Posts Tagged ‘elections 2017’


The gathering reform storm of 2017 – Ukraine

October 6, 2016

Many Ukrainian eyes are focused on 2017 and what external events will mean for the nation.

How will US policy change when a new president sits in the Oval Office?  What of the elections in France and Germany?  How much of a distraction will BREXIT be when it is eventually triggered?

All good questions – and as stated a few days ago “….. unless the Ukrainian leadership really start making strides (rather than tip-toe) with real and effective reforms US patience will expire sometime in 2017, just as the European patience will.  Real support will ultimately be reduced to little more than that surrounding territorial integrity and sovereignty.”

That statement fails to include Ukraine meeting its obligations to international institutions.  There are agreements with the IMF, World Bank, EIB and EBRD that will either be met – or broken.  This in turn will have a major impact upon FDI if (or possibly when) these agreements go unfulfilled.

To keep a watchful eye upon the external, currently” friendly” influences that will effect Ukraine in 2017 is understandable, but there are some extremely prickly and difficult issues internally that have the ability to magnify or reduce the thus far (surprisingly robust) goodwill of the international community (minus Russia) which seem destined to once again radically and negatively effect Ukrainian standing among its “friends”.


In short there is a reform (or distinct lack of) storm brewing that is going to hit Ukraine in early 2017 and which when it does, the feckless domestic politicians will be once again at its core.  The issues are vividly clear, yet as normal, preparation, professionalism and policy are entirely absent.

Before looking at 2017 however, 2016 has yet to run its reform course.  The next tranche of IMF money, about $1.3 billion, is due in November.  For this tranche to be forthcoming there are but a few obligations to meet.

Clearly insuring reform progression thus far does not reverse is necessary.  The irreversibility of what has been done thus far is highly questionable.  What reforms, if any, can be claimed as being irreversible and consolidated?  Some may be close, but which are truly over the line?  The NBU has done a very good job, but a change of leadership and/or policy could undo almost all that has been done.  NABU is under direct assault by the PGO and Attorney General.  The new national police for the most part is refusing to buckle to corruption despite the police service remaining only half reformed and far from ethical as an institution.  The military are now a capable fighting force, yet its leadership remains poor and con tinuing corruption is as corrosive as the war of exhaustion with Russia in the occupied east.

Nevertheless, aside from holding the reform line that has be advanced thus far,  to meet the requirements for the next IMF tranche NABU should be given the right to wire tapping.  The list of SOEs for privatisation in 2017 completed (notwithstanding the November 2016 second attempt to sell Odessa Port Side – and the equally robust attempts to prevent its sale by vested interests.)  The e-declarations of politicians and relevant public office holders are to be filed in their entirety.  A “fair” budget for 2017 is to have been submitted.

All this to be accomplished by the end of this month so the IMF can give a timely nod of approval for November’s $1.3 billion.

Thus far, “fair” or otherwise, the budget has been submitted for consultation within the Verkhovna Rada.  The outcome of those consultations and the guaranteed subsequent amendments remain to be assessed by the IMF.  The budget however, is possibly the least problematic of the IMF requirements.

An independent NABU logically should not require the SBU to carry out wiretaps on its behalf.  The more people that know that “Mr X” is subject to a wiretap, the more chance there is that “Mr X” will find out.  Having to use a third party brings with it an unnecessary potential for leaks and/or tip-offs.  It should therefore not require stating that a nefarious elite and feckless parliament do not want a self-sufficient NABU that is far more difficult to infiltrate, influence or preempt.

The e-declaration fiasco remains just that.  The  declaration system still fails to meet the legislative framework requirements.  The e-declaration legislation itself also requires some amendment – just not the amendments to remove criminal liability that so many politicians want to see.

The sheer scale of opposition to the e-declaration reform is naked to the observing eye when considering it took EU conditionality to get the e-declaration law passed initially, and then months later it requires IMF  conditionality to actually get e-declarations completed by those who are required to do so (by the end of October).

At the time of writing about 1600 e-declarations have been submitted.  Of those only one of that number is of a parliamentarian (Mikhail Gavriluk).  None of the other 400+ MPs have yet filed.  Not a single member of the Cabinet has either.  About a dozen of the 300 NABU detectives have filed, and only two of the four NAPC members charged with policing e-declarations have done so.  Even if all e-declarations are submitted by the end of October, as stated long ago, court challenges are inevitable when the system still fails to meet the legislative framework it operates within.

In March the blog forecast that by the autumn Ukraine would not need external financing (although it would continue to accept it gratefully), but that it should nevertheless earnestly complete its obligations for reasons of external confidence in the nation’s governance.  Naturally the usual issues of fecklessness loom large, for when it is clear to the political class that there is no impending and immediate fiscal doom, the will to complete prickly reform legislation evaporates – which is where Ukraine finds itself today.

