Article: "Democracy in Ukraine is a farce" (EN)


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Article: "Democracy in Ukraine is a farce" (EN)

  1. 1. "Democracy in Ukraine is a farce" Interview with Alisa Ruban, International Secretary of Democratic Alliance By: Frank Visser, International Secretary CDJA. First published: December 2012. Republished: August 2013 You surely remember the last European Championship football. On the road to the tournament Ukraine came frequently in the news. Heads of State, Heads of Government and other dignitaries boycotted Ukraine because of the appalling human rights situation in the country as well the politically motivated trials against politicians like Yulia Tymoshenko. The entire European Commission was absent and The Netherlands decided to send "just" the Minister of Health (responsible for Sport) and not, like the previous plan was, the Prime Minister and members of the Dutch Royal Family. Where Ukraine was a priority in the debate towards the football games, so little is known about the developments which took place in the country since the European Championship. Although our newspapers and news sites paid attention to the last elections in the country, it seems wise to zoom in on the current developments in Ukraine in the context of the democratic transition in which the country is for more than 20 years already. How does the country stands and what are the consequences of the last elections? And does the policies of current president Yanukovich have consequences for the relationship with the European Union (EU)? I talk with Alisa Ruban, my fellow collegue International Secretary of Democratic Alliance (DA). Current developments are worrisome, says Alisa. She indicates that the country has to deal with an increase of corruption, reduction of democratic freedoms and freedom of expression. In addition, there is no independent judiciary. The distribution of "political influence" is mainly confined to the family of President Yanukovich. Thus the inner circle of people close to the President, including both his sons, were appointed to the major positions in the state. The elections of last October were a major setback for the democratic transition in the country. Beside the parliamentary elections also the new law "on all-Ukrainian Referendums" played a role. This law makes it possible to change the constitution by a referendum (which requires three million signatures). The Parliament
  2. 2. has no involvement anymore and the role of political parties is reduced. The law contrary both to the current constitution, the decisions of the Venice Commission and European regulations. Democracy is therefore a farce. Parliamentary elections The elections for the national parliament were, according OSCE observers, unregulated. Additionally the OSCE admitted the “abuse of power” by authorities and “excessive role of money”. Political parties and candidates were facing disturbances such as unfair formation of electoral commissions, bribery, but also fraud during the elections. This occurred during the transfer of the results of individual constituencies to higher authorities. The International Secretary of CDJA is continuously informed about the developments in the country and has recently released a statement (see section "From the International Commission"). The results of the elections has not changed much in the composition of the parliament. The Party of Regions (Yanukovich) is still the largest party and will be compounded by so-called "tushkas" MPs who switch from the opposition to the Party of Regions. Despite this, the results for the ultra-nationalist party Svoboda are spectacular. The party got 10.5% of the votes and was thus for the first time in parliament. These results can be interpret by a huge disappointment to voters in the democratic rulers who came in charge after the Orange Revolution. They made their promises insufficient true. This result indicates Ukrainians wants to have new political leadership. Impact on Democratic Alliance Alisa regrets that her party, Democratic Alliance, had not the chance to participate in the parliamentary elections. The new electoral law limited the participation of new, independent parties in the elections. Moreover, the parties had to contribute more than € 200,000 to be able to register as participant in the elections. Via campaigns, fundraising and active commitment DA gained € 46,327.44 together. Although it was not enough, it was a substantial amount and it shows that parties not only dependent on oligarchs.
  3. 3. Unlike the situation in the Netherlands, in Ukraine there is not a culture in which people donate to charities, community organizations, let alone political parties. However DA was not able to participate as party, they presented a candidate. President of the party Vasyl Gatsko was running as an independent candidate in a constituency of Ukraine’s capital city Kiev. And although Vasyl was not elected, it was a victory for DA, says Alisa. The enormous experience they gained in a first real political campaign and the chats with smart voters who wanted real changes made DA realize that they should continue to contribute to a new Ukraine. DA goes on and one of the major concerns is the fight against corruption. Ruban: “Corruption is the main enemy of the Ukrainian people. It destroys justice and destroys the prospects of a decent life. According to Transparency International report, Ukraine ranks 144th on the Corruption Perceptions Index 2012, which is a shame for the whole nation.” DA takes a clear position; corruption must be dealt harshly. With a new party HQ, DA wants to build up new projects in the fight against corruption. Democracy is a long way The relations between the EU and Ukraine are much discussed, at least at European level. Ukraine is part of the so-called Eastern Partnership of the EU. The Czech diplomat Stefan Füle is is charge for this programme as European Commissioner. Meanwhile Füle had the opportunity several times to visit Yulia Tymoshenko who is detained Charkiv. Among the trial against Tymoshenko and other members of her cabinet, EC-member Füle, the EU, the U.S. and Russia have serious concerns and expressed so. Although, for some time the EU is talking whether they should sign a so-called association agreement1 with Ukraine. In these agreements the EU approves binding agreements with third parties. It is a specific kind of 1 For more information: How does the current parliament looks liked? Party of the Regions (Yanukovich): 210 seats Batkivshchyna (Tymoshenko): 99 seats Klitschko: 42 seats Svoboda: 37 seats Communists: 33 seats Independent: 24 seats *Two candidate MP who were elected via the list of Batkivshchyna changed to Party of the Regions *Candidate of Party of the Regions is elected as Speaker *Mykola Azarov, Prime Minister, is re-elected in his position
  4. 4. international agreement involving extensive cooperation between the EU and the country in the field of e.g. economics. Opinions whether to sign an agreement between the EU and Ukraine differ. Opponents believe that authoritarian regimes should not be rewarded, proponents see opportunities to make progress in specific areas such as human rights, education, and visa regulation. Alisa is in favour of signing and takes the view that an agreement should not be considered as a gift to those who are in power now, but as a matter of obligations to be fulfilled by the Ukrainian side towards democracy and working on a functioning, independent law and -juridical system. It is a choice between new perspectives for Ukrainian citizens and isolation of the country, which can lead to a change in the foreign policy of Ukraine to the east. When asking what we -the Netherlands, but also CDJA- could do to contribute to the improvement of the overall situation in Ukraine Alisa reply clearly. Our country could share its experiences in the field of democracy not only with politicians from Ukraine, but especially with "ordinary" citizens. This can be through the development of bilateral projects, organizing exchanges of (young) professionals from different sectors and providing scholarships so that Ukrainian youth gain experience with European education. It has become clear that the country still has a long wat to go when it comes to democratic freedom, good governance and an independent judiciary. For this reason it is advisable that the programs such as the Eastern Partnership are continued by Füle. Together with the tremendous efforts of Alisa and her party DA it’s hoping that Ukraine will make steps in the right direction. In addition to that, I express the hope that The Netherlands shows that they are still a guiding country when it comes to democracy, human rights, justice and peace. More information? Follow Democratic Alliance on Twitter: @demalliance or Facebook: Alisa Ruban (1988) is Internationaal Secretary of Democratic Alliance and so delegate to the Council of YEPP. She studied Legal Law at NPDU and linguistics in Charkiv. Currently, Alisa is working at Centre UA and made an internship in the EPP in Brussels.