HAS UKRAINE ONCE AGAIN REACHED A CROSSROADS?
The latest constitutional (political, parliamentary, government) crisis in Ukraine coincided on this occasion with New Year. People thus continued their celebrations, hoping in the face of all problems. And the problems had certainly accumulated by then. Friction over the Budget, over gas and energy … However all of this in a political sense was mere euphemism, behind which could be found something relatively simple and understandable – Ukraines parting with the empire, totalitarian mentality and post-communism had dragged on far too long.
In fact, in the economic and political sense totalitarianism has not existed for quite some time in Ukraine, however post-communism remained, at a psychological mentality level and on a moral and ethical plane.
One can find plenty of manifestations of just such an everyday psychological post-communism, and at virtually all social levels and positions. However more than anywhere else, it makes itself felt in the overall political demagoguery which is like a blanket covering the country. Post-communism in Ukraine is still alive and kicking, we see it in the political hysteria of fringe parties, in the “merry” domination of expediency over lawfulness, as well as in the open egoism of the most prominent political figures.
From the outside it looks as if the public discussion organized by the free mass media was revolving around seemingly classical issues: constitutionalism, democracy, the benefits of a parliamentary system, the drawbacks of a presidential republic, as well as honest and transparent elections. However, at a deeper level, so to speak in its logical subtext, we are dealing with something entirely different and separate.
In particular, behind the scenes of organized social communications, again and again the question familiar to us all raises its head: speak and act honestly, or continue to hoodwink all those around? Political hypocrisy has become our national ill. Virtually all those occupying the upper echelons of power show duplicity both in speech and in their actions.
Hypocrisy is displayed also by the judges, official human rights representatives and members of the Central Election Commission who have added their names to party candidate lists, and by the millionaires and billionaires who have abandoned their business “for the sake of the general good”. Just as insincere is Volodymyr Lytvyn who, governed by considerations of political “calm” and “stability”, is not allowing the swearing in of constitutional judges. All around our political elite makes altruistic noises, while acting for their own gain and with overt pragmatism. As Henry St. John, Duke of Bolingbroke, once said, corruption is simply the lack of civic virtue. A corrupt person is preoccupied with him or herself and cares nothing for the good of the nation. Such a collapse in the morality of the individual and such degeneration of everything – beginning with fundamental principles and ending with life in society – leads to the decline of the State.
Furthermore, this spring the upper ranks of the Ukrainian establishment are to once again push their way far upwards. Dmitry Pisarev once described this phenomenon in the following terms: “those dwelling on the lower levels know that its really fun living on the mezzanine, and therefore the entire pyramid is governed by the vehement desire to crawl upwards. We find the ambitious and gourmets crawling upwards, together with the vain nonentities. However the upward struggle is also shared by marvellous talents and people untainted in the moral sense because it is only on the higher level that one finds intellectual activity and a certain degree of moral independence. Beauty, intellect, talent, wealth, iron will, all that to some extent constitutes the strength of human beings, all that is used in getting up to the higher level. Only those remain down below whom nature or circumstances have deprived of any possibility of raising themselves”.
In the process of climbing up to the top deck, the former Prime Minister unexpectedly discovered hidden qualities as a supporter of a “chancellor” republic, while a judge of the Supreme Court and the Human Rights Ombudsperson are embellishing problematic electoral top five slots with their titles. It would appear that artificial motivation and argument have attained these days even the level of scientific theory. In a country where over a number of years already very few have seriously and in any true sense studied humanitarian disciplines, political scientists and constitutionalists have been trying to persuade the general public of the attractive features of a parliamentary system. For supposedly all of Europe is a bouquet of parliamentary republics. For some reason in this they forget that Europe in addition still remains a monarchy. Belgium, the United Kingdom, Denmark, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden … Why, for example, should Ukraine not become a monarchy then? All the more so since this was already something Khmelnytsky, Samoilovych and Rozumovsky were concerned about. Surely we do not lack the genealogical roots and names?
