A National Corpus or another far right political corpse?October 16, 2016
Friday 14th October witnessed the 74th anniversary of the founding of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army in Volyn, manifesting with a few thousand marchers in Kyiv. If eyebrows are to be raised regarding the event it is with regard to how few marchers there were vis a vis the amount of prose the Ukrainian far right has had written about it since 2014.
The march did however witness the birth of a(nother) far right political party. The (in)famous Azov Battalion and its associated civil movement gave birth to a political party – The National Corpus. The announcement was made by Andrei Biletsky, the former Azov Battalion commander, now Verkhovna Rada parliamentarian.
Gone from the new political party regalia are the Nazi associated symbols long associated with Azov and its wider non-military constituent parts. The Wolf Hook or any variation thereof is absent in any representations relating to the new National Corpus political party.
This is perhaps a nod to the rule of law relating to the banning of Nazi and Communist symbolism, but perhaps has much more to do with dulling the image as Nazism in a purely political PR setting. Mr Biletsky is not a stupid man and will recognise that political success relates to a certain degree of attraction that necessarily has to eclipse a few thousand far right militants and their associated symbolism.
There also appears to be little effort to associate the National Corpus with historical nationalist figures such as Bandera, Konovalets or Shukhevych. This appears to be something Mr Biletsky is quite prepared to leave to the Svoboda Party – quite wisely if appeal beyond (or even across) the far right militancy is the political aim.
The National Corpus symbolism is far more inclusive – for it is a stylisation of the national symbol, the Trizub.
Quite what Mr Biletsky will classify as political success if and when it comes remains to be seen. The retention of his Verkhovna Rada seat? The National Corpus passing the 5% electoral threshold to enter the Verkhovna Rada as a political party? Representation or even control in some regional administrations? Replacing Svoboda as the major far right/nationalist political force (albeit Svoboda is a minor player in the national political picture) is the immediate aim? Over what time period will success be measured, even if success can be lucidly identified?
(As an aside, not to be outdone, the same day that the National Corpus became a political party, Svoboda announced a “Legion of Freedom” headed by Oleg Kutsin, the former Svoboda leader for Donetsk and commander of the Carpathian Sich military unit. A clear reactionary aping of the Azov formula.)
As with all populist political parties, be they The Radicals, Batkivshchyna, Ukrop or Svoboda (and increasingly the Oppo Block), sensible economics rarely feature. Populism is about (empty) promises and appeals to emotion – notwithstanding such parties generally being nothing more than a vehicle for the ego of the leader rather than a party being bigger than its leader.
It therefore comes as little surprise that there is little thus far stated by the National Corpus regarding the economics required to run the nation sensibly. It is also perhaps hardly the most interesting of subjects to orate when launching a political party to a waiting (albeit small) crowd.
The party manifesto does contain some new domestic political discourse as well as a lot of borrowed, (occasionally concealed, occasionally transparent), policy not only from within Ukraine but further afield.
Notably a call for the return of the death penalty for matters of treason and embezzlement/theft of large sums (a figure is not stated) from the public purse is stated.
There is a call for all Ukrainian citizens to be able to bear arms (the wording suggesting pistols/short barreled firearms).
The renationalisation of all previously owned State entities that were privatised since 1991 – starting with the energy sector.
The return of a Ukrainian nuclear arsenal.
The creation of a Ukrainian “Foreign Legion” for those that wish to serve in the Ukrainian military that are not Ukrainian citizens.
A complete break of economic (and some other) ties with Russia.
The furtherance of economic ties with the EU.
Foreign policy is driven by Baltic-Black Sea security threats and economic opportunities – with the inclusion of the Silk Road/Silk Belt infrastructure with China.
The promotion of “Eastern Europe” as a space that does not include Russia.
A system of national and municipal policing.
Verkhovna Rada parliamentarians reduced from 450 to 300.
The adoption of a system of citizenry similar to that of some of the Baltic states, although there is no outline of how this would be done or where the arbitrary lines would be drawn or whether it would/could be enforced retrospectively thus creating a loss of existing rights for some.
Thus, with some of the main manifesto points highlighted, this is visibly not a manifesto that will propel the National Corpus from political obscurity to national leadership in a single bound. Far from it.
Clearly some of it is far more rhetorical than policy possible, as Mr Biletsky will undoubtedly be aware.
Obviously certain issues fly in the face of existing Ukrainian international obligations and/or The Constitution. Numerous constitutional changes and Ukraine freeing itself of major international obligations would have to occur.
Nevertheless, manifesto delivery is not something that is going to occur as it will simply not appeal to the vast majority of the Ukrainian constituency sufficiently.
Ergo, perhaps the immediate questions relate to whether the dumping of Nazi associated symbolism is an acknowledgement that the far right has a truly limited constituency in Ukraine? Also worthy of pondering is whether the National Corpus considers it has the appeal and strength to unite the more militant/radical it would appeal to under one umbrella, or whether yet another far right party will further split an already small voter base dooming all such parties to political oblivion?