Posts Tagged ‘elections 2017’

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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.)

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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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The IMF says “No” to Ukraine – as long predicted it would

December 1, 2016

The IMF in very plain words has refused Ukraine the next allocated tranche of $1.3 billion.  The February $2 billion tranche naturally gets kicked further into the future.

This should come as no surprise whatsoever.

In February, April, June and most recently (and at length) in October, the blog has repeatedly written (and stated at closed door forums) that IMF cooperation would be indefinitely suspended due to the fact that Ukraine would no longer be desperate for the money and therefore the motivation of parliamentarians and implementing institutions alike would simply disappear – until such time as the situation becomes so acute that they are once again forced to act.

“…….meeting the November 2016 and the $1.3 billion IMF tranche requirements appears optimistic, then meeting the obligations for the scheduled February 2017 tranche of $2 billion is perhaps as remote as riding a unicorn naked through the centre of Kyiv without once being snapped by a smartphone.”

A told you so statement – and the long list of issues in the above-linked October entry remain to be solved as do the repercussions it outlines.

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Though the above entry makes forecast of 2017 IMF related issues, it wisely steers clear of any prophecy regarding a return by Ukrainian to its obligations under the IMF agreement – and thus a return to IMF funding.

It is thus time to be foolish and/or reckless and forecast just how long it will before before the Ukrainian situation becomes once again so dire that parliamentarians and implementing institutions are forced to put their ingrained fecklessness to one side and act with the integrity expected of them – but of which they are consistently absent unless truly without any other options.

Short of something akin to force majeure coming from either The Kremlin or Washington DC dramatically changing the environment within which Ukraine finds itself, there is no urgency to address Ukrainian obligations to the IMF in 2017.

(The only other “incentive” would perhaps be the “Firtashisation” – or privately conveyed possibilities thereof – to powerful and influential Ukrainian figures that nefariously control Verkhovna Rada votes and who have “strayed” within the laws of European nations.)

Certainly nothing approaching obligation compliance will begin before Spring 2017 – the constituency will first be allowed to emerge from a winter under radically increased utility pricing and the application of soothing subsidies – which lends to the ability of the current government and majority coalition to survive the increasingly cacophonous noise relating to early Verkhovna Rada elections.

Realistically (in the current environment) it seems highly unlikely that Ukraine will make any great strides toward getting the IMF agreements back on track until Autumn 2017 at the earliest – if at all in 2017.

Thus predictions for the IMF-Ukraine lending agreement to recommence?

Perhaps 2018.

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A gathering storm (or a storm in a tea cup?) Ukraine

November 20, 2016

Having received a question from a reader regarding the impact (or not) of Misha Saakashvili’s new political party, a few lines are dedicated to answering (guessing) the immediate outcomes considering his calls for early elections.

Firstly the arrival of his new political vehicle is no surprise – as entries from June make clear.  Indeed it was apparent in May that the then Governor was searching for a political vehicle upon which to enter the national political stage and escape the provincial powerlessness of his appointed role.

Initially created under the banner of Khvylya, as stated and despite any public distancing at the time, it clearly had “Georgian”/Saakashvili fingerprints all over it.

The new party now officially launched under the leadership of Mr Saakashvili will be called “Rukh New Forces”.

During its birth, no differently from Khvylya, it seems realistic to expect Georgian politician Koba Davitashvili to play a significant role in its financing.  (Mr Davitashvili was hardly shy when it came to financially supporting the efforts/projects of Misha Saakashvili as Governor of Odessa as anybody that went near the Bristol Hotel upon Mr Saakashvili’s arrival could not fail to notice/overhear.)

The party’ inaugural congress will be held on the second anniversary of the beginning of 8th/current parliament commencing  – in order not to waste a symbolic date for launching a “reformist” party against the backdrop of what is considered by many a stalling Verkhovna Rada (to be charitable).

For those within the Saakashvili camp, there is much to be done.

Broad brushstrokes have already been painted – no party electoral positions for any candidate that has served more than a single term in the Verkhovna Rada.  Thus nobody too polluted from the corrupt atmosphere within the Verkhovna Rada, and nobody with historical politically damaging baggage from the pre-revolution epoch, and no ties to big business or the oligarchy etc.

In short, insulation from those entities and personalities historically associated with fecklessness, nefariousness and odiousness for any party candidate.

Regional structures need to be built – and swiftly if there are to be early elections in Spring 2017 (as predicted back in 2015).

