Archive for June, 2018


EUCO Summit and Ukrainian defence

June 29, 2018

On 29th June, the European Council released its communique relating to the outcomes (perhaps a better word than “results”) of the conclave that had just gathered.

Much relates to foreign policy, albeit there is a good deal of internal issues too.  European eyes will be drawn toward the political issues relating to immigration and refugees from the African continent and via Turkey.  UK eyes will continue to ponder Brexit and the slow-moving car crash it was bound to become.

Also within the communique however, are mentioned matters that Ukraine may well be keeping a watchful eye upon – specifically Chapter II on Security and Defence, where PESCO, CARD, EDIDP, CDP and third party participation is mentioned along with the CSDP:

“calls for the fulfilment of the PESCO commitments and the further development of the initial projects and the institutional framework, in a way that is fully consistent with the Coordinated Annual Review on Defence and the revised Capability Development Plan adopted within the European Defence Agency. A next set of projects will be agreed in November 2018. It invites the Council to decide on the conditions for third State participation in PESCO projects;

welcomes progress on military mobility in the framework of PESCO and EU-NATO cooperation, expects the military requirements under the EU Action Plan on military mobility now to be finalised, and calls on Member States to simplify and standardise relevant rules and procedures by 2024. These efforts, which should fully respect the
sovereignty of the Member States, be mutually reinforcing and follow a whole-of-government approach, will be reviewed yearly on the basis of a report by the Commission and the High Representative, starting in spring 2019;

calls for the swift implementation of the European Defence Industrial Development Programme and for further progress on the European Defence Fund both in its research and capability windows;

welcomes the work undertaken to strengthen civilian CSDP and calls for an agreement on a civilian CSDP Compact by the end of this year, thus providing a new EU framework for civilian crisis management and CSDP missions, with ambitious commitments at EU and national level. It recalls that military and civilian aspects need to be addressed in a comprehensive manner with a focus on concrete deliverables;”

Ukraine has ratified obligations relating to the EU CSDP.  Article 7, Paragraph 1 of the ratified EU-Ukraine Association Agreement states “The Parties shall intensify their dialogue and cooperation and promote gradual convergence in the area of foreign and security policy, including the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP), and shall address in particular issues of conflict prevention and crisis management, regional stability, disarmament, non-proliferation, arms control and arms export control as well as enhanced mutually-beneficial dialogue in the field of space. Cooperation will be based on common values and mutual interests, and shall aim at increasing policy convergence and effectiveness, and promoting joint policy planning. To this end, the Parties shall make use of bilateral, international and regional fora.”

The EUCO communique mentions “third party nations”.  As such there will be those within Ukraine that will consider the nation to already be a “third party nation” with existing and ratified commitments to the CSDP.  Ratified agreements are not a one-way street.  It follows that whatever changes within, or whatever affects, or may affect the CSDP, should be of interest to Ukraine.  Ergo, PESCO, CARD, EDIDP, and the CDP are not to be ignored, not only for any changes or potential changes to the CDSP, but also any opportunities that they may provide – for third party nations like Ukraine.

So, what of this European Union alphabet soup, and how does it all fit together?

In 2016 the EU published a document called the “European Global Stratgey” (apparently there is a European Global Strategy).  Resultant from this, Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) appeared in December 2017.  Both the EUGS and PESCO can be broadly stated, at least in part, as tools to develop “full spectrum” capabilities within the EU relating to security, defence and general “resilience” per the Washington Treaty Article 3 definition.  (The same foundation as the recent “On National Security” law recently passed in Ukraine.)  Defence cooperation and a robust and comprehensive European defence industry are clearly among the goals of EUGS and PESCO.

In order to get to those goals, the European Defence Agency (EDA) and/or other interested parties (the EUMS – European Military Staff) have written documents to guide the way and funds have been set up.  There is the Implementation Plan on Security and Defence (IPSD), the creation of a European Defence Fund (EDF), and the Coordinated Annual Review on Defence (CARD) to illuminate a path toward reaching the EUGS and PESCO goals.

There is also the EU Capability Development Plan (CDP) – which is actually a document worth reading relating to shortfalls, trends and projections.  A heady mix of strategic analysis, strategic guidance, political commitment and financial incentives.  Within this a reader can find yet further EU alphabet soup – SAEP, CCS, PC, RC, HICGs, CDS, CDM, GMTL and on and on – all of which provide ingredients to the mix that finally arrives at the EU CDP – which is worth reading.

The CDP does have an affect upon the EU CSDP to which Ukraine is obliged.

Indeed potentially any individual sovereign deployment of forces has an affect upon the CSDP, for by extension that affects the capabilities that may or may not be deployed on any EU military operation.  This led to the creation and mutually accessible Collaborative, Secure On-line Database (CODABA) theoretically allowing all to see what was deployed, what was available and what was undergoing maintenance among members.  The PESCO agreements entered into by those wishing to join it also makes binding commitments to forces for an EU CSDP and will, together with CARD and the CDP, provide something of a loop for National Implementation Plans (NIPs) which in theory will bring members closer to achieving EU security and defence with ever-decreasing capability gaps.

All of which should be interesting for Ukraine, but aside from perhaps being asked (and no doubt willingly providing) some stop-gap assets, it will not be anywhere near as interesting as the industrial and technological aspects looking forward.  After all as difficult as it may be to keep up with and ahead of tech and innovation, planners don’t just plan for today and tomorrow.  They attempt to plan 30 years ahead (for example, the sea life cycle of a Frigate may be 30 years, but will it be of any tactical use given design and equipment considerations and expectations in 30 years time etc).

