Posts Tagged ‘elections 2016’

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Local elections, the CEC, and political control by proxie – Ukraine

December 18, 2016

December witnesses local elections in several areas in Ukraine.  11th December and 18th December respectively saw voting in newly formed combined territorial communities designed to best leverage local politics (in particular budgets) within “decentralisation” – or so the theory goes.

Clearly at the time of writing the results of 18th December voting is unknown.

Results from 11th December are known.

Yulia Tymoshenko’s Batkivshchyna Party secured 123 local deputies, in part because when it comes to party outreach into local politics Batkivshchyna has always had the best party administrative set up in Ukraine.  No other party can or does come close to Batkivshchyna when it comes to the number of local and regional party offices.

A reader may ponder just how well Batkivshchyna would do if it were actually a real political party if only it could free itself from being nothing more than a political vehicle for Yulia Tymoshenko.  It could then develop some genuine policies that define what the party stands for rather than having to cope with Ms Tymoshenko’s ego, her empty populist rhetoric, and politically expedient flip-flopping.

When it comes to the number of elected deputies, second with 86 came Nash Krai, and Block Poroshenko coming third with 60 elected officials.

As regular readers will know however, Nash Krai is a technical party created by The Bankova (Presidential Administration) to split the Opposition Block (former Party of Regions) vote in October 2014.  This it successfully did and has continued to do.

That is not to imply that Nash Krai is without agency.  It certainly can and does do its own political thing and also votes in the interests of its parliamentarians (not necessarily its constituents) – ergo not always in line with the designs of the President or Government does it vote.  That however is within the parameters expected of a technical party if the facade of independence is to be projected.  When it truly counts support for The Bankova is expected.

However, Nash Krai as a technical party may prove to be problematic in the near future.  It is starting to convincingly out perform Block Poroshenko at the ballot box frequently.  Technical parties also expensive.  Not only does Block Poroshenko require financing, so does Nash Krai.  If finances are diminishing and the electorate continue to swell the Nash Krai machinery via electoral success after electoral success, then sooner or later the tail may start to wag the dog.

That tail wagging dog issue may start in the provinces, but eventually it may reach the centre.  This combined with quality local candidates preferring to run for parties other than that of the president will, by extension, make the next Verkhovna Rada elections interesting.  Even if (or when) state administrative resources are misused by the current powers that be to further their cause, how likely is it that it will be returned the largest party?

For now The Bankova’s pet project (Nash Krai) may remain loyal when required to be so – but for how long?

It is perhaps now necessary to focus upon how well it does vis a vis Block Poroshenko in every electoral vote henceforth, for losing control of the provinces because a pet project goes rouge will have an impact come larger national elections if the decentralised local budgets cannot be abused for the electioneering benefit of those at the centre of power.   Things begin to fray at the edges – and can completely unwind if care is not taken.

(Lo it is no surprise that since new legislation came into force in May 2016, new regional Governors selected by transparent “competition” have all been Block Poroshenko.)

cec

Further, these elections occur under an illegitimate Central Election Committee.  As noted in an October entry, 12 of the 15 CEC members have long since lost their legal mandates to be part of the CEC.  That elections continue under a clearly illegitimate CEC is no surprise.  (The entry also explains why the current electoral laws are unlikely to change.)

As stated in the aforementioned link – “However, despite any and all the political rhetoric that will surround the CEC issue prior to the year end, it seems extremely unlikely that those who currently compose the current CEC will be changed or be given new mandates.

Firstly the budget and other legislative matters will simply take priority.  Thus it follows that the issue will (once again) be put on the back-burner.  Sometime in early 2017 would appear to be the most hopeful (perhaps even fanciful) time frame when it will be addressed.   Secondly a reader may question any real political desire to actually do anything about changing the current CEC composition, providing doubt that early 2017 is indeed realistic.

As is always the case in Ukraine far too much attention will be given to who is put forward for the CEC positions rather than the institution, its role, and the legislation that it is charged with implementing and overseeing – and that legislation is certainly poor.”

