Election campaign gathers pace in Ukraine
from 87 political parties are running for parliamentary seats in majority
constituencies, whilst 22 political parties will compete under party lists. In
some majority constituencies the competition is as high as 30-40 candidates for
one deputy seat. Unfortunately around half of them are suspected of being dummy
to reports from the Ukrainian media about 10 thousand foreign observers are
expected to arrive in Ukraine. The OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and
Human Rights is launching its international observation mission in early
September. Some 100 long term observers from OSCE member states will arrive in
Ukraine starting from the middle of September, followed by 600 short-term
observers who will arrive a week before the elections to monitor the election
process at voting stations.
assist observers, voting stations will be equipped with surveillance cameras.
The Central Election Committee of Ukraine has approved the purchase of cameras
for the purpose of the 2012 parliamentary elections at a cost of Hr 993 million.
($124 million). Some members of the Committee have raised doubts regarding the
efficiency of this measure.
to recent research the people’s sympathy is divided as follows: United Opposition
(Batkivschyna with Yulia Tymoshenko and Front Zmin with Arseniy Yatsenyuk) has
the most support at 26%, the governing Party of the Regions has 24 percent, the
political party of boxing champion Volodymyr Klitschko 12 percent, the
Communist Party of Ukraine 9 percent, Ukraina – Vpered political Party 4.3
percent (many experts believe it is merely a puppet of the current government)
and Svoboda, the all-Ukrainian nationalist union have only 4.2 percent. Some 15
percent of people studied have not yet made up their minds as to who to vote
the election process has started, political parties and candidates have become
uncharacteristically active whilst the government is keen to be the ultimate
winner. However, if they fail to uphold transparent democratic processes their
victory may prove short lived.
First Comment: According to press
reports, Vladimir Shapoval, Chairman of the Central election commission for the
forthcoming parliamentary elections has said that… “ the election will meet
national standards but may fall short of international standards of
legitimacy”. His comments were made
after a meeting with the German Ambassador whom it would seem has left him in
no doubt over the standards required by the international community. He further commented that Ukrainians should
“…distinguish between internal and external legitimacy…” and that… “the CEC
does not require a positive and objective assessment. Nevertheless we will try
to hold elections so that their results for Ukraine look dignified.’
One has to ask quite
what the CEC are proposing… free and almost fair… almost free with a charade of
fairness… who is going to determine the internal standard of legitimacy? Is he
suggesting that national dignity should override national democracy? After such
comments Mr Shapoval should do the only honourable thing… by international
standards… and resign as he clearly has no idea of what is expected in
democratic elections. If the CEC cannot
guarantee to hold free and fair elections then the whole election should be
scrapped until officials can be found and legislation prepared to ensure ‘Free’
and ‘Fair’ elections. There is no other
democratic standard. The people of
Ukraine have the right to demand that the forthcoming elections truly, fairly
and legitimately reflect their will…
However as with all
political matters in Ukraine there is always a 2nd and possibly 3rd
agenda as on the basis of his comments the President can demand free and fair
elections, thereby appeasing his international critics. The CEC would then be required to deliver
free and fair elections at least on paper as whilst the vote may express the
will of the people the selection and funding of candidates most certainly does
not. According to press reports some 70%
of all candidates are being funded directly or indirectly by the governing
political party or its supporters. This could well set a scenario whereby Party
of Regions are defeated in the polls but can then form a majority in parliament
through horse trading with those they have supported. Furthermore Party of Regions control all of
the Regional governors and a majority of local councils thus any independent
majoritarian deputy that really wants to achieve anything for his constituents’
is going to have to bargain at all levels… Perhaps this is what Shapoval means
by internal legitimacy and national dignity?
Corruption, no part of Ukraine untouched
The current social
security system in Ukraine requires substantial reform. Yanukovych reports that
only about 23 percent of social service funds go to those who actually need it.
This alleges that 80 percent of social benefits are being granted to people
with high income. The President of Ukraine believes that the country should
abandon the social benefits system in favour of targeted financial aid to
socially unprotected people. The Ukrainian media have featured many stories
revealing that even parliamentarians illegally receive social benefits,
fraudulently claiming to be war and Chornobyl veterans.
report that in 2011 almost 45 percent of homes had at least one social security
beneficiary. According to official data sources the state has 45 types of
social benefit with nearly 18 million people who either receive or are eligible
to receive such benefits. The most common benefits are transport (26.7 percent)
and public utilities (21.7%) benefits. The least utilized benefit is to free
spa treatments and recreation trips – only 0.4% of homes.
It is no wonder that
audit company Ernst & Young put Ukraine among the three most corrupted
nations of the world together with Columbia and Brazil. The research conducted
by analysts at Ernst & Young shows that the practice of top managers
accepting bribery increased by 9 percent in 2011 and 15 percent in 2012.
Another 4 percent are ready to pay bribes in order to hide the details of their
First Comment: Ukraine already has in
place systems for means testing all applicants for social benefits. The system was developed in the late 1990’s
by the American professor Dr Roger Vaughan in a project called ‘Nash Dim’ that
was funded by the World Bank. The
project was a bid to reduce the cost of the housing subsidy and to ensure that
social support was only given to those with real need or were deserving under
the law. At the time the Minister of
Social Protection hailed the means testing system as revolutionary and stated
that in future this would be the system for all social support offered under
The president is right
to question this issue as social protection is one of the most expensive parts
of the national budget. One has to
question why Ukraine needs 45 different classes of social benefit. Most certainly in any modern state there
needs to be systems to protect those in genuine need but it would appear that
as with many other systems in Ukraine the legislation has major loopholes that
are allowing the greedy to swindle the nation.
