Vienna, July 6 – Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich is building “an ‘Asiatic power vertical’” even harsher and more restrictive than the one Vladimir Putin has erected in the Russian Federation, a political arrangement that violates the letter and the spirit of the European Charter on Local Self-Administration to which Kyiv, like Moscow, is a signatory.
In comments to the New Region news agency yesterday, Russian political scientist Aleksey Ivanov said that if Yanukovich succeeds in getting the Ukrainian Rada to pass a bill governing local elections that he supports, “non-party citizens of Ukraine will not able to be elected anywhere ever” (nr2.ru/kiev/290593.html).
If the bill goes through, Ukraine will have completely excluded the form of self-advancement of citizens for participation in elections to organs of local self-administration, by restricting this right only to members of all-Ukrainian parties. This draconian norm violates the principles and spirits of the European Charter.”
That document, Ivanov continued, says the right of local self-administration “is realized by councils or assemblies consisting of members elected by means of free, secret, equal, direct and general voting.” But under the proposed Ukrainian law, this right will be realized “not by members but by ‘party’ members,” thus vitiating the Charter’s provisions.
“In essence,” he said, it introduces “a mechanism of discrimination against the absolute majority of non-party citizens concerning participation in elections to local organs of power. The party principle of forming electoral commissions also discriminates against” these people and their efforts to represent their interests.
“This Ukrainian novella,” Ivanov suggested, “pushes the Ukrainian electoral model away from the borders of Europe directly toward China -- because even Russia which is frequently criticized for its excessive centralization of power has not risked limiting the rights of citizens in such a pitiless way.”
Kyiv’s “total ‘party-ization’” may give Yanukovich’s supporters some additional seats in the upcoming elections and thus represent “a tactical victory” for the Ukrainian party of power. “But for Ukraine, the strategic prospects of such reforms will be sad: the majority will be excluded from the process of real self-administration.”
And that in turn, the Russian political analyst said, will lead to “the degradation of their civic consciousness.” In Ivanov’s view, “this norm contradicts the spirit of Ukrainian society which while of course tired from the Bacchanalia of elections nonetheless is a supporter of the democratic tradition.”
Some Ukrainians may now indeed want “a strong hand” but that does not mean that there is any reason to end public discussions of the issues. And in that regard, the range of opinions in society “is much broader and more diverse than [is reflected in the views expressed by] party representatives on the Ukrainian political Olympus.”
Ukrainians who oppose this measure need not turn to Ukrainian courts, Ivanov suggested. They have every right to make a direct appeal to the European Court of Human Rights, and they have every reason to do so: Even in Soviet times, the majority of deputies in local soviets were non-party people.
Tragically, it appears likely that Yanukovich plans to go even further to reverse Ukraine’s past democratic games. The Ukrainian president and Aleksandr Yefremov, the head of the Party of the Regions fraction, now say they would like to have a referendum to eliminate changes in the Constitution introduced after 2004 (www.specletter.com/news/2010-07-06/10120.html).
If Yanukovich succeeds in doing that, the changes he is making within Ukraine almost certainly will prove both longer-lasting and more fateful not only for his country and for Europe than any rapprochement he may push with Moscow, something that those concerned about geopolitics alone would do well to take into consideration.