Since that entry was written, the Chairman of the Central Election Committee, Mikhail Ohendovsky is now subject to criminal investigation by NABU (the anti corruption agency).  Thus the “fanciful” early 2017 timeline in the above quote may now be a little more realistic.  With the Chairman subject to criminal investigation and 12 of 15 committee members with mandates that expired in June 2014 it remains to be seen just how much longer this can be willfully ignored.

Thus the usually headline avoiding local elections this December may yet again avoid the headlines – but (local governance and local democracy aside) they act as a timely reminder of increasing reliance upon The Bankova technical party Nash Krai in the provinces by the Poroshenko centre and the prospect of tail wagging dog, and also the potential time frame for dealing with the still willfully unaddressed CEC issues.

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Zhittya – Rabinovych rebrands

July 27, 2016

In mid-May an entry appeared relating to the less than harmonious departure of Vadim Rabinovych and his “Centre Party” which formed part of, and exited the Oppo Block Party.  Indeed to say it was less than harmonious is to be charitable, with Mr Rabinovych and Mykola Skoryk trading very public, barbed and acrimonious statements.

The “Centre Party” is now no more.  It was renamed and re-branded on 26th July.  It is now called Zhittya (meaning Life in Ukrainian).

The “new” (renamed) political entity will pursue a platform of a neutral Ukraine with pragmatic relations with its neighbours, focusing upon transforming the national economy to one led by agriculture, IT/Hi-Tech, and banking – which is very much the transitional economic trajectory Ukraine is already on.  Ergo no change in the priorities for economic and market development.

The usual declarations of a serious fight against corruption, the defence of human rights, and a splash of populism regarding “extortionate rates” are needless to say also part of the party manifesto and rhetoric.

The party will also court the SME and entrepreneurial votes that are definitely the target demographic of the Dem Alliance and Khvylya too.  It will be a very congested contest for this demographic it seems, and despite the fact that Mr Rabinovich is a sly, prickly, entertaining, certainly not stupid, long-standing politician, it is somewhat questionable as to whether he will gather significant traction within his target voter base.

rabinovich

He is wealthy, but not wealthy enough to finance and promote a new/re-branded political party.  Thus this is either a particularly brave political move, which is doubtful for a politician as long in the tooth as he, or a backer for the Zhittya Party has been secured with sufficient money and influence to promote the party in a forthcoming election that will feature several new and/or invigorated parties.

Mr Rabinovych has already been joined by another (until 3rd June when he left) Oppo Block faction parliamentarian, Evgen Muraev, owner of NewsOne media, who arrived in parliament as an independent.  However, even together it seems unlikely they can fund an effective political campaign without further backing from somewhere, or somebody (probably from behind the curtain).

How many parliamentarians are Zhittya expecting/hoping to have elected when the next elections arrive?  Which seats will it contest, for it is unlikely to pass the 5% proportional representation threshold if standing and financing entirely unsupported by “others”.

If reduced to single seat mandates its electoral successes will be very limited indeed even if its energy draws several frustrated Oppo Block parliamentarians to it who are tired of doing very little in the comatose ranks of the Oppo Block.

Whatever the case its chances of implementing any of its declared political manifesto are naturally zero if alone, and extremely limited as part of a larger vehicle unless there is policy overlap.

Therefore, to which political faction would it gravitate and join?  Will it return to the Oppo Block Party fold as a constituent part despite a fairly fractious recent history – or the more encompassing yet looser association of the Oppo Block faction  – or will Mr Rabinovych head away from his traditional “Regionaires” comfort zone?

Numerous ex-regionaires  feature in Nash Krai.  They also do within Block Poroshenko.  Potential political faction resting places perhaps?  Nash Krai would seem the most obvious alternative to the Oppo Block, but would they want Zhittya and Mr Rabinovych even if he wanted them?

Maybe the issue has already been sorted out prior to the re-branding and it will be from these unknown quarters that sufficient electoral funds and backing will come – with faction membership following thereafter.

