Reforming the reformers – The broad Church of Reform – Ukraine

March 28, 2016

In yesterday’s entry appeared this paragraph – “A reader may rightly ponder just how long reformist, anti-corruption, and democracy advocates such as Mustafa Nayem, Serhiy Leshchenko (and numerous others of similar ideology and moral fortitude) can continue to remain within the Block Poroshenko faction and retain their integrity and perceived moral high ground.  Clearly it seems that removing them in a similar manner to Messrs Tomenko and Firsov is currently seen as far too problematic given their high domestic and international profiles.  How many other morally upright and ethically sound new MPs would follow them out of Block Poroshenko if they left?  Enough to cripple the faction and party – thus perhaps forcing elections far sooner than Autumn 2016/Spring 2017?  Would it have sufficient resonance to change “western minds” regarding early Verkhovna Rada elections?”

The questions clearly arising are those of when this eventually occurs, but also when the reformers go, they go to where?

For those newly minted reformist parliamentarians, the “when” will depend upon whether they are subjected to Article 81 of the Constitution of Ukraine and thus exiled from their parties under the “party/faction loyalty clause”, or whether their moral code forces them to leave voluntarily, or the confirmation of the timing of early Verkhovna Rada elections becoming clear to provide the platform to do so.

They can have little faith in retaining any given a position on any party list under the proportional representation system now that law 3700 has become statute.  As already stated in a previous entry – “To go to the extremes, in theory, a party can stuff the top half of its party list with reformers that have traction with the public, fill the bottom half with odious hangovers from post-Soviet oligarchical politics, have the CEC recognise the result, and then strike down the reformers en masse leaving the seats to be filled by the loathsome – lawfully.”

Clearly many will try and remain in situ for as long as possible – for it is normally easier to effect change from the inside rather than the outside as any experienced agent of change would confirm.

As to the “where” the reformers would go is somewhat unclear – particularly for those that have already left or been expelled by their political parties and now sit as independents.

Some may decide to remain within their current party structures and fight the fight they believe to be right from within the bellies of those political parties and/or factions.

Others may gravitate from their current political parties to others more aligned with their vision for Ukraine.  It is not beyond possibility for example, that some in Block Poroshenko or the People’s Front would be drawn to Samopomich – this despite Samopomich having excommunicated the outstanding Hanna Hopko, a reformist icon.

There is also the NGO turned political party Democratic Alliance.  It was an outstanding NGO, part financed by Carnegie with many of its members subsequently trained in local governance, law and civil activism,  Indeed had it not been for the internal decision to move from NGO to political party at the height of the Yanukovych brutality towards civil society in order to claim “political repression” should it be targeted, it would still remain one of the best NGOs in Ukraine rather than one of the least known political parties.  An entity to join or co-opt perhaps.

Maybe the Movement for Cleaning now associated with Governor Saakashvili will move from being a “political movement” to a political party.  Although this entity predates any involvement from the Odessa Governor, it is now broadly associated with him.  That said, the Governor may create his own entity, for the Movement for Cleaning is not internally designed to accommodate the leadership model, nor style, that the Governor would need.  It operates on the horizontal and not the vertical in its decision making.

Perhaps any number of the “reformer High Chamberlains” will create their own entities.   The “reformist church” is not short of “individual reformist icons” – it is absent an overarching roof and strong reformist institutions.

The are several other established reformist possibilities that may directly enter the political fray too – but the point has been made.

Yet there are other issues aside from the current “individual reform icons” and personality clashes that may occur under one political roof.  There are also more fundamental issues within the reformist groups that no western punditry seems to recognise.


Reform is a broad church and thus has its schisms over the interpretation of its scripture.  How to reconcile the genuine reformers of the political left with those genuine reformers of the political right if a cohesive, effective and robust reform political entity is to emerge in a fight for constituency support?

Genuine democracy and rule of law reformers they may all be, yet their final destinations are quite different with regard to the contemporary, modern State they want to build.  Can they remain solid under a single reform roof long enough to put in place the reform mechanisms required without falling out over the paths such mechanisms then present once put in place?  Can they live under the same roof at all, despite their equally genuine reformist DNA?

It is very lazy thinking and pitiful analysis to lump them all together as a homogeneous reformist group that will have no internal weaknesses, but that will simply blaze a robust path out of the darkness and into the light for Ukraine to follow.

Perhaps they can all gather under the same reformist roof, perhaps not – but it will be problematic.  The concept of reform common among all associated actors, icons and groups may be a cross cutting cleavage that unites them all – but would it be enough given many other differences?  If it is enough, then for how long would it be enough?

There is a clear need, and it will undoubtedly occur, for a reformist political party to contest the next Verkhovna Rada elections, be they Autumn 2016 or Spring 2017.  The open question is perhaps how many reformist parties there will be.  Too many will play into the hands of the established Grey Cardinals of post-Soviet Ukrainian politics.  Under one roof it would seem likely to self destruct within 2 years (maximum).

The next question that would need to be answered for any such party/parties is with which others they would join in any coalition – either in power or opposition?  Perhaps an entry for another day once whatever reformist parties there will be have been created, and their leadership is known.


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