A Dark Message to Shevchenko

Martijn Groenewold

The Ukrainian Andrey Shevchenko, alias Sheva, doesn’t play football anymore. He’s a politician now. In a deeply divided country, suffering from a tough economic situation, holding elections evidently leads to social unrest. Especially when there are serious allegations of corruption and cheating in the elections. The elections I’m talking about, are the parliamentary elections of the 28th of October in Ukraine. The problem of these elections is that they were basically the first serious elections since Viktor Yanukovych came into power in 2010. Because this man – and his party in general (the Party of Regions) – have a reputation of being corrupt and undemocratic, these elections have been seen by the Council of Europe and the OSCE as a serious test for the state of Ukrainian democracy. The ruling Party of Regions has miserably failed this test, so much is yet clear.

First of all, however, I do not want to claim either the far right-wing party of Svoboda, or the Batkivschyna United Opposition Bloc of Yulia Tymoshenko are less corruptive. I do want to claim that they have less tendencies – at least the Batkivschyna party — to censorship, intimidation and other forms of authoritarian rule. The Party of Regions charmed a lot of voters in the campaign before the election by raising certain pensions for elderly people (which they actually gradually lowered in the last couple of years). A lot of common people are understandably happy with that, but the budget deficit of Ukraine gets higher and higher. Furthermore, the populist move in campaigning time is rather dangerous because it threatens the stability of the monetary state of Ukraine.

Of course, creating populair legislation in election time is nothing new. The use of state resources for campaigning is not new either, it is a highly questionable form of behavior though. The strong restrictions on the free press in Ukraine in the past two years have resulted in a big “good news show” on the Party of Regions in the mainstream media in Ukraine. This ruling party, however, does not have enough seats in parliament for a majority, and is therefore obliged to look for a coalition. The only party that is wanting to cooperate with the ruling party – just like in Russia – is the Communist Party. With the rather big (around 13% of the total votes) support for the Communist Party, the Party of Regions can form a majority in parliament and go on with the creation of interesting, usually not very effective or democratic legislation.

Today the news was brought that the surprisingly populair Svoboda and Yulia’s United Opposition will probably mobilize people to go out on the streets – something we saw in 2004 as well. Sort of an “Orange Revolution: the sequel.” The prospects of a successful mobilization are rather poor though. Most people still remember the Orange Revolution too well, and also remember the very disappointing aftermath of it – which is mostly the fault of the two main leaders back then and their parties, Yushchenko and his Our Ukraine and Tymoshenko with her Batkivschyna Bloc. Yanukovyc is making excellent use of this divided opposition, which shows that he has strategic intelligence. It apparently makes up for his huge lack of knowledge about policy making and governance.

Concluding, I think the Party of Regions will rule for another, pretty long period of time. And though all of Europe is in a period of a dark economy, budget-wise, Ukraine enters another period of relative deprivation, which will continue to annul the results of the Orange Revolution. Not a happy message I’d say, but the elections of 28th of October haven’t been a happy one in general. And so did the start of Sheva’s new dream, to help develop his country, result in a nightmare. His party didn’t pass the 5% threshold, which means he won’t become a member of parliament.

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One response to “A Dark Message to Shevchenko”

  1. therussiawatch says :

    Reblogged this on The Russia Watch and commented:
    The Near Abroad

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