Whatever the case, it is always rather fun, albeit occasionally a distasteful experience,  to follow the exploits of Mr Rabinovych – perhaps more so now he will wish to give Zhittya a bit of a PR lift post re-branding.

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Mid-term election results Ukraine – What do they mean?

July 21, 2016

It is perhaps time, now that all of last week’s 7 mid-term election results have been declared in Ukraine, to ponder what, if anything, the election results reflect.

Who are the winners, and who are the losers in the big, and perhaps slightly nefarious and opaque picture?

Yulia Tymoshenko’s Batkivshchyna Party took two of the 7 contests seats, and thus have two more parliamentarians within the Verkhovna Rada.  Not enough to make any difference to party successes – or more accurately stated party failures – within the current Verkhovna Rada.

Alone, and outside the majority coalition it remains an impotent political force within the national legislature, with few other “democratic opposition” parties keen to ally with Yulia Tymoshenko, or alternatively, with Yulia Tymoshenko unwilling to ally with other “democratic opposition” parties.

The result does however, perhaps point to a significant improvement in the Batkivshchyna Party fortunes as and when the next Verkhovna Rada elections occur (be they early or scheduled in nature).  Nevertheless, there would be few genuinely willing political parties keen to join a coalition under Yulia Tymoshenko coming out of the other side of any forthcoming Verkhovna Rada elections.  There is far more to Ukrainian politics than simply winning parliamentary seats – successful coalition building is a requirement on the way to power.

A win for Batkivshchyna, though perhaps of limited current or future use.  What it will do is increase the on-going efforts of Batkivshchyna centre, to find and market future regional candidates early via the party provincial offices.

It was, if not a prima facie good result for the Presidential Administration and presidential parliamentary party, not an especially bad result either.

Irina Konstankevich and Victor Shevchenko, winners in Volyn and Carpathia, regardless of the party label under which they were elected are very close to people who are very close to Ihor Kolomoiski.

So small is the current coalition majority within the existing Verkhovna Rada, it has become apparent that when votes that really matter occur, the Kolomoisky backed “Will of the People” often vote along coalition lines – even if his other political parties and “owned/rented” parliamentarians don’t.

The inference being a grubby deal has struck between President Poroshenko and Mr Kolomoisky behind the curtain to provide “enough” votes when it truly matters.  A reader can only speculate upon the exact nature and scope regarding the reward Mr Kolomoisky gets in return.

Ergo, there will be few that will be surprised if these new, closely Kolomoisky associated parliamentarians vote with the government on crucial issues per grubby Poroshenko-Kolomoisky deals behind the curtain.

Thus far, Ms Tymoshenko is up 2, Ihor Kolomoisky is up 2, and President Poroshenko can perhaps borrow 2 under certain conditions.

Maksym Mykytas and Tetyana Rychkova also won seats running as “independents” with perhaps more than the tacit backing of the Presidential Administration – a clear indication of where their vote will go far more often than not.

Further, Serhiy Shakhov of Nash Krai took Luhansk.  Nash Krai was created by the Presidential Administration as a party of ex-Regionaires that will be reasonably supportive, take the presidential line on crucial votes, and is also a party created to split the old Party of Regions voter base with the intention of preventing it consolidating behind the “Opposition Block” that limply crawled from the ashes of Party of Regions immediately following the ousting of Viktor Yanukovych.

In short, if not by transparent hook, then by an opaque and perhaps grubby hook, the president and his party have not done badly at all.  Through smoke and mirrors they are up 3, with the possibility of borrowing 2 in a crisis.

Which brings about the losers,

The unambiguous loser has been the Opposition Block who traditionally could have expected to win 3 of the regional seats up for grabs where they historically held very safe seats in the nation’s south and east as the former Party of Regions.