As a recent entry duly noted, Ukraine has finally admitted that its own Military Industrial Complex (MIC) is not particularly fit for purpose (despite being a major international arms exporter) for the challenges Ukraine faces.  The industry retarding role of Ukrboronprom will undoubtedly change.  Privatisation and foreign investment is a requirement.  Import-export and procurement to and from abroad is planned to become significantly easier for the defence industry participants.

(Ukraine also produces, and holds on inventory, equipment that the EU doesn’t have in abundance (and sometimes at all)).

However, wise heads within Ukraine will hopefully be looking at the future of the CSDP and the projections within the CDP.

Where as a third party nation, if allowed to partake, could it add value in meeting those projections?

Perhaps some scrutiny of the European Defence Technology and Industrial Base (EDTIB) should not occur only with a view to Ukraine’s own immediate MIC needs, but also with a view to what the EU needs will be.  Perhaps attention should be paid to the EU’s Overarching Strategic Research Agendas (OSRAs)?

What are the EDA’s identified Key Strategic Activities (KSAs) that will shape the CSDP?  How will that affect Ukraine, and can it add value within the EDIDP as a third party nation within the elasticity of the text that form the obligations to the EU CSDP?

There are then questions of what to do with, and how to approach, the UK should it fall (as it may very well do) outside of all of this very soon.

Perhaps the 9th July EU-Ukraine summit may shed some light if gaps in the clouds of Russia and corruption allow for the illumination of other matters in any communique?


Constitution Day – (and domestic politicking about a new Constitution)

June 28, 2018

Just over a week ago an entry appeared regarding Ms Tymoshenko’s entirely unsurprising announcement of a presidential bid.

Within that entry mention was made of Ms Tymoshenko’s plan to give Ukraine a new Constitution in its entirety.  An accomplishment that would have to come to fruition under the parameters set by current Constitution as outlined in the above linked entry – lest it be unconstitutional.

Ne’er the less Ms Tymoshenko stated that she had a team on international experts and jurists already hard at work writing a new Constitution (whom she clearly believes will provide a better Constitution than the team of international experts and jurists that wrote the current Constitution).

Now to be fair the current Constitution is not perfect.  It is very broad in some areas, and far too detailed in others where simple statute would be better employed.

But it is not bad.  It’s content is not where the Constitution necessarily fails – even if there are places where it could be improved or updated.

The lines of power and their parameters to follow.

The problems have come about by through successive presidents continually treading heavily upon the Constitutional lawns of parliament.  Both successive presidents and parliaments have also stomped heavily all over the Constitutional lawns of the judiciary.  The citizen has struggled to enforce their constitutional rights etc.

In short, historically the constitution has been generally ignored, in particular by the political class – and that has been accepted by a politically led and subservient judiciary.  A distance between Constitutional prose and daily reality has been felt by the constituency.

Thus a new Constitution, no differently from the current Constitution, will only have any significance if it is scrupulously followed and all relevant parties do not trespass upon the manicured constitutional lawns identified for others.  What use is any Constitutional Right to any citizen of Ukraine if it cannot be, or is not enforced?  If fundamental law is not sacrosanct, then what of other laws?  Rule of law – or rule by law?

The current (and any future) Constitution already rightly notes the natural tensions between the executive, legislature, judiciary and citizen (plus any devolution of power where ever it may land institutionally/local governance-wise) and offers a system of remedy.  There is little indication that the current elites would pay any more attention to the “Keep Off The Grass” signs of a new “Tymoshenko Constitution” than they do now – even if the current executive and legislative powers are changed.

If the President became a symbol/figurehead with very little or no power, and the legislative lawn increased dramatically in size in assuming current presidential powers, the legislature (and the powers behind this current era of Ukrainian politician) shows very little willingness to stay off the Constitutional judicial grass, and a judiciary used to being politically subordinate shows very little appetite in having the grounds staff enforcing the “Keep Off The Grass” signage – whether the judicial grass be constitutional or statutory in nature.

Thus, though a reader will rightly cheer if and when a senior corrupt head or two eventually find their way upon a judicial spike (and jail), it is systemic change that will ultimately have the greatest impact if Ukraine is to change at its core.  That is not to excuse or diminish the requirement to see senior heads upon the judicial spike (justice must be seen to be done), but it is to put realistic expectations upon what it will actually achieve (beyond justice being seen to be done as far as individual cases are concerned).

There is a clear societal problem with identifying The State as distinctly separate from those temporarily in authority due to a short term democratic mandate, and vice versa.

Care is therefore required in identifying symptom and cause – and to be blunt the cause is systemic and will therefore take a generation (and the death of a political/oligarch generation) to see any irreversible improvements in Ukraine – if they are to come – for the system will now only change slowly.  The 2014 window for radical systemic change has long since closed.

Further, despite the progress that has undeniably occurred in recent years, it remains far from consolidated.  Energy is still therefore spent defending the gains made.

Nevertheless, on Constitution Day it is natural that the Ukrainian political class talk about the Constitution, its strengths and weaknesses, and the perceived need to amend it piecemeal or replace it entirely.  For example, the views of President Poroshenko, one of his opposing candidates Yulia Tymoshenko, and Oksana Syroid Deputy Speaker of the Verkhovna Rada all (unsurprisingly) differ.  In such an environment it is doubtful that much improvement upon the current Constitution can take place other than in piecemeal form.

Looking to the future and immediately after the October 2019 Verkhovna Rada elections, it looks increasingly difficult to see an easy coalition of 226 votes being forged, let alone a Constitution changing 300 required votes, as no party seems likely to garner more than 20% of the national vote and thus a simple majority coalition will require 3 parties – or two parties and almost every independent MP just to pass basic statute.

