Ein paar interessante Fakten aus der Sicht von BJuT und wie immer maßlose Übertreibungen. 10.000 Demonstranten, wo andere gerade einmal von 1.000 sprechen. Wahrscheinlich kann Julia nicht einmal vor sich selbst zugeben, dass das was sie macht einfach niemanden mehr interessiert ...
Bei den erwähnten "feindlichen Übernahmen" habe ich eher den Verdacht, dass lokale BJuT-Vertreter ihren eigenen Saft kochen möchten und nicht mehr auf Anweisungen aus Kiew von der "lahmen Ente/lame duck" Julia reagieren. Dass die Leute ihr nicht nur im Parlament weglaufen, dürfte ja kein Wunder sein.
Naja, lest selbst ...
Hier noch einmal alsDiplomats Briefed and Demonstrations Held in Kyiv
Leader of the Opposition Yulia Tymoshenko claims that the authorities are resorting to measures to reduce the gains of the opposition in the local elections due at the end of October. She cited evidence of bogus branches of the Tymoshenko-led Batkivshchyna (Motherland party) set up by the authorities in Western Ukraine to undermine the party in the local elections.
During a meeting with foreign diplomats in Kyiv, she said, “Our party is being hijacked by Yanukovych and his administration with Mr Lyovochkin at its helm.”
Three party members, Bohdan Hubsky, Ivan Denkovych and Arnold Radovets, have been expelled from the party for cooperating with the current authorities to hinder Batkivshchyna’s participation in the local elections.
The opposition warned that in the case of a dispute over the election results, its chances of getting a fair ruling are greatly diminished as such disputes will not be resolved by outside courts, but settled through the Central Election Commission alone. The latter is known to be controlled by President Viktor Yanukovych.
Ms Tymoshenko also reminded diplomats that the elections will take place in an environment where media freedoms have been severely curtailed. By way of example she pointed to the recent revocation of the broadcasting licenses of two TV channels: Channel 5 and TVi.
Mass protest rally
Yesterday, the opposition kick-started the new political season with a mass rally in Kyiv and temporarily blocked the work of parliament after its proposal to introduce a moratorium on gas price hikes wasn’t put to a vote.
Some 10,000 demonstrators protested outside parliament. Many of them made their own personal transport plans to attend. This was necessary as there were widespread reports of bus companies preventing demonstrators from travelling to the city.
Ms Tymoshenko called upon the demonstrators to resist the new 50 percent rise in domestic gas prices introduced by the government. The price hike was one of the measures undertaken to gain a $15 billion stand-by loan from the IMF to help resolve Ukraine’s crippling fiscal crisis.
In parallel, Batkivshchyna warned that the first tranche of IMF money might be diverted to pay a $5.4 billion payment to the gas intermediary, RosUkrEnergo, in line with the ruling of the Stockholm tribunal issued earlier this year. “Our team would be happy to provide the IMF with the information regarding the provenance of the disputed gas and how the whole case was handled at the Stockholm tribunal,” said Ms Tymoshenko at the meeting with foreign diplomats.
The opposition also remains deeply critical of the new draft Tax Code of Ukraine which puts extra pressure on small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). "Every clause of the Tax Code is a step towards rolling up the SME sector while oligarch-run corporations are being given a free rein,” Ms Tymoshenko said.
Speculation suggests that Serhiy Teryohin, a deputy from Ms Tymoshenko’s bloc, may be ousted from his post as the head of the parliamentary tax committee. Mr Teryohin claims this is due to his tough stance on the new version of the Tax Code to be voted upon this autumn. "They know I won’t give them an easy ride. Even more so, the business future of many deputies is directly conditional upon what shape the new Tax Code will take. The people’s interests must come first.”
After much political horse-trading during the summer months, parliament voted on Tuesday for the first reading of the Tax Code adopted in June to be null and void. The new draft of the document was only released this week. The business community complains that the full text remains unavailable, even to the head of the parliamentary tax committee.