A presidential republic is considered by our in every sense depraved political elite to be the epitome of authoritarian rule. However Argentina, Brazil, the United States, the Philippines, Georgia and in part France have been and still remain entirely successful presidential republics. In the USA a presidential republic was liberal-democratic from the very outset. For the third century in a row, the population election a strong president with wide-reaching executive powers, yet no one could cite any significant precedents of authoritarian rule. On the other hand, the world has witnessed more than 700 successful military coups carried out in such countries as Algiers, Nigeria and Pakistan. In my opinion, these statistics provide proof of one thing alone – that in each specific case what is significant is not the constitutional set up, but its semantic substance, the level of national political and legal culture. It is precisely the latter which we so seriously lack.
Therefore, in any instance one can hardly consider that a parliamentary system will become a panacea for the ills of the Ukrainian political fancy-free brigade. Teodor Dezamy once wrote in his “Kodeks Obschchnosti” [“Code of Communal Life”]that collective tyranny is not only possible, but does indeed exist – the greater the scope of rights of peoples representatives, the heavier are the chains on simple mortals: instead of one ruler, there are now many. The golden rule: “Vox Populi – Vox Dei” [“The Voice of the people is the voice of God”] is popular, according to John Locke, however he added that he was unable to recall a single instance when God had revealed his commandments through the voice of the crowd, or where nature had made her truth known through the bleating of a herd. .
The issue of constitutional reform in Ukraine cannot then under any circumstances be deemed a question of legal form or coating. Whether Ukraine is a parliamentary republic, or gravitates more towards a presidential state has always been and remains a question of the free choice of the people. Open speculating on legal setups and structures is however unacceptable. Therefore, whatever our official ideologues may assert, on the political forestage a picture which is extraordinarily primitive in its composition is emerging. The Ukrainian nobility – owners of property, etc, the many-party nomenklatura, as well as simply the nouveau riche, are attempting through all means fair and foul to form their own little private salon, a club-casino for millionaires under the sign “Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine”. This institution is called upon just in passing to fulfil the public functions of parliament.
If one adds to the club membership deputy powers as well, and to the latter – all the legal perks and guarantees, then by spring already the builders on Hrushevsky Street will have handed over ready for use a real kind of Disneyland for adults. Apartments in the capital and a ministry salary for petty expenses will embellish their modest State servant existence. Their official and diplomatic passports will smooth out visa requirements crossing borders. What more is needed for the first Ukrainian landing on united Europe? 80-90% of those worthy figures will be natives of Kyiv or those granted such status – the “Romans” of fleeced and abandoned Ukraine..
It would seem that no one in our parliament, as once in old Yugoslavia, wants a vertical staff circulation. And why indeed drop these important individuals down from their heights to the valley, if they move around so comfortably on the principle of a revolver drum? Whats more, its less problematical for journalists. The ideas, the style and the ties have long been tried and tested. A basic answer is already available for the majority of questions. The main thing is that they are all concerned about the good of Ukraine. And who cares that they have more pre-election programs than there are plots in the literature of the world? The descendants of the Trypillians can pull off not just that.
Was the dismissal of Yury Yekhanurovs government legal? If one ignores the flagrant violations of constitutional procedure, then yes. And who among us at the end of the day is seriously concerned about issues of legal procedure? If one analyses the actual dismissal rather than the procedure, then one has to acknowledge that in the given case virtually all norms in the Main Law (the Constitution) needed for the dismissal have remained unchanged and without any qualifications. Article 87 of the Main Law allows the current parliament to consider the issue of government responsibility, while point 12 of Article 87, Part 1 of the Constitution – to resolve the issue of the appointment of any of the candidates put forward by the President. As for the President, on the basis of Point 9 of Part 1 of Article 106 of the Constitution, which has also not been either cancelled or qualified, he should put forward to the parliament a candidate for Prime Minister on the submission of a coalition of the parties. The fact that such a coalition in reality does not exist is impossible to prove. Internal parliamentary convulsions are regulated by the Regulations, and it is “simpler” with them since they are not a law. In the final analysis, no constitution is capable of stopping political life. If, God forbid, the government fell victim to a terrorist attack, it would willy-nilly need to be somehow replaced.
