All the President’s Men? – Kinda, sorta?October 28, 2015
As is always the case with Ukraine, Ukrainian politics and Ukrainian institutions of State, there is a need to make distinctions, clearly labeling those that are political appointments from those that aren’t.
Constitutionally and broadly speaking, President Poroshenko is responsible for protecting and upholding the constitution, defence/security of the nation, and foreign policy – that, and for directly appointing institutional heads to several institutional bodies. Almost all other issues are the domain of the Cabinet of Ministers and the Verkhovna Rada.
Amongst those institutional and constitution appointments that fall within the remit of the President are the regional governors and the Prosecutor General.
To be extremely pointed – thus far all Prosecutor General appointees have been abject failures as far as their roles within the rule of law are concerned.
As the documents below state, the current Prosecutor General, Mr Shokin, will in no small part be responsible for any failure to the national citizenry if Ukraine fails in its attempts to gain Visa-free status with the European Union.
The obstructionism and deliberate refusal to reform and deal with the internal (and considerable) issues relating to the Prosecutor General’s Office are so blatant that they cannot be understood as being anything other on the part of Mr Shokin.
It is no secret that the EU, several EU capitals, and the US have repeatedly raised this obstructionism directly with President Poroshenko – yet Prosecutor General Shokin remains in office with dire consequences for the nation.
Should Ukraine enter the New Year with Mr Shokin still in office, then President Poroshenko had better be prepared for a serious and noticeable cooling of political, diplomatic and economic assistance for Ukraine other than that necessary to keep The Kremlin in check territorially. If the President is banking upon “The West” continuing to support him as President, then Mr Shokin has to go. If President Poroshenko is insistent upon keeping Mr Shokin, despite some very clear and blunt language from those external supporters of Ukraine, then that “Western” support will undoubtedly ebb (and quite quickly). The President will be a complete fool if he thinks otherwise.
Another high profile perceived “President’s man” is Odessa Governor Mikhail Saakashvili. Undoubtedly he was sent to Odessa in May 2015 when it became clear just how badly the President’s party, Solidarity, was doing in the local opinion polls – and it was doing (very) badly. Something had to be done prior to the local elections (held two days ago). It can be expected that Governor Saakashvili has done what he was sent to do with regard to the local polling/opinion – He stopped the ever-increasing loss of support for Solidarity. He may even have given it a slight boost. Final results for City and Oblast will be forthcoming over the next few days.
But, Governor Saakashvili, no differently to Mr Shokin, is not necessarily as compliant to the presidential will as some may expect from a presidential appointee (whose future is dictated by presidential whim by virtue of direct appointment – or sacking).
As written here some months ago, it became apparent that Sasha Borovik, Governor Saakashvili’s advisor and Mayoral candidate for Odessa, was not getting much, if any, support for the Solidarity Party for his campaigning – short of being able to use the “brand” name. So clearly lacking was that support to those that can step behind the curtain and listen to whispers in the corridors of Oblast power now and again, it could only be inferred that a deal had been struck in Kyiv for Mayor Trukhanov to win another term. If so, the Messrs Lozhkin and Kolomoisky will have been the two to strike such a deal.
Why would Kyiv strike such a deal?
For those that surround the President, Governor Saakashvili could become rather problematic in the future as far as their influence goes – ergo limited success is the safer option. Within the space of 5 months, the Governor has inserted within Odessa Oblast his Prosecutor, his Police Chief, his Customs Chief, and Maria Gaidar will likely become the next Oblast Rada – so getting the Mayor too would leave only the courts – and Sergei Kivalov and his control over the courts are clearly in Governor Saakashvili’s sights. Taking on Mr Kivalov now the political local political landscape is almost set seems assured – whether Mr Borovik becomes Mayor or not.
A complete Saakashvili power vertical in Odessa serves few (if any) interests in Kyiv, neither politically for those with an eye on the future, nor for those that have simply taken over as chief beneficiaries of the established corruption lines between Odessa and Kyiv.
(The lack of central Solidarity Party support issue at a local level was not helped by Governor Saakashvili’s telegraphed intent to dismantle the Goncharenko Solidarity Party infrastructure within the Oblast Rada and replace it with his own – despite all being “Solidarity”. Goncharenko is the President’s chosen regional party leader and previously a fairly recent Oblast Rada Chair.)
Thus in the absence of any tangible support from “Solidarity Central” (and he may have acted anyway) Governor Saakashvili became involved in promoting Sasha Borovik for Mayor – despite President Poroshenko making it clear he did not want Governors getting involved in the local elections. They were to remain aloof and avoid any inference of employing undue influence.
So why did nothing happen to Governor Saakashvili when clearly so openly defying the President?
The answer comes via a technical argument made by Governor Saakashvili – In short he told the President that any appearances with Sasha Borovik were done in his own time and not on the official clock. Appearances with Sasha Borovik therefore, occurred during “lunch breaks”, or if they occurred for several hours during the day or evening, Governor Saakashvili booked a “half-day holiday”. His appearances alongside Sasha Borovik therefore were (technically) as a private citizen. Other “supportive” instances occurred with the Governor acting in his official capacity, but with Sasha Borovik acting in his recognised role as official advisor to the Governor – at least technically.
One wonders if, in light of the elections for Mayor seemingly ruling out a second round (in line with any previously struck deals in Kyiv), whether the Borovik turn to the Regional Prosecutor proclaiming (and apparently providing evidence of) electoral fraud this morning, together with a bellicose Governor Saakashvili also proclaiming fraud by Mayor Trukhanov, have the tacit approval of President Porosehnko – or once again defy the Presidential line.
For those who would suggest the obvious, a recount under the strict and exceptionally close observation of the international observers that are still in Odessa – fair point – except who knows what has been done to the ballots since they have now left the polling/counting stations, and how many containers with now stored votes will mysteriously go missing or be accidentally destroyed by water or fire etc prior to any recount? The entirety of the electoral campaigning has been a very grubby and all to often often illicit affair in Odessa, thus there is no reason to believe that would not continue if a recount was to be requested, or indeed occurred.
To return to the point of this entry however, some may ponder, following recent events in Kyiv and Odessa, whether all the President’s men are indeed all the President’s men – or simply kinda, sorta – even though he appointed them.
Will they prove to be the kind of appointments that were brave to make, and for one reason or another, almost politically or personally, dangerous to break?