Reforming Ukraine after the revolutions



Sergii Leshchenko and Mustafa Nayyem [above] were two muckraking journalists who had contempt for Ukraine’s corrupt political system. So they became politicians, Joshua Yaffa writes for The New Yorker:

Both Leshchenko and Nayyem are convinced that the tolerance for old political habits is lower than the ruling élite estimates. In late June, along with [veteran democracy activist Svitlana] Zalishchuk [below, right] and several other young reformers, the two men announced that they would be launching a new movement. The founding platform calls for “transforming Ukraine into a modern European country.” It will be Ukraine’s first party in twenty-five years to have an ideological foundation, instead of relying on the personality of one leader and the financial backing of an oligarch. The next parliamentary election could be as distant as three years away. For the new party, that might be a good thing. ….

Nadia Diuk, a vice-president of the NED, could tell that Nayyem was tempted by the chance to take part in building a new Ukraine but wary of associating himself with a universally reviled system. For people like Leshchenko and Nayyem, Diuk said, “their reputation was built on them being clean.” She added, “And politics, especially in Ukraine, is a dirty business.”

“The problem of the previous generation of politicians is their corruption,” Nayyem said. “Our problem is our inexperience—we lack competency in a lot of questions.”

The Ukrainian government needs a new start in September, writes Anders Åslund, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council and author of the book “Ukraine: What Went Wrong and How to Fix It”:

Hopefully, it can fix its system for e-declarations of assets and incomes, permitting the IMF board to convene. But will the government be able to privatize, improve the judicial system, and prepare pension and land reforms? Perhaps the best we can hope for is that the sound reforms that have been implemented will not be reversed.

A European diplomat in Kiev told me that E.U. officials have become frustrated by what they see as Poroshenko’s attempts to manipulate European sympathy for Ukraine, Yaffe adds:

“He knows perfectly well that we cannot allow Ukraine to fail, that we have invested a lot in this country, and we need to have Ukraine as a success story,” the diplomat said. “And he is abusing that knowledge. It is infuriating.”

Leshchenko [a former Reagan-Fascell fellow at the National Endowment for Democracy] and Nayyem think that officials in Washington and Brussels could be tougher on Poroshenko and his ministers. Western capitals have ended up “prisoners of this government,” Nayyem told me. Foreign donors pay for various reform projects, he said, while the government in Kiev merely “talks about reforms” but often doesn’t see them through. If Ukraine were unable to count on unconditional Western money, Poroshenko might have to get serious about reform. “Poroshenko played a small game,” Nayyem said. “It’s not worthy of the kind of leader we wanted to see after Maidan.”



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