In Odessa there is clearly a party organisation awaiting formal activation.  Teimuraz Nishianidze (head of fund/charity “For Odessa”) and Ivan Liptuga (current head of the Department of Tourism) seem likely to be part of the regional party set-up.  From civil society/activist roots come Vadim Labas (Oberig), Harvard Grad Vladimir Shemaev, Grigory Kozma, and Alexie Prokopenko (New Generation).  Historical local governance experience arrives via Andrei Karpenko, and of local SME’s, CEO of TIS Alexander Stavinster’s name is being circulated.  Certainly a team capable of building a reasonable regional political party administration – particularly as the acting Governor Ms Bobrovskaya will lead it.  At least a dozen, perhaps more, District Administration heads from Odessa are also going to join.

How well they will fare against the “old school” and the “old rules” when it comes to election campaigning remains to be seen.

Kyiv is also fairly organised with the party having been conceived and partially constructed there since June.

It is the other regions that will require swift and energetic structures forming – and financing.  Dnipro, Lviv, Kharkiv et al.

Undoubtedly, if Mr Saakashvili is given any media time, he can do PR, emotion, passion and political energising far better than any political rival – despite exaggeration of facts and figures or tenuous evidence for his claims.  Outright lies however are few and far between.

Another benefit of starting anew is that those joining provide the party with an energy and will transferable into a social momentum that is clearly lacking for all parties currently in the Verkhovna Rada.

(As a Solidarity/BPP (Poroshenko) parliamentarian recently told this blog, people are tired of the likes of Tymoshenko – and clearly looking at ever declining opinion polls, they are rapidly tiring of the President too.)

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So is the launch of Misha’s party the signal that electioneering begins in preparation for an early Spring vote?

Hardly.

Ms Tymoshenko has been pre-election electioneering since the summer with her usual policy-less empty populist nonsense.  Vadim Rabinovych’s “Centre Party” rebranded as “Zhittya” in July in anticipation and is currently paying protesters to demonstrate outside the National Bank to raise its profile.

(A reader may be wise to keep an eye upon Nadia Savchenko and a possible move from Ms Tymoshenko and Batkivshchyna to Zhittya when elections are called.)

Samopomich now seem a little less keen upon early elections as they once were – perhaps fearing some of its constituency leaving its electoral fold, or perhaps realising that under the current electoral laws any new elections are not likely to provide the critical mass of reformers thus far absent within the Verkhovna Rada.

This brings a reader to Oleh Lyashko and The Radicals and a very public and venomous fall out with Yulia Tymoshenko and Batkivshchyna within the (not so) democratic opposition parties.

Ms Tymoshenko has grossly miscalculated a tactical political stunt and is now the target of the sharpened populist tongue of Oleh Lyashko – consistently.

She “inexplicably” gave her oratory time in the Verkhovna Rada to Radical Party MP Yuri Shukhevych (and son of a Ukrainian nationalist), despite, she claims, having no idea what he wanted to say, and despite nobody within the Radical Party knowing it was going to happen, and likewise being unaware of what he would say.

Naturally, no reader is retarded enough to believe she would surrender her parliamentary oratory time to a member of another party – let alone to do so without any knowledge of what they were to say.

The upshot is that she was and continues to be branded loudly and repeatedly by Mr Lyashko as a cynic and hypocrite (now constantly listing her past failings and hypocrisies) and also accusing her of being in league with the universally disliked Viktor Medvedchuk, and also that she is an agent of The Kremlin (whether he is aware of just how close to the truth he is or not remains unclear).  He has publicly appealed to President Poroshenko to deprive her of her Ukrainian citizenship based on her agency (in his view) for The Kremlin.

Ms Tymoshenko will not be able to quieten a populist as loud and otherwise empty as herself.  Her actions are a gross miscalculation, the political costs of which are yet to become clear.

Naturally the ruling coalition are quite happy to see populist go after populist – and it appears Mr Akhmetov has quietly decided to throw some funding at The Radicals – a party initially formed with the Russian (agent) fingerprints of Igor Shuvalov (and therefore Sergei Liovochkin) upon it.

Clearly Oleh Lyashko has recognised that with The Democratic Alliance (and young political personalities of its leadership), Misha Saakashvili’s new party, Samopomich, Zhittya, Batkivshchyna and his own party all fighting over the same 18 – 45, SME/entrepreneurial, patriotic, reformist electorate (and political candidates) there is not really enough room for everybody – and Ms Tymoshenko has given him the perfect excuse to go after her and been seen as justified in doing so.

