Now is time for grassroots protesters to strike a deal with political parties, or start new ones.
The good news is that more Ukrainians are finally starting to take to the streets
. They are rightfully protesting President Viktor Yanukovych’s rollback on democratic freedoms as well as equally repressive economic policies that benefit his loyal oligarch friends while choking the rest of business, both big and small.
The bad news is that while the protesters share common values and goals, they are fragmented. Worst of all, there is a discouraging viewpoint spreading across Ukraine that political parties have no place in these peaceful protests, that civic society and grassroots organizations should lead the fight for justice and fairness.
It is understandable why most Ukrainians, including those on the streets, have lost trust in politicians. Many of Ukraine’s 192 political parties are shams.
Others are oligarch-dominated political shields. Still others are led by power-hungry populists.
However, a strong and constructive opposition represented in parliament by political parties is needed in Ukraine now more than ever before. Yet less than 5 percent of Ukrainians are members of any political party at all.
Those who criticize the status quo should ask themselves what they can do to bring about change from within. Are they members of a political party? Have they ever been members? Have they as members of a party sought to introduce U.S.-styled election primaries that could help shape parties from within?
If Ukraine’s protest movement gains momentum, isolated groups may win over a concession here and there from Ukraine’s current authoritarian leaders.
But they will fail to change the nation's overall direction.
Now is the time for grassroots protesters to strike a deal with political parties, or start new ones.
If the next parliamentary election to be held in fall 2012 is democratic, the parties that become democratic from within stand a chance to accomplish much more than take control of the Verkhovna Rada. They could help put the country back on the right path.
But to accomplish this, they will need a much stronger base of support. In functioning democracies, this comes not on the streets through revolution, but through large numbers of party members who share the same principles about how a nation should develop and act upon it.