Heat Turned Up on Opposition
Former Minister on Interpol List, Net Closing on Turchynov
Ukraine’s law enforcement agencies have intensified the hunt for former officials of Yulia Tymoshenko’s government, with one of its ex-ministers published on Interpol’s wanted list and an arrest of the former first deputy prime minister anticipated by the media. The investigations, aimed exclusively at officials from Ms Tymoshenko’s former administration, represent the worst example of political persecution since the days of President Leonid Kuchma.
Bohdan Danylyshyn, the former Minister for the Economy became a fugitive after the Prosecutor General’s Office launched a criminal probe this summer. He is accused of enriching himself through fraudulent state procurement contracts. Prosecutors claim Mr Danylyshyn caused damages worth of UAH 4.5 million ($570,000) to the Ukrainian state.
The former minister, who is believed by some to be in Germany, denies the allegations and says that he acted in full accordance with the law. In an interview with Kyiv Post, he said he had been on vacation abroad where he was seeking medical treatment. Some sources suspect he may seek political asylum in the EU. However, Mr Danylyshyn denies this saying, “I’m not afraid of anything.” He indicated he would return to Ukraine to clear his name once his medical treatment was completed. Also, he said that he did not consider the case against him to be part of a political vendetta and supported moves to clean-up the state procurement system.
The ex-minister said the charges against him were not valid as he did not handle procurements directly. He stressed that the job of the Ministry was to sign contracts into force once the requisite stamps and paperwork were received. “Typically, it was not our job to choose bidders or negotiate procurement prices,” said Mr Danylyshyn.
The reporter who managed to secure the fugitive ex-minster for an interview was later summoned to the prosecutor’s office for questioning.
Turchynov appears the prime target
Meanwhile, the authorities are closing in on Yulia Tymoshenko’s right-hand man, Oleksandr Turchynov. He was called in for questioning by the SBU today. Reporters are speculating that the former first deputy prime minister could be arrested within days. A former SBU chief himself, he is being investigated for alleged fraud in selling discounted gas to private companies in 2009.
Mr Turchynov claims the charges against him are politically motivated, dismissing them as “completely fabricated.” He pointed out that it was Mr Yanukovych that signed the illegal contracts which saw gas sold at below-market prices when he was prime minister in 2007. Following his questioning today he said, “the security service is investigating a case against state officials who protected the interests of Ukraine."
An insider told Inform, “their goal is not to imprison Tymoshenko as this would embolden support for her. Their focus is Turchynov. By taking him out they aim to remove an effective administrator and make her guilty by association before the local elections.”
Volodymyr Fesenko, the director of the Penta think-tank in Kyiv said, “Arresting officials is one thing, but arresting leaders of the opposition is another. It can boost not only the opposition’s support in Ukraine, but draw unwanted international attention.” He said, “the arrest of Turchynov could be considered political persecution.”
Mr Turchynov says that the state officials detained earlier, the former Deputy Head of Naftohaz Ihor Didenko and the former Head of State Customs Anatoly Makarenko, might be forced to testify against him. They were detained in June and July respectively in an investigation into gas fraud. “With no pre-text allowing them to get at me, they’ll be trying to manipulate the case by forcing evidence from those already detained,” said Mr Turchynov.
Political analysts say the recent moves to detain ex-government officials are designed to give voters the impression of a clampdown on corruption in the run-up to local elections on 31 October.
“This has nothing to do with combating corruption,” says Hryhoriy Nemyria, Ms Tymoshenko’s foreign policy adviser and former deputy prime minister. “If it was, they would be opening investigations into other officials associated with previous administrations. No one from the Party of Regions or Our Ukraine has been detained. This is a witch-hunt aimed at BYuT and it’s because we still pose a threat to them.”
What’s 4 km of Asphalt Between Friends?
Beware, the camera is rolling and the microphone is on. Before a Cabinet of Ministers meeting on 27 August, Deputy Prime Minister Borys Kolesnykov and First Deputy Prime Minister Andriy Klyuyev were heard arguing over the reconstruction of a road from Kyiv to the suburb of Koncha Zaspa.
An incensed Mr Kolesnykov berated his colleague, claiming the road had only been asphalted as far as Mr Klyuyev’s house. He demanded the asphalt be extended another 4 km to his house. "Is it difficult to re-pave another 4 km of the Obukhiv highway?" In summing up his needs he said, “Maybe you can give the order [to continue reconstruction of the highway]. For another 4 km at least, that's all.”
