Posts Tagged ‘Korolevska’

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Korolevska welcomes Andrey Shevchenko to her party

July 30, 2012

Following up on the political aspirations of Ukraine’s most famous footballer, Andrey Shevchenko, I mentioned two days ago, he has joined the party of Natalia Korolevska, “Ukraine Forward”, and quit football with immediate effect.

We now have two of Ukraine’s most famous sportsmen in the shape of Klischko (UDAR) and Shevchenko (Ukraine Forward) in parties that are outside the United Opposition, but are in opposition parties.   It seems Mr Shevchenko sees “Ukraine Forward” as “one of Ukrainian parties of the future.”

One wonders just how much they may effect the voting for the United Opposition, particularly with the United Opposition having allowed the polarising ultra-right Svoboda into their ranks only last week.

Prima facie, a nice boost for Korolevska who has only a 2.8% popularity rating prior to Mr Shevchenko’s announcement, meaning Ukraine Forward would currently fall short of the 5% threshhold necessary for any proportional representation in the RADA.  (Apparently Andrey Shevchenko will be the second name on the party list after Ms Korolevska.)

Certainly not bad news for the ruling PoR who are currently sitting on about 22% of the national vote, but possibly not good news for the United Opposition on about 20% as it is their voting base that seems most likely to be affected by Mr Shevchenko’s choice (if it is affected at all).

Add any voter drift because of Shevchenko’s hero-like status in Ukraine to that of Klitschko, whose party is on about 8.5% and growing, again the majority of those voters are also likely to come from the United Opposition ranks.

As for Mr Shevchenko’s belief that Ukraine Forward is one of the political parties of the future, well maybe, but  not very likely looking at Ms Korolevska, his party leader’s political past I’m afraid.  Well, unless Ukraine’s political future is just as bad as its political present and political past – or she genuinely turns over a new leaf (which is possible even if incredibly unlikely).

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New Economy, New Country – Natalia Korolevska

June 17, 2012

New economy, new country?

As many of you readers will know, since this blog began years ago, when talking of political personalities,  the likes of Yanukovych and Tymoshenko have long been seen as an anchor to the recycled Soviet machinery, so mired in their opaque and murky past that they cannot escape it – and neither should they.

Since 2010 Yatsenuik, Tigipko and now since her falling out with Tymoshenko, Natalia Korolevska are three faces that are likely to become “the” political faces of Ukraine in the next decade when the Ukrainian public eventually consign the corrupt hangover of Tymoshenko/Yanukovych and their ilk to the political leadership rubbish bin.

There are one or two others as well, and as and when, they will be written about.

Of note, for any election monitors looking at media coverage ahead of October’s parliamentary elections, Natalia Korolevska is hardly ever off my screen at the moment in Odessa.  Whether she thinks Odessa is there for the taking, I’m not sure.  Yatseniuk who has history with Odessa, has a far better chance of taking it from the PoR than she does in all truthfulness.

Anyway, on 15th June, Ms Korolevska turned up in Odessa to present and talk about her draft  programme “New economy, new country”.  I am keen to say something positive as amongst the younger generation of Ukrainian politicians, she will become a leading light in my opinion, despite the fact she has made hundreds of millions of US$  by allegedly nefariously navigating the “old economy, old country” in order to buy her way into the RADA in 2006 and dodgy dealing within that elite business cesspit ever since, vastly increasing her personal wealth (although now her business interests have been transfered to her husband’s name I’m led to believe in some vein effort to distance herself from them.)

Unfortunately, finding something positive to say is not that easy when it comes to her “New economy, new country” programme, despite the fact I am looking for a spark of light in a very dark tunnel when it comes to Ukrainian politics.

Ms Korolevska enlightened Odessa with tales of “economic miracles” and her vision of a Ukrainian miracle is average salaries of Euro 1000 and pensions of Euro 500 each month.

Perhaps if her historical leader Ms Tymoshenko, vigorously defended by Ms Korolevska to the point of nominating her for the Nobel Peace Prize until they fell out,  hadn’t authorised such a crippling gas deal running from 2009 – 2019, there would be a few extra $ for pensions or education or health?  (On the presumption that the current government wouldn’t have wasted it in some other way, which is highly likely.)