(2020 – 2024 will be no easy time for president, parliament, nor the citizenry of Ukraine if consistent and linear progress is the expectation of any reader – for that seems very unlikely.  What is required is the continual process of reducing the political, business and administrative space in which corruption can occur.  A long process measured in decades.  A difficult task when envisioning the legislative and disagreeable montage of 2020.)

This brings about the issue of how difficult or easy should it be to accomplish constitutional changes?

Is it to be a fundamental law that proves so difficult to change that it ossifies and becomes more hindrance than help as time passes, or a living breathing document that keeps pace with society and is therefore subject to change without too great an obstacle?  That therefore raises questions over what should be included (and in how much detail) and is perhaps a fundamental law rightly somewhat difficult to change, and what should be excluded and codified in normal statute with far lower barriers to amendment.

Without doubt this will become a public conversation between presidential candidates, for Ms Tymoshenko has been first from the blocks and framed constitutional change as a major electoral platform.  Whether any coherent conversation will be had is quite a different matter.  Even if there is a coherent conversation, will the Keep Off The Grass signs be respected in the immediate future?  Probably not.


Dramatic changes ahead for import/export and privatisation within the Ukrainian MIC?

June 26, 2018

Following the final successful vote on the “On National Security” law of 21st June, among several notable changes in a generally good if not perfect framework law, it became clear that serious changes to the SBU and Ukrainian military industrial complex would occur.

Both the SBU and Ukrboronprom in particular will feel the changes brought under the new legislation – and to be blunt, rightly so and long overdue.

While new legislation, or piecemeal amendments to the legislation that harnesses the SBU will take some months to appear, as will new processes for greater public scrutiny and a parliamentary intelligence committee being formed, it so follows that Ukrboronprom and the MIC will not see immediate change either.

Those MIC changes however begin with the creation of a body under the Cabinet of Ministers that takes away the management and administration of the MIC from the influence of State monolith (and to some degree monopoly) Ukrboronprom (and similar unwieldy State MIC entities).  They will be expected to produce and no longer direct the MIC.

Some potential industry changing noises have been made already.

In what will be a major shock to the Ukrainian MIC, contained within an announcement by NSDC Chairman Olexandr Turchynov, notable (indeed some might say radical) changes to procurement, import/export and privatisation will occur in the not so distant future.

While it is incumbent upon the Ukrainian authorities to insure that it meets any ratified international obligations relating to arms control, and also keeps a watchful covert eye upon foreign investors in any MIC privatisations, nevertheless in what would be a far more liberal/market friendly MIC regime it has to be stated that it is a long overdue measure if the Ukrainian MIC is to develop as swiftly and sensibly as is practicable.

Definitely something to keep an eye upon over the next 6 months or so as it could be a real game changer for the Ukrainian MIC.


Electrical storms (NKRECU)

June 23, 2018

It has been a long time since the blog wrote specifically about the NKRECU (National Commission for Energy Regulation and Utilities).  Indeed the last specific entry related to the concept of RAB (Regulatory Asset Based) tariff incentives for regional electricity providers, and pondering the benefits thereof should Ukraine pursue such a path – or not.

Suffice to say the RAB concept has yet to be adopted – but it has also yet to be dropped.

Clearly those involved in both the Ukrainian electricity and gas markets can see some serious benefits to adopting RAB if applying some creative asset accounting from the outset.  There are however potential political problems in allowing that to occur – which would undoubtedly be awkward should the concept go forward.  Thus RAB will continue to be a “subject of discussion” until politically expedient to introduce it.

In short, the question is whether to gift the energy barons – in particular Dmitry Firtash (gas) and Rinat Akhmetov (electricity) – prior to, or after the 2019 elections.  For as long as that question remains unanswered, the issue will remain “subject to discussion”.

Indeed, for as much as Ukraine has made solid legislative progress toward meeting the requirements of the EU Third Energy Package – particularly with respect to electricity (less so with regard to gas) – the domestic electricity marketplace remains almost entirely unaltered despite China buying up solar farms where and when it can, and a strongly rumoured joint venture between China and Rinat Akhmetov’s SCM/DTEK in solar energy in the near future.

There is something of an electrical storm brewing however.

On 27th December 2017, NKRECU adopted a number of decisions regulating the licensing conditions for the electricity market –  operators, producers, certified electricity buyers, and those conducting trading activities – all these decisions being necessary for launching a Ukraine new electricity market.

Those NKRECU decisions then required official publication in the Uriadovy Courier.  This did not happen, for reasons unknown, until 20th June 2018.

The NKRECU and the Ukrainian Association of Renewable Energy are now accusing the Uriadovy Courier of gross interference in its work and causing a multi-million losses within the renewable energy industry by delaying the publishing of the NKRECU adopted decisions.

Also in the same Uraidovy Courier publication of 20th June were published updated procedures for calculating compensation for electricity suppliers for delivery to the population (for single-zone and differentiated tariffs), as well as to other consumers under differentiated tariffs.  In addition, the procedure for calculating the compensation to Odesaoblenergo for the supply of electricity to the Young Guard camp was promulgated.  Again decisions taken by NKRECU long ago.

The question therefore is who benefits from the delays of the Uraidovy Courier publication?

The government, with the EU Third Energy package in mind, has decided to dilute the monopoly of regional supply companies with individual licensed sellers – or so goes the legislation and theory.  The idea is naturally to bring about competition and through market forces and thus drive down the costs to the consumer.

Time was therefore required for the current monopoly to insure its monopoly remained, whilst also being seen to adhere to the new legislation and regulations.  This has now been (more or less) accomplished – thus there will not be a drop in consumer prices – for the monopoly will be maintained while appearing to meet the legislative and regulatory requirements.