Indeed these elections are perhaps most notable not for the electoral gains, be those gains direct or indirect, nor for any shift in power within the national legislature, but for the loses within traditional Party of Regions/Opposition Block political turf.

toxic

Opposition Block therefore, perhaps can be perceived to be down 3 – and remain toxic.

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Khvylya – A Saakashvili party without Saakashvili

July 18, 2016

A few weeks ago an entry appeared relating to a new political party, then unnamed, that is clearly a political vehicle/platform for Odessa Governor Saakashvili – when the moment arrives for him to leave the Ukrainian civil service.

Among the “initiative group” behind the new party, aside from Messrs Sakvarelidze and Kaskiv, perhaps the best known personality is Viktor Chumak (who a reader may expect will become something of an unofficial spokesman for the as yet officially unnamed but nevertheless now existing political party).

Undoubtedly Governor Saakashvili will have had a significant role in the creation of this political party looking at those within the above photograph who now form it.  His fingerprints are all over it!  Clearly being a civil servant Misha Saakashvili cannot be publicly and directly associated with its creation or operation whilst still holding the role of Odessa Governor – that he will not only be associated with it, but also lead it (from behind the scenes rather than actually within the Verkhovna Rada)) if/once he has left that position is almost without doubt.

The new political party has now been named – it is called “Khvylya“.  (It means wave (as in the sea) in Ukrainian).

Khvylya will position itself as a political “Euro-optimist” force – as will the newly invigorated Democratic Alliance (pending name change).

Both will be anti-corruption, rule of law parties with no fondness toward the current oligarchy or their nefarious schemes within and without the Verkhovna Rada.  Both will fight against the “captured State”.

Both will seek the same voters base.  The SMEs and entrepreneurs, the 18 to 40’s demographic far less tainted by Soviet legacy and far more likely to look further into the future than the end of today.  Those that seek to plant the seeds that will grow into the trees under which their future generations will sit comfortably in the shade are the target constituency.

Both will aim to gather at least 10% of the national vote.

It is however, The Democratic Alliance, (or however it will soon be renamed) that may find achieving (and perhaps surpassing) that figure more easily.  Upon its party list in all probability will sit names such as Sergei Leshchenko, Mustafa Nayem, Svitlana Zalishchuk, Victoria Ptashnik, Deputy Economy Minister Maxim Nefodov, Deputy Minister of Ecology Svetlana Kolomiets, a former Deputy Minister of Education Oleg Derevyanko, the participants of the Civil Platform Valerii Pekar, Andrei Dligach and Taras Kozak, as well as Basil Gatsko and Maxim Cherkasenko.  All well known names, vocal and social media savvy advocates within their target voting constituency – and beyond.

It remains to be seen who will appear upon the party list of Khvylya.

Misha Party

There will be some fairly well known names of course – the likes of Viktor Chumak and Vitaliy Vasko.

The names of Mikhail Saakashvili and Davit Sakvarelidze however won’t be listed.

Article 76 of the Constitution of Ukraine quite simply disqualifies Mikhail Saakashvili and Davit Sakvarelidze from being parliamentarians – until at least May 2020.  It clearly states parliamentarians are to be Ukrainian citizens living in Ukraine for the past 5 years.

As neither of these headlining grabbing names have been Ukrainian citizens, nor living in Ukraine for the past 5 years, simply put they are ineligible to stand and be upon the Khvylya party list – despite the Georgian fingerprints all over the creation of the Khvylya Party.

A reader may well ponder how the voting constituency will perceive this when it becomes clear to them that when voting Khvylya, they are not voting either Governor Saakashvili nor Mr Sakvarelidze into the national legislature – their names will be entirely absent from the party list (at least before 2020).

Unfortunately much of the electorate still vote for names (self-proclaimed and/or society anointed national saviors) and not policy.  Perhaps they have little choice when policy is generally noticeable by its complete absence in Ukrainian electoral campaigns.

To be fair, Samopomich has not fared that badly without Andriy Sadovy upon the party list thus far – but it is clearly understood that Mr Sadovy has his eye upon the next presidential election and not a parliamentary seat within the Verkhovna Rada.

