As 2017 comes to a merciful end for Ukraine’s long-suffering population, one thing has become abundantly clear. Ukraine’s chameleon President has lost his colours altogether and shown himself to be just another amoral opportunist. Recent events demonstrate conclusively that he never really had any intention of tackling the country’s endemic corruption, Ukraine’s largest stumbling block to becoming a successful, democratic nation state.
Several weeks ago, Ukraine’s parliament, the Verkhovna Rada (VR), led by the Poroshenko Bloc party, dismissed Yegor Soboliev, the chair of the body’s Anti-Corruption Committee. He had been a staunch critic of the government’s foot-dragging and obstructionism in implementing any effective anti-corruption initiatives. Earlier in the week the VR, had tried to enact legislation that would also enable it to fire the head of the country’s independent National Anti-Corruption Bureau (NABU), however strong protests from the IMF as well as many European, American and other Ukraine creditor nations, forced the VR to withdraw this blatant attempt to neutralize the only body seriously tackling the corruption issue.
For the past several months there has been considerable friction between NABU and the government’s Prosecutor General’s Office (PGO), with NABU claiming that their investigations were being continuously obstructed or sabotaged by the PGO and its head Yuriy Lutsenko. Rather than cooperate and assist NABU in their efforts, Lutsenko appears to have gone out of his way to try to discredit and disrupt NABU efforts. Instead of coordination in this crucial area of reform, we have seen nothing but chaos.
Lutsenko himself, has been singularly ineffective as Prosecutor General. Since coming into office, he has succeeded in bringing only one high level Yanukovich apparatchik to trial out of the huge rats nest of corruption that marked that discredited regime. He has shown little appetite or motivation for going after the oligarchic leeches and crooks that proliferated prior to the Revolution of Dignity.
There are of course, many other signs that the government is being hypocritical in its avowed commitment to make its administration transparent and honest. There has been no action on creating a long promised independent anti-corruption court. Further, the existing judicial system remains seriously compromised. Although a new Supreme Court was recently reconstituted, a quarter of the judges appointed to it were tainted and discredited leftovers from the Yanukovich era. A recent poll of Ukrainian lawyers and judges revealed that almost half do not trust that the new court will be able to overcome the general mistrust that the Ukrainian public have of their judicial institutions.
What is particularly interesting about these recent developments, is that Poroshenko and his chief oligarchic allies have become almost blatant in their efforts to undermine any initiatives aimed at addressing the corruption issue. With a relatively stable economy and foreign aid money flowing in on a regular basis, they seem to be displaying a smug arrogance that they need only pay lip service towards combating corruption. With no strong or credible political rivals facing him in the upcoming elections, Poroshenko obviously believes he can revert back to the status quo, and deal out reforms in dribs and drabs while protecting the interests of the elite that really run Ukraine.
What has been happening is a far cry from the reformist rhetoric that the smooth-talking Poroshenko issued on a regular basis during the heady time of the revolution on the Maidan. Back then, he skillfully created the image of the white night crusader that would clean out the rot, the overwhelming graft and corruption that had become the norm during the reign of President Yanukovich and most of his predecessors of the past several decades.
I had my doubts back then as to how real this was, considering the fact that Poroshenko from 1998 on, had managed to maneuver his way into positions of influence regardless of which party or President was in power. Originally a supporter of President Kuchma, he held ministerial posts under President Yushchenko, and later under the now disgraced President Yanukovich. He was one of the original founders of the Party of Regions. It would seem that Poroshenko’s political principles have more to do with which way the wind is blowing than on any ideological basis.
We are now seeing this in action on almost a daily basis. He promises reforms but finds ways to delay and water down any real attempts at progress. He allows the reactionaries in government and parliament to pass legislation protecting the status quo and the privileges of the oligarchic elite. When this leads to strong protests and challenges by the Ukrainian public or foreign leaders and creditors, he changes course and becomes reformist again. The man clearly has no real political agenda aside from staying in power and protecting his personal interests as well as those of his oligarchic buddies.
I remember how during the last Presidential election, one well known political observer stated that Poroshenko was no white knight, but the least bad of a bad choice of contenders. That observation was quite prescient and we are now seeing the true consequences of his election. Poroshenko is no reformer and it is time that the Ukrainian people showed him the door.