Having mentioned Rinat Akhmetov and DTEK at the beginning, it seems reasonable for the sake of consistency to use their model in explaining how the monopoly is maintained and why consumer prices will not drop – for no real electricity market place seems at all likely to appear.

In order to meet the basic requirements of the EU Third Energy Package and the requirements of the Ukrainian law “On the Electricity Market” it was necessary for the existing monopoly structures to separate the producers from the distributors and again from the consumer suppliers/end billing entities.

This takes time – for everything is subject to receiving a licence.

However, even if time stands still for no man, publication of NKRECU decisions can – at least for as long as it takes to line up all the monopoly-continuing ducks.

Using Kyiv as the DTEK/Akhmetov example, the citizens of Kyiv will no longer be billed by KyivEnergo (owned by Mr Akhmetov).  They will instead be billed by a newly licensed company called “Kyiv Energy Services LLC” owned by Mr Akhmetov.  This newly licensed customer supplier/billing entity will receive its electricity from a distributor called DTEK Electricity Grid.  DTEK is owned by Mr Akhmetov within his SCM empire.  DTEK Electricity Grid will receive is electricity from KyivEnergo owned by Mr Akhmetov – but to adhere to the EU Third Energy Package and the Ukrainian law “On the Electricity Market” it can no longer bundle together all the services under a single corporate entity as it does now.

And so it goes on throughout the empire.  Licenses for “Dneprovsky Energy Services LLC” and “Donetsk Energy Services LLC” were issued on the same day that “Kyiv Energy Servives LLC” received its license – all ultimately belonging to Mr Akhmetov.  The model for Kyiv will simply be replicated.

The letter of the law complied with, the spirit clearly not – for it in no way dilutes the electricity market and thus does not foster the competition that theoretically drives down consumer prices.  After all, having gone to all this trouble to maintain a monopoly, why would any part of the Akhmetov electricity empire sell to another distributor or supplier and create competition for itself?

To be fair to Mr Akhmetov, he is not alone in pursuing this model.  And to be fair to the monopoly/cartel that is the current Ukrainian electricity “market”, they are not blazing a nefarious trail where none have gone before.  This method is in fact the exact same method employed by the gas barons a few years earlier.

It can hardly be said that Dmitry Firtash has surrendered much (if any) of the domestic gas production, distribution or billing market place since the “On Gas Market” legislation came into force a few years ago.  The domestic Ukrainian gas market is not much more diluted today than it was in 2014.  All that has changed are the external suppliers to Ukraine, and perhaps slightly fewer nefarious gas schemes relating to import, VAT and resale spreads.

Yet it cannot be said that such shenanigans are all to be laid at the doors of the likes of Messrs Firtash and Akhmetov either, for the laws they comply with are hardly designed to make further market entry particularly easy when it comes to the actual supply to the public consumer – for to do that, there is a requirement to “fulfill special obligations” to get on a list of companies to which the Cabinet of Ministers will then grant such commercial abilities.

It also has to be duly noted, particularly with gas production. a more dispersed domestic and foreign licensing has occurred.  Perhaps Mr Firtash’s empire may lose a little market share when new drilling licenses bring results – but then again, when he owns approximately 65% or so of the distribution companies, perhaps his market share will actually increase?

Whatever the case there will be more electrical storms ahead, for the NKRECU belatedly published decisions don’t actually take effect until 2019 – and that leaves time for many more games.  Further the NKRECU and Uraidovy Courier problem remains far from settled.


An end to Department K of the SBU? Hopefully not!

June 21, 2018

With the second successful reading of Law 8608 “On National Security – a framework law to which many subservient laws will need to be written or amended, notwithstanding numerous Decrees, strategy documents and doctrines – the SBU will feel the consequences.

Rightly too.  Long has this blog called for an overhaul of the SBU remit.

However, care need be taken when that remit is redefined.

There are already wrong-headed statements spewing forth from Ukrainian parliamentarians.


Secretary of the Committee for Security and Defence, Ivan Vinnik has publicly stated that Department K of the SBU (which rightly delves into economics, but wrongly gets involved in the business of policing business) will cease to exist.

“Department K will not be needed.” Mr Vinnik has told journalists.  “The SBU loses the function of fighting corruption and will be limited to combating terrorism, counterintelligence activities, defending statehood and critical infrastructure”.


If the SBU is to effectively combat terrorism, be successful in counterintelligence activities, defend Ukrainian statehood and critical infrastructure, then Department K will still be quite necessary.

It will unquestionably have to retain active interest in industrial sized corruption and the economic effects thereof – for that is a national security issue.  Indeed, there is also an ever-converging space between terrorism, organised criminality, cyber crime and economic subversion from both without and within Ukraine all of which generate, facilitate or are end users of financial flows to the detriment of the Ukrainian state.

This not a purely Ukrainian issue but an issue for all security services the world over.

The SBU will still have to follow the money to be effective in its role.  “Follow the money” is a golden rule in policing and intelligence alike.  As such Department K will have to exist in order to keep a watchful counterintelligence eye to identify what may – or may not – be an issue of national security.

What is not necessary, and should long ago have been stopped, is the SBU being used as an instrument in the day to day policing of business (and the majority of criminal activity therein).  An entirely unnecessary and, to be blunt, extremely unsightly role that has been a daily serving on Ukrainian TV.  Daily criminal policing is the role of the police – not the SBU.

Thus, whatever the SBU may identify that is criminal but nevertheless falls outside any new, rightly tweaked and refocused remit, should nevertheless and insofar as the protection of intelligence sources will allow, simply result in the passing on of evidence to the appropriate institutions of state that have a remit to take any necessary investigative and/or prosecuting action.