So returning to “economic miracles” as proposed by Ms Korolevska as the saviour of Ukraine,  where, who, how and when does this “economic miracle” arrive with Ukraine, and possibly more importantly given that good policy is often robustly resisted by the regional fiefdoms, how and who would insure its effective implementation?

Well, according to her, she has been collecting data from countries where economic miracles have occurred, where the structure of the economy has been changed, where jobs in the very short term have been created, where the size, scale and diversity of the economy has grown.

That shouldn’t have taken long, there are numerous in-depth studies by academics of good standing to be found on the Internet, and to be quite honest, as she herself stated in 2006 when she joined the Ukrainian parliament, “it seems that everyone here is well aware of the difficulties, but nobody makes an attempt resolve them and to help the people.”  Nonetheless, if she has found the time to compile her own studies and recommendations between visiting Davos and the Brussels bubble, fair play to her.

Exactly which nations “economic miracles” she has studied and drawn conclusions from are a mystery.  How they can and will be transposed to Ukraine to transform its economy also remains unclear.  This is particularly important when Ms Korolevska has previously recommended sacking all judges, prosecutors, lawyers and defenders due to the corrupt legal system and replacing them – without giving a clue where experienced and qualified replacements will actually come from or how they will remain uncorrupted once in office.  Her stance however, is that is cannot be reformed but those currently within the system, despite her stance meaning the system simply ceases to exist when she has sacked everybody in it.

If she did a similar study to that of her “economic miracle” when reforming corrupt legal systems, she would note that no nation has sacked all the judges, lawyers, prosecutors and defenders whilst making those reforms.

So the next question is when this “economic miracle” will manifest itself in Ukraine.  In the 6 years and counting that she has been a RADA MP it has yet to materialise in any shape or form that she is prescribing as the prescription for a “new country”.

The most positive thing I can say about her visit to Odessa, other than the fact she visited Odessa, is that she has things written down, almost manifesto-like.  Apart from that, she said nothing that my butcher, supermarket check-out girl, barman or taxi driver wouldn’t say.  Certainly not enough to make a voter change from who they would normally vote for to vote for her.

Lots of form and absolutely no substance.  Luckily she has several months to up her game…..considerably!

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Ukraine – “Countries in transit” – Freedom House Report

June 8, 2012

Well Freedom House has just released its “Countries in Transit” report of which Ukraine is one.  Quite where Ukraine is transiting too is debatable, though there must be an assumption that Freedom House feels Ukraine should be transiting towards democracy – or if not democracy, certainly a set of basic fundamental human rights and protections thereof.

As I have previously written, whilst it is often politically expedient for politicians to compare nation A with nation B in an effort to state “At least we aren’t as bad as Country B” as some form of justification and legitimacy for their own policy failings, what really matters in comparisons is how Country A stands today in respect of how it stood historically.

That is what matters to the people who live within Country A.  Is it better or worse than before?  It is after all, possible for Country A to decline internally but still climb a Freedom House ranking because new counties have been added to the numbers, or other countries have declined faster than Country A.

So, we will leave the somewhat flawed picture that politically expedient international comparisons toss out to the populous as mitigation for their own policy failures, or the media for headlines that will sell copy, and look at how Ukraine has done in the past decade according to Freedom House vis a vis Ukraine.

It should be noted that the best possible score allocated by Freedom House is 1 and the worst is 7.

It is rather grim reading to see that Ukraine has been backsliding on almost every front, not with the current government alone, but also quite obviously under the last one as well, since 2006.

Now one could put the perceived improvements recorded in 2006 down to great expectations of the 2005, rather than an accurate reflection of reality, following the Orange Revolution.  That is the problem with opinion based surveys.  They tend to be emotional rather than reality based and therefore bias unintentionally or deliberately either through the slant of the surveyor, the surveyed, or both.

