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The Anti-Corruption Conference Kyiv – A political party in the making

December 24, 2015

In a (well received) recent entry that attempted to explain the current state of play within the Verkhovna Rada in the simplest of terms, several paragraphs inferred the creation of an anti-corruption political party.

In fact it inferred there may be a few – “Governor Saakashvili will at some point launch “Team Saakashvili” as a political party – and it will be successful. Probably very successful. It will undoubtedly pull from Solidarity, People’s Front, Batkivshchyna and Samopomich constituencies – with serious constituency injuries for all concerned.

There will be no home for the majority of existing MPs within “Team Saakashvili” to be sure. There will be a few exceptions should they show a desire – the obvious and untainted reformers – but otherwise Governor Saakashvili has a list of vetted, western education/western business experienced people from his appeals to help in Odessa. That list is in the hundreds when it comes to vetted, competent and uncorrupted 25 – 45 year old Ukrainians. Indeed the most controversial name on his party list would probably be his own.”

And – “There may also be a “pro-reform” party appear – it takes only the “Anti-Corruption Platform” group that currently exists within Solidarity to split and form as a political party that would cross the electoral threshold.”

Notwithstanding – “If Governor Saakashvili can see the current Verkhovna Rada mathematics clearly, and the constitutional majority requirements on the legislative time table, is his best course of action still to try and force the Yatseniuk issue with such political energy now, or should he perhaps whilst keeping the pressure on and in the issue in the public eye with slightly less gusto, spend more time marshaling his own troops, preparing for national “Team Saakashvili” party offices with competent corruption free management etc? In short a clear policy for party creation and programming nationwide in preparation to maximise his result (which is likely to be good, but could be very good). His time on the Ukrainian national stage will surely come after all.”

The 23rd December saw a Governor Saakashvili convened anti-corruption conference in Kyiv (with an introductory Presidential address via a link).  The conference is still on-going at the time this entry is published, so any events and incidents, commentary and interpretations thereof, cannot yet be written.

However, it is clear that whilst no anti-corruption party will be launched during the conference, a good deal of work behind the scenes is currently underway to establish one.

What it will be called is really rather irrelevant for now, but there is a clear indication that “Team Saakashvili”, numerous young reformist MPs, particularly of the “Anti-Corruption Platform” within the President’s Solidarity Party, and the Democratic Alliance Party, all seem to have much more than a meeting of minds – not withstanding NGO support too.

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Obviously for electoral purposes, a single anti-corruption party of the genuinely reform minded makes political sense.

For readers that are unaware of the Democratic Alliance Party, it was once an NGO – an NGO filled with uncorrupted, reform minded, and intelligent Ukrainians spread across the nation.  It was an NGO that put its members through training courses – on local governance for example (or at least the Odessa branch did).  It was, in short, rather professional about what it did and how it did it.

Indeed the Carnegie Endowment smiled lovingly upon it as an NGO, being forced to leave it to its own devises when it became a political party during the last months of the Yanukovych regime – a move from NGO to political party driven by perceived necessity in order to avoid any Yanukovych regime crack down on NGOs, and attempt shield itself (and its members) with claims of political persecution if subjected to Yanukovych regime harassment – or worse.

Cards on the table, if your author were to offer his services or experience to any existing political party in Ukraine, it would be to the Democratic Alliance Party, despite its current embryonic stage in political development.

One upshot of the (on-going at the time of publication) anti-corruption conference is very clear however – there will be an anti-corruption party formed from this public meeting of the like-minded.  It will require Governor Saakashvili to head it, for he is immensely popular across the nation and has the political capital, he has a proven track record of reforms (despite not being democratically inclined), and will propel a large number of democracy minded reformers into the legislature – and if enough to make him Prime Minister, then with enough new and uncorrupted MPs to unblock the current Verkhovna Rada reform constipation – at the expense of all coalition parties core constituencies, and many sitting MPs.

The question is now not “if”, but “when” the trigger will be pulled and the party launched?

Will it signal the downfall of Prime Minister Yatseniuk, or be launched in the immediate aftermath of his fall?  Either way it will be already formed behind the curtain and ready for swift and nimble responses to any opportunities that present themselves.

As both informed and ill-informed money seems to suggest Spring 2016 as the critical juncture for Prime Minister Yatseniuk, then perhaps February/March would be a reasonable bet for the birth of what will be genuinely a party of reformers.

Alternatively, consideration may be given to a launch closer to 1st July when the laws on “On amendments to some legislative acts of Ukraine concerning prevention and counteraction to political corruption” come into force – for it will provide yet more ammunition for a political animal like Governor Saakashvili on campaign mode when talking of other party and parliamentary MP financing.

There seems but only one way to prevent its launch – and that is for the current legislature to conduct swift and sweeping reforms continuously after the festive break, thus subduing the constituency demand for reform.

To be entirely blunt, it seems very unlikely that the current Verkhovna Rada will do that – it is simply too feckless.

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