Posts Tagged ‘Front for Change’

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New parliament but all the parties are tainted by corrupt members

December 7, 2012

The Ukrainian NGO  Чесно or “Chesno” which has made a pretty good attempt at identifying each RADA MP in the previous parliament with their numerous personal integrity failings in the past, be they issues of swapping political parties, corruption, illegal voting, being oligarchy puppets etc., etc, and has arrived at a similar graphic display for the new parliament, which is as yet to take up its role.

Even the new parties that have never been in the Ukrainian parliament before are not without their nefarious members – due to the fact that politics in Ukraine is not run by ideology but by individual MPs political survival, and thus any party will do if you are a politician who is up for reelection as long as that party will offer you a better chance with them of being reelected.

The net result? – Every party in the next parliament is tainted by previously perceived corrupt MPs amongst their ranks.

In short, of the 450 RADA MPs that form the new Ukrainian parliament, 331 have been previously named and shamed for their nefarious activities.  One can only presume that the remaining 119 thus far untainted MPs, will soon learn the rules of the integrity-less cesspit they are about to enter.

Who wants to place a bet that by 2017 when the next parliamentary elections occur, Chesno will have a figure far higher than the 331 mired MPs which begin this parliament as already tainted?  Will more than a handful actually manage to remain clean throughout the next 5 years of the new parliament?

(Oh and before I sign off for the day, remember this I wrote a few days ago relating to the 2013 budget?  Well today it was passed by the out-going parliament as I intimated it would be, with 242 votes in favour.  The vote breakdown was PoR 187, People’s Party 20, OU-PSD 5, Reforms for the Future Party 19 and a total of 11 independents in favour of the 2013 budget and 69 votes against.)

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Disunited we stand – currently at least!

November 7, 2012

Uggggghhhhhhhh!

In the first real test of cohesiveness after the voting on 28th October, the opposition parties are doing their very best within a week of proving my previous statements about their (in)ability to work together correct – in the fastest time possible.

Sometimes I write something in the hope of being proved absolutely and decisively wrong, despite all evidence both historical and current being to the contrary.

When writing from February as sparingly as possible, but as repeatedly as to make the point that the opposition parties simply would not and could not remain united should they win or lose the elections, I had hoped that would not be the case – and yet in their first real test of unity over whether to recognise the elections – or not – there seems to be disunity already!

Over the past week, Anatoliy Grytsenko, leader of one of the parties that makes up the United Opposition has twice called for the opposition en masse to surrender their mandates thus denying the legally required 300 RADA MPs required for a parliament to work.

I have always liked Grytsenko as he has always been a reasonable debater, held strong policy positions and come across and a principled man far more often than not.  However to hold new elections is simply not that easy.

Yuri Kluchkovsky, an opposition MP who should know a thing or two about the election process, considering he heads the Committee for State Building and Local Government stated in relation to new elections and the proportional representation (party) list “Achieving this would be quite difficult.  Everybody on the party list, right down to the last person on this list, must personally refuse to take up his or her seat.  But this will not solve the question because this represents only half the parliament.”

There is then the other half of parliamentary seats won by way of some much disputed constituency seats to consider.  Who may – or may not – decide to personally relinquish their seats?

If all that were to happen then new elections must, by law, occur within 60 days and until those new elections have taken place and the results recognised, the current results from 28th October cannot legally be deemed invalid.  In the meantime the current parliament would continue to sit unchanged as prior to the voting of 28th October.

The as ever non-committal Viacheslav Kyrylenko, who has to be one of the meekest and weakest political party leaders in the history of Ukrainian politics – ever – has said nothing of substance unsurprisingly.

UDAR stated it wanted to hold half the election again.  The proportional representation half, which by and large was far, far cleaner than the very much disputed constituency seat results.

Batkivshchyna has no issues over the proportional representation vote but has serious issues in some 13 constituencies which are still being contested and 5 of which (at least) may ultimately require new elections for those particular seats.

New elections for those seats I would guess will have to be in about a month given the preparatory administration involved such as new voting forms, if new elections are to happen at all.

However, considering Grytsenko’s repeated call, Arseniy Yatseniuk on 5th November stated the United Opposition won’t support the cancellations of elections in constituencies seats where they won.  That same day, UDAR stated it was prepared to give up its mandates if that was necessary to insure the removal of voter fraud – somewhat contrary to what Yatseniuk had just said, but in line with Grytsenko’s original demands.

