Posts Tagged ‘PoR’


Time to seriously consider the exit

February 21, 2014

No. no.  I am not considering exiting Ukraine – nothing so dramatic.  It’s home for all that is good and bad about it, and here I will remain regardless.

I am referring to the mounting body count for which the authorities, having far greater resources at their control, have to take the brunt of responsibility for.

I recognise of course, that there are elements within those protesting who are also responsible for deaths, provocation and injuries.  I also recognise that neither the authorities nor opposition politicians have very much – if any – control over the actions of these elements.

When large numbers of protesters are expected to abide by a truce negotiated between a deeply unpopular president and a merely tolerated (but not followed) opposition, it is wishful thinking to expect it to last – and so it has transpired that last it did not.  Deaths in double figures today once more.

However, the more extreme elements do not exist in significant strength or depth – they are not a match for the full and unmitigated the machinery of the institutions of state when all is said and done.  Whatever these elements can do, the institutions of state are more than capable of a response far more disproportionate to incidents to which they are reacting – ergo the authorities that control the institutions of state must carry the largest burdens of responsibility – provoked or otherwise.

Thus as the body count of both protesters and police continues to rise on an almost daily basis, the ultimate responsibility is that of the President.

Clearly the Rubicon has been crossed by both State and society and clearly society cannot offer its resignation to calm matters – certainly not to authorities with a totalitarian outlook and little regard for the due processes of rule of law.

Thus there is but one way to avoid a bloodbath becoming a humanitarian disaster – and that is for the current president to be encouraged to exit the political stage – swiftly – for the sake of the nation.  Quite clearly a national unity government operating under the current constitution rather than that of 2004 would be rather pointless as it would be powerless via a vis presidential whim.  The “western choice” to lead Party of Regions during this time of transition is clearly Sergey Tigipko – a man more than capable of working with the opposition in a national unity government.

This tweet echoing conversations I had in Kyiv with a couple of diplomats at the end of last year.

There is perhaps also a lesson to be learned from Mr Putin’s time in office, in that he consistently backs losers in Ukraine.  He backed Yanukovych overtly in 2004 and got Yushenko.  He tacitly backed Tymoshenko in 2010 and got Yanukovych.  Russian support for Yanukovych now, given its track record of backing Ukrainian losers is ominous – though expecting Russia to whisper in the presidential ear that it is time to head for a negotiated exit is clearly out of the question until a suitable alternative has been identified – if one can be identified – to put the Russian colours behind.

Thus it will fall to “blunt private conversations” with both president and those that surround him, to encourage his negotiated exit – whether that mean an immunity from prosecution guaranteed by an external actor, the retention of ill-gotten gains, a quiet life in the gilded cage of his Mezhyhirya home – whatever.

Solutions to the Ukrainian crisis are few, as are the rapidly reducing future options of the current president when it comes to a very quiet retirement somewhere other than prison as the body count continues to rise.

Perhaps it is time to quietly but robustly offer a negotiated way out now.


The day the crowds started to follow the opposition politicians? Ukraine

January 27, 2014

Yesterday I closed my entry with “In the meantime an all-encompassing national unity government seems the only possible way forward politically – whether society follows is a different question.

Hours after that was written, a very poor attempt at forming something loosely resembling a national unity government was offered by President Yanukovych – an offer quite rightly refused by the opposition leaders as it was neither all-inclusive, politically viable due to the current formation of the RADA, and in accepting it, it   would have legitimised the illegitimate new laws to mention a few “flaws” within the offer.

That misguided offer and the subsequent refusal may very well prove to be the moment when the opposition leaders will no longer be simply following along behind the crowds, struggling with legitimacy and traction, but have been propelled by President Yanukovych once again failing to understand the cause and effect of a poor offer, impossible to accept, to a position whereby they can now lead the crowds – or a significant number therein – with a reasonable amount of traction and approval.  Their chances of doing so have at the very least increased.

The possibility of the military and tanks on the streets of Ukrainian cities and towns now also seems extremely remote – effectively ruled out via Rinat Akhmetov via this statement from SCM.

The extraordinary meeting of the RADA on Tuesday 28th January now becomes far more interesting and unpredictable in its outcome than would have been expected 48 hours ago.

Room for maneuver for the President narrows almost daily – and the need for leadership from somebody grows in equal measure.  Concerns relating to who is doing what, and preparing to do what – from all sides – during the time that passes prior to Tuesday are obvious, both on the streets and within the RADA machinery.

A very tense few days awaits – and whilst buildings can be repaired, and cuts and bruises heal, lives cannot be replaced.

For the attention of regular readers – This will be my last regular entry for two weeks, as I am leaving for another democratically and politically stable nation – Thailand – tomorrow.

Whilst I am away I shall mull over the pro’s and the con’s of a “federal Ukraine” – for federalism most certainly has both pros and cons – when considering the best way to maintain the territorial integrity of Ukraine in the future.