Another issue for Khvylya will be the transparency of party funding.  The Democratic Alliance battling for the same voting constituency is outstanding in its transparency when it comes to the party funding.

Khvylya as a Ukrainian political party simply cannot be seen to rely upon funding from Georgian politician and businessman, “Mr Koba” – a man who is, and always has been, extremely generous toward the “Saakashvili machinery” since its arrival in Ukraine.

It would seem a far harder sell to a contested 18 – 40, western looking, SME/entrepreneurial constituency demographic, that voting for Khvylya is a vote for Saakashvili when it’s not, unless he takes upon himself the position of Grey Cardinal behind the decision making without public mandate,  or is it perhaps an easy sell that a vote for a reformed Ukraine manifested in Khvylya relies predominantly upon either transparent or opaque party funding from Georgia (via “Mr Koba”).

This is the demographic that seeks, among other things, to remove Grey Cardinals from politics, extinguish control over domestic politics by the rich party backers, and seeks to remove external agency and direct interference from domestic political outcomes – indeed that is what Khvylya will have to purport to do too in order to gain maximum traction within this target demographic.

With Misha Saakashvili named atop the Khvylya party list, nationally 10% or more of the constituency may well have voted for it.  Without his name atop, what percentage?  3%?  5%?  Will the party cross the political threshold to enter the Verkhovna Rada via the proportional representation vote at all?

The Democratic Alliance has a lot of political work to do when campaigning upon policy to mitigate the usual “personality politics” many Ukrainian voters opt for if it is to better more than 10% of the national vote – and 10% would be dramatic improvement in its political fortune – but it now has a significant number of names associated with “western aspirations”. upon its party list.

Khvylya will have to work far, far harder when its most recognised names cannot be on the party list (until 2020) – regardless of how much overt (illegal whilst Governor), or tacit, or inferred support those domestically (and internationally) known names may give.

Although just scraping over the electoral threshold to enter the Verkhovna Rada via the proportional representation part of any voting will not be the vision of Khvylya – 15% or more would be the goal – a reader may ponder how achievable that will be until the Saakashvili name can appear on the party list.  Perhaps even then that will prove to be ambitious.

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A subtle (or not) reframing – Groisman

July 13, 2016

With much in political (and policy) life, he who frames matters first – and robustly – often manages to win the day both politically among peers, and within the court of public opinion.

The 17th July sees 7 parliamentary seats, currently vacant due the assumption of other roles by their last incumbents – or in one case death – of which Solidarity (Poroshenko/Groisman) are defending 5 seats.  The outcome matters (together with the seat being defended by Will of the People, currently voting in line with the government when it truly matters) due to the slim coalition majority within the Verkhovna Rada.

The 22 July then sees the parliamentarians of the Verkhovna Rada wander off of holiday.  As such the ever-present chatter regarding early Verkhovna Rada elections will dissipate – at least until the parliamentarians reconvene, when it can be anticipated that such chatter becomes something of a rude cacophony.

Populist nonsense and policy-less constituency whoring in an effort to gather public opinion around new elections will probably take precedents over the matter of governing the nation and legislating for sensible reform progress.

Groisman

Whilst far too late to influence the 17th July elections, a recent trend in public statements from Prime Minister Groisman has become apparent.  Those statements are clearly linking populist politics (and by default politicians) to corruption – particularly energy shenanigans.

The unambiguous inference being populist politics (and politicians) equate to the defence of, and continence of, corruption.

His notable “reframing” of the corruption issue around populist politics is clearly underway – beginning a few weeks ago, and likely to continue for the foreseeable future.

It is not exactly difficult to put corruption meat upon the populist political bones in order to make his case if the populists force the issue.  Names of populist politicians and links to corruption require little effort.  As stated in the opening paragraph – “With much in political (and policy) life, he who frames matters first – and robustly – often manages to win the day both politically and within the court of public opinion.”