As both Ms Tymoshenko and Oleh Lyashko are deemed too toxic and populist to be in any coalition, it makes sense that Mr Lyashko will try to bring down Yulia Tymoshenko and Batkivshchyna in public opinion – and Mr Akhmetov will be quite happy to fund that attempt given his dislike for Ms Tymoshenko whilst also gaining some political support from The Radicals in return.

Whether the Oppo Block, who having been giving Ms Tymoshenko air time on its Inter political media platform will now reconsider their unofficial temporary alliance with her, or whether after Yuri Boiko assaulted Mr Lyashko just days before Ms Tymoshenko’s stunt with his party member, that alliance will become more firm and less hidden remains to be seen.

In the meantime President Poroshenko is firming up the coalition and insuring the MPs for “rent”/”hire” upon which he has relied in crucial votes remains a functioning political unit.  As such the “opposition” party “Will of the People” is being given “support” to try an insure the current majority coalition can make it past the Spring and calls for early elections.

To be entirely blunt, if early elections cannot be forced in Spring 2017 following a winter of major utility hikes to the constituency, then they are very unlikely to be forced at all – particularly as populist calls to the street and paid protesters will simply not garner a more genuine and long lasting protest around it.  All such politically designed paid protests will be a waste of political energy and money in their organisation.

Thus returning to the question in the opening paragraph, will the launch of Misha’s new party have sufficient impact to force early elections?

No – at least not on its own.

If early elections are to come, then for Mr Saakashvili personally, he would have to hope for about 20% of the popular vote to become the biggest party in any new parliament around which a coalition could be built and that would facilitate his appointment as Prime Minister (for he cannot become an elected MP due to constitutional restrictions until 2020).

The question would then be, who would those willing coalition partners be?

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The CyberJunta hack – How will the populists respond?

October 24, 2016

CyberJunta, one of the Ukrainian hacking groups has apparently (and unsurprisingly) targeted Vladislav Surkov and an email address v14691@yandex.ru purported to be used by him under the pseudonym Nikolay Pavlov.

Also compromised was an email address of a Surkov associate/underling pabnik@yandex.ru used by Pavel Karpov.

Within the documents thus far released in two pdf files file-1 and file-2 – 17.4 MB in total (with more to come undoubtedly) it has to be said there are absolutely no surprises when it comes to the tactics and instruments to be used in undermining Ukraine beyond the occupied Donbas.

Neither would the suggested time frame between November 2016 to March 2017 for implementation of destabilisation within Ukraine come as a surprise to many.  Events both external and internal of Ukraine would dictate this period as being optimal.

Clearly fermenting social unrest during the heating season when tariffs have risen so sharply requires little tactical thinking within the Kremlin when Ms Tymoshenko long-since grasped that opportunity – and she has been banging the social unrest drum for several months over the issue.

Forcing/encouraging new Verkhovna Rada elections in Spring 2017, something long anticipated, is another goal that would fit the Opposition Block, Batkivshchyna/Tymoshenko, and possibly Radical Party design.  As all are populist, if they cannot force early elections following the hardship many will face during a heating season of high tariffs then they will probably never manage to force early elections.

Plans attempting to bring about calls for a “federal Transcarpathia” are an obvious alternative to the failed Novorossiya project.  (Although not specifically mentioned, how great a role Viktor Orban would/could play in agitating the Hungarian diaspora is unknown.)

What is perhaps most informative about the documents is that Mr Surkov aka Pavlov (if the email address is genuinely one of Surkov’s pseudo-email addresses) is that it is not the most Kremlin friendly Opposition Block that is identified as the critical political machinery to push the Kremlin active measures within the Ukrainian constituency.  Neither is it the Radicals.

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The main focus was/is to concentrate upon the Batshchivyna (Ms Tymoshenko’s) Party.  This because it has the best outreach/network throughout Ukraine of the 3 political parties identified that would/could dance to the Kremlin tune – wittingly or unwittingly.  It is indeed true that of the Oppo Block, Radicals and Batkivshchyna, the latter has by far the widest regional networks.

The obvious question is whether Ms Tymoshenko would willingly allow her (and it is hers and nobody else’s) party to be used to further Kremlin active measures?