Reform orientated legislation has more or less stopped and requires resuscitation.  In fact it requires steroids if Ukraine is to meets its reform obligations to the IMF (let alone others) for 2017.

There are issues with compiling a list of SOEs ready for privatisation, liquidisation or remaining State owned.  There are at least 20 outstanding audits from those commissioned.

If the next few weeks in 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.

Despite the reform orientated legislative work completed in the energy sphere, the Ukrainian energy market remains entirely impenetrable, thus looking to 2017 the privatisation of Centrenergo is perhaps the only realistic chance of breaking into this market if it be sold to a foreign investor.  As such, the sale of Odessa Port Side in November has to be seen as a fair and transparent process by all onlookers.

Whatever the case, there is no way the list of SOEs for privatising, liquidisation or remaining State owned will be completed (and made publicly accessible upon the Ministry of Economic Development) by the year end.  Even if the only list of those SOEs identified for liquidisation is completed by then, there is simply little interest within the Verkhovna Rada to kill off such entities.  Gathering 226 votes for an exercise where none have any interests close to the New Year break is somewhat unlikely.  Auditors will not be rushed either.

Likewise “supervisory boards” such as that Naftogaz currently has (and which seems to be working well) for another 10 major SOEs is very unlikely to be achieved prior to 2017 as planned.  There is really no political will to do it – and a good deal of vested interests that will obstruct it.

Thus this reform requirement will roll over into 2017.

Fecklessness, lobbying/nefarious acts, and legislative short-comings aside – now to ever-present populism.

There two obligatory reforms by year end 2016 that seem simply beyond reach, will thus roll over into 2017, and yet are still unlikely to get through the Verkhovna Rada to facilitate the $2 billion February IMF tranche – thus finally breaking the IMF agreement and dealing a critical blow to “friendly” transatlantic assistance beyond issues of Ukrainian sovereignty and territorial integrity.

The first is the long-standing issue of pension reform that almost every government has stated it will tackle – but hasn’t.  Pensions from the age of 50 are simply unsustainable, and to be blunt most people continue to work way past being 50 because the pensions do not sustain them.

It is a policy that has to be addressed, but one that when push comes to shove, and despite a decade of rhetoric regarding the necessity of raising the pension age, every Ukrainian leadership succumbs to populism.

Nevertheless it simply has to be raised.

It is foolish to believe that any attempt to raise it significantly in one go will ever get through the Verkhovna Rada.  A system, for example, of raising the retirement age by 1 year every 2 years over 20 years (or a variation therefore) may stand a chance – however slim.  A system of greater contributions equating to greater pensions may also find some traction – but enough?  The populists however (Ms Tymoshenko, Mr Lyashko etc) will always seize upon pension reform for short term politicking and pre-election electioneering rather than looking at long-term policy necessities.

There are also existing process issues relating to checking the authenticity of claimants – something aggravated by the large number of internally displaced people.

Most difficult of all however, is the issue of land reform.  Ukraine has obligated itself to creating legislation regarding agricultural land reform by the end of October 2016.  That simply is not going to happen.  As of the time of writing the blog cannot even find a draft law registered regarding the issue.

It may be that the IMF will allow this sensitive/populist issue to roll over into 2017 and allocate the November 2016 tranche if all other conditions are met.  It will not issue the $2 billion tranche in February 2017 without this issue being tackled however.

Ms Tymoshenko is already noisily calling for the current moratorium upon the sale of agricultural land to be extended to 2022.  The Radicals being equally as populist will enthusiastically support her.

The sly oligarchy or slightly less mega-rich will look to provide/create agri-loan businesses with formidable foreclosure clauses to assume agricultural land of those farmers they lend to should the sale of agricultural land be permitted.  Huge ranges of State land will be swiftly leased through cronyism prior to any right to buy.  The farmers must be given more time to save the capital to buy the land they current lease and farm.  All such reasons will be presented not to create an agricultural land market.  Those farmers that do own their land will be tricked out of it by the unscrupulous, or simply coerced into selling it for a pittance – by continuing to stop them being able to sell the land they currently own, we are saving them from themselves (rather than infringing upon their rights to sell their own property).

There will be some societal “buy in” for some of that rhetoric, but that rhetoric can perhaps be employed to create safeguards within any laws creating a land market – if anybody actually drafts a law to create a land market that will be fair, regulated, and if necessary contain legislative restraints.  (Perhaps Ms Tymoshenko would like to draft a law that explains how a land market will be created after her 2022 moratorium expires?)

If it proves simply impossible (as is likely) to find the political will not only to lift the current moratorium but also prevent its extension, then perhaps legislation creating a fair land leasing market  is an alternative?