Ms Tymoshenko, naturally, falls into the Grytsenko camp and thus quite obviously will be ignored by Yatseniuk as whilst what is on paper may say United Opposition, Tymoshenko and Yatseniuk are far from united.

Fortunately for the opposition, they did a deal with Svoboda pre-elections, and as most nationalist parties have, they possess a solid visible protester/rallying base who come out in any weather for any cause Svoboda summon them out for – otherwise the protests called on 5th November by the opposition parties may well have fielded far less than the estimated 1000 people who turned up – which would have been somewhat embarrassing – if indeed 1000 isn’t an embarrassing enough number to begin with.

Quite why there has been such a lack of discipline within the opposition leadership when it comes to public statements over the opposition position on such a fundamental issue will be down to the fact there is really very little unity between them – and far too many egos, all with an eye on the presidential elections in 2015.

Regardless of whether they eventually reach a consensus or not over this issue, and under the law Ukraine has until 12th November to formally announce preliminary results and until 17th November to announce binding results – thus they have a few days yet to reach a consensus – it seems the writing of their continued disunity is on the wall (and sadly as predicted in this blog).  I feel I will lament being right, but hope that this is simply “teething problems”.

Not a convincing start nevertheless!

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Commission for Strengthening Democracy and the Rule of Law – Venice Commission

October 21, 2012

The Venice Commission, when looking at the proposed new law on the Public Prosecutors Office of Ukraine, has in summary, made it clear that whilst the new law goes a long way to improving matters and generally brings Ukraine into EU norms (with the need for some clarifications in the text – although not that much), it will ultimately also require changes to the Constitution of Ukraine as well.

The full conclusions of the Venice Commission regarding this proposed law can be found here.

The need to change the Constitution of Ukraine lays within Articles such as this:

Article 122“The public prosecution of Ukraine shall be headed by the Prosecutor General of Ukraine, appointed to or removed from office by the President of Ukraine subject to the consent of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine.  The Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine may express the non-confidence in the Prosecutor General of Ukraine, which shall entail his resignation from the office.

The term of the powers of the General Prosecutor of Ukraine shall be five years.

Thus whilst the proposed law seeks to make the Prosecutor General much less beholding to political whims by  clearly identifying status, disciplinary, suspension, termination and dismissal systems, the Constitution of Ukraine indeed makes the holder of that office subject to political whims regardless of the systems and procedures laid down in the proposed new law.

Changes to the Constitution are necessarily not easy to achieve.

The election campaign of Party of Regions has concentrated on the constituency seat elections rather than party in broader brush strokes as it is seeking to get 300 MPs – the number required to achieve constitutional change.

If the allegations of the United Opposition toward UDAR after pulling out of the single opposition candidate per constituency seat plan is valid, and indeed by doing so a few dozen more seats will fall to Party Regions because of a split opposition vote as they claim, then with those additional few dozen seats it will give the Party of Regions, together with the Communist Party allies, very close indeed to the required 300.

I stated some months ago I anticipated Party of Regions to win between 210 and 220 RADA seats.  If the United Opposition are correct and a further 24 or so can now be added to that number due to their failure to convince UDAR to work with them, then we could be looking at about 250 RADA seats.  When coalition partner, the Communist Party’s RADA seats are then added, a Constitution changing majority becomes a real possibility.

Much depends on whether the United Opposition’s rhetoric will turn into reality – and one has to suspect they simply realise they have lost this election and the actions of UDAR are something to point a finger at and blame for that failure rather than to look at themselves – but a Constitution changing majority is certainly a possibility if they are right about a few dozen additional seats now falling to Party of Regions.

If the dismal performance by the United Opposition, together with the surprisingly good performance of UDAR, do not result in a combination of 151 RADA seats or more, then this election will not have been a failure for the United Opposition, it will have been an unmitigated disaster.

I predicted the United Opposition would win between 150 and 170 seats when the electioneering began, but that was before it became apparent just how awful their campaign strategy was.  Now I am not certain they will get to 150 RADA seats in their own right and may very well need UDAR to assist them in reaching a Constitutional change blocking number.