It is noted that an 8 km stretch of road to Mr Yanukovych’s dacha has been renovated at a reputed cost of UAH 50 million ($6.3 million). The estimated cost of the renovation of the major Kyiv ring road is UAH 69 million ($8.7 million).
The video of the exchange is on YouTube: =player_embedded
Will Ukraine’s Democracy Survive 2010?
As President Viktor Yanukovych calls for extra powers others warn that this could heighten political corruption. Long before he became president, the Ukrainian Centre for Economic and Political Studies cited “political corruption” as the largest threat to Ukrainian democracy. Now, with local elections two months away, Ukraine is beset by low levels of public trust in state institutions and there exists a deep cynicism of politicians.
The public does not have to look far to see how corruption has permeated Ukraine’s political structures. Nowhere is this more evident than in the buying up of deputies. A practice that effectively changes the election result after the people have had their say.
The practise was common under the Yanukovych government in 2006-2007 and led to the presidential decree that dissolved parliament and triggered pre-term elections. Politically speaking, it is a one-way street. In 2007-2010 neither Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko nor President Viktor Yushchenko sought to change parliament’s configuration by buying up Party of Regions deputies even though their coalition had a wafer thin majority.
One can argue that before President Yanukovych came into office, Ukraine’s institutions were already suffering from low levels of public trust – a fact that manifested itself in a lack of public enthusiasm for this year’s presidential elections. A November 2009 survey by the Washington-based International Centre for Electoral Studies found that all the leading candidates received negative ratings. While this was not surprising for the incumbent prime minister who was dealing with the worst economic and financial crisis in half a century, opposition leader Yanukovych also had negative ratings and received half a million fewer votes than he received in the 2004 elections. The so called “new face” candidates, such as Arseniy Yatseniuk and Sergei Tigipko, faired little better. Today, according to the latest polls, nothing much has changed other than a dramatic double digit plunge in Mr Yanukovych’s ratings. This is largely as a result of tough austerity measures combined with unconstitutional moves such as extending the Russian navy’s lease of its Black Sea base in Sevastopol.
This political malaise is set against a backdrop of media repression and persecution of opposition politicians. Not surprisingly it is prompting many to ask if Ukraine’s democracy will survive 2010? Perhaps one way to answer this question is to examine the health of the country’s democratic institutions.
Constitutional Court pressured
The Constitutional Court – the nation’s supreme legal authority – has its reputation in tatters after being intimidated to change its position from its 2008 ruling that only permitted factions to establish coalitions. Whilst this enabled a coalition and a government to be formed, it took away the credibility and legitimacy of this once revered state institution.
Enabling parliament to establish a coalition that includes individual defectors gave a green light for the bribing of opposition deputies. With only 220 deputies in three factions, the remaining members of the Stability and Reforms coalition, numbering nearly 40, have been bribed, blackmailed or coerced to defect from the opposition. Various sources point to sums in the region of a $1 million one-off payment to join the coalition, coupled with $25,000 paid each month until the next parliamentary election in September 2012. The desired result is a weakening of another important democratic institution: the opposition.
The opposition is facing a full scale assault. Its leaders are under the scrutiny of the SBU and the subject of Kuchma-style witch-hunts. They have all but been squeezed off television and given little coverage by the Ukrainian press.
This leads to the undermining of the other institution crucial to a democracy, the media. International watchdogs have been critical of numerous instances of censorship – from the removal of broadcasting licenses to the intimidation and assault of journalists.
Cancelling constitutional reforms
Political corruption and coercion has enabled Mr Yanukovych to de facto revert Ukraine to a presidential system and place the coalition and government under presidential control. To ensure that the move back to the 1996 presidential system is complete, the Party of Regions has raised the question of changing the constitution.
There is already speculation about extending the length of the president’s term from five to seven years. There exists a precedent for this. The president’s term was extended from four to five years by the 2006 constitution. A second autocratic step will be to bribe deputies to support the extension of the life of parliament by three years to 2015.
For now the Yanukovych administration appears intent on cancelling the 2004 constitutional reforms introduced in 2006, thereby giving the president absolute power for an extended term. If it succeeds, Parliamentary Chairman Volodymyr Lytvyn believes that parliament’s fate will be unclear.