Mr Vinnik is completely wrongheaded when stating “Department K will not be needed”.  It was, is, and will remain “needed” whether it continues to be called Department K or is renamed.  For the SBU to be effective in a counterintelligence role, it simply has to retain a watchful eye over economic issues that can affect the Ukrainian economy and it must also “follow the money” with regard to terrorism, organised criminality and industrial scale corruption that can adversely affect the Ukrainian economy or social cohesion etc.

Can Department K be downsized?  Probably.  Can many of its departmental staff be reassigned?  Why not.  Should it be refocused and have new parameters placed upon it?  Certainly.  But who, if not the SBU, does Mr Vinnik propose will take on the task of covertly following the money used to directly or indirectly destabilise the State, or that is involved in organised criminality and/or financing terrorism etc?


Tymoshenko announces presidential run (and a questionable first act)

June 20, 2018

Mindful as the blog is that the previous entry had Ms Tymoshenko on centre stage, unfortunately a reader is once again to be subjected to more Ms Tymoshenko.  It will not become habitual – guaranteed – for there are few things more mind-numbing than writing about the flapdoodle spouted by Ms Tymoshenko.

Unsurprisingly Yulia Tymoshenko has announced that she will run for the Ukrainian presidency in March 2019 – as if there was any doubt.  How could her ego allow her not to do so?  Thus more 20 years of her political experience in abjectly and consistently failing the Ukrainian constituency will once again attempt to reach the highest office in the land and satisfy her ego to the detriment of the nation.  (Lord help us all!)

In announcing her presidential run Ms Tymoshenko stated “I will run for the presidency of Ukraine, but I do not run for the sake of simply playing authoritarianism and the monopoly of power.  For me, the presidential post is not a Playstation, but there are real changes that the country is waiting for.  

If I win in the presidential election, I will immediately hold a referendum, at which I will propose the adoption of the new Constitution of Ukraine as a real social contract, demonopolise power, on the one hand, make it stronger in terms of implementing strategies, and on the other hand, make it properly organised and balanced, controlled by society.  

A large group of scientists and jurists are working now to create the concept of a new Constitution, then this project must be submitted to a referendum, the new president must first adopt a new constitution and implement it. new, strong, the best Constitution in the world.”


All readers and Ukrainian constituents must be pleased that Ms Tymoshenko does not consider the presidency a Playstation.

They may even be pleased to read/hear that she runs not simply for the sake of “authoritarianism and the monopoly of power” too – for that infers that apart from grabbing an authoritarian monopoly on power, she has something else in mind to do afterward (beyond reassigning corrupt money flows within her elite).

The first thing she will do, she claims, is to call a referendum to replace the Constitution.

Now there is no doubt that the Constitution requires changing.

In some areas it is too broad and in others far too detailed where subservient statute should take on such a role.  The parliamentary-presidential system of governance that theoretically exists within the Constitution could certainly do with more robust prose to keep a president off of the parliamentary grass – for anybody that looks in at Ukraine would think that it runs as a presidential-parliamentary system instead.  Perhaps a review (and removal of some) presidential powers is required.

However, the political question is whether it is wise to throw out the current Constitution entirely and replace it completely and in one go – or whether to amend it piecemeal.

After all, not all of the current Constitution is poor – indeed most of it is OK.

Much comes down to whether a Verkhovna Rada could consistently find 300 votes required for piecemeal constitutional change over a prolonged period of time, or whether a “wanna-be” President Tymoshenko believes she will only ever manage to gather 300 parliamentary votes once – and at the beginning of her presidency.

Perhaps she intends to take such a referendum to the people of Ukraine – who would have just voted in presidential elections and who face Verkhovna Rada elections in the October?  Does she intend to have the national constituency vote again between these two votes?  How will she achieve that when she would inherit a Verkhovna Rada that she does not control – indeed being one of the smallest parties there after the last elections – and which will itself be in “electioneering mode”.

However she does it, such a referendum would have to be carried out legally under the current constitution – so options?

Section III, Article 72 “An all-Ukrainian referendum is appointed by Supreme Soviet of Ukraine or the President of Ukraine in accordance with their plenary powers set by this Constitution.  An all-Ukrainian referendum is proclaimed on a folk initiative when no less as three million of which have, on condition that signatures in relation to the setting of the referendum, are collected more (no less) in two third of regions, and more (no less) than one hundred thousand signatures in every region.”     In short, if the people call for a referendum, they have almost had a referendum to call to have a referendum in the first place.  Not the most practical solution.  Further any referendum by the people has an entirely unpredictable outcome.

Section V, Article 106(6) – “appoints an all-Ukrainian referendum in relation to the changes of Constitution of Ukraine in accordance with the Article 156 of this Constitution, proclaims an all-Ukrainian referendum on folk initiative” – Make haste then to Article 156!

Section XIII, Article 156 – “About bringing of changes to the section “General basis”, Section III “Elections. Referendum” and to the section of a XIII “Bringing of changes to Constitution of Ukraine” is given in Supreme Soviet of Ukraine by the President of Ukraine or more (no less) as by the two third from constitutional composition of Supreme Soviet of Ukraine and, on condition of his acceptance more (no less) as by the two third from constitutional composition of Supreme Soviet of Ukraine, becomes firmly established an all-Ukrainian referendum which is appointed by President of Ukraine.” – In short 300 (no less) parliamentary votes required.  300 votes Ms Tymoshenko will not have within the current Verkhovna Rada should she win – and to be blunt, she will not have 300 votes within the Verkhovna Rada after the October 2019 parliamentary elections either.