We would actively support any action by the administration to reduce the
fraud and to ensure that social support is properly targeted to those in need.
Government and Internet, unsteady friends
Sociologists report that
since the beginning of 2012 social networks have been the most popular Internet
portals among Ukrainians. Out of all Internet users in Ukraine which account
for almost 15 million people (38 percent of the adult population) 52 percent
(7.6 million people) regularly visit Facebook, Vkontakte and Odnoklassniki.
Only Facebook has more than 2 million users from Ukraine considering that in
January 2011 only 1 million Ukrainians had Facebook accounts.
Prime Minister Mykola Azarov
decided to support Internet communication and advised all ministers and local
governors to communicate with the people through Internet as he personally
receives a lot of information on Facebook which he uses to make decisions.
So the number of
Internet users in Ukraine is continuously growing. The governing authorities
have started to open criminal cases on infringements committed on the Internet.
According to the spokesperson of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Ukraine,
the first criminal case relates to posts in social networks which violate the
rules of fair competition. Other case has been initiated due to the breach of
confidentiality as a result of publication of personal data. Only during the
last few months over 10 Ukrainian web-sites offering illegal services have been
shut down. At the same time, Interior Minister Vitaliy Zakharchenko has
addressed the Cabinet of Ministers earlier this month and suggested to regulate
the level of access to information on the Internet. So the risk that after
Internet control the government will attack the freedom of speech in electronic
media including social networks.
People First Comment: Ukraine seems to be so swept up in its Social
Media tidal wave – which even drags political dinosaurs in its wake – that few
people have taken the time to examine what it is they are surfing on, let alone
where it might be going. The first misconception is that, because you are
sharing with friends, social networks are private platforms. In fact, sharing
on social media can be likened to chatting to your friends in a busy bar…
except that everything you say is entered into a permanent record and painted
up on the wall.
Secondly, there seems to
be a prevailing idea that online crime is somehow not as real as ‘real’ crime.
However, I hope few would argue with the claim that paedophiles should be
prosecuted for propositioning children for sex – regardless of whether it takes
place in a playground or an online forum.
One genuinely unanswered
question is how, as a global people, we want these media to be policed; if a
French citizen commits a crime from a laptop in Germany, on a server in the
USA, that harms a Ukrainian woman on holiday in Israel: how many national laws
and police forces should it take to bring him to justice? Issues such as free
speech vs. hate speech, intellectual property rights and multinational fraud
call out for a global consensual approach to legislation, police and politics –
in the meantime, national enforcers will have to do their best.
The fact that Ukraine’s
authorities shutting-down of illegal (prostitution) websites sparked an outcry
in protection of free speech is an indictment of how ready the public are for
the next wave of repressions from the incumbent regime. Its not that Ukrainians
don’t want the Internet policed… they just don’t trust a biased criminal elite
to be the ones to do it.
No need for tourism in Ukraine
hosted a major European football championship, the government of Ukraine has
failed to understand the importance of developing the country’s tourism
potential. After visiting Ukraine, 42 percent of European guests mentioned that
the English language information support for foreigners needed substantial
improvement. 33 percent felt that road repair was very much necessary. 31% of
tourists believed that hotel accommodation was way overpriced.
The Kyiv Municipal
Administration heard what tourists had to say and have done the opposite
cancelling the English language announcements at metro stations. Why? Very simple
– because Euro-2012 is over. It seems like major Ukrainian cities are not
interested in foreign tourists post Euro-2012. Instead of making more foreign
language guides, street maps and additional helpful information for guests, the
Kyiv Municipal Administration have even decided instead to close down what has
already been set up for the convenience of European football fans.
It should not be
forgotten that the positive impression of Ukraine created during Euro-2012 has
made Europeans feel somewhat better about Ukraine’s integration with the EU.
People’s diplomacy has made all the difference. 40 percent of interviewed
European football fans who visited Ukraine believe that that the country
deserves to become an EU member state in the near future. 31 percent of respondents
noted that Ukraine could become a member of the EU in the middle term).
Thus by slowing down the development of tourism in Ukraine the government is
directly restraining the process of European integration.
First Comment: It seems that whilst
the administration crow on about wanting to attract tourists to Ukraine they do
precious little to make the country more attractive or more tourist
friendly. To be honest you can see
practically all there is to see in Kyiv in a long weekend as once you have seen
the main city holy places – the Lavra, St Sophias, Andrievsky Spusk and the few
decent art galleries – there is not a lot more to see.
Getting out of the city
to anywhere decent is a long drive across miles of open farm land and once you
arrive most tourists would be bitterly disappointed. The hailed gardens at Uman for example need
massive investment to bring them up to anywhere near the expectation of foreign
tourists. Lviv and Odessa are colourful
cities with a lot of history but the same cannot be said for the industrial
cities of the East. The Carpathian Mountains are stunning but what little
infrastructure that exists is disproportionately expensive by international
The problem is that no
government has ever developed a national plan to revitalise the nation’s assets
or to develop new ones that will be of interest to the tourist community. Kyiv Zoo is a classic example. The Zoo is roundly condemned as one of the
worst in Europe. The Zoo administration
does their best on very meagre resources but they are trying to patch up what
is a sinking ship. The land under the
Zoo is worth considerably more than the cost of building a modern green field
park style zoo on the outskirts of the city leaving the existing site open for
much needed redevelopment. Sadly nobody
in government or the city administration thinks this way preferring to squabble
over who will be allowed to buy the land and so the status quo prevails.
Viktor Tkachuk is chief executive officer of
the People First Foundation, which seeks to strengthen Ukrainian democracy. The
organization’s website is: www.peoplefirst.org.ua and the e-mail address is: email@example.com