Ukrainian civil society ‘gearing up’ to counter patronalistic regime?


Credit: VOA

The appointment of former U.S. ambassador to NATO Kurt Volker (right) to be special representative to Ukraine could breathe some much-needed life back into the drive for peace, whose momentum has slowed in recent years, Foreign Policy’s Robbie Gramer writes.

“Unfortunately, there is some ‘Ukraine fatigue’ in Europe right now. It has become accepted as a background condition in European security,” said Tobias Bunde, a European security expert at the Hertie School of Governance in Berlin. “Berlin would be quite happy if the United States would bring its power back to the negotiating table,” he said.

Volker is expected to travel with secretary of state Rex Tillerson to Kiev on July 9 to meet with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and members of Ukrainian civil society.

Poroshenko has submitted to parliament a bill that would cancel draconian asset declaration rules for anti-corruption activists, seeking to bring the requirements in line with common Western practices, the Kyiv Post reports.

In an interview, Dmytro Shymkiv, deputy head of the Presidential Administration, said bills 6674 and 6675 would make the public aware of how tax-exempt money is being spent “as it is done everywhere else in the world” and bring Ukraine up to international standards, writes Melinda Haring, the editor of the Atlantic Council’s UkraineAlert:

In the end, he said the e-declaration system makes it hard to convince talented people to work in government. “I have no motivation and incentive to encourage people from business to come in because of e-declarations,” he said…..Denys Bihus (above), a Ukrainian investigative journalist and the founder and host of Nashi Groshi (“Our Money”), disagrees. “It’s manna from heaven,” he said referring to the e-declaration system in a June 7 interview in Washington, DC. Bihus was in Washington to receive a 2017 Democracy Award from the National Endowment for Democracy. After Bihus’ show recently examined Batkivshchyna’s party finances and found that the many small donors that were listed on paper were not really donors, the National Agency for the Prevention of Corruption looked into the case and sent the violations to the National Police.

Ukrainian civil society is gearing up for a new confrontation with the old system, and needs western help in finishing the job, according to Andreas Umland, a Senior Research Fellow at the Institute for Euro-Atlantic Cooperation in Kyiv. The recent ‘anti-corruption measures’ have created some dangerous momentum, he writes for Open Democracy:

Their further attack on Ukraine’s various corrupt schemes could weaken the Poroshenko clan vis-à-vis other networks, like those of former prime-minister Yulia Tymoshenko, in the wake of the 2019 presidential elections. Or it could even mean the start of the dismantling of the patronalistic regime altogether, and its step-by-step replacement with a political system containing real political parties, and regulated by the rule of law. ….This new rule doesn’t only create practical hindrances for monitoring and investigative organisations. It also leaves the unhealthy impression that anti-corruption activists need to be especially supervised by the government — an approach that turns the interaction between civil society and the government, in a modern democratic state, on its head.

What patronalism is made of

A recent book outlines, in detail, a new theory of post-Soviet political rule and helps to explain the curious contradictions in Ukraine’s politics today, Umland adds:

In 2015, Henry E. Hale (left), a political scientist at George Washington University [and a former Reagan-Fascell fellow at the NED], published a ground-breaking monograph under the intriguing title Patronal Politics: Eurasian Regime Dynamics in Comparative Perspective. In this broad study of post-Soviet socio-economic and political life, Hale lays out a comprehensive re-interpretation of state-society interactions, oligarchic rule, center-periphery relations, presidential as well as economic power, parliamentary affairs, party building, policy formation and media landscapes, in the USSR’s successor states. RTWT

Graph: The Index for Monitoring Reforms from VoxUkraine and Interfax Ukraine, which measures experts’ perceptions of governmental reform activity in various fields, shows a constant lowering of the Ukrainian reform drive, between early 2015 and mid-2017.

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