If the combined opposition party numbers come to less than 150 RADA seats, then they will certainly rue pulling out of the committee that was set up by President Yanukovych, ironically at the request of Arseney Yatseniuk, to look at the very many necessary changes required in the Constitution to allow EU norms to prevail.

Due to their pulling out of this committee, which I have written about before, should the Party of Regions form a Constitution changing majority, then the changes will occur simply by being steamrolled through rather than agreed via committee – and that means both good and bad changes will occur from a United Opposition point of view.

One has to hope that if the United Opposition (and UDAR) do not reach 150 or more seats between them, that any changes to the Constitution will go via the Venice Commission for deliberation and recommendation, less the Constitution be bastardised beyond recognition to serve self-interests.

That said, no government, past or present, has ever implemented everything the Venice Commission has suggested and self-interest has always been paramount.  Something quite unlikely to change.

Returning to the issue at hand, we have a proposed law that is generally seen as good by the Venice Commission, bringing Ukraine into line with EU norms as far as the Prosecutor General (and office) is concerned but will require Constitutional change to be effective.

At the time of writing, changes to the Constitution are a political impossibility – though that may well change very shortly, quite possibly to the angst of the United Opposition – who would have themselves to blame for walking out on the Constitutional Assembly they wanted set up, and also for such a really dire campaigning strategy.

Let us hope for an opposition RADA count of 150 MPs or more so that any changes to the Constitution are necessarily agreed by consultation rather than forced through by sheer weight of numbers.

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An attempt to end vote buying?

June 10, 2012

Ever since I have been in Ukraine, and undoubtedly before that, the buying of votes in local, regional and national elections has been the norm.

The same can be said for “protesters” at political rallies.  A large proportion are paid to be there to swell the numbers for the on-looking media more often than not.  The only exceptions to that I can remember since being here would be the “Orange Revolution” in 2004/5 and the Tax Code protests 2 years ago.

The buying of votes can take the form of physical cash or “charitable handouts” by political parties with goods, services and food.  They all do it and I have personally experienced each party attempting to buy the vote of my wife.

She has also been offered money numerous times (and on occasion food and beverages as well – how civilised) to attend protests and demonstrations over the years – again by all political parties.  ( The same can be said of every member of her family and most of her friends as well.)

Needless to say, the number of protesters or supporters at any political rally for any party as reported by the media should be taken with the proverbial pinch of salt if you want to consider who amongst any crowd has a genuine belief and desire to be there verses those who had nothing better to do and bolstered the numbers for UAH 50 to spend an hour or two stood around.

It is a charade that all Ukrainians, political parties and politicians, domestic media and commentators are well aware of.

Now there is nothing wrong with buying your crowd at a political rally in an effort to seem more popular than you truly are.  It hurts nobody and hardly makes any direct contribution to the democratic process other than a possible indirect psychological effect on some watching any rally on television.

It does seem a rather sad and pathetic thing to do, but they all do it.

The issue with vote buying however is a far more serious issue, whether the vote is bought for cash or whether the vote is bought via “charitable acts or donations”.

Every election time “party people” tour the homes and apartments providing incentives to vote for their party.  It can in fact become quite annoying at election time to have numerous strangers at your door trying to buy your loyalty without a policy worth mentioning amongst the lot of them.

This year, the parliamentary elections will be under intents scrutiny from PACE and several international and domestic observers.  There will of course be violations to the electoral code.  There are in most nations.  Most are minor violations and do not influence the outcome of any election.  Others are major violations.  The number and nature of major violations is what really matters, both before, during and after any polling.

It seems this year the Ukrainian CEC will be paying particular attention to vote buying and “charitable donations”.  We’ll see what happens!

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Ukrainian opposition rally in Kyiv – A flop

May 14, 2012

For some months now I have been somewhat encouraged by the Ukrainian opposition political parties when looking at the opinion polls.  Not that they are certain to win the parliamentary elections looking at the polling figures, far from it.  It will be a close run thing as things stand today.

What has been encouraging is that now they shade the lead in opinion polls, the current government has actually started to do change things on the statute books towards a more favourable business and social climate, removing  state involvement in services they really have no need to be involved in.

