Who will be the president of Ukraine in 2015?

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV.COM Ltd.

Europe's second-largest country faces an uncertain future, with both the opposition and the government unable to provide either genuine democracy or economic hope, making necessary the rise of an entirely new political leadership, argues Viktor Tkachuk.

Viktor Tkachuk is the director-general of the Ukrainian Foundation for Democracy “People First”. He has over 20 years of experience working in governmental bodies at the highest level in Ukraine, including as deputy secretary of the national security and defence council, as an advisor to three Ukrainian presidents, and as a member of Parliament.

“All power has its beginning and its end – this is an axiom.

But each of them comes to an end with a different level of respect on the side of the people. This is well known by all Ukrainian presidents. Today, the Ukrainian government is as strong as ever. It is strong because only a strong power can so systematically humiliate its people as a whole and each citizen individually, including the president.

I'll note right away that Yulia Tymoshenko isn't all the people and Viktor Yanukovych isn't all the evil of the state. And vice-versa. Unfortunately, they have one thing in common: they ‘already’ or ‘so far’ have nothing to say to the people. The problem has another depth. The whole political establishment has created such rules of relations between a citizen and the state that the citizen is always guilty and always in debt.

What is the reason of this political illness? The diagnosis is known already from school textbooks. The people are ill because the State is a Ministry, Court, Oligarch, Scoundrel and non-accountable Parliament all at once, with all the same personalities over and over again. But there are Ukrainian peculiarities as well. Everybody – the People, the Government, Oligarchs and certainly the Opposition – wants to live differently, but nobody wants to start changes with himself/herself. What prospects do we have? A definition, political death, is confidently entering Ukrainian lexicon.

Already since 2005 we have been arguing in all highest state circles and abroad about the presence of features of the then-future Ukrainian crisis. Ukraine becomes a territory producing risks equally dangerous for its Eastern and Western neighbours. But Ukraine has enough material and human resources to neutralise these risks.

However, the people have no lawful possibility to use these resources, there is no influence on the change of the electoral law, the law on political parties or on fighting corruption, there is no real right to a referendum, there cannot exist a really free press and trade unions …

The situation will come to the choice: either friends-neighbours will convince the whole political establishment of Kyiv of the necessity to generate another system of management or Ukrainian politicians, having saved up enough cash, will become exporters of corruption to Europe, and the people will begin to look for non-legitimate ways of solving their problems.     

Much to our regret, equally both for neighbours and for Ukrainians, Voland's words from Bulgakov's novel ‘The Master and Margarita’ will be the forecast for everyone: ‘Annushka has already poured oil up’.

Europe and the US have started to reformat relations with Russia. The US showed recognition for Vladimir Putin's victory practically before the presidential elections in Russia, having kept silent about some disorders with democracy. The crisis inside the EU and the necessity to search for new material resources have created conditions for Russia and Germany to move towards each other. The greatest world players form new balances.

The Ukrainian administration, having concentrated on ‘pumping’ budgetary funds to private offshore companies, hasn't noticed how it has lost a right to vote at any international arena. Ukraine, having chosen the scenario of ‘ostrich’ has itself provoked the situation when the world will agree on Russian influence and a shake-up of the situation inside Ukraine.

Thus, it is not correct to accuse the Kremlin of something at all – it acts in the framework of its national interests. And the fact that they don't coincide with Ukrainian interests is altogether another story.

It's clear that it won't lead Russia to stability. Experienced politicians remember how the West pulled Moscow into the scenario of an arms race and how it ended for the USSR.    

A fact that appetite increases with eating tasty food also doesn't need to be proved. In the period of European crisis the Kremlin won't stop at the level of the ‘negotiated’ balances. And what will the EU do to cease the expansion of Russian political and economic culture? Today, the forecast of these steps isn't present even in plans of risk monitoring.

Unfortunately, it looks like Putin has wasted the ability to rebrand. Paradoxical as it is, this is bad for Ukraine. It is clear that strong a Putin is a systematic expansion of Russian interests to Ukraine. But a weak Putin is a fast breakdown of Russia and a volcano of non-predicted risks from the eternal neighbour. Not an easy choice.

The internal politics of Ukraine has also gone through tectonic changes. Practical observations offer a conclusion that all parliamentary forces to a different degree are financed from one budget. Parliamentary parties differ only by the design of posters and the timbre of speakers. A classical political confrontation between the government and opposition has transformed into the ‘cold war’ between business groups in the framework of the "ruling party".

Our authorities don't want to understand reasons and consequences of the political boycott of the Euro 2012 and don't want to change anything. This will lead to already new confrontation between ‘businessmen from the authorities’ and the ruling clique. 

Unfortunately, conclusions are very cynical – parliamentary elections in Ukraine won't be recognised as legitimate, transparent and democratic. But this time it won’t be because 102% of citizens will vote. This doesn't surprise anymore. It is because there isn't any political force in the country which could take power with which fair elections would be possible.

Five months before elections the ratings of the ruling party ‘due to their reforms’ slide downwards. Consequentially, it declines the success of the party list. In turn, it will lead to the competition between pro-ruling party members at majority districts.

Apparently, it will go all the way not to the level of ‘dirty linen’, but to the ‘last cartridge’ … The main thing is that confrontation of politicians shouldn't lead to the confrontation of special services. The Guarantor of the Constitution will hardly cope with such events. Analysts predict that budgets of candidates at each of 225 electoral districts will come to $3 million to $10 million. Such volumes of cash are difficult to stop even by phone calls from the president.

This will preclude from signing of the Association Agreement between Ukraine and the EU. But crisis is in the fact that nobody is preparing a tactical ‘Plan B’ today, as neither Ukraine nor the EU, each of them with their own risks and resources, will disappear from the map of Europe.

The impossibility of membership of Ukraine in the EU in the following budgetary period of the EU till 2020 will become an obvious consequence. But the crisis today consists in the fact that nobody is preparing a new positive agenda for the development of European civilizational relations. 

Public opinion of democratic countries, after numerous diplomatic steps, has reacted correctly. Conversations about the possible boycott are unpleasant, but they give hope that the Ukrainian authorities will come to their senses, the opposition will get wiser, and the people will know that they are not alone.

Is it possible to do in some other way? I'm sure it is. After ‘Orange’ revolutionaries in 2004 and ‘Blue’ reformers in 2010, citizens have started to search for their own way, to search for force inside themselves, instead of believing in ‘the gifts of destiny’ from politicians. Who will hear them today, who will unite them, whom will they believe?  

Representatives of all Ukrainian territories and ideologies have already been in power. These cycles have completed. Apparently, now the time has come for professionals for whom Ukraine isn't only a means to launder money.

Economic experts with ever increasing frequency predict Ukrainian default in analogy with the crisis in Greece, which was programmed by budgetary expenses for the Athens Olympic Games and European football championship. Apparently, predictors will soon go even further and recall previous ‘economic reforms’ conducted by the Greek military.  

Certainly, it will be difficult for us to explain to the following generations if the history goes this way, be it ‘Eastern colonels’ or European ‘blue helmets’. The reality depends on today's government and opposition equally – what hope will they give to people for their own dignity, people power and work? Will the people risk granting them their indulgence once more? It is difficult to believe this. Apparently new national leaders, new organisations and, at last, a new concrete professional vision of the country's future are necessary."

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