In fact she would do extremely well to cobble together a coalition parliamentary majority of 226 that will survive 18 months in power – let alone a constitution-changing 300!  A coalition will be required for passing the most standard of statute for any that can both stomach and last in a coalition with Ms Tymoshenko – and history would suggest they don’t last long under her leadership.  A reader will recall the blog has oft stated, you work for Yulia T, or you work against Yulia T – but you cannot work with Yulia T (for long).

As soon as she fails to control a parliamentary majority she fails as a president (so 18 months effectiveness at most).  Certainly at the time of writing her Batkivshchyna Party will not manage to accumulate 226 parliamentarians at the next elections.  A number that requires no coalition.

However, Ms Tymoshenko is very well aware that she is incapable of sharing power and the limitations her ego puts upon her ability to work with others.  She is thus very well aware that she will not keep a parliamentary coalition together for long under her presidency.  She does have a remedy for this certain eventuality – albeit very dubious in the context of democratic representation of the national constituency.

In order to mitigate the fact that Ms Tymoshenko cannot work with other people or share any form of power, Ms Tymoshenko has publicly proposed a plan to insure a Batkivshchyna Party majority that does not rely upon coalition building.  Ms Tymoshenko proposes taking Ukraine back to a post-war (West) Germany circa 1949.  In short she proposes two rounds of voting for parliament, with the winning party, regardless of size of the winning vote, automatically gaining 226 parliamentary seats (a majority) while all others go into opposition and share 224 seats between them.  Ms Tymoshenko would have her average 15% or so of the national vote give her an automatic majority, while the vastly overwhelming majority of votes for anybody except her and her party, gain a parliamentary minority.

While a reader may ponder the democratic aspects of her plan/proposal to insure a 226 absolute majority, that number is still nowhere near the 300 required for matters of the Constitution.

Thus whoever the international experts and jurists (didn’t they participate in the drafting of the current Constitution? (rhetorical question)) engaged by Ms Tymoshenko to draft a new Constitution, they will have to deliver a stroke of legislative genius to gather 300 parliamentary votes.

Further, as with all Verkhovna Rada issues, there will be Verkhovna Rada Committee suggested amendments, thousands of amendments suggested by parliamentarians, and no doubt, numerous appeals to the Constitutional Court that any new Tymoshenko Constitution will be, in fact, unconstitutional.

Naturally a reader will also ponder several other questions after Ms Tymoshenko’s formal declaration of presidential candidacy.  What now constitutes official electioneering, how much will it cost over the 9 months ahead, and will those expenditures and incomes be accurately recorded in the party accounts?

(And yes, naturally a reader is also questioning just who are, and how much are the “international experts and jurists” being paid by Ms Tymoshenko to write an entirely new Constitution too.)


“A New Course for Ukraine” – or not!

June 17, 2018

Following along fairly seamlessly from the last entry, an entry that pondered how “old faces” can create cross-cutting cleavages across the 20s-40s Ukrainian demographic from which they are more or less politically disavowed, and that concluded “Simply rebranding (again) will not work.  Ms Tymoshenko has been, remains, and will continue to be a disaster for Ukraine – however she may rebrand herself.  The current president is still an oligarch.  Boiko is still a Firtash man.  Lyashko is a populist (increasing on Akhmetov’s payroll).  And so it goes on whether the potential candidate be current or historically a Ukrainian politician who held (reasonably) high office.  Those perceptions have not and will not change.  None are “new faces”.

To get into the 30s-40s demographic, cross-cutting cleavages will have to be created – and that requires understanding just how these people understand their own identity, their needs, their wants, and their desires – and for the “old faces” named above, any attempt to do that now will very likely to be far too little,  and certainly far too late.

In fact 20 or more years too late for most of the “old faces” to be blunt.”  it seems Ms Tymoshenko is the first to come overtly out of the blocks with this very problem in mind.

As every man/woman and his/her dog will be attempting to target the SME/entrepreneurial 20-40 something voter to boost their otherwise very narrow loyalist voters bases, all will therefore need to be a little more clever than that.

Clearly the previous entry infers that President Poroshenko and The Bankova are attempting to create their own cross-cutting cleavages with the “Pink Vote”.  The 17th June, reasonably incident free “Kyiv Pride” march that appears to have been well policed, will no doubt be used to try and underscore the “pink vote” demographic in conjunction with the intent outlined in the aforementioned previous entry.

However, all “old faces” are going to need to create a large amount of cross-cutting cleavages across all the lines of identity to which to 20s-40s voter demographic relate.  Neither individual “pink” nor “SME/entrepreneur” flirtations will be sufficient to secure voter percentage points from this demographic that has long since shunned “old faces”.  A culmination of sources will be required.

On 15th June Ms Tymoshenko launched “New Course for Ukraine” – timely insomuch as it almost immediately followed the previous blog entry, and was seemingly aimed at creating fertile ground for new cross-cutting cleavages across demographic groups – and “New Course for Ukraine” is unmistakably aimed at the 20-40 somethings with no time for “old faces” such as Ms Tymoshenko.

This entry will not delve into the specifics of what appears to be mostly undeliverable policy prose and “suggestions” from Ms Tymoshenko during the “launch” (beginning of her overt presidential campaign).

Nor will it ponder what was almost a male stripper appearing on stage with Ms Tymoshenko.

Neither is the “new look” Ms Tymoshenko (minus peasant braids) worthy of comment.

The first noticeable error of her launch of this project was that she waffled on and on for about two hours.

Although not quite in the style of “Soviet monologue” attributable to many of her male peers, nevertheless it had the “Soviet timetable” of “far too long”.  Very few, if any 20-40 somethings will be prepared to sit and listen to an “old face” known for her estrangement from truth and gross warping of statistics, for that long.