A few examples in the last week alone, relate to food quality regulations and the proposal to scrap grain export certificates.  Such small but important changes  have been consistently happening for over a month where small but unnecessary bureaucracy has been scrapped or is proposed to be scrapped imminently.  The American Chamber of Commerce (Am-Cham) in Kyiv has been very supportive numerous government moves in the past few months, to the point they would be considered cheerleaders if it were not for the occasional and correct criticism intermingled with praise and encouragement.

Being non-politically aligned to either government or the opposition, and having far greater interest in policy, policy implementation and policy effectiveness, rather than political party or personality, for now I remain to be convinced that the benefits on paper that have been announced will translate into any changes at the point of delivery with the public, given the consistent obstruction of the regional fiefdoms and regional administrative agencies.

All things being equal, the Ukrainian opposition is part fulfilling its role by pressuring the current government to act over some issues rather than sit idly in Kyiv and simply count its ill-gotten gains.  Unfortunately the fact it is fulfilling part of its role, (and it certainly isn’t fulfilling the entire role opposition parties are meant to do), comes by default rather than design via popularity polls rather than any directly relevant opposition strategy over any particular issue.

To appear strategy-less with an election in October as the opposition is really very disheartening for people like me looking in, who live here and pay taxes here (but cannot vote).

So it was with some eagerness and anticipation I looked forward to the opposition rally that took place on 12th May in central Kyiv.  You would expect a huge public turnout given the circumstances surrounding Ms Tymoshenko (and others) amongst the opposition ranks, the fact Ms Merkel considers Ukraine to be “repressed” by the current authorities and the foreign MSM wondering where the protest marches are.

It would be reasonable to expected, given the impression Ukraine has, proclaimed by the opposition and media, huge numbers of protesters would turn out.  Even if those protesters were limited to Kyiv, you would expect 10,000 or more to attend from a city of 2.7 million.  30,000 or more from the surrounding areas if they came.

You would expect that the united opposition forces that took the stage would tell eager supporters of new policies and new approaches to issues that will change their lives for the better.  Domestic policies that are truly motivational and aspirational, what the opposition will do when in power relating to pensions, the stand-off with the IMF, how they will restart relations with the EU, how it will deal with Russia over the crippling gas contract.  Many, many issues that impact the lives of every one of their supporters.

In short, a rallying cry to those loyal to the opposition cause and policies to change Ukraine for the better and a road-map to those listening as to how it will be done.  Go home and spread the good opposition word to your friends and neighbours.  This is our creative and inspiring grand plan for Ukraine if you return us to power, and this is how we will deliver it!

Alas, that is not what happened.

On a warm and sunny Saturday in Kyiv, the opposition rally gathered a very meager 2000 supporters, some of which like me, can’t even vote and were there to see if the opposition have learned anything in the past decade when it comes to politics and policy.  In fact, if we subtract the number of people who will have been paid to attend (and at all political events in Ukraine, regardless of political party, there is a percentage of the crowd that has been paid to be there to bolster the numbers) the real number of genuine attendees will be reduced.

What is possibly even worse about the number of supporters present is that this was the sum total gathered by the “united opposition” and not just a single opposition party.  Given the easily accessible location, good weather and huge amount of publicity prior to the rally, the turnout is pitifully grim and should be a cause for concern to the united opposition.

So how did they do on policy and strategies?  Again, a dreadful waste of opportunity.  Aside from reiterating the united election list strategy amongst the united opposition, a strategy where they will field one candidate amongst all the parties to run against the current government to avoid splitting the opposition vote,  there were no new imaginative or clever strategies or policies announced.

This reiteration of the ballot strategy was announced in January.  It is not new or exciting anymore.  (It has also to actually happen without in-fighting causing this coalition to fall apart yet.)

Nothing has been learned by the opposition whatsoever.  There were statements such as this from Eugania Tymoshenko (daughter of Ms Tymoshenko currently serving a prison sentence for abuse of office), “Our sacred duty is to free Ukraine from this cruel and criminal occupation.”

Really?  Only a few years ago, her mother publicly stated she would be happy to act as Prime Minister under Yanukovych  if he became President.  She was then quite happy to be a major cog in such a cruel and criminal occupation back then.  The trouble with making public statements and then conveniently forgetting them is that people like me remember and document them.