One can ponder if there has ever really been very much improvement whatsoever during the past decade, and whether the perceived improvement immediately following the Orange Revolution was nothing more than great expectations.  The relative slide backwards thereafter across most of the board was the slow dawning of the realisation that, in fact, nothing has changed since ex-President Kuchma.

Thus today’s overall score of 4.82 compared to a Kuchma score in 2003 of 4.71 maybe interpreted to be the reality that all illusionary bubbles and Orange Revolution hangovers have now, eventually, evaporated.  The population polled for this survey now realise there was actually no improvement between 2003, as shown by the consistent ebbing of hope during the tenure of the past, and present government as displayed in the above table.

If interpreted that way, it is certainly time for the new political faces of Yatseniuk, Tigipko and Koloevska to step forward and replace the old guard if there is to be another positive bump in perception across the above categories.

The question is, should that actually happen (and Ukraine not sentence itself to more years of Yanukovych or Tymoshenko), can they actually change anything? – Or would there still simply be another 2006 spike followed by yet another decline as reality set in?

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Political Will (and application) – A matter of trust

March 30, 2012

It’s not often the opportunity arises to pop your head above the barricades to find both government, opposition and media all talking about the same thing at the same time and all leaving themselves open for a quick volley of fire before ducking back down behind the barricades and allowing them to play their games amongst themselves once more.

Our targets today are Prime Minister Azarov, Natalia Korolevska and an article in The Moscow Times.  The subjects justice, corruption and the political will to provide improvements to both.  All three see political will as the answer to the problems within the Ukrainian and Russian society.  I think it is something far more fundamental – Trust.

To keep matters simple, let us concentrate on their recent comments on justice systems and tackling corruption which apparently can be tackled by political will alone according to two out of three of them.  Only Azarov briefly  mentions the key underlying factor that regardless of political will accomplishing legal or systemic changes amongst the administrative arms of the State and judiciary, is required for any changes to be successful – That factor is trust.

No matter how well designed, no matter how tried and tested, no matter how safe and protective in an accident, or how beneficial to society and the environment an electric car may be, if you don’t think it will perform well, you won’t buy into the concept.

Similarly society must have trust in the political and judicial systems.  They are two foundational pillars of society and they have to be trusted to be effective.

Let us start with The Moscow Times article and this quote from it –  “Of course, no particular political willpower is required to dismiss someone whom a court of law has found guilty of corruption, but it is needed in large supply when firing someone whom a leader has good reason to believe — based on media reports or other evidence — has been involved in corrupt practices. No doubt the person who gets sacked will raise a clamor, remind his employer of their long personal friendship and possibly even threaten to sue for wrongful dismissal. The senior official will simply have to endure the unpleasantness, remind his old friend that nothing can justify taking kickbacks on state contracts and that he is free to seek justice through the courts if he feels he has been wronged. In other words, all that is needed to stop corruption is a little personal integrity and political willpower.”

Now there is nothing to disagree with contained in that quote whatsoever – if you have trust that the courts will back up your decision to sack the individual in question and that the individual in question is not better connected or in a financial position to influence the outcome of the court.  Unfortunately both Russians and Ukrainians are well aware that influence or money can provide a legal outcome that is completely opposite of what the evidence displays.

Just because you are somebody’s boss doesn’t necessarily mean you are more powerful than them in the grand scheme of things.  So distorted are matters that you may well sack somebody for corruption to then discover they are far more connected than you assumed, you lose in court when they appeal and find yourself sacked instead,  whilst they take your position as the boss.  9 times from 10 things wouldn’t go to court, however it only takes one instants to change your life in a surprisingly bad way.

Thus there is an absolute need to trust the judicial system if challenging the patriarchal system.

Next, let’s see what pearls of wisdom Natalia Korolevska returned from Brussels with after her Korolevska Foundation forum there a few days ago.  The answer is obviously no new pearls of wisdom at all, and she is saying nothing that dozens of RADA MPs haven’t already said over the last decade or more.

