available languages: english October 20, 2014

Ukraine needs reform to survive

Michael Meyer-Resende

With a shaky peace in the east agreed and parliamentary elections approaching, the focus in Ukraine is shifting back from war or peace to the country’s internal malaise.
After all, the Maidan events were not only a protest against former president Viktor Yanukovych’s foreign policy pivot to Russia. They also called for an end to wide-spread corruption and lack of democratic reforms.
President Petro Poroshenko recently declared the need to not merely walk down the path of reforms now, but to actually run it.

He has a point.

In the 23 years since Ukraine’s independence from the Soviet Union, the political elite talked the talk of reforms but did not walk it, severely weakening the country at home and abroad.
Across the two decades since independence, business and politics have become indistinguishable.
Parliamentary seats were an economic asset, commanding a high price for bestowing political influence and immunity against criminal prosecution.

Russia complains that Ukraine’s east is marginalised, but it did not object when Yanukovych made a point of centralising the country.
Centralisation meant more control of resources to enrich his family and political allies.
Ukrainians had little reason to identify with a state riddled with corruption to the benefit of the few, undermining a sense of wider nationhood for the many.

Indexes of economic freedoms rank Ukraine lowest of all countries in Europe, due to political interference and corruption.
Even the debate on delivering weapons to Ukraine is overshadowed by concerns about middlemen who may try to make a profit.

Corruption then is an important reason why Ukraine finds itself in such a weak internal and external position in the face of Russia’s onslaught.

The principle concerns have remained the same since 1991 and all point at governance weakness by design: electoral arrangements that enable vote-buying and central control of political parties; a badly defined relationship between parliament and president; an over-centralised state; an executive that controls judges and a Soviet-era prosecutors office to ‘supervise’ the entire legal system.

The full article can be read on EUobserver.com

 

Poroshenko signed the EU association treaty – a blueprint for reform – in May (Photo: consilium.europa.eu)