To be blunt, she (like any “old face”) would be very fortunate to keep their attention for 20 minutes.  10-15 minutes is perhaps more likely.

Another point that was noticeable looking at the audience of gathered party faithful and apparatchiks, was that there were very few of the demographic “New Course for Ukraine” is targeting within the audience.  She employed a lexicon that will have been fairly alien to those gathered.  Her prose was littered with words and name-drops that most of those present would have had to Google to understand.

Her speech therefore, was clearly not intended for those of the party faithful gathered – but for the 20-40 something voters across Ukraine who she wants to convert (but almost certainly won’t).   It will take more than a speech or project littered with “Buzz-Word Bingo” for that demographic to forget that Ms Tymoshenko is a leopard with an “old face” who has never changed her spots throughout the duration of her political career.

Indeed neither are the 20-40 something demographic blind to the fact that the very well established Batkivshchyna party tentacles in every city, town and large village across Ukraine is replete with names that appear as much a crime syndicate as a political party.

In fact what was required of her to deliver was much less of a speech.  About 100 minutes less.  “New Course for Ukraine” will have to find some serious traction to undo her “anti-rating” and/or attract percentage points from the voter demographic she is clearly targeting.  Thus less is more as far as Ms Tymoshenko is concerned.

Ergo for the “old faces” targeting the 20-40 somethings, there is about 15 minutes of audience capture with that demographic, during which no more than five resonating policy points should be delivered – for by the end of the day few will remember all five policy points.  By the end of the week, fewer will remember three of those policy points.  By the end of a fortnight, most may recall only one policy point – that which they felt was most relevant to their needs, wants, desires and individual (and perhaps community) identity.

This is why new cross-cutting cleavages are so important for the “old faces” with no other method of influence over, or penetration within this demographic when it comes to vote capture.

Identity is a very complex thing.  It is made up of layers like an onion.  An individual may identify with themselves and their immediate family first and foremost.  Perhaps then their town, village or city.  Then perhaps their profession and hobbies. Religion – or not.  Their taste in music, and/or a sports team.  A penchant for dressing like a woman on Wednesday evenings and only answering to the name Doreen – whatever.  So the layers go upon layers that go upon yet more layers, until we all arrive at our individual and complex identities that make for a very busy Zen diagram that is very alien to the “old faces”.

An effective cross-cutting cleavage aims to pull a voter into the political fold via one (or preferably several) layers of their identity, as well as needs, wants and desires.  Yet to be effective that cross-cutting cleavage has to have sizable potential capture across many individuals within those demographic layers.  It also has to be attractive to the voter –  at least long enough for them to pay attention for 15 minutes..

This is most important for Ms Tymoshenko, as “New Course for Ukraine” is apparently (and wisely framed) not about Ms Tymoshenko – or at least prima facie that is what a voter is supposed to believe.

New Course for Ukraine” will be a success if the voters tell Ms Tymoshenko what they want – for she will then endeavor to make it part of a deliverable manifesto.   A thin veil over her ingrained populism perhaps – for governance is not always about delivering what the electorate want – sometimes it is about doing what they need (as unpopular as that can be).

Naturally the facade of the Ukrainian people writing Ms Tymoshenko’s policies is not what the party loyalists and faithful are used to.  They are used to the “work for Yulia” or “work against Yulia” for you can never “work with Yulia” perception that surrounds her (and is historically proven).

The age and rural demographics of the Tymoshenko voter are not necessarily that well aligned or understanding of this notional “e-policy making”, and the cynical will view this as nothing more than “on-line populism” and/or a way to fill social media with Ms Tymoshenko and the “New Course for Ukraine” – even if most of the social media content and comment turn out to be critical and/or satirical humour.

Nevertheless, some well-known names may play her game.  (Some no doubt will go on the payroll too).  Most however are likely to refuse invitations – after all 2024 is not that far away when “new faces” will certainly being timing their arrival and will be a far more appealing “ticket” to hold.

The first issue then, is whether “New Course for Ukraine” will gain any traction (beyond satire and social media mirth) and manage to create a voter delivering cross-cutting cleavage – and whether or not it does, just how soon Ms Tymoshenko reverts to type.

The second question will be whether any “peers” decide to follow her lead – or not.


Chasing the “pink vote”

June 13, 2018

Things are predictably bleak for the “old faces” of Ukrainian politics (and their big money).  Their political fates are decided by their “anti” (unpopularity) factor rather than their popularity.  Presidential elections are won and lost by the “anybody except candidate Y” votes.  In the absence of good or “different” candidates, elections are decided on the “least worst” basis.

The “old faces” have a very small percentage of loyal electorate that is still prepared to listen to their flapdoodle.  The Ukraine of today is not the Ukraine they cut their political teeth in (whilst gorging heartily at the trough of corruption).

Neither respect, nor fear of the political or oligarch caste is as it once was.  Those days have gone.  So to have the days when the political or oligarchy class can be particularly sure of their personal well-being if they go too far.  They are no longer, quite literally, untouchable – as many have discovered.

As such the “old faces” are fighting over a fairly narrow section of the electoral base if they are to project beyond their meager loyalist cores.  A good number of Ukrainians would vote for a new face simply to remove the old faces – be the outcome for better or for worse.

To be blunt at this election it would probably bring chaos, for a new face president must still command sufficient support within the Verkhovna Rada to get anything done. – meaning a new face would have to have a political foundation within the Verkhovna Rada.  At the moment there are no known new faces entering presidential elections, and thus there is no new political force to enter the parliamentary elections.

The result being that any new face would have to build a political force between the March presidential elections and the October Verkhovna Rada elections.

