Surviving the no-confidence vote changes nothing in Kiev


The government in Ukraine has survived a vote of No Confidence, but will they now manage to implement the needful reforms?

Alice BOTA, in Die Zeit, March 3, 2016

Translated from German by Tom Winter*

Nearly two years after the Ukrainians drove out their corrupt president Viktor Yanukovych, the first democratically elected post-Maidan government has survived its most serious political crisis: it remains in office. 

In times of war, near-bankruptcy, and the suspended IMF payments, that sounds like a soothing message. More chaos, more unpredictability — and thus the next disaster — seem averted. And yet this new stability is apparent only. 

It can’t go on this way with the standstill and the political bickering, the Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said on Tuesday, and called on his Premier to resign; the government had lost the confidence of the people. 

As if no blame for failures would apply to him, the President – after all, his party is in the ruling coalition.

Now the two politicians who have to run the country are openly opponents, at a standoff facing each other. This will remind some people of the political stalemate in the years after the Orange Revolution of 2004, when the then President and his Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko were in power.

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And there you have it! We have always known! Those who were already convinced of the Ukrainian fail before the country ever had a chance are prophets. Even so it is amazing what the government has achieved in less than one and a half years. The times when a traffic cop give hand signals at every major intersenction is thanks to the police reform. The taxes have been reformed. Public procurement can now be checked online. That does not sound like much, but in a country that dared take the departure two years ago and is crushed by a war, it’s a start.

Thanks for this beginning is particularly owing to individual politicians. Several foreigners quickly took Ukrainian citizenship in order to be become ministers. After the old system spotless hands were urgently needed. The police chief: a Georgian woman. Finance Minister: a child of Ukrainian parents, but who grew up in America. The Minister of Economy: a Lithuanian who set off the government crisis with his recent resignation.

He gave up because the president brought dubious companions into important positions, who openly tried to control public funds. The Minister of Economy denounced it all, openly, when he decided to give up. 

This year will probably be decisive for Ukraine: now it remains to be seen whether the country pushes through the reforms or fails. Whether the party funding is made transparent, the monopolistic structures get broken up, and the political influence of oligarchs gets trimmed. The no-confidence vote, which the Ukrainian parliament failed on Tuesday, at best may unleash a political awakening.

It’s daunting, though, that President Petro Poroshenko acts as if he had nothing to do with the loss of confidence. Poroshenko, who was economy minister under ousted President Viktor Yanukovych before he discovered his love for freedom and reforms, has still not sold his powerful enterprises. He refuses also to shed his private TV station.

That would be the politics of symbolism, perhaps. But whoever won’t even do the symbolism is unlikely to break with powerful business friends who get involved in politics.

 Anger and impatience over shameless corruption once drove the Ukrainians to the streets. Now the anger is back. 

The old system did not come to an end through an uprising, and the post-Maidan struggle of the Ukrainians has begun. It is now taking place – and not only in eastern Ukraine, where the fighting continues, but also in the government building in Kiev, only a few minutes walk from where snipers executed protesters in February 2014. Who the perpetrators were, is still unknown to this day – the investigations are being strung along.
*Translator note: Sputnik’s article based on this one from Die Zeit is rather overblown. “Yatsenyuk strips Ukraine of its last chance to survive” isn’t in it! The Die Zeit article is much more balanced, though there could be a reading of “damning with faint praise.”

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