Anyway, back to the point, the opposition had a significant opportunity to put forward new policy ideas and strategies to those in attendance and the listening foreign and domestic media – and what did they do?  They continued with the “us” verses “them”  mud-slinging, name calling tactics which doesn’t sway any voters that would not already vote for them.  There was nothing said that would or could entice the less partisan voter over to them on the basis of any forward looking policy.

In short it was “Kill the King, and when the King is dead, long live the King” but we can’t or won’t tell you how we will reign any better than the current King, or any better than when we were King last time you gave us the chance  either.

Furthermore, when looking at the politicians on stage, it was as depressing as watching the current government huddle for photo ops.  Looking at almost each and every person on that stage, you are reminded just how they came to be who they are and the nefarious routes they have taken before, and since, being in Ukrainian politics.  It is truly grim.

So, on a warm and sunny Saturday in Kyiv, is it really surprising that a meager 2000 people came to listen to the same old “us” verses “them” rhetoric, completely devoid of imagination, charisma, integrity or policy?  Who wants to listen to such a well worn record?  Where is the creativity, imagination and new policy that will lead Ukraine to a better future and will make me want to vote for the opposition (if I could)?

The answers were not found on the united opposition rally stage in Kyiv on a warm and sunny Saturday afternoon, that’s for certain.

Off the stage (and in English) Arseniy Yatseniuk had this to say when challenged to name some actual policies by the foreign media in attendance:

You wonder if he has told the fellow members within the “united opposition” of his ideas – then again, does it matter?  At the moment, according to him, everything is “conceptual”.  It needs to be far more than conceptual, and pretty quickly with an election soon, as the nation is full of disenchanted voters.

All-in-all, when an almost leaderless opposition movement in Moscow can still gather 10,000 people yesterday, a full 6 months after protests began, in comparison, you can only say 2000 people turning up to an opposition rally replete with numerous potential leaders on show in Kyiv on a very nice day, is nothing short of a flop!

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Something a bit fishy within the (almost) united opposition

March 12, 2012

There is something a bit fishy going on between Yulia Tymoshenko’s BYuT and Arseniy Yatseniuk’s Front for Change political parties.

It is called COD.

That would be COD as is Committee to Oppose Dictatorship rather than the fish that swims in the sea.

However you will recall this post of mine  from a month ago where I stated that the falling out between the opposition parties would lay within the consolidation of a single entry list.  As seems quite evident, that has still to be agreed.

Also worthy of note is the statement that Ms Tymoshenko has taken a decidedly cooler attitude towards Arseniy Yatseniuk, something that probably has a lot to do with his party closing on hers in the polls amongst the opposition parties.

Should he get too close, it will be interesting to see if Ms Tymoshenko’s ego will be happy to play second fiddle to another party or whether she will try to call the whole united opposition attempt off.

She does have previous for breaking such agreements even at the last minute, as Oleh Rybachuk has witnessed “In August 2005, one year after the Orange Revolution, the two were fighting and I tried to broker a deal between them. Each agreed to fire three antagonistic people from their teams, hold a press conference the next day and promise not to oppose one other. It was a truce.  

Tymoshenko reneged on the agreement and that night tried to muster support to remove Yushchenko. He found out and it has been war ever since between the two.

I blame them both.  Politics is cold blooded, not a marriage. If you are seen together like they were they had no right to do this.  I resigned because the President and Prime Minister were behaving like teenagers. It was embarrassing to the country and they embarrassed Ukraine in front of NATO and the European Union which wanted to accept Ukraine in as members but needed to hear from one voice.”

As I have written here many times, the biggest single factor against any successful uniting of the opposition is Ms Tymoshenko herself.  She is far too divisive, authoritarian, undemocratic and simply not trusted by others in opposition.  It maybe worthy of contemplation that despite her numerous public calls for unification prior to her jailing, no such calls were welcomed by other opposition parties.   Now she is in jail and less egotistic BYuT members are the interlocutors with the other opposition parties,  progress between opposition parties appears to be more collective albeit very slowly.

Nevertheless, let us see what happens with COD.  The saying goes that a fish rots from its head downwards.  As the head is currently severed from the body due to being in jail, maybe, just maybe, the body will be spared the rot.  However if Yatseniuk’s Front for Change continues to close the gap on Tymoshenko’s BYuT, you can expect her to call the whole thing off and attempt to stab him in the back right up until the very last moment.