Unfortunately for Ms Korolevska, some of us have better memories than others and she herself acknowledged that all RADA members know what the problems are but don’t do anything about it back in 2006 – “It seems that everyone here is well aware of the difficulties, but nobody makes an attempt resolve them and to help the people.” – Ms Korolevska, you are working with and talking with the same people you mentioned in 2006.  Your latest statement, as you well know, means nothing as they all already know what you have tried to imply is a visionary way forwards.

She is hardly setting an example either.  Somehow she has managed to amount a net worth (as estimated in Focus magazine 2009) of almost $250 million and recently has expanded from her food empire and entered coal.  Claims she no longer has business interests and all business assets are in her husband’s name and under his sole control are understandably met with a great degree of cynicism.  Again, trust is the issue with making such a claim.

However, whilst we can broadly agree with most of what she states, this sentence we really do have to examine: – “Corrupt bureaucracy cannot be charged with implementation of reforms.”  – Sticking with the judicial system as the theme, it is simply impossible to remove all existing judges, prosecutors and advocats in Ukraine from the system as there are not enough to replace them all with new, uncorrupted, fresh out of the box replacements.  Accepting that, who else can implement the reforms?

If, as is desperately needed in Ukraine, the judiciary are allowed to be genuinely independent from their political and business masters (often one and the same thing), then it would be folly to grant them that independence and the necessary immunity from prosecution that goes with it (to prevent outside pressure influencing them), prior to reforms.

To grant them genuine independence and immunity prior to any reforms would leave the corrupt judges, prosecutors and advocats in place whilst also making them almost untouchable and exceptionally difficult to remove thereafter.

Also, the political appointing of judges would need to end.  As it currently stands in Ukraine, judicial appointments are made by the president in some cases and the RADA in others as per the Constition (Title VIII).  A completely non-political appointment system such as the UK’s Judicial Appointments Commission would need to be set up and have that authority, both to hire and to fire.

To do that the Ukrainian Constitution would need to be changed, but as Ms Korolevska and her opposition colleagues are refusing to participate in the ex-President Kravchuk led Constitutional Assembly tasked with working through the constitution and amending it, that work is stalled.

In the case of the judiciary, it seems impracticable to do as Ms Korolveska states and remove the existing personnel within the structure prior to those within it implementing any reforms.  The numbers of qualified and suitable replacements simply do not exist to take a hatchet to them all and then afterwards reform the system.

There is a very careful balance between the integrity of the judicial system, which at the end of the day is the absolute priority for any legal system, and the stability of it whilst reforming it (thus allowing it to function as reforms work their way through.)

Just how Ms Korolevska indeeds to reform the judicial system without those currently within it having a very large part to play in that I am not sure.  Hopefully she will explain how this can and will be done.  Maybe she has a cupboard full of brand spanking new and untainted judges, prosecutors and advocats ready to replace all those currently active within the Ukrainian justice system?

Lastly we get to the current Ukrainian Prime Minister, who at least manages to recognise that what is essential in any reform – trust.  He manages to use the word.

Unfortunately, for him, his government, the opposition and entire political class, trust is not a word used by society when referring to any of them.  Almost to a man/woman they have proven to be untrustworthy, opaque in their extra-political business dealings, corrupt and manipulative for their own ends.

If there is any trust between society and the political elite, it is that society trusts them to do what is right for themselves and not society more often than not.  When the entire RADA is made up of millionaires and billionaires in a nation that has a relatively poor GDP per capita income, society is obviously going to be suspicious of each and every one of them.

Under what circumstances does the average poorly paid Ukrainian trust a politician worth $ millions who made their money through opaque business practices or thievery from the public purse?

The politicians don’t even trust each other.  Why haven’t the opposition parties united?  Because they don’t trust each other.  To quote Ms Korolevska after she was expelled from Yulia Tymoshenko’s political block only 2 weeks ago, “Deputies from the so-called opposition have united with the majority factions; an anti-national majority consisting of representatives of the current and previous government has been formed in the Verkhovna Rada.”  – She doesn’t trust those she claims to be trying to forge a united opposition party with anymore than they trust her.  None of them trust each other.  They will not genuinely unite and they will remain dysfunctional because of this.

