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Zombie political parties – Ukraine

November 25, 2016

Much prose has been devoted to the so labeled “zombie banks” in Ukraine – of which the National Bank has closed 84 so far.  No doubt there will be a few more before those remaining are deemed to meet all NBU standards regarding transparent ownership, capitalisation etc.

Despite the closure of 84 banks thus far, there remains well over 100 still operating.  A reader perhaps may ponder whether that remains far too many, however if those still operating meet the NBU criteria, why not?

Rarely is much prose dedicated to “zombie (political) parties” in Ukraine.

It is of course a welcome state of affairs when the nation has more than 2 national political parties and that electoral outcomes are not a foregone conclusion when elections take place.  That coalitions are usually the result to form a parliamentary majority is perhaps on balance a good outcome.  Even if it can make driving required policy through slightly more onerous, it also makes driving truly awful policy through just as difficult.

How many registered political parties are required to insure both democratic representation and also a functioning, manageable, pluralistic democratic system?

How many are too many?

Currently in Ukraine there are 349 political parties – which sounds, and is, a ludicrous number (and some with some ludicrous and/or amusing names).

Of those 349 political parties in existence, perhaps a dozen have recently been in, or are currently in, the Verkhovna Rada.

Many of the political parties are regional and not national – Sergei Kivalov’s Maritime Party in Odessa for example.  It has 6 Deputies in Odessa City Hall (to insure the interests of Mr Kivalov).  There will be dozens of similar political parties throughout the provinces all of which are active and which will never rise above their local and/or regional status.

Current Ukrainian legislation makes it very easy to open a political party.  (In fact it is now very easy to open a business, NGO, charity as well.)

Ukrainian legislation also requires that a political party files reports upon its property, income and liabilities quarterly (which is perhaps a little excessive).  During the first three quarter of 2016, Q1 saw 195 political parties comply.  Q2 witnessed 200 do so.  Q3 only 125.

The proscribed fine by statute for failure to do so is UAH 6,800 – if it is actually applied.  Repeated non-compliance legislatively does not provide for the cancellation/de-registration of a political party.

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Ergo, dozens, if not more than one hundred political parties exit – but only by way of paper registration.

There may be several reasons for that.

Firstly the legislative formalities for creating a political party may be easy (no differently from the ease of opening a business in Ukraine).  But try shutting one voluntarily (rather than by court order)!  No differently from voluntarily closing a business in Ukraine, it is a long, arduous and almost impossible task.

It may also be, as many are long-standing by way of registration if otherwise forever dormant, that a large number were created when it was not so easy to register a political party and thus they were created to “sell on” to those wanting to enter politics – a little like “off the shelf” limited liability companies with all the documents for immediate employment of the legal vehicle ready to go.

There is then also the issue of using such “zombie parties” to try and insure positions within district and regional electoral commissions – for nefarious purposes – both either to further local or national “interests”.

It would appear there is a case for a clear out of “zombie parties” no differently than there was a case for a clear out of “zombie banks” – but how to avoid the inevitable, and oft hollow, claims of political repression?

To avoid claims of “political persecution and/or repression” it is perhaps worth considering a format whereby after 18 months of failed reporting compliance and numerous formal notifications, a registered political party is suspended from all electoral processes.  After 24 months it is removed from the political register.

Reasonable?

And why not end with a Ukrainian version of “Zombie” – she is rather good!

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