If the land cannot be bought and sold in a (regulated) free market environment, then create a transparent free market where leases for the land can be.  Some imagination might be required, but there is surely some way to create a land market that brings about transparent and fair benefits to all and around which Ukraine and its “friends” can agree as constituting positive market driven reform.

Although it is possible to continue with examples that are going to lead to a reform storm in 2017, it is perhaps unnecessary insofar as highlighting how swiftly matters are going to come to a head and when a probable breach of IMF conditionality occurs – with undoubted repercussions with a newly installed US Administration and immediately prior to both French and German electioneering.

Indeed it may also become the catalyst for the long anticipated early Verhovna Rada elections in Ukraine (which are unlikely to bring about a reformist critical mass as current election laws stand).

* * * * *

A note to regular readers – For the next few days your author will be in Poland locked behind closed doors with a dozen sages and otherwise insightful boffins from across the region.  Although undoubtedly returning far wiser, the normal rambling and low-brow blog entries will continue upon return.


The CEC and electoral reform

October 2, 2016

The current composition of the Central Election Committee (CEC) will once again become a political issue in this parliamentary term – and rightly for it has long since past its legal term remit (or at least 12 of the 15 members had terms that expired in 2014).

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.


Without going into unnecessary detail of the proposed candidates for the new CEC, the names of which are more or less already known, it is abundantly clear that the Presidential Administration is not keen upon any names put forward by The People’s Front, Radical Party, Opposition Block or Batkivshchyna.  They in turn will therefore not vote for any nominations of the presidential party.

Further consultations will naturally occur, albeit there will certainly be no rush to achieve a compromise.  What matters is not really the names but the political balance within any new CEC – at least under current legislation.

There are now also attempts to link the CEC nominations to a broader process that would include the expired terms of the majority of the Audit Chamber as well as the vacant “Chair” of at least 6 Verhovna Rada committees.

Therefore grubby deals behind the curtain may well reach agreement where it will prove easier to change the legislation to produce an unbalanced CEC than it will be to produced a politically balanced one under the laws that currently exist through appointment trade-offs elsewhere.

That being so, it is the institution, institutional processes, and accountability that will matter far more than those names that will (eventually) form the CEC.

What matters far more than the composition of a new CEC are changes to the poor electoral laws over which the CEC preside.

Lengthy is the rhetoric regarding a fully proportional representation system.  Equally as long and tired is the rhetoric regarding open party lists.

Innumerable are the conversations this blog has held with various parliamentarians over these issues – and it is here that the rhetoric clearly will remain just that for some time to come – for such electoral legislative change would appear to suit only the Ukrainian voting constituency.  It is difficult to see any benefits for the current self-serving feckless political class.  Thus these issues will be kicked into the very long debate/discussion, lots of talk, no walk, grass.

Firstly, speaking to several MPs that hold single mandate (first past the post) constituency seats, there is no desire among them to vote to move to a fully proportional voting system.  Many are very content within the single mandate cocoon that provides them with far more wiggle room to buck the party line because they are not dependent upon being placed highly on a party list for reelection.  Yet further, they are also free from having to play handmaiden and spew forth unreserved faux subservience to whichever party functionaries are placed in charge of election campaigns.

It follows therefore that across party lines many single mandate parliamentarians are not going to rush to vote for a fully proportionate electoral system – particularly when many currently do not have to pay a lot of cash for the privilege of a position high enough on a party list to insure reelection.  As half the Verkhovna Rada is comprised of single mandate parliamentarians, the problematic issues are self-evident.

This brings a reader to the issue of party lists and the long promised fully open party lists.

Party lists have not been open for several reasons.

The first is that party leaders simply do not want to give up control over who gets elected from a party list.

Secondly they do not want to surrender the huge sums of money paid to be placed highly enough on a party list to be assured election.

Thirdly they do not want to have their power lessened by their party parliamentarians having been elected by popular vote individually, rather than the party arbitrarily listing highly those (normally corrupt, old school cronies) in an order that insures the party favourites (and not necessarily the public’s preferred candidates) reach the Verkhovna Rada.  With individual and personal public mandate from a party list the parliamentarian is simply less constrained under the leader’s yoke, similar to the single mandate party parliamentarian.

Thus whilst it is entirely reasonable to assume a new CEC will (eventually by hook, crook, and grubby deals involving appointments in other entities) probably arrive at some stage in 2017, it is far more unlikely that any legislative changes to the electoral laws will occur before the next Verkhovna Rada elections – whether they be early or as envisaged by term completion.

Some readers will state that the Verhovna Rada has far more pressing legislative matters to address anyway – perhaps they are right too.  Nevertheless when elections are once again upon Ukraine and the predicable lamenting of an unfit legislative framework is once again to the fore, the reasons for failure to change them will be the same then as they are now.


