Law 3700 and the Need for Electoral Reform in Ukraine

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Poroshenko, Kolomoisky, Firtash and Akhmetov all retain directly or indirectly some level of control over the affairs of state and over the electoral process itself.

No matter that Firtash is currently in exile in Austria, where Poroshenko and Vitali Klitschko visited him in 2014 apparently as part of a Birthday event for the other Klitschko. Tymoshenko and Yatsenyuk continue to exert influence either opposing or supporting the new ‘Presidential Government’ for their reasons of their own perceived good; the current opinion polls showing little support for Yatsenyuk so he is desperate to delay any new Rada elections while Tymoshenko, who’s support appears stronger, is as desperate to have new elections as soon as possible whereby she can enrich herself and her stooges from the post of Prime Minister – perhaps she will do another ‘deal’ with Putin?
Among this swirling mess of personalities, each primarily out for themselves come and go a myriad of political parties with whatever convenient name comes to mind, alliances, backroom deals, coalitions, back stabbing and sniping. What matters is NOT the political party or the policies that naturally follow from a political philosophy inherent is a stable political party but merely the fortunes of the political personality. In effect the Ukrainian political system is not ‘democratic’ but ‘populist’ in a malevolent manner. While in every other European nation (excluding Muscovy) a stable Party System exists which broadly reflects a Conservative/Liberal divide in Ukraine the political parties are merely vehicles and tools of Oligarchs and populist politicians of the hour.
One of the reasons for this is the power these Oligarchs and politicians hold over the electoral process itself first among which is the Party List System, which allows the entrenched interests to reward their friends (or people who pay) with seats in the Rada where they are supposed to represent the people… Now we can argue about the benefits and drawbacks of Proportional Representation – personally I am not a fan since it tends towards coalitions. The point is though that in any democracy there are supposed to be two parts; the Executive, that is the Government (including the President where the President exerts executive power) and the Parliament (Rada) whose function is acting as a check on any abuse of power by the Executive. The question is how can those elected on the Party List system and already beholden to the political elites be expected to act on the people’s behalf as a check on any abuse by the Executive to whom they are – in the majority already in debt of gratitude? Thus, by the Party List system the Deputies are not answerable to the people of some regions, that elected them, but to the very elites whom they have ostensibly been elected to keep a check on. It is making a mockery of the whole system and leads to the ‘malevolent personality populism’ that we see in Ukraine today instead of a the normal stable European Party System by saying France or Britain.
As if this were not bad enough the Party List System has been further abused by the infamous Law 3700 the effect of which is to render all Deputies incapable of fulfilling their duties as they should under a democratic system. Law 3700 allows for the removal of an elected Deputy and his/her replacement by someone further down on the Party List. A Newsweek article compares this law to the January 16th ‘Dictatorship Laws’ of Yanukovych. Essentially Party Lists can be changed anytime after the election to get rid of sitting Deputies and bring in chosen replacements/cronies as and when the Party Managers wish. Igor Firsov, elected on the Poroshenko Party List is no longer a sitting Deputy but neverless headed the ‘small Maidan’ that got rid of Nikolai Stoyanov as Odessa regional Prosecutor. This after Firsov’s election had been legally registered and he had taken his seat in the Rada… his crime? Not towing the Party line and being critical of the President to whom he owed his inclusion on the Party List. This clearly is NOT democracy as it is supposed to work, but merely ‘malevolent populism’ as it has always been and increases dramatically the chances that no real or substantial reforms can be undertaken or even if once established can be sustained. More populism less real reform while all the normal dirty deals over who gets how much of the state budget remain. It is not forgotten that todays President was instrumental in creating the Party Of Regions and his Law 3700, which passed at the 18th attempt, is another indication of his reluctance to carry forward any real and sustained reform. Why is Roshen not sold? Why is it necessary to have an offshore account to allegedly sell Roshen? (It is of course clear that the intention was to sell Roshen to his own offshore company).  These questions and more besides should naturally be asked in the Rada, but thanks to the Party List System and the threat of Law 3700 removal the Deputies – who is supposed to ask precisely such questions of the Executive – are mute.
For real and sustained reform it is clear that the control of the electoral process itself must be wrested from the hands of the current, largely corrupt ‘political elite’ and returned to the people – it is the control of the electoral process itself, of who gets elected, that promulgates this ‘malevolent populism’. We need, therefore Deputies not put on Party Lists but selected to represent – and answerable – to local constituencies within Ukraine. This could still include a Proportional Representation element – say using the Single Transferable Vote System – but unless the Deputies truly represent and are answerable to the people and not the old Political elite how can we hope for change within the system? Only when the people have control of their representatives do local party systems emerge and can the basis of a Party System start. The inherent dangers of the continuance of such a ‘malevolent populism’ are not merely a continuance of the of tyranny of corruption that Ukraine has experienced since Independence but worse still the rise of a military populist, appearing no doubt on a ‘white horse’ and backed by the military who will promise to ‘clear away the old corrupt system’ but in it’s place impose a dictatorship.




Richard Drozdowski for EMPR
Image credits to cer.org.uk

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