"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
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
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.
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.
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
with Ukraine. In these agreements
the EU approves binding agreements with third parties. It is a specific kind of
For more information: http://www.europa-nu.nl/id/vh7dosdm4dzj/associatieovereenkomst
How does the current
parliament looks liked?
Party of the Regions
(Yanukovich): 210 seats
(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
*Mykola Azarov, Prime
Minister, is re-elected in his
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.
Follow Democratic Alliance on Twitter: @demalliance or
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.