In the meantime, a reader is wrongly encouraged by far too many to concentrate attention upon the “who” in any new CEC composition rather than its institutional processes and accountability, or the poor electoral legislation it is meant to oversee.


Coming soon – Darth TV?

August 12, 2016

Much earlier in the year an entry appeared raising the mask of the Odessa political caricature of Darth Vader.

Better stated, it raised the mask of the current – and second – incarnation of Darth Vader, Odessa politician.

Behind that mask, in its current incarnation, sits the political machinery of MP Dmitry Golubov of the Block Poroshenko faction (although not of the Poroshenko party from which he resigned almost immediately after election to the national legislature).

That entry also outlined an on-going feud between Mr Golubov and Governor Saakashvili – a feud that continues to this day with no sign of abating or conclusion.  That said there is no national parliamentarian, or few local members of the political class that can be identified as having much – if any – affection for Governor Saakashvili.

For the Governor, it is perhaps fortunate that due to what seems to be an irreparable rift between Mayor Trukhanov and influential businessman Adnan Kivan, Odessa TV Channel 7 owned by the latter, has become a media platform for the Governor in an otherwise hostile media environment owned by the local political class.  It would be perhaps wrong to state that the Governor and Mr Kivan are allies, but the enemy of my enemy is my friend is an expression that currently has some limited merit.

Last week this blog became aware of a pending purchase of another local TV channel between local political personalities active upon the national stage.  The sale of Akademia TV was apparently in the offing.

Akademia TV until now was one of several local TV channels owned by the (in)famous MP Sergei Kivalov – and like all of his TV channels spends much time serving him up to the local constituency as a saintly demagogue, and promoting the exploits of his local political party and the local governance activities of this party (whilst trashing others) – notwithstanding its longstanding heavily pro-Russia bias.

This week has seen a noticeable change in political coverage.  Much more attention has been paid towards Messrs Lonov, Gregoriev and Vareschenko.  These people are closely associated with Dmitry Golubov.  The channel is also seemingly changing its pro-Russia stance.

Indeed it appears that Mr Kivalov has sold Akademia TV to Mr Golubov.

One less pro-Russia local TV channel, and a transition to one more pro-Ukrainian TV channel in Odessa will undoubtedly result.

Clearly Sergei Kivalov decided that he has sufficient media outlets to promote himself and his agenda, allowing the sale of Akademia TV – and Mr Golubov being without his own TV Channel now has one.

This acquisition is probably perceived by Mr Golubov as needed in order to have a 24/7 platform to project his anti-Saakashvili line and also prepare for any early elections upon the horizon – for it is unclear whether he can, or will be allowed, to run upon the Poroshenko ticket this time.

As an independent and with the Darth Vadar caricature having a far greater political footprint than Dmitry Golubov MP, there is clearly a preparatory need to raise both his personal profile and the profiles of “his people” within the City Hall machinery – Akademia TV now appears to be that vehicle.

“Darth” is now behind Akademia TV which will clearly turn from pro-Russian to pro-Ukrainian, however that creates issues for Mr Golubov, for it is entirely unclear just what Mr Golubov thinks regarding many issues – in fact most things.

His voting record within the Verkhovna Rada doesn’t provide much of a clue to any morally held views.  Neither is the Verkhovna Rada stuffed full of draft legislation submitted by Mr Golubov outlining his vision.

Little of Darth Vadar’s Internet Party manifesto provides insight into meaningful policy or solutions to the issues facing Ukraine – as entertaining as that manifesto may be.

As it is entirely wrong-headed to assume that being “anti” something necessarily infers being “pro” its polar opposite – there are a million shades of grey in between – it is thus difficult to know where Mr Golubov will take Akademia TV and its viewers, and equally importantly, where Akademia TV will take Mr Golubov.

Despite Mr Golubov being widely perceived as a (Alexie) “Goncharenko man” it will not serve him to simply ape Mr Goncharenko or turn Akademia TV into a copy of Mr Goncharenko’s Dumskaya media – something Mr Golubov is undoubtedly aware of.

Thus the purchase of this TV channel will presumably force one of the more private, and some may say mysterious politicians of Odessa to publicly and robustly plant some personal policy and moral flags in the ground if it is to serve his purposes to the fullest.


Ergo Akademia/”Darth” TV will ultimately force Mr Golubov to personally shed the Vadar mask permanently, consigning it strictly and unambiguously to the numerous stand-ins within the “Internet Party” if the Vadar caricature is to continue at all.  It is now the face, voice, and vision of Mr Golubov and not of Darth Vadar that has to garner traction with the public.

Hopefully what is behind the mask is far less disfigured than that of the Star Wars film.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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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