Thus, when the Minister of Justice. Serhiy Holovaty, confidently declares that the actions whether it be of the judiciary, or of the executive branch of power are illegal, one can only sympathize with him. On the other hand, it is precisely in the formal sense that in Ukraine there is still some attempt to adhere to normative regulations. In reality Ukraines serious legal problem is a conscious and brazen misuse of the law. It is a sad fact that nobody is even shocked that within the walls of the Verkhovna Rada, it is not deputies themselves who vote, but their magnetic cards taken away from them (!) by the party bosses. Nor that it is not Deputies aversion to voting papers that is preventing the judges of the Constitutional Court from being elected. Nor that judges, a member of the Central Election Commission and world-famous businessmen are registering as candidates to become National Deputies. They claim that our legislation formally allows all of this. However any reputable court would declare such application of the law to be banally ordinary abuse, that is, the use of the law for purposes which run counter to it.
The crisis in Ukraine can be attributed, therefore, not only to the fact that the Constitution and laws are executed inadequately, but also to the way in which they are very often used purely for the form. As a result we can draw the conclusions that an elementary level of legal and political culture has yet to be fully developed in Ukraine. Law, it is generally recognized, begins at the pre-legal level: freedom to make agreements, keeping promises made, confidentiality of loans and credit, provision of security. However in the Ukrainian State-building reality, officials and politicians are only involved in forming ever newer coalitions, breaching in the process agreements only just reached. All of this, at the end of the day, is reminiscent of adolescents playing “Monopoly”. More often than not the succession of promises made and then broken which are typical of this game end in the rules being declared completely archaic.
Most regrettably, the Ukrainian political superstructure has long been characterized by a lack of respect in their attitude to the Constitution and legislation, as well as to their own political position. Even worse, this national feature has now become common knowledge both in the West and in the East. Can such a state of affairs be considered a crisis? I will attempt to give an answer by first dividing the question into two. Firstly, is this crisis constitutional? Then, is it also political? The correct answer, I believe, is contradictory – both yes, and no.
To the present day on the territory of Ukraine the issues being addressed are not so much of a legal or political nature, but rather of geopolitical and historical significance and substance. One does not need to specially study the art of diplomacy to understand that the Ukrainian Constitution is deformed and breached in our country not under the gaze of sincere supporters of a European parliamentary system, but of the sincere fans of pan-Slavonic “universalism”. This is in fact achieved also through commercial gas prices. After all, the entire political and foreign trade activities of our northern neighbour are an embodiment of the latest uniting meta-plan.
It would definitely be better for everybody if Ukrainian politicians and experts spoke about this openly. However they consider it wiser to continue playing games with their electorate. There can be no doubt that Ukrainian artistic and theatrical circles, students, academics and journalists would like the borders of a united Europe to be moved further to the East as quickly as possible. However whether Ukrainian businesspeople would like this is by no means a rhetorical question. The majority of them consider themselves to be European and a good many even send their children to study at western universities. However, in contrast to representatives of the national intelligentsia, these businesspeople want and can enter Europe not, so to speak, en masse, but on an individual basis. In the political and economic sense Europe is not so very interesting for them, with business simpler to do with Russia.
Yet would it be advantageous for democratic Ukraine to return to the friendly embrace of their northern neighbour? At an objective level, the world is not unlimited, and the natural and energy resources of the Russians are beyond our feeble conception. In addition, the traditional cultural heritage is linked to Russia. There are also other issues which continue to make Ukrainians ambivalent over the Russian question. However if this is the case, then the Ukrainian elections in spring are not simply the latest chance to say “yes” or “no” to parties of various political leanings. Whether we like the prospect or not particularly, this spring we will have to take the next national test of our sovereignty and of the degree to which freedom has become firmly rooted.
The Russian aristocrat Pyotr Kropotkin once wrote that the main uprisings and revolutions in the world have taken place in order to defend human rights, that is, in order to stand up for freedom. The struggle for freedom has therefore always been on a larger scale than efforts to achieve a rise in salary. Another Russian anarchist, Mikhail Bakunin, declared that if previously the French proletariat had been prepared to hand over the attractions of freedom in