Clearly not all corruption is linked to populist politicians – or those behind them.  Not all Ukrainian corruption has any political link – some is institution specific.  In other areas it is industry specific.

What is interesting regarding this reframing is the timing and the tone.

Quite obviously it is not intended to have much (if any) effect over the 7 seats subject to elections on Sunday.  The reframing began far too late for that, and has assumed a tone of attempting to calmly yet assertively state a “case” – rather than one of trying to immediately drown out competing populist discourse.

The timeline (and presumably crescendo) appears to be aimed toward the Autumn/Winter when new utilities tariffs will hit the Ukrainian consumer and the populists will attempt to galvanise public opinion behind calls for new elections (and the usual populist promises without providing policy options or outlining the effects on the nation should they prevail).

The question is whether PM Groisman’s reframing of corruption as being specifically linked to populist politics (and energy nefariousness) will find fertile soil with public discourse – and if it does, at what point it gains significant traction?

Will what is now being sown in the minds of the electorate, in tandem with a tangible move against corruption, reap the reward of avoiding overwhelming public support for early Verkhovna Rada elections and also curtail the participation of the public in the usual “call to the streets/gather at the Maidan” rallying cries that may very well be issued by the populist politicians once summer passes?

It is a subtle and rather clever attempt at reframing the corruption issue for clear and focused political ends – time will tell whether having reframed the corruption issue as he has, particularly with regard to energy shenanigans, PM Groisman will go on to win the day and head off early Verkhovna Rada elections via the clear political threat presented by the new utility tariffs hitting the constituency pocket.

In the meantime, expect the “populism-corruption-energy shenanigans” unholy trinity to become a mainstay of his public oratory.

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Decree No296/2016 – Euro-Atlantic Coordination Commission

July 9, 2016

With the Warsaw NATO Summit now winding down (and congratulations to friend of this blog Slawomir Debski (and PISM) for organising what appears to have been a well administered event), whether a reader agrees or disagrees with the rhetorical and/or tangible outcomes, Saturday 9th was for Ukraine the bigger of the two days.

What was said “on the fringes” and “behind closed doors” may or may not become known (or leaked) in the coming days and weeks, but what catches the eye in the public domain is Presidential Decree 296/2016 – for it creates a domestic body aptly named the “Euro-Atlantic Coordination Commission”.  A dedicated oversight body.

In a very short summary, its purpose is to create an entity that will monitor, analyse and evaluate the speed and trajectory of Ukraine along the path to meeting (the most basic of) NATO standards across all necessary spheres – both military and civilian.

The goal is clearly meeting NATO membership criteria – regardless of whether Ukraine pursues membership, or whether it ever manifests should it choose to do so.  Whatever the case, without meeting those most basic standards membership will certainly not materialise, no differently to any goal of EU membership should Ukraine decide to apply when far closer to meeting those standards (thus at least one decade in the case of NATO, possibly two for the EU – if (glacial) momentum can be maintained).

Ergo, the domestic coordination of (more or less the same) central legislature, State institutions, and other public bodies required for Ukraine to meet its EU Association Agreement and DCFTA obligations will also apply for NATO.

Ivanna Klympush-Tsintsadze

Ivanna Klympush-Tsintsadze

Common sense (which is sadly not that common) dictates that Deputy Prime Minister Ivanna Klympush-Tsintsadze, who is tasked with the EU integration mandate, also has her portfolio expanded to include the NATO mandate – and lo, it has come to pass that common sense has won the day.

As stated when the new Cabinet of Ministers was unveiled in mid-April, the creation of a VPM to specifically deal with EU integration, and the appointment of Ms Klympush-Tsintsadze in particular to that role, was perhaps the highlight of the new Cabinet.

Ivanna Klympush-Tsintsadze is a clever woman.  She views issues with very clear eyes.  She is not prone to populism.  She speaks directly.  She is also quite likable.  She is also one of the few that enjoys support across the schism within the broad “Church of Reform” in Ukraine – a schism that has now made a notable move as predicted.  All very necessary traits given the role she has been given, and taken on.

