MPs that identified with “Solidarity” – they basically being Petro Poroshenko’s “people” within Our Ukraine.

Post EuroMaidan at the beginning of 2014, Petro Poroshenko, brought Solidarity to the fore once again, leading “All-Ukrainian Union Solidarity” also known on the electoral ballot sheet as “All-Ukrainian Party of Peace and Unity” – an entity that was in effect the “Solidarity” MPs historically allied to Petro Poroshenko plus anybody who saw the writing on the wall and wanted to side with the probable next president of Ukraine early.  The likes of Yuri Lutsenko etc.

After Petro Poroshenko was elected President, in August 2014 All-Ukrainian Union Solidarity changed its name to “Block Petro Poroshenko” – going on to win the largest number of parliamentary seats in the October 2014 Rada elections.

It now appears that Block Poroshenko is about to re-brand itself back to Solidarity once again.

This may be due to a desire to remove “personality” from overshadowing, or too close an association, with “party” – at least as far as prima facie perceptions are concerned.

Perhaps the party feels it is time to distance itself from the president’s name for other electoral and/or Rada voting reasons in the days, weeks, and months ahead.  In October 2015, local elections are to be held.  It may be that they feel they will do better branded as Solidarity rather than as Block Poroshenko.  Alternatively they may anticipate doing badly, and re-branding now will allow the partial excuse of being “new/unknown” to the local electorate.

It may be in voting for many unpopular reforms that lay ahead, a need to separate party from president is seen as wise to avoid guilt/unnecessary unpopularity by association.  Alternatively, should it vote against the president, an aura of “independence” will be deemed to have been created.

There is also the issue of recent Rada history, where it is difficult to find a second Rada session after election that didn’t grind to a deadlock and infighting, resulting in very little being achieved.  The third session has often been more or less fatal.  Few parliaments have progressed to the forth session and beyond in anything other than a non-productive coma.  Thus, perhaps a psychological play for the masses, who no doubt are anticipating history repeating, is partly the purpose of the re-branding.  An attempt to jolt historical narratives.  Nevertheless, only the foolish would rule out new Rada elections in 2016.

It may also be that President Poroshenko has made it known “Block Poroshenko” sits rather uncomfortably for him.  He may have received heavy hints from many a western leader that it is not particularly “western” to have a political party carry the presidential name.  Though a political leader must be able to lead, nothing good rarely comes of the leader being “bigger” than the party.  The party, ultimately, has to be able to control its leader.  Therefore having a party named after the leader is not exactly a “liberally democratic European” political norm.

It is perhaps, all open to interpretation and speculation as to the raison d’être for this latest re-re-branding – though this would appear to be the final opportunity for the rebirth of “Solidarity” with any association (direct or otherwise) to Petro Poroshenko.

Standing out within the original guiding ideology of the circa 2000 Solidarity Party (amongst the other standard “fight corruption” meme etc., of all parties of the era) was the devolution of some powers and responsibilities to the provinces.  The empowerment, to a greater degree, of local governance.  A shift away from all-encompassing central power, and the abandonment of populist politics.

After 15 years of talking/campaigning/manifesto inclusion, it is now time, when in a position of holding presidency and parliamentary majority, for Solidarity to finally deliver on that long-professed devolutionary ideology.  In doing so, it would be wise to be guided by both word and spirit of the European Charter of Self-Government – lest political energy be required to make an otherwise unnecessary return to the subject at some further future moment.

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