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What came first? The ideology or the party? (Somebody’s man – Nowhere man)

October 18, 2015

Ukrainian politics, aside from the loony left and swivel-eyed right, is devoid of ideology.

It’s not a secret.

No party has any depth and therefore is absent any strength due quite simply to the fact that every party is nothing more than a vehicle for the personality (or personalities) that leads them.

Strip away Yulia Tymoshenko from Batkivshchyna, or President Poroshenko from Solidarity, or Oleh Lyasko from The Radicals, Andrei Sadovyi from Samopomich, the oligarchy from the Opposition Block,  or Ihor Kolomoisky from any number of political entities and what is left?  All would be direction-less and quickly structureless, floundering in an ideological void awaiting the next “personality” to rally behind (regardless of vested interests held in some cases).

Aside from the loony left and swivel-eyed right, neither of which have any traction within Ukrainian society, there is a political ideological void currently filled by vested interests and/or personality politics driving otherwise empty vessels mislabeled as political parties.

When the party is not bigger than, nor able to exert some sort of control over the leader, in an ideological void, is it worthy of being identified as a political party?  Party direction and voting is not driven by ideological DNA within the party, it is driven by the leader’s whim and their vested interests, be they personal or business, and little more.

At a local level in Odessa, post local elections in 7 days time, this lack of common ideology will probably see a schism within the Solidarity Party.

Nowhere man

Nowhere man

Without the clear and common ideology, local deputies upon the Oblast Council are seen as “somebody’s man”.  It will come as no surprise to see the capable Mikhail Shmushkovitch, the current Oblast Rada Chairman (Solidarity), a man perceived to be MP Alexie Goncharenko’s man (Solidarity), toppled and replaced by Maria Gaidar (Solidarity) who is perceived as Governor Saakashvili’s (Solidarity in all but official party membership) woman.  Likewise others perceived as “Goncharneko people”, all of whom are Solidarity and some of whom are genuine reformers and/or competent administrators, will sidelined by Solidarity people more closely aligned with Governor Saakashvili and his top table team.

Some talented people will move from “somebody’s man” to “nowhere man” due to perceived loyalties within the same party and the same oblast.  In some cases, this will be an enormous waste of potential at the expense of the oblast, simply due to a desire to completely dismantle the inherited “Goncahenko structure” and build an entirely and unquestionably “Saakashvili loyal” structure, despite many of the “Goncharenko people” being very supportive of some of Saakashvili’s team.  For example, all seem to fully support Maria Gaidar – even if many have severe reservations about others such as Vladimir Zhmak.

On a national level, it gives the (rightful) appearance that many parliamentarians are simply for rent to the highest bidder or power centre of the day having no ideological identity to prevent moving from party to party in the eyes of the Ukrainian constituency.

Nationally, there appears to be no identifiable left of centre, centre left, liberal, centre right or right of centre consistency in any party voting, nor in the rhetoric from the politicians within any party with regard to domestic politics and policy.

This clearly has an effect upon the Ukrainian constituency and how it votes today – but perhaps more importantly when looking to the future, the lack of ideology and/or values consistently undermines Ukrainian political parties attracting the youth to party membership.  That in turn prevents any depth to any political party, and thus makes any perceived strength today entirely superficial.

The complete absence of party depth leaves the Ukrainian parties struggling to find quality candidates at every election (with even the nepotism, cronyism and nefarious networks being insufficient to fill every ballot place).  This is particularly so at the level of local elections whereby a good number of candidates in each oblast must be found and nominated for every village, town, city and oblast seat on the ballot.  A matter further complicated by the new requirement to field at least 30% female participation.

No party has had the inclination to create a system that attracts, regularly interacts with, and mentors the youth, which over time provides political party depth, as it not only generates a politically schooled and ideologically coherent pool to draw from for the future when attempting to fill hundreds of local election candidate slots, (not to mention going some way to mitigating the desperate search of 30% female participation), but it also generating a small army of youthful party faithful that will actively campaign for the party at election time.

Instead the candidates and the active campaign staff are drawn to whichever party pays the most to have them waving flags, handing out propaganda, or upon occasion, to be named upon the ballot.  In the absence of a political ideology, but with a desire to be politically active, then going to the highest payer is the only driver when making a choice.

Without any deep seated party values within its very DNA to rally around, all Ukrainian political parties will remain brittle and shallow.

So in the absence of any party values and ideology is there any point in considering just how to create any political depth?

Just how difficult is it to create a national and regional youth pool to mentor, shape and draw from in the future for a Ukrainian political party?

How hard is it to get parliamentarians and prospective candidates to visit any local branches and give lectures, engage in debates etc?

Is it so difficult to open politically aligned youth movements at every university?  (It would be a bonus for the humanities and social sciences students to be able to regularly debate parliamentarians and prospective candidates simply from a educational perspective).

Would any youth party with a national executive, regional colleges and memberships in and of itself not be an induction into politics, the grubby deals verses idealism, the messiness of democracy and all the other stuff politics entails?

Who better to debate and formulate party youth policies with if not the youth attracted to a particular party?

Are all the current political parties doomed to failure due to personality driven politics rather than ideologically driven values, or will they evolve in time to save themselves?

Which comes first?  The party or the ideology?  Which is more important for the future of the nation, being the “somebody’s man” or attracting the “nowhere man”?

Can you reform a nation without reforming the politics first?  Can you have sustainable reforms without sustainable political parties?

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