Paradox jeopardizes Ukraine’s transformation


Two years on from the protests that ousted pro-Russian president Viktor Yanukovich, Ukraine’s revolution is confronting its central paradox: many of the leaders who emerged from it were veterans of the oligarch-dominated political system it aimed to sweep away, The Financial Times reports:

At stake may be the future of Ukraine’s pro-western reform project. Decisions in coming days will be critical in determining whether the ex-Soviet republic continues towards greater integration with the EU and more transparent, democratic governance. Or whether, as after its 2004 “Orange” revolution, it slides back into the cronyist authoritarianism typical of most post-Soviet states, and back under Moscow’s influence….

“Ukraine had a revolution, but no revolutionary change,” says Mikheil Saakashvili, the former Georgian president who led his country’s 2003 pro-democracy revolution and subsequent reforms, and has been appointed a regional governor in Ukraine by Mr Poroshenko.

Mr Saakashvili is forming an anti-corruption movement and holding roadshows across the country, to enthusiastic receptions. Without change that ordinary Ukrainians can feel, warns Mr Saakashvili, the country could see a backlash by pro-Western activists — or “restoration” of the old, pro-Russian system.

Sasha Borovik, an adviser to Saakashvili, has said on social media that his boss will lead a new, center-right, socially liberal, and fiscally conservative political party to run in upcoming parliamentary elections, RFE/RL reports.

When Ukraine’s Minister of Economy resigned on 3 February, citing corruption and nepotism among the inner circle of the current president and prime minister, the revelations caused a major political crisis, the European Council on Foreign Relations notes. Ukrainian civil society, reform-oriented politicians, and international observers, had long suspected that key leaders of the “kamikaze government” were less serious about the reform effort (and much more tied to vested interests) than had been publicly acknowledged.

A leading candidate to replace the current premier is US-born finance minister Natalie Jaresko (left), who has reportedly drawn up a ministerial “dream team” for a technocratic government.

But even a Jaresko-led government would prove only a stopgap before early polls, says Serhiy Leshchenko (above), a leading investigative journalist and now one of the parliament’s young anti-corruption crusaders:

He advocates pushing for a new election law to reform party financing and introduce so-called “open party lists”, a mechanism allowing voters to influence which candidates get elected to represent each party.

“We have to be planning for elections at any moment,” says Leshchenko, a former Reagan-Fascell fellow at the National Endowment for Democracy.

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