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Positioning Ukrainian Liberals Printable Version PRINTABLE VERSION
by Olexi, Ukraine May 22, 2004
Human Rights   Opinions
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With Presidential Elections in Ukraine just a few months ahead I would like to turn to Parliamentary elections in Russia as an illustration of, to a large extent, general situation inside of the liberal and democratic movements in the region and therefore an example to compare with and a lesson for Liberal and Democratic movement in Ukraine.

Keeping in mind Ukraine’s desire to join the democratic world, the importance of achieving minimal standards such as democratization of the institutions, the minimal state, transparency of the decision-making process and the respect of fundamental liberties and rights of the individuals must be stressed. A study of Russia’s parliamentary elections and Liberal movement in comparison with the situation in Ukraine in the year 2003 is of key importance to create a consistent image of threats to democratization in both countries. Threats that, we need to acknowledge too often appear from within the liberal movement itself.

Here in Ukraine, Liberals are more and more driven to coming up with a question of whether the current political situation in Ukraine is such that free, fair and genuinely competitive elections are possible?

The results of the Russia’s parliamentary elections caught surprisingly many democrats in Europe and Ukraine by surprise. Indeed, The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, which had 400 observers in Russia in the build-up to and during the vote, described it as a "regression in the democratization of the country". Nevertheless it is self-evident that Fragmentation and Rivalry amongst Russia’s Liberals has contributed to the failure by far greater than the acknowledged numerous abuses by the leading party, the use of the administrative resources in order to promote leading party own candidates, manipulation and tricking voters, the use of illegal and non-ethical methods. Just as much as all the above listed, SPS and Yabloko’s (two leading Russian liberal groupings) decision to contest the parliamentary elections as two distinct and separate organizations and the conflicts that motivated such decision allows to consider that the democracy in Russia is in a real danger. Without a thorough analysis of pre-history of the Russia’s liberal collapse it can not be expected that Ukraine’s fragmented liberal movement will be able to avoid mistakes that led Russian liberals to a complete wipe-out in the Parliamentary elections.

The two parties which would be recognized in the West as genuinely liberal, and in favour of the free market, the SPS and Yabloko, both failed to reach the 5% barrier. Had they joined forces, it is likely that they would have slipped into the Duma. Divided, they have fallen. It is a shame that just as Russia’s liberals have shown their singular inability to come together in any meaningful sense. Ukraine’s Liberals seem to scatter in front of challenge just as willingly. In this regard calls for unity that emanated from SPS can be seen as part of a long-term strategy aimed at portraying SPS as the ‘reasonable, accommodating’ liberals in contradistinction to the ‘stubborn and uncooperative Yabloko consistently refusing to unite for the greater good of the liberal movement. Whilst any impetus for the unification of the two parties since the 1999 Duma elections has come from SPS, the sincerity of such proposals is open to question, and owes as much to tactical as to unifying considerations. The enmity between Yabloko and SPS parties continued, resulting in a loss.

Let us then, sincerely acknowledge that Ukrainian liberal movement has been an easy pray of parties’ leaders rivalry, political short-sightedness, lack of consistent development strategy and enmity. None of the liberal parties managed to pass to the Ukrainian parliament in the 2002 parliamentary elections. So does this imply a crisis of Liberalism as ideology and political technique in Ukraine or is it an alarm bell for liberals to take appropriate steps needed to re-establish broken links with those who are aware that only implementation of Liberal principles of the Rule of Law and Individual liberties and rights will assure consistent, non-declarative Euro-Integration on part of Ukraine.

Recent Expansion takes the EU to the borders of Russia and Ukraine. The former is too vast ever to join a Union that calls itself European, but the latter is not, and liberal must make their position clear on this subject – as long as Ukraine will remain burdened by shrivelled economy and international concern about human rights, it can only dream of meeting the tough requirements for economic reform and democracy. EU enlargement commissioner Guenter Verheugen said at the European Economic Summit in Warsaw that Ukraine’s accession to the EU is not on the agenda. We are sober-minded enough to understand how objective such opinion is with regard to Ukraine’s setbacks. I believe that Ukraine’s liberal movement must position itself clearly as standing in favour of bringing Ukraine to the standards of EU with all the implications. Ukraine is still lagging far behind the essential criteria to be called a democratic nation. I can not but cite IFRY’s statement (15.03.04) on the local and Presidential elections in Russia, this time applying it to Ukraine “democracy consists of more than just free voting.”

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Ukrainian student, journalist and a planetary citizen. I invite you to take a look at Central's Europe largest state- Ukraine through Olexi-tinted spectacles. Somewhat approaching unbiased subjectivity :)
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