Ukraine is famous for a number of things, revolution being one of them and corruption another. To some degree, that corruption label is still justified. Though those who say “nothing has changed” are dead wrong, because, while there are still deep-seated fundamental problems that need to be addressed in the country, there have also been a significant number of anti-corruption reform successes in the last few years.
Patience is a virtue
Ukrainians, however, have been patient. Maybe because the sacrifices of the Revolution of Dignity were so great, the people of Ukraine waited until they had their opportunity to reject, again, the remnants of the old system. This time they’re doing it via the ballot box rather than on Maidan.
When this issue of What’s On hits the streets, there will be just one week before Ukrainians go back to the polling stations. The last time that happened, the legacy of former President Petro Poroshenko was made clear. He was not just rejected, he was resolutely beaten by a man who has no political experience, dubious connections to certain oligarchs (who now feel emboldened, it should be noted), and who did little actual campaigning for the job of Head of State. Such was the rejection of Poroshenko, a 73-27 landslide win for then candidate Zelenskiy, that it was clear that voters were desperate for someone new. Anyone in fact.
With the presidency now in the hands of Zelenskiy, what does the next stage of Ukraine’s political evolution look like? We need to put the parties vying for seats in Parliament into two groups.
Old versus new
The old groups and the genuinely new parties. The ‘been-there-before’ include Tymoshenko’s Batkivschyna Party, the “Opposition” Bloc (in a myriad of splinter groups), European Solidarity, Lyashko’s Radical Party, and the Samopomich group of Lviv Mayor Andriy Sadovy.
What do any of these people really offer? Tymoshenko, one of Ukraine’s longest serving politicians, is leading a PR campaign noting that “Action is needed”! Twenty years of getting rich in the dirty business of Ukrainian politics and now she thinks that’s going to win over voters. Well, maybe those who are blind to the fact that in 20 years she’s delivered nothing to improve the lives of ordinary citizens while her own life became one of immense luxury.
The Opposition Bloc – for which we can thank convicted felon Paul Manafort – is what? They’re the last vestiges of Yanukovych’s Party of Regions. They’re all rich businesspeople. They got rich while using their parliamentary platform to avoid prosecution. And most, if not all, will have voted for the 16/01/14 Dictatorship Laws. They should be rejected, they offer modern, developing, European Ukraine nothing.
What’s in a name?
European Solidarity is the new name for what was previously the Bloc of Petro Poroshenko – a name change that clearly indicates that they know the Poroshenko brand is tarnished. This isn’t a “new” party.
Lyashko is a windbag. He bangs on about being a patriot, but he’s another one who is more concerned with self-interest than the good of the country. And while good things are said about Mayor Sadovy, his party, Samopomich, were not the reformers they had been touted as when they entered parliament after the last revolution.
Sadly, we will have to live with a few of these people in parliament for now. But they will be in the minority. Because there are the genuinely new parties: President Zelenskyi’s servant of the People party and the Holos Party, led by rock star Slava Vakarchuk. They’re both trying to lure voters with a genuinely interesting tactic: their party members represent new faces. Considering the previously listed choices, it’s a wise play.
Use your choice
One way voters can assess whether any particular candidate or party is worthy of their vote is to look at their record. However, with no record in politics to assess, this race should be judged on character.
1. Do your research. Look at the parties and the candidates up and down the party lists, look at the professional activities and lives of the candidates and ask yourself: “Will they be the change we need?”
2. Vote. The greatest display that democracy is alive and well in Ukraine, which is a message to many neighbouring countries, is a high turnout. And here in Ukraine, the stakes are very high.