That won’t come as any surprise to Mr Rybachuk, me, or anybody else should it happen, but it is rather perverse that the opposition are far closer to uniting now Ms Tymoshenko is in jail, not because of her her jailing as those who know little about the workings of Ukrainian politics might think, but because she is out of the way and thus is causing far less problems for the opposition factions in their dialogue.

Quite possibly the worst thing that can happen as far as opposition unity is concerned, would be her release, as they would surely distance themselves from her upon her release just as they did before her incarceration.

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Political youth wings – Ukraine

August 4, 2011

Now then dear readers. What do we think about political youth wings to political parties?

A good idea? – They are nothing new after all. Are they only a bad idea when the political ideology behind them is somewhat radical/extreme such as the Hitler Youth or the Communist equivalent? Nobody has concerns over the young Tories, Libs or Labour in the UK. They would probably have concerns over the EDL or BNP having an active youth wing though.

In a democracy, if a centralist party (left or right) has a youth wing, then of course the margins of extreme left and right should also be allowed to have them as long as they all, left, centre and right, remain law abiding.

Is the problem that most adults would, justifiably or not, worry that the extreme fringes of politics combined with the exuberance and impulsiveness associated with youth, will lead them into actions that would be somewhat less than circumspect and transgress the rule of law?

Why do we have less concerns over the impressionable youth when it comes to mainstream/major party indoctrination over those that we consider more radical? The average person can lay open any manifesto from any party in the UK, including those who are definitely right and definitely left, and find something in each any every manifesto they fully, mostly or partly agree with, even if it is a single policy amongst many.

It then becomes a matter of personal priority as to whether it is enough for you to vote for the party with the policy that ignites your political self or whether you vote for the party that you partly agree with on most issues.

Anyway, Arseniy Yatseniuk’s party, Front for Change (Front Zmin or Фронт Змін) has set up a youth wing.  Now Yatseniuk is certainly not a radical politician.  He is fairly central in his ideology and is not a natural fit with the current administration or Tymoshenko’s opposition party.  Hence he and his party did not join the ruling coalition or unite with Tymoshenko in opposition but has remained independently in opposition.

Yatseniuk and his party consistently poll 3rd or 4th in Ukrainian elections at any level, however still being in his late 30’s and having held numerous very senior and influential positions within the Tymoshenko government era (when she  was scrabbling about to form a majority in the RADA regardless of ideology) he will remain a political force for the next 20 year and more in Ukraine, long after Yanukovych and Tymoshenko are political memories.

According to Interfax-Ukraine  – The Front Zmin has set up a youth wing, according to head of the party’s branch in Dnipropetrovsk region Andriy Pavelko, who became the coordinator of the youth wing.

“Our party was built by young people. Many of members of parliament of the Front Zmin are under thirty. Other political forces are merely using the youth in solving their electoral problems. We do not impose our ideas, but work on the same level as young people, they develop their action programs by themselves,” he said during a press conference following the first forum of the Front Zmin’s young leaders, which was attended by 60 representatives from across Ukraine.

The forum participants shared their experience, attended courses under the project “School of Authorities” organized by the Front Zmin and the Institute of Political Education, in order to enable the young leaders to develop an action program of the party’s youth wing and learn about the ways to implement their projects locally and nationwide.

All very good and many of these youths would no doubt qualify under the British Council’s/FCO “cultural leadership” programme in Ukraine which I blogged about here only a few days ago.  (In case you are wondering,  here is who and what the Institute of Political Education is within Ukraine.)

Yes, those of you who are adamantly against the creation of career politicians who go from theory and seats of learning directly into politics until retirement will undoubtedly cringe at yet another organisation which appears to sidetrack life experience as most of the working electorate know it.

The old argument of idealism verses realism and practical delivery without ever enduring the grind the majority of a working society are subjected to.  At least that is a position a large part of the society would espouse.  (As seen by Mr Cameron’s “We’re all in this together” message being roundly refuted by large parts of the British society).

It would have been very interesting to see how the Front for Change youth were advised regarding the “patronage” issue I touched upon yesterday, particularly as Mr Yatesniuk himself was a multi-millionaire in his 20’s at a time when that simply would not happen (and still won’t happen today for the most part) without a patron in Ukraine.

So, political youth movements?  A good idea or not?  I tend to think they are…..although there are caveats to that conclusion.

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