If so, wittingly or unwittingly?  (And would it matter either way when it comes to issues of implementation?)

A reader is left to ponder the morality (or not) of Ms Tymoshenko and the integrity (or not) of Batkivshchyna in pursuit of its vision for Ukraine even if it meant becoming a covertly willing accomplice of Mr Surkov/The Kremlin.

To be blunt, that Batkivshchyna vision probably goes no further than Ms Tymoshenko ruling Ukraine, for there is nothing whatsoever offered by way of detailed policy (as a reader would expect from a populist) and to be frank during her nearly 20 years in Ukrainian politics, meaningful and credible policy is not something that Ms Tymoshenko has ever actually offered (let alone delivered).  Her political judgement is also somewhat suspect, for despite many years involved in grubby deals with The Kremlin/Gazprom whilst in control of UESU and Somoli Ent, she still managed to hand Ukraine the most punitive gas deal in its history in 2009.

Whatever the case, how does Ms Tymoshenko and Batkivshchyna, (notwithstanding the Radicals and to a lesser extent the Opposition Block of whom such cooperation would be expected) mitigate the revelations within the apparently hacked emails detailing Kremlin plans as authored by Mr Surkov/Pavlov?

If denying (perhaps rightly) any political activity coordinated, or even useful to The Kremlin, the fact of having been identified as the political parties most likely to further Kremlin active measures to undermine Ukraine is a rather damning frame to be placed within.

Ms Tymoshenko/Bakivshchyna (and the others) may try to label CyberJunta a presidential provocation, but that carries risks – particularly if it is not, for hacker retribution is unlikely to be kind.  Batkivshchyna (or other named parties) emails becoming public is probably not a something that would be appreciated (unless you are employed within the Presidential Administration or are a Deputy of the People’s Front), nor is it likely to contain nothing but wholesome morally upstanding text and thoughtful policy alternatives.  Scams and scheming may well dominate any correspondence, be it party or personal in nature.

To be effectively labeled The Kremlin’s best ally/option in destabilising Ukraine, wittingly or unwittingly, within allegedly Kremlin designed active measures takes some explaining even if the entire incident is a fake – for unfortunately for Ms Tymoshenko and Batkivshchyna (and more or less the entirety of the political class more broadly), anonymous pro-Ukrainian hackers probably have as much, if not more credibility with the constituency than she does.

How to respond with the minimum of political damage sustained?

If it is a fake (or parts therein are fake), then who is responsible?  The Bankova or People’s Front?  It is doubtful it was a joint project.  If not either of those two, who else benefits?

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Saakashvili’s Khvylya Party begins to take shape?

October 21, 2016

On 18th July an entry appeared regarding the creation of the Khvylya (Wave) Party which had Odessa Governor Saakashvili’s finger prints all over it (even if he is not formally a member thereof).

Not much has been written about it since.  In part due to the fact that Governor Saakashvili has had one eye on recent electoral events in Georgia little has happened overtly.

Those Georgian electoral events now (almost) over and clearly Governor Saakashvili will remain in Ukraine as a result.

Therefore perhaps time presents itself to formulate the party structure both nationally and regionally to prepare Khvylya for any forthcoming elections.  Although it will still to be work in progress, something resembling leadership for the Odessa branch of the party seems to be forming.

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Perhaps most surprisingly is the apparent defection from Samopomich of Anna Pozdnyakov (currently Secretary for the parliamentary faction).

Among the names floating in the wind, the most obviously leader of the Odessa branch would be the extremely competent and talented Salome Bobrovskaya.

Of the usual suspects, Teimuraz Nishianidze (head of fund/charity “For Odessa”) and Ivan Liptuga (current head of the Department of Tourism) seem likely to be part of the Khvylya regional party set-up.

From civil society/activist roots come Vadim Labas (Oberig), Harvard Grad Vladimir Shemaev, Grigory Kozma, and Alexie Prokopenko (New Generation).

Historical local governance experience arrives via Andrei Karpenko, and of local SME’s, CEO of TIS Alexander Stavinster’s name is rumoured.

Certainly a team capable of building a reasonable regional political party administration – particularly if Ms Bobrovskaya does lead it.  However, as the entry of 18th July makes clear “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?”

There will be a lot of hard work for these people to do even to gain a solid foundation from which to build in the oblast where the unofficial party leader is Governor.  That said, none of the alternative political parties are especially appealing either (for one reason or another) and work in progress may yet produce something surprising (albeit not earth moving).  Time will tell.