What seems fairly clear, is that she believes that it is far less important for Ukraine to enter “Europe” (however you define that), than it is for “Europe” enter Ukraine – metaphorically speaking.

Her mantra appears to be that it is for Ukraine to introduce and adopt the European values and practices it deems necessary for national development.  European integration is therefore bringing “Europe” in terms of values and practices to Ukraine and not vice versa, attempting to take Ukraine to Europe..  A particularly wise framing of matters, despite the subtleties and nuances of such a mind-set oft being missed.   Such a view firmly places the responsibility for European integration upon her domestic colleagues and not the Europeans – quite rightly.

It would therefore seem quite probable that she will take a similar view regarding her new expanded portfolio regarding NATO – not to bring Ukraine to NATO, but to bring the NATO ethos and standards to Ukraine – similarly regardless of whether Ukraine eventually joins or not.

A significant question however, is the scope of NATO integration on offer, and how to benchmark progress toward fully achieving that (unknown) level of integration?

The EU Association Agreement and DCFTA has a clear and unambiguous structure and path to accomplishment – it is therefore measurable, and thus allows for domestic tactical and policy tweaks where necessary toward obligation fulfillment.

Naturally the current leadership of Ukraine, in the absence of NATO membership, would desire to achieve the nearest thing to it – a partnership so close as to be NATO membership minus Article 5.  Undoubtedly this would have to be the starting position of Ms Klympush-Tsintsadze when framing issues in her own mind – certainly when it comes to coordinating matters internally of Ukraine.

Another question will be how long she will remain in post, and how far she can progress matters during that time.

It may very well be that the summer witnesses a drop in early Verkhovna Rada election rhetoric – but the Autumn and a new Verkhovna Rada session will undoubtedly see that rhetoric scale new heights.  Given her apparent support across the “reformist church” schism, whatever transpires, she may survive in post – but she certainly will not remain in post for the decade it will take to holistically meet all basic NATO standards (notwithstanding two decades to meet EU standards and the acquis communautaire which sets a higher bar than the existing Association Agreement and DCFTA toward which Ukraine labours).

Currently at least, questions of scope, achieve-ability, timeliness and measurement cast a shadow over what is otherwise a common sense Presidential Decree, decision and appointment.

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Ukrainian folklore and the Batkivshchyna kitchen

May 26, 2016

The 25th May, upon the anniversary of President Poroshenko’s winning the highest office in Ukraine, saw the less than timely release of Nadiya Savchenko from Russian captivity and return to Ukrainian soil.

Hurrah and huzzah!

May Nadiya and her family enjoy their future – whatever it may bring – together.

May this event, and the high profile prisoner exchange of which Nadiya was a part, be the start of further releases of those detained that are clearly politically motivated prisoners – for to be blunt none are particularly valuable chess pieces in the wider game, and the release of all those detained that are held with distinctly political overtones is not going to weaken the positions of those detaining them significantly – if at all.

Clearly there should be words of appreciation for those that spent many months facilitating the release/exchange of Ms Savchenko.  There is yet more work to do for those that remained wrongfully detained.

Politically, there is no denying that there will be many a keen ear awaiting the first Verkhovna Rada address of Ms Savchenko to her feckless peers – for there are none within that theatre of the absurd that have surrendered 2 years of their lives in a Russian prison for their nation – in fact the vast majority in that legislative asylum have done very little for Ukraine during the time of Ms Savchenko’s incarceration.  It is to be hoped that her first speech in the Verkhovna Rada is a very blunt, passionate and barbed occasion with the single aim of making the feckless wonders present squirm – both in the Verkhovna Rada session hall and in the media thereafter.

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This brings about Ms Savchenko’s place within the Verkhovna Rada as the Number 1 name upon Yulia Tymoshenko’s Batkivshchyna Party list.  Ukrainian folklore would have it that two housewives cannot exist in one kitchen (paraphrased and used at the risk of appearing wrongfully misogynistic).

