Sunday

29th May 2022

Opinion

Ukraine's new leader should be judged by his actions

  • 'The international community to should avoid taking these claims at face value because the reality of what is happening in Ukraine is very different' (Photo: Wikipedia)

Local government elections are not usually regarded as matters of international importance, but the ones being held in Ukraine at the end of the month have managed to attract unprecedented attention.

They take place against a background of siren claims that democracy in Ukraine is being rolled back and that the new government elected earlier this year is in the process of turning the country into a one-party state.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

The international community should avoid taking these claims at face value as the reality of what is happening in Ukraine is very different and the opportunity to achieve lasting political and economic reform remains very real. To understand the changes taking place it is first necessary to appreciate the difficulties Ukraine has experienced over the last few years.

Although elected on a platform of reform and modernisation, the leaders of the Orange Revolution presided over six years of stagnation in which they squabbled endlessly over the spoils of power without carrying out any of the changes they had promised. That era reached its nadir last year when, in the midst of the severest economic crisis in our history, the Orange leaders failed even to agree a budget. Our national policy is aimed at avoiding a repeat of those wasted years.

Since coming to office, President Yanukovych and his government have managed to carry out long-delayed economic reforms – cutting the deficit, strengthening the financial sector and modernising the energy network – that have attracted praise from the International Monetary Fund. This has been accompanied by two successful bond issues and an improvement in Ukraine's credit rating.

We want these reforms to continue, but we know that further success will only be possible if we lay the foundations of political stability and effective government. That is why we welcome the recent decision of the constitutional court to invalidate the 2004 constitutional reforms that created overlapping lines of executive authority and institutionalised conflict between the president and the parliament.

The opposition leader, Yulia Tymoshenko, has described this move as a "usurpation of power," yet she herself called on the constitutional court to do precisely the same only four years ago when she thought it would serve her interests.

The key is whether steps to make government more effective are combined with measures to guarantee democratic accountability. Critics argue that the new electoral law is an attempt to penalise the opposition and restrict political choice. Yet they ignore the willingness of the government to amend the law ahead of the local elections, for example, by allowing newly registered parties to take part.

Less than one percent of nominees have been barred from standing, so this is hardly an attack on democratic choice. The law also strengthens the role of independent election monitors and the government has gone to great lengths to invite the OSCE and other international bodies to send observers. This action to strengthen democratic oversight deserves recognition.

The same goes for media freedoms. The opponents claim that censorship is back, but the examples they cite relate to the editorial policies of privately owned media outlets, not action by the state. In fact, the government wants to expand media pluralism and is committed to establishing a new public television channel designed to further that aim.

Political debate in Ukraine remains noisy, argumentative and free, and the government is determined that it should remain so. In this, as in all areas, we want to engage with our international partners as we carry the process of reform forward.

We were given a mandate by the people of Ukraine to put an end the political chaos that brought our country to the brink of ruin, and we intend to honour that mandate. But we are also determined to do it in a way that remains true to European democratic values. The Ukraine we want to create is one in which human rights are respected, civil society is strong and leaders are chosen by an open and competitive process of election. In striving towards that goal, all we ask is that we are judged on our actions, not pre-judged according to prejudices skilfully cultivated by our opponents.

Leonid Kozhara is a Party of Regions MP in the Verkhovna Rada and the deputy chair of the asembly's international relations committee

Disclaimer

The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author's, not those of EUobserver.

Letter

Right of Reply: Hungarian government

The government in Budapest responds to EUobserver opinion piece "Are Orban's Covid powers now the 'new normal' in Hungary?"

When Reagan met Gorbachev — a history lesson for Putin

Neither Reagan nor Gorbachev achieved their goal at the famous Reykjavik summit of 1986. Despite that fact there are lessons that current leaders — particularly Vladimir Putin — could adopt from these two iconic leaders.

Orbán's overtures to Moscow are distasteful and detrimental

Some Western European politicians are reviving the chimera of a negotiated settlement. None of this makes the current, half-hearted approach towards sanctioning Russia look better — nor does it shed any favourable light on the cravenness of Hungary's current government.

Column

The Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth is back

Ukraine is finally understood — and hopefully Belarus will be soon too — as a self-standing society and state with close links to its EU neighbours, rather being relegated to Russia's backyard.

Brexit hostility to Good Friday Agreement is damaging UK in US

Democratic Unionist MPs could affirm unequivocally they support the Good Friday Agreement, with no return of a border with physical controls on movement of people, goods or agricultural produce within the island of Ireland — but they won't.

Are Orban's Covid powers now the 'new normal' in Hungary?

As the world continues to seek productive ways to provide assistance to the beleaguered citizens of Ukraine, the Hungarian government is now using the humanitarian crisis to further its own authoritarian ambitions.

Column

The Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth is back

Ukraine is finally understood — and hopefully Belarus will be soon too — as a self-standing society and state with close links to its EU neighbours, rather being relegated to Russia's backyard.

Brexit hostility to Good Friday Agreement is damaging UK in US

Democratic Unionist MPs could affirm unequivocally they support the Good Friday Agreement, with no return of a border with physical controls on movement of people, goods or agricultural produce within the island of Ireland — but they won't.

News in Brief

  1. Dutch journalists sue EU over banned Russia TV channels
  2. EU holding €23bn of Russian bank reserves
  3. Russia speeds up passport process in occupied Ukraine
  4. Palestinian civil society denounce Metsola's Israel visit
  5. Johnson refuses to resign after Downing Street parties report
  6. EU border police has over 2,000 agents deployed
  7. Dutch tax authorities to admit to institutional racism
  8. Rutte calls for EU pension and labour reforms

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic delegation visits Nordic Bridges in Canada
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersClear to proceed - green shipping corridors in the Nordic Region
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers agree on international climate commitments
  4. UNESDA - SOFT DRINKS EUROPEEfficient waste collection schemes, closed-loop recycling and access to recycled content are crucial to transition to a circular economy in Europe
  5. UiPathNo digital future for the EU without Intelligent Automation? Online briefing Link

Latest News

  1. EU summit will be 'unwavering' on arms for Ukraine
  2. Orbán's new state of emergency under fire
  3. EU parliament prevaricates on barring Russian lobbyists
  4. Ukraine lawyer enlists EU watchdog against Russian oil
  5. Right of Reply: Hungarian government
  6. When Reagan met Gorbachev — a history lesson for Putin
  7. Orbán oil veto to deface EU summit on Ukraine
  8. France aims for EU minimum-tax deal in June

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us