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Populist political guns aim at Gontareva (and the NBU)

October 17, 2016

With Ukraine no longer being dependent upon the IMF, and with international debts to be serviced more than manageable in 2017, it is perhaps no surprise that the current head of the National Bank of Ukraine (NBU) is now a legitimate political target when it comes to taking a scalp from the President.

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Thus, during the week 6 – 10 October at a meeting of the IMF and World Bank in Washington DC, a brochure was circulated with the clear intention of undermining Ms Gontareva as head of the National Bank of Ukraine.

Behind the brochure sits Sergei Taruta – Verkhovna Rada parliamentarian, businessman and oligarch.

To be entirely blunt, having only recently met with senior people within these institutions in Ukraine, if the intention was to undermine Ms Gontareva (and/or the NBU policies) then it was sure to find little if any traction at the meeting of these international institutional lenders.

Whilst neither institution support specific politicians or institutional appointees (like Ms Gontareva), instead supporting State institutions and internal processes, quite clearly both fully recognise what they consider to be very positive change within the NBU under her leadership.  It seems unlikely that there would be any private conversation that would encourage her removal from office until the changes she has brought are far more consolidated and (perhaps) irreversible.

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It is therefore difficult to believe that Sergei Taruta could seriously expect that a brochure clearly designed to undermine the head of the NBU would find traction among the IMF and WB elite in Washington DC.

If he did then he has a truly woeful understanding of the relationship between the current NBU management and that of the IMF and WB in Ukraine.

Needless to say, the brochure brought with it no result at the IMF and WB gathering in DC that was in any way helpful for Mr Taruta – perhaps the opposite.

Nevertheless on 14th October Mr Taruta decided to pursue to resignation of Ms Gontareva through the machinery of the Verkhovna Rada, declaring on his intentions on his Facebook page together with accusations of incompetence and corruption.

That same day the NBU website questioned the allegations, the framing of his claims, and the motivations of Mr Taruta.  Indeed the NBU requested that such machinations be scrutinised by the Ukrainian law enforcement entities.

A reader will now rightly note the true audience – that of the Ukrainian constituency.

Not to be left on the periphery, on 17th October, the ever populist Yulia Tymoshenko pushed Batkivshchyna to the fore as a rallying point for Verkhovna Rada Deputies to coalesce around to force the removal of Ms Gontareva.  Ms Tymoshenko’s main charge being that Ms Gontareva is in charge of the destruction of the State at the behest of President Poroshenko.

Her secondary charge, and clearly she has noted the real reason for Sergei Taruta’s attack on the NBU, was that the free-floating (more or less) of the Ukrainian currency has caused all those with foreign currency loans to struggle and/or default as the currency weakened significantly when finding its true market value.

Thus Mr Taruta’s attempt to attract struggling SME’s and entrepreneurs to the Taruta political sphere is now duly challenged by Ms Tymoshenko’s act – whilst both simultaneously attempt to remove a presidential appointed (Verkhovna Rada approved) scalp who is now fair play having completed many of the most unpopular IMF reforms.

Perhaps Ms Gontaerva is incompetent and/or corrupt as Mr Taruta claims.  Perhaps she is President Poroshenko’s tool for the destruction of the State as Ms Tymoshenko orates.  If so however, neither Ms Tymoshenko nor Mr Taruta have the moral high ground nor are particularly concerned about it considering the company they keep and the activities of those within their orbit – both business and political.

It is far more likely that they both simply see the IMF as now expendable and thus Ms Gontareva as no longer essential/untouchable – and therefore she is nothing more than a possible scalp for a populist “win”.

If they managed to remove her, would State policy change?  Probably not.

 

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A National Corpus or another far right political corpse?

October 16, 2016

Friday 14th October witnessed the 74th anniversary of the founding of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army in Volyn, manifesting with a few thousand marchers in Kyiv.  If eyebrows are to be raised regarding the event it is with regard to how few marchers there were vis a vis the amount of prose the Ukrainian far right has had written about it since 2014.

The march did however witness the birth of a(nother) far right political party.  The (in)famous Azov Battalion and its associated civil movement gave birth to a political party – The National Corpus.  The announcement was made by Andrei Biletsky, the former Azov Battalion commander, now Verkhovna Rada parliamentarian.

Andrei Biletsky

Andrei Biletsky

Gone from the new political party regalia are the Nazi associated symbols long associated with Azov and its wider non-military constituent parts.  The Wolf Hook or any variation thereof is absent in any representations relating to the new National Corpus political party.

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This is perhaps a nod to the rule of law relating to the banning of Nazi and Communist symbolism, but perhaps has much more to do with dulling the image as Nazism in a purely political PR setting.  Mr Biletsky is not a stupid man and will recognise that political success relates to a certain degree of attraction that necessarily has to eclipse a few thousand far right militants and their associated symbolism.

There also appears to be little effort to associate the National Corpus with historical nationalist figures such as Bandera, Konovalets or Shukhevych.  This appears to be something Mr Biletsky is quite prepared to leave to the Svoboda Party – quite wisely if appeal beyond (or even across) the far right militancy is the political aim.

The National Corpus symbolism is far more inclusive – for it is a stylisation of the national symbol, the Trizub.

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Quite what Mr Biletsky will classify as political success if and when it comes remains to be seen.  The retention of his Verkhovna Rada seat?  The National Corpus passing the 5% electoral threshold to enter the Verkhovna Rada as a political party?  Representation or even control in some regional administrations?  Replacing Svoboda as the major far right/nationalist political force (albeit Svoboda is a minor player in the national political picture) is the immediate aim?  Over what time period will success be measured, even if success can be lucidly identified?

(As an aside, not to be outdone, the same day that the National Corpus became a political party, Svoboda announced a “Legion of Freedom” headed by Oleg Kutsin, the former Svoboda leader for Donetsk and commander of the Carpathian Sich military unit.  A clear reactionary aping of the Azov formula.)

As with all populist political parties, be they The Radicals, Batkivshchyna, Ukrop or Svoboda (and increasingly the Oppo Block), sensible economics rarely feature.  Populism is about (empty) promises and appeals to emotion – notwithstanding such parties generally being nothing more than a vehicle for the ego of the leader rather than a party being bigger than its leader.

It therefore comes as little surprise that there is little thus far stated by the National Corpus regarding the economics required to run the nation sensibly.  It is also perhaps hardly the most interesting of subjects to orate when launching a political party to a waiting (albeit small) crowd.

The party manifesto does contain some new domestic political discourse as well as a lot of borrowed, (occasionally concealed, occasionally transparent), policy not only from within Ukraine but further afield.

Notably a call for the return of the death penalty for matters of treason and embezzlement/theft of large sums (a figure is not stated) from the public purse is stated.

There is a call for all Ukrainian citizens to be able to bear arms (the wording suggesting pistols/short barreled firearms).

The renationalisation of all previously owned State entities that were privatised since 1991 – starting with the energy sector.

The return of a Ukrainian nuclear arsenal.

The creation of a Ukrainian “Foreign Legion” for those that wish to serve in the Ukrainian military that are not Ukrainian citizens.

A complete break of economic (and some other) ties with Russia.

The furtherance of economic ties with the EU.

Foreign policy is driven by Baltic-Black Sea security threats and economic opportunities – with the inclusion of the Silk Road/Silk Belt infrastructure with China.

The promotion of “Eastern Europe” as a space that does not include Russia.

A system of national and municipal policing.

Verkhovna Rada parliamentarians reduced from 450 to 300.

The adoption of a system of citizenry similar to that of some of the Baltic states, although there is no outline of how this would be done or where the arbitrary lines would be drawn or whether it would/could be enforced retrospectively thus creating a loss of existing rights for some.

Thus, with some of the main manifesto points highlighted, this is visibly not a manifesto that will propel the National Corpus from political obscurity to national leadership in a single bound.  Far from it.

Clearly some of it is far more rhetorical than policy possible, as Mr Biletsky will undoubtedly be aware.

Obviously certain issues fly in the face of existing Ukrainian international obligations and/or The Constitution.  Numerous constitutional changes and Ukraine freeing itself of major international obligations would have to occur.

Nevertheless, manifesto delivery is not something that is going to occur as it will simply not appeal to the vast majority of the Ukrainian constituency sufficiently.

Ergo, perhaps the immediate questions relate to whether the dumping of Nazi associated symbolism is an acknowledgement that the far right has a truly limited constituency in Ukraine?  Also worthy of pondering is whether the National Corpus considers it has the appeal and strength to unite the more militant/radical it would appeal to under one umbrella, or whether yet another far right party will further split an already small voter base dooming all such parties to political oblivion?

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