Of course none of this was mentioned during Mr Yanukovych’s presidential election campaign. “This is because nobody would have gone to vote for Kuchma-2,” wrote Ukrayinska Pravda journalist Serhiy Leshchenko. Mr Yanukovych did not campaign to increase presidential powers and therefore has no moral right to now seek to increase them, he added, comparing claims by Mr Yanukovych that he needs more powers to introduce “reforms” with other authoritarian leaders such as Robert Mugabe, who called for greater power to undertake “land reforms.”
As Rutgers University Professor Alexander Motyl states, “the Party of Regions wants power for the sake of power. It wants to rule. Alone. Everything. All the time. Controlling the Parliament and the Cabinet and the Presidency is therefore not enough. The governors must be subordinated, the capital city Kyiv must be captured, university autonomy, freedom of assembly, and press freedoms must be curbed, and the secret police must be mandated to sniff out dissenters. Oh, and the city councils and the mayors must be subordinated – as indeed they will be in forthcoming local elections in October.”
Democracy threat from a super presidential system
The threat to Ukrainian democracy with the move back to a super presidential system could galvanise opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko as she was the first Ukrainian leader who, in a April 2008 speech in Strasbourg, outlined her support for a parliamentary system.
The last two decades have proven that countries in Eastern Europe and the Baltic states that adopted parliamentary systems have moved ahead in successfully building democracies. In contrast, countries in the CIS adopting presidential systems have become autocracies.
If President Yanukovych makes Ukraine a super presidential system he will threaten both its democratic progress and its prospects for European integration. Parliament would resort to an ineffectual rubber stamp institution. It is not far off that now.
Local election law undermines democracy
Another area threatening Ukraine’s democracy is the new law on local elections. Although aspects of it were watered down on 30 August, the law still prevents political blocs from fielding candidates. Traditionally, the two former orange forces have competed in elections as blocs (BYuT, Our Ukraine-People’s Self Defence). The new law is designed to benefit the Party of Regions and keep the opposition fragmented and weakened.
Of course there are many other deeply worrying developments in Ukraine that infringe on standards of democracy. These include the use of the State Security Service to pressure the media and opposition; the use of tax inspectors to harass opponents; the selling off of state assets at discount prices; the granting of state contracts without public tender; ignoring the rights of Crimean Tartars; the jailing of officials working for the former administration to get them to testify against political opponents; the list goes on and on.
So back to our question, will Ukraine’s democracy survive until the end of 2010? When you examine the erosion of democratic institutions the outlook appears bleak. Yet maybe there is a more important question that needs answering – one that eclipses all others. Why are Washington and Brussels so softly-spoken in their criticism of Ukraine’s democratic regression?
Top of the Mornin’ to You Mr Prodi
President Viktor Yanukovych’s visit to Germany was marred by criticism over the deterioration of media freedoms in Ukraine. While the gaffe-prone head of state avoided any embarrassing collisions with wreaths he again revealed a penchant for confusing countries.
His geographical faux pas occurred during a speech in Berlin at the Hotel Adlon. When recalling a conversation with Romano Prodi the former Italian President of the European Commission, Mr Yanukovych referred to him as “Romano Prodi from Ireland.”
In March 2010 Mr Yanukovych confused Kosovo with Serbia and Montenegro. Another time he confused Austria with Australia. All this comes from a man who boasts an MA and Ph.D.
In an article for the Atlantic Council, Alexander J Motyl, Professor of Political Science at Rutgers University wrote: “A twice-convicted felon as a youth, Yanukovych the mature politician then completed two degrees in two years while working full-time running Donetsk province. Either the guy’s a genius, or running Donetsk is a piece of cake, or–wait–maybe the degrees aren’t worth the paper they’re printed on, or–wait–maybe someone did his homework.”
Another insight into Mr Yanukovych’s academic prowess came during a visit last week to a school in the Obolon district of Kyiv. When a journalist enquired as to his favourite school subject, he replied “I enjoyed sports most of all.” When quizzed about his behaviour at school, he replied enigmatically that he behaved “in different ways.” Enough said.