It is no surprise that so many Ukrainian politicians have family members in politics with them.  When there is no trust amongst colleagues then the patriarchal system brings with it that necessary but missing trust.

Therefore, political will and reform implementation are a matter of trust at its most fundamental level.  As it is, in Ukraine, the government doesn’t trust the opposition or the administrative arms of the State.  The opposition doesn’t trust the government or other the opposition parties, and they also don’t trust the administrative arms of the State.  Society doesn’t trust any of them.

So before there can be the political will, the reforms, the faith in administrative systems for individuals to act with personal integrity and know that there is a solid judicial system that will back them, there first of all needs to be trust.

That is something that will be incredibly difficult to produce.

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Ukraine’s next first lady of politics?

January 28, 2012

As is always the case in politics, the demise or difficult circumstances of a fellow politician, from your own party or another, presents itself as an opportunity for those of such a mindset.

Amongst Ms Tymoshenko’s party, prior to her incarceration, was a lady called Natalia Korolevska.  A stalwart Tymoshenko advocate as you would expect and seemingly loyal to the core.

However, since Ms Tymoshenko’s incarceration, Ms Korolevska has resigned from Ms Tymoshenko’s party and assumed the leadership of another opposition party called the Ukrainian Social Democrat Party (USDP).

Ms Tymoshenko and Ms Korolevska

That is not to say she has turned her back on Tymoshenko’s party entirely, the USDP will unite in opposition with them and put forward candidates for the next parliamentary election on a single united opposition ballet.  To be quite frank, the USDP has no real alternative as otherwise its current parliamentarians would probably fall foul of the new 5% voting threshold that easily passed through parliament with joint support from the ruling PoR and Ms Tymoshenko’s party.

Interestingly, but not surprisingly, not all opposition parties have agreed or signed up to a single list of candidates for the opposition ballet at the next elections.  A united opposition still seems a long way off although things may change.

Also somewhat interestingly, Ms Korolevska has not been ostracized by her old party or disciplined at a time when they probably needed a female parliamentary face fighting for Ms Tymoshenko under her party banner more than any other.

Maybe an issue to be revisited in the future with political blow-back pending for now?

Anyway, Ms Korolevska has actually managed to say something quite bright recently.  To you and I it is of course obvious for any electoral campaign, but this is Ukraine where policies, platforms and manifestos barely register in what is a essentially a personality contest whether the election is party or individually based.  Essentially the amount of MPs any party gets in parliament has very little to do with their policies but the popularity of their leader, in effect no different from presidential elections which are no more than personality contests here.

Ms Korolevska has come up with the idea of a Ukrainian development plan, in simple terms for Ukrainians to understand (slightly condescending as she is no luminary herself) and have all the opposition parties who signed up to the single opposition candidate list (so not all opposition parties) agree it and sign it off.

Well bravo!  Regardless of whether such a plan ever actually occurs, regardless of whether the opposition actually win enough votes to become the majority and be able to implement such a plan, and regardless of whether they would be the first government to actually deliver a plan rather than just talking about one or holding up a single piece of an otherwise unknown puzzle to the masses every now and again, she actually thinks there should be a plan and that it should be shared with the Ukrainian public in full!

Of course the downside to that, is the Ukrainian public would know the plan and be able to hold the political elite to account should it fail to deliver on it.  Maybe that is far too radical and transparent for the rest of her colleagues in the opposition parties that have signed up to cooperate together at the parliamentary elections.

So how is Ms Korolevska going to raise her domestic and international profile?  Well she is currently at Davos where undoubtedly everyone is asking who she is, at least for now.  What seems quite obvious though is that Ms Korolevska sees a political opportunity somewhat at the expense of her old boss, Ms Tymoshenko, whilst retaining (publicly at least) good relations with her old party.  She has become an opposition party leader, she is currently hobnobbing at Davos and has been doing the rounds in Brussels.  On a purely aesthetic platform she looks very good on the television.

The longer Ms Tymoshenko remains incarcerated, the more Ms Korolevska will become the very attractive female face of Ukrainian politics.  Is this a case of the Queen is dead, long live the Queen, or a beginning to a quiet coup?

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