Legislate in haste, repent at leisure – NABU

November 30, 2017

When NABU, the SAP and (now increasingly discredited) NACP were created the current Ukrainian authorities were in a far weaker economic, political and diplomatic position than they are today.  (Not that it is particularly strong.)

External supporters and international institutions had hefty sticks to wield, and absolutely necessary carrots to dangle.

Time stands still for no man.

As of the time of writing, the IMF has currently lost a lot of its stick wielding ability due to Ukraine successfully reentering the international debt markets.  (Though that ability may return.)

Low hanging reform fruit that avoided vested interests has long since been picked.  Unavoidable reform that did impact vested interests when Ukraine was weaker, more often than not is now seeing a system of “compensation” via other methods to those who temporarily suffered (unless entirely out of presidential favour).

President Poroshenko/The Bankova are firmly focused upon reelection in March 2019.  Thereafter it will be the Verkhovna Rada elections in October 2019 that will be the focus.  The president is a micromanager.  He is also a very vindictive man (despite how counterproductive that can be).

There are two immediate issues for the president/Bankova.  The first is getting the current president into the second round of voting in March 2019.  The second is trying to manipulate just who that run off will be against in order to win.

The “easy win” would be to have President Poroshenko in a run off against Yuri Boiko or Vabim Rabinovich.  A second round vote simply framed as a “pro-western verses pro-Russian” ballot.  At a push Oleh Lyashko would be another fairly easily beaten alternative.

With regard to Ms Tymoshenko, it is likely that President Poroshenko would still emerge victorious.  With Ms Tymoshenko it is not a matter of looking at the percentage of those that would vote for her – she has a die-hard 15% or so that would vote for her regardless.  The problem for Ms Tymoshenko is the equally robust, and far larger constituency of the “anybody except Yulia Tymoshenko” within the electorate.  Her chances of becoming president at the time of writing, would necessitate also facing Messrs Boiko or Rabinovich in the second round with similar framing in the paragraph above.

Yet other presidential candidates will run, not to win the presidency, but to test the electoral waters for the subsequent Verkhovna Rada elections.

Many Ukrainians would look toward a new face, entirely unsullied by current or historical political shenanigans, should one appear in the second round of presidential voting.  Thus popular personas such as Slava Vakarchuk (currently in the US on a political crash course), or a similarly popular entertainer potentially present a real problem.   (In turn, their problem if successful, would be creating a majority parliamentary force that could support them – lest they be eaten alive by the vested interests that dominate the Verkhovna Rada.)

Nevertheless such unsullied candidates of household fame could, and probably would be a disaster if they reached the second round for any old corrupt political faces.

Currently it may well be that “foreign supporters” may turn, if not a blind eye, then apply a deniable squint toward the “reasonable” misuse of administrative resources – if, and only if, it is thought that President Poroshenko represents and remains the “least worst option” among candidates.

It has to be said that the current trajectory of President Poroshenko and The Bankova is very much downward in that reckoning, and it appears that President Poroshenko believes that “foreign support” will remain because he is the “least worst option”.

Thus a reader witnesses the slow gathering in of the power structures, both central and regional, by the current presidential incumbent.  There will likely be a real need to misuse administrative resources to reach the desired outcome – reelection.

There will also be an equally important requirement to avoid “rocking the domestic boat”, unless so directed by President Poroshenko, with regard the current balance of vested interests.  Bluntly stated it will be necessary to gather in the majority of the oligarchy, their key minions, and their (media and other) assets to the presidential cause.

In avoiding rocking the “domestic boat”, there will be, by default, a rocking of the “foreign friends” boat – but it is not the “foreign friends” that vote and can manipulate the voters as easily as the old, tried and tested, machinations.

NABU will become one of the eyes of that storm.

What was legislated for in haste by the elite at a time of little choice, is now clearly being repented.

As much as the halfhearted  judicial reform that still provides for significant political influence (when required) can slow, or deliberately bungle NABU cases (await the bungling of the Nasirov case for example), that will not be enough.  NABU itself, which is one of the more trusted of State institutions, will have to either be brought to heel, seriously discredited, or destroyed.

The latest in a string of recent events unambiguously (even if deniably) is very close to a declaration of open warfare.

“Oh to have been able to sabotage this institution from the outset as the new State Bureau of Investigation has been” is undoubtedly a muttered lament within the corridors of Ukrainian power..

No doubt the arrest of Interior Minister Avaokov’s son weakened the People’s Front defence of NABU as the presidential circle began to employ the SBU and PGO to sabotage it many months ago.  This before the presidential campaign really begins – for he is yet to choose a campaign manager – perhaps Ihor Rainin, or to keep the People’s Front less prickly and/or obstructive, Alexander Turchynov?  (Less likely campaign manager candidates would be Vitaly Kovalchuk or Sergie Berezenko).

Naturally it will be necessary to rally the citizenry and external “foreign supporters” in the defence of what is probably perceived to be the only reasonably influence and corruption free State institution operating within Ukraine – NABU.  For now its survival under a leader with integrity will be the immediate goal.

Undoubtedly there will be numerous public statements from leading diplomats, reform orientated parliamentarians, and hopefully popular Ukrainian public figures (who are self-reliant and do not depend upon The State for anything), and those yet braver public figures that will voice their concerns despite a dependence upon the State (grants/funds etc).

The media will howl – insomuch as it can (considering the owners are mostly those that fall within the NABU remit).

Social media will be aflame.

However none of this will be sufficient for the president/The Bankova (and others) to cease the assault upon NABU prior to the elections.  A stable domestic boat of vested interests floating on fairly calm and predictable waters (and no chance of incarceration) is essential for President Poroshenko if reelection be the goal.

He is a politician and not a Statesman when all is said and done.

It will be necessary for the “foreign supporters” of Ukraine to clearly and publicly separate – in the most unambiguous terms – the support for the territorial integrity of Ukraine (in the many forms that comes) from any and all other support.

Privately, it is perhaps now time to play very hardball indeed – before matters progress/regress beyond saving.  A move beyond terse, prickly and barbed conversation behind the diplomatic curtain.

A move that may privately choose to highlight the vulnerabilities of certain individual vested interests beyond or passing through jurisdictions outside Ukraine, the concrete steps required to prevent those highlighted interests attracting unwanted attention, and ultimately, taking action against them if the right domestic outcomes relating to immense foreign political, financial and diplomatic energy placed into institutions like NABU is not forthcoming.

The failure of NABU will not simply be a significant loss for Ukraine.  Far too much time, effort and energy has been spent on it by numerous “foreign supporters” of Ukraine whose perceptions will also suffer immensely should this institution be allowed to crumble.

As with any policy – even the perceived least worst option – there can become a time where such policy becomes indefensible and a review of that policy is required.  The question therefore, how long can President Poroshenko be viewed as the least worst option?

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