Any regular reader will know that Batkivshchyna is nothing more than a vehicle for Yulia Tymoshenko.  It has but a single purpose, and that is to elevate Ms Tymoshenko and propel her to political glory.  Ms Tymoshenko controls the party – the party has absolutely no control over Ms Tymoshenko – sadly.  (Not that Batkivshchyna are alone in this democratic deficit.)

As such Batkivshchyna as a political party has only room for one woman in the party kitchen – Yulia Tymoshenko.

The arrival of Nadiya Savchenko with a huge amount of personal political capital with the public, and a personality that will simply not bend to the will of Yulia Tymoshenko is going to cause problems.

It was of course Ms Tymoshenko’s populist DNA that placed Nadiya Savchenko as Number 1 on her party list at the last Verkhovna Rada elections – perhaps a clever vote winning move if there is little expectation of Ms Savchenko ever taking her Verkhovna Rada seat when writing the party list n- not at all clever should events conspire that she would.

However, to employ the phrase attributed to Harold MacMillan when allegedly asked what he feared most in politics – “Events dear boy, events”.  Ms Tymoshenko’s populist nonsense now has the potential – and probability – of becoming an “event” that she will look back on ruefully in the months ahead.

It seems extremely unlikely that Ms Savchenko will play ball and follow the required unquestioning party worship of the leader, or indeed consistently vote the party line.  A contented second fiddle to a very poor Tymoshenko lead violin she will not be.

In short, however uncomfortable and irked Block Poroshenko and Solidarity may often feel with Messrs Nayem and Leshchenko being particularly barbed and consistent thorns in its side, Ms Tymoshenko is almost inevitably about to receive the same treatment from a no-nonsense Nadiya Savchenko – and it is not before time somebody within Batkivshchyna called out Ms Tymoshenko for her nonsense.

No differently from Block Poroshenko with Messrs Nayem and Leshchenko, Ms Tymoshenko simply cannot eject Ms Savchenko from the party without significant constituency implications due to the societal backing she has – no matter how difficult she will make life for Ms Tymoshenko by keeping her in the fold.

Further Ms Savchenko cannot simply leave the Batkivshchyna Party and hope to remain in the Verkhovna Rada as an independent lest the same fate as Messrs Firsov and Tomenko awaits her (Article 81 of the Constitution of Ukraine).

With the Article 81 precedent now set, the only way out of Batkivshchyna for Ms Savchenko, is by request of either party, and would require an understanding that Article 81 was not applied by Batkivshchyna if she is to remain a parliamentarian.

A reader may ponder, regardless of how much pain and difficulty Ms Savchenko may/will cause Ms Tymoshenko in the weeks and months ahead with undoubtedly candid and terse commentary, whether Ms Tymoshenko would actually remove Ukraine’s latest and best known heroine from her political ranks having previously made much from the populist decision to put Ms Savchenko as Number 1 on the party list.

However, what would be the societal perception if Ms Savchenko were allowed to leave Ms Tymoshenko’s party by her own request – with an Article 81 waver – and act as an independent or perhaps join another party in parliament?  How would that effect the Tymoshenko ratings and her on-going electioneering?

There seem to be no particularly good political options for Ms Tymoshenko when to comes to Ms Savchenko, and as has been written at this blog innumerable times, you either work for Ms Tymsohenko, or you work against Ms Tymoshenko.  Ms Tymoshenko does not do “work with”.  Thus the Batkivshchyna kitchen is simply not going to be big enough for these two Ukrainian women.

Whilst it is clear that Ms Savchenko will continue to work for the release of other prisoners incarcerated due to political expediency, and no doubt she will actively employ her Ukrainian PACE delegation position to that end, Ms Savchenko is not going to be missing that many Verkhovna Rada sessions.

Time will tell whether heroines should remain heroines, or if in time they become tarnished by politics, but in the immediate future, as tweeted upon receipt of the splendid news of Nadiya Savchenko’s release:

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