Irrespective of whether a new face actually won the presidential election, the next Verkhovna Rada may well be a coalition nightmare (a majority coalition perhaps requiring 3 or possibly 4 parties next time), so there is power to be found for a “new face” even when losing a presidential election if they can form a political force before October sufficient (through single party mandate MPs or passing the party 5% threshold) to gather together 15 – 20 MPs under their banner.

2024 will probably bring one or two new faces – so hang in there.  Only another 6 years to go unless a “new face” announces a run within the next 4 months.

In the meantime the “old faces” will have to try and woo the 20 – 40 somethings – the large demographic group that seeks “new faces”.  Ms Tymoshenko is apparently already out of the blocks, with a “new style”/imagery and (for now) a far less combative style.

No doubt Oleh Lyashko will make the most of this early and “subdued” start by Ms Tymoshenko.  Their core voting constituents are mostly the same demographic.  The better Lyashko does, the worse Tymoshenko will do and vice versa.

Mr Lyashko is not about to abandon his populist and combative style – particularly as Ms Tymoshenko attempts to take on the “agony aunt”/national psychotherapist (“Just tell Auntie Yulka”) role in early electioneering.   When Ms Tymoshenko returns to type (and she will) those “leopards and unchanging spots” will not be lost on those 30-40 somethings she is now setting out to woo.

To be fair, Messrs Poroshenko, Boiko, Lyashko et al also face the same electoral field with narrow support bases and little interest in their rhetoric.  All will be seen for their historical talking and limited walking (if they walked at all).

President Poroshenko has delivered (albeit it was not his work that negotiated it) the EU Association Agreement/DCFTA and Visa-free.  The military is in much better shape.  Decentralisation is more or less working.  If the Kyiv Patriarch receives autocephaly then more votes are likely to head toward President Poroshenko too.  In fact there is a fair amount of progress for him to be vocal about.

But as an incumbent it is the failures or delays that weigh more heavily with a voter – something the opposition candidates do not carry quite so overtly/heavily in the mind of a voter.  Judicial reform has proved to be something of a farce.  Anti-corruption measures appear to have been forced upon an unwilling Bankova – and when forced upon it, the perception of many is that it has consistently done the absolute minimum required and as slowly as is possible.   No big fish have been fried by the justice system – and the voters (rightly or wrongly) expected.

Fanciful promises made at the last election campaign that would never ever be fulfilled when foolishly made, will not be forgotten.  The war still rages.  The currency is now subject to market forces (rightly) – so currency promises will go unfilled.  And so on.  That may all be somewhat unfair (or not) – but politics is not fair, and such promises were unnecessarily made when President Poroshenko was elected.  He was not going to lose the last election.

Fortunately following Stockholm Arbitration Court hearings, Ms Tymoshenko’s disastrous gas deal of 2009 remains fresh in the news – and for it being an abominable deal to the severe detriment of Ukraine.  As that is perhaps her single notable policy contribution to Ukrainian politics in 20 years, it will be a hefty stick repeatedly wielded.

Yet there are vocal, young, and organised demographics to chase – among them the “pink vote”.

The political problem with the “pink vote” is that many core voters within the narrow voter bases of the “old faces” would find making promises and/or concessions to win the “pink vote” abhorrent.

So how to flirt sufficiently with the “pink vote” demographic without upsetting a loyal, narrow generally socially conservative core voter base?  A dilemma for any “old face”.

The answer appears to be to put the issue on the political agenda and make positive noises that many within the “pink” constituency would find desirable – but to frame the political timetable so that it tops the agenda after the presidential and Verkhovna Rada elections.  Better still not to frame the issue as LGBT necessarily (albeit it is), but as equal property rights for every Ukrainian citizen.

It may well be a baby step for LGBT rights in Ukraine, but apparently within the Justice Ministry there is draft legislation that states “legalization of registered civil partnership for heterosexual and same-sex couples taking into account property rights and non-property rights, in particular possession, inheritance of property, maintenance of one partner to others in case of incapacity for work and constitutional right not to testify against his partner.”  

Now that is not the legalisation of same-sex marriage – and that may never come – but this will be framed as human rights equality relating first and foremost to property issues.  Something that would probably be accepted by many voters without too much issue if so framed.

However the plan within the Justice Ministry is that this legislation will apparently reach the Verkhovna Rada timetable in “the fourth quarter of 2019”.  Thus after both March 2019 presidential elections and also after the October 2019 Verkhovna Rada elections, thus insuring few “conservative voters” from narrow “old faces” constituencies take fright.

The carrot for the “pink vote” being that a sufficient number of MPs will have to be elected by the party (or those parties) supporting this draft legislation  – so vote for the right party(s) if you want to see LGBT progress – even if framed as property rights for general consumption.

Naturally this will not be the only demographic that the “old faces” will be seeking to gain votes within.  The question is what can be delivered before the elections, or promised, or advocated for (with a realistic and believable chance of delivery) to cut into these demographics and create cross-cutting cleavages among an electorate otherwise completed turned off by the “old faces”?

We may soon see just how smart they can be – or not.

Simply rebranding (again) will not work.  Ms Tymoshenko has been, remains, and will continue to be a disaster for Ukraine – however she may rebrand herself.  The current president is still an oligarch.  Boiko is still a Firtash man.  Lyashko is a populist (increasing on Akhmetov’s payroll).  And so it goes on whether the potential candidate be current or historically a Ukrainian politician who held (reasonably) high office.  Those perceptions have not and will not change.  None are “new faces”.

To get into the 30s-40s demographic, cross-cutting cleavages will have to be created – and that requires understanding just how these people understand their own identity, their needs, their wants, and their desires – and for the “old faces” named above, any attempt to do that now will very likely to be far too little,  and certainly far too late.

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