The current situation if nothing else demands a cursory look at federalism as a possible solution to strong local and regional governance of particular bias whilst retaining overall territorial integrity.

Naturally I shall be following events at home closely, but will try to keep any comment to the 140 characters available via twitter for the simple reason I do not relish typing anything lengthy on an i-pad – and that is all I can be bothered to carry with me.

My twitter feed is at the right of this page should you want to keep up with my thoughts as things develop – intermittent as any tweeting may be.

I expect that matters will have progressed apace in Ukraine by the time I return – hopefully with the core democratic components of tolerance and inclusiveness driving the process – though perhaps for that to happen within a matter of two weeks is somewhat ambitious!


Ukrainian politicians talk, EU makes statements, USA sanctions…….

January 21, 2014

And so, following the events of yesterday and the collapse, either temporarily or permanently, of the peaceful persona of Euromaidan the following has occurred today.

Opposition leaders and representatives of the current authorities meet to negotiate a way forward.  That seems incredibly unlikely when points for negotiation are presented as demands as the opposition always seem to do.  There is far too much use of the zero sum terms “demand” and “must” to allow for meaningful and effective negotiation – even if both sides have a genuine will to negotiate in good faith – and it seems much more likely that at least one side of the negotiations will be doing so in bad faith.

It does not seem at all clear where the positions, interests and needs of the opposition will coincide with the positions, interests or needs of the current authorities.

Skipping past the usually unattainable opening “positions” which are obviously not the same for both sides and are rarely left standing unmoved at the end of any negotiation, there seems little commonality in the “interests” of both sides that can be met on a nicely compromised middle ground – currently at least.  Whether the “needs” of either side coincide, which are the lowest common denominator of any negotiation,  is also a subjective question in the current circumstances – and it is circumstance that often has sway of some significants when it comes to finding common ground within “interests” and “needs” in a toxic and volatile atmosphere.

It seems unlikely that much of significants will come from the Ukrainian political dialogue – for now anyway.

Meanwhile the EU has made a statement.

Clearly no overt sign of sanctions on the table across the entirety of the 28 Member States.  But there are a lot of questions to answer prior to answering the sanctions question.  Even if there were consensus – and there is not – is now the best time to apply them – or would it be wiser to apply them closer to the 2015 elections to more and more individuals as electoral norms are breached one after another in the run up to, and in the aftermath there of?  For how long do you keep your powder dry vis a vis a premature sanctions ejaculation leaving everybody less than satisfied with the result?

The USA, however, it seems, has begun to implement sanctions by way of Visa refusal/revocation effectively adding specific people to its persona non grata black list.  Minor as this may be in the grand scheme of things it is a sanction taken against a senior Ukrainian government official, even if the symbolism far outweighs the actual effects on the individual.

In the meantime angry young men remain squared off against the police in central Kyiv.  The situation a tense stalemate at the time of writing – though that can revert to the violence of yesterday in a moment.  The raft of odiously civil rights repressing legislation remains signed, despite it appearing quite unconstitutional.  The entirely ineffective Delegation of the EU to Ukraine now has protesters outside demanding the EU impose sanctions – when the EU cannot impose sanctions without the agreement of all 28 Member States.  Perhaps they would be better placed picketing embassies of the most reluctant nations such as Germany?

All in all, a little bit of this, a little bit of that, a sprinkling of these and a splash of those.  It doesn’t really seem like the right recipe to put democracy in Ukraine onto the swiftest path to recovery – but then what do I know, I was never much of an alchemist.


Experimenting in the void of trust in 2014 – Ukraine

January 9, 2014

Today’s entry may appear to be a bit “scholarly” but I will try avoid it as much as possible – which shouldn’t be too hard for me!

Utopian and unrealistic it will certainly appear at its conclusion – but that is not to say it isn’t worthy of momentary deliberation or contemplation regardless.  No matter how slim the possibility, that doesn’t mean it should be dismissed out of hand.

A few days ago I wrote about the trust void that will become ever more self-evident in Ukraine during 2014.

That trust is missing between the current authorities and opposition, amongst the opposition themselves, between civil society and the political class, between society and civil society, and lastly between society and the political class is no surprise – but this year it seems likely it will be under the microscope like never before.

Thus I start from 3 foundations that are difficult to dispute.

The first is the perception of the political class in its entirety through the lens of the Ukrainian voting constituency (and many on-lookers too) being entirely feckless and untrusted.

To quote Thomas Carothers from his End of the Transitional Paradigm (2002) – “Countries whose political life is marked by feckless pluralism tend to have significant amounts of political freedom, regular elections, and alternation of power between genuinely different political groupings. Despite these positive features, however, democracy remains shallow and troubled. Political participation, though broad at election time, extends little beyond voting. Political elites from all the major parties or groupings are widely perceived as corrupt, self-interested, and ineffective. The alternation of power seems only to trade the country’s problems back and forth from one hapless side to the other. Political elites from all the major parties are widely perceived as corrupt, self-interested, dishonest, and not serious about working for their country. The public is seriously disaffected from politics, and while it may still cling to a belief in the ideal of democracy, it is extremely unhappy about the political life of the country.” – Hard to disagree with that as the current and historical political situation.

The second  is that it is difficult to argue that Ukraine does not fit the description of a predatory state per Putman in his “Making Democracies Work” publishings.  In this he states, officials feed off the State and the powerful prey on the weak.  The rich take wealth from the poor whilst depriving them of public goods.  “Corruption is widely regarded as the norm, political participation is mobilised from above, civic engagement is meager, compromise is scarce, and nearly everyone feels powerless, exploited and unhappy.”  Again, difficult to dispute.

The third, and last for the purposes of this entry, is the Ukrainian civil society which has thus far failed in its task for the past 21 years with regards to traction within society and impact with successive governments.  Where mutual interest arises, attempts at convergence are all to often met with a lack of cohesion and trust.  Ukrainian civil society is in fact uncivil, regularly feeding upon itself. – A self-evident situation.

With elections looming, Евромайдан a new but on-going civic display repelling political overtures, undoubted additional pressure from The Kremlin once Sochi is over and Mr Putin has far more time to concentrate on building his Eurasian Union political legacy, and a somewhat currently limp EU, that void in trust is obviously open to exploitation – for good or bad – now that certain actors if not knowing exactly what they do want, certainly know what they don’t want and are prepared to operate on that shortsighted basis.

I very much doubt 2014 will deliver trust where there is none.

That leads us to the question of how trust in the framework can even begin to be established.

Not, it has to be said, a question that has escaped political science academics historically – although when it comes to trust, the most interesting studies and resulting recommendations come from nations emerging from ethnic conflict.  Necessarily an environment where trust begins and ends with ethnicity/identity when a conflict subsidies and some form of democratic/representative governance is sought going forward.

Possibly the most read work in this field belongs to that of Mr Lijphart, Mr Dahl and Mr Horowitz respectively (and in no particular order) – and some of what they say can be transposed upon Ukraine – despite Ukraine having nothing like the ethnic divisions emerging from a conflict ravaged national landscape upon which some of their scholarly work has been based.

Dear readers, please note, I am about to do many years of scholarly work from these people a great disservice by generalising, paraphrasing, and in short “hard editing” otherwise very lengthy erudite academic prose from each of the aforementioned down to a simple, single sentence:

Avoid majoritarian systems in deeply divided countries.

Believe me, dear readers, that single sentence has saved you hundreds of hours of reading and contemplation through which I went on your behalf.

Thereafter having removed/avoided a majoritarian system, small and steady steps over time – without undue dawdling – is the way forward in building trust.

But where is this train of thought leading?

Well, amongst the political, oligarchical, religious and societal ranks there is no serious desire to divide the nation.  Therefore it is fair to say an independent Ukraine within its current geographical borders is the non-negotiable outcome for all – regardless of other differences.

In fact, the cross cutting cleavages that unite the aspirations of the nation are far more numerous – rule of law, reduction of corruption, transparent and good governance, basic and universal freedoms and rights, economics, employment, functioning efficient institutions of State etc  as this poll from the end of 2013 would seem to underline  – than the oft publicised differences many on-lookers would use to divide it – East/West voting preferences, Russian/Ukrainian speaking, sign/don’t sign the EU Association Agreement etc.

(Such deep-seated voting preferences and language issues are not unique to Ukraine and other nations remain whole.)

And so my very (c)rude summary of lengthy academic work, “Avoid majoritarian systems in deeply divided countries”  multiplied by “(pillars of) democracy”, plus “national identity within current geographical borders being sacrosanct”,  would suggest a form of government Ukraine has never tried.  Some form of national unity governance for a period of time to deliver the most critical of societal demands.

Naturally it would be too Utopian a thought that one of the feckless candidates that will put themselves forward as the next Saviour of Ukraine/next president in 2015 would base a manifesto and cross-party  governmental composition upon debate and agreement with society during the preparatory 2014 electoral year – despite there being plenty of time and a societal desire to seemingly engage in that conversation.

Would any presidential candidate dare to suggest forming such a government for their term in office?  Would that begin to build trust across the all pillars of a democratic and civilised society – or would everyone trust that candidate even less?

OK – time to leave a possible – no matter how unlikely – and seemingly Utopian solution, and return to the ugly and dysfunctional reality where the opposition candidates are clearly still distrusting of each other when it comes to the single candidate/multiple candidate scenario and who ultimately holds the “power”, and the current “power” remains as corrupt and as unresponsive as ever.

Nevertheless there are some smart minded people in each and every Ukrainian political party – unfortunately just not that many.

Who and where they would be placed in any national unity government would be a very interesting public opinion survey – if an independent, unaligned, but much more democratic status quo is all that can be agreed upon by society for now, as the above poll link would suggest.


Interior Minister must go after grevious Chernovil assault

December 26, 2013

When this article by Tatyana Chernovil relating to the home of Interior Minster Zakharchenko published at 2138 hours on 24th December results in the photographs below just a few hours later – quite simply you know that by choosing to support the people of Євромайдан, you have chosen the right path.

beaten journo

This incident on the back of the repeated stabbing in the leg of Dmytro Pylypets,  Євромайдан organiser in Kharkiv earlier the same evening.

Quite clearly President Yanukovych (either temporarily or permanently) has lost control of his people in government.

Already under pressure following the unnecessary and disgraceful incidents of Berkut brutality against Євромайдан protesters, Mr. Zakharchenko now needs to resign or be replaced with immediate effect at the Interior Ministry – nothing less will do.

Whether Mr. Zakharchenko is personally behind this heinous incident, whether his underlings through misguided loyalty took it upon themselves to carry out this grievous assault , or in the unlikely event of coincidence, the current Interior Minister’s position is now untenable.

Naturally sincere wishes for a speedy recovery go to Tatyana Chernovil and Dmytro Pylypets.


Happy Birthday Mykola Azarov – (Is it time to retire?)

December 18, 2013

Today is Prime Minister Mykola Azarov’s birthday – С Днем Рождения Николай

He was born on 17th December 1947.

Today, that makes him 66 years old.  Today that takes him past the mandatory retirement age  from public service of 65, according to Ukrainian law.

As it seems the opposition cannot unseat him through votes of “no confidence”, and the President will keep him for as long as is possible simply because he is at the end of his political life and has no sights on any higher office, you have to wonder why the opposition have not made a big (if somewhat sarcastic) effort of celebrating this birthday and highlighting the law and his age.


Is this yet another instance whereby the rule of law applies only to those without immunity (and thus impunity)?

Nevertheless, some will wonder why, Mr. Azarov who could have walked away from the entire political mess unscathed due to reaching mandatory retirement age today, has not taken a politically attractive route out as set by law.  Why wait to be ousted or sacked at some point?

Perhaps, with the opposition parties having no plan, civil society now beginning to turn upon itself, he feels he can and will outlast the protesters at євромайдан who have no single politician or united civil society that they all trust and can rally behind.

I wonder if he will get a US$ loans and cheaper gas from Russia today to ease the Ukrainian 2014 budget – well it is his birthday!


Doing the math – A vote of No Confidence in Gov Ukraine soon?

December 2, 2013

Having written about the split within Party of Regions yesterday -again – (it’s been coming a long time), matters seem to have progressed swiftly.

It would appear that several oligarchs may be about to seize the moment and, as I framed it yesterday “….the party regains some control over its leadership, rather than the leadership running completely amok and expecting the party to blindly follow along trying to justify actions as is happening now.

Now the oligarchy are not “the party” per se, and it would appear not all the oligarchy – at the time of writing – are prepared to act to either overtly rein in, or be party to, the ousting of the current national leadership.  It does appear that some may well be prepared to do so however.

I understand that Messrs Firtash and Horoshkovsky have recalled “their deputies” from the Party of Regions effective immediately.  That would be about 12 each.  Sergei Lovochki, who has already resigned as the President’s Chief of Staff, is to withdraw “his” deputies from the Party of Regions also.

Add to that the resignations of Inna Bohoslovska, David Zhvania and Nicholas Rudkovskiy from the Party of Regions (and not to ignore the principled resignations of Natalya Holub at the Ukrainian Embassy in Canada) and we must start to seriously look at the RADA voting numbers.

Opposition MPs, plus independent MPs, plus those who have resigned from Party of Regions, plus those MPs owned by the aforementioned oligarchs gets a number of perhaps 10 – 12 MPs short of winning a vote of no confidence and the removal of the Azarov government.

There is then rumour of another 15 – 20 MPs that are supposedly going to resign from the Party of Regions on Monday from Vinnytsia, Odessa and a few other oblasts.

That theoretically, and disqualifying any duplication in the MP number count, may form a foundation large enough to win a vote of no confidence.

The next 48 hours will be very interesting indeed as to whether that number swells, or some shrink back from their current stance.

I certainly hope that number will become clear within the next 48 hours for the sake of Євромайдан momentum, political opportunity not only forward the direction of the country irrespective of current leadership and in doing so allow for Party of Regions to reclaim control of (and possible remove) its leadership, but also due to the fact that in 72 hours I am going on holiday – again – and would like to leave you dear readers on an entry that is something of a political – and yet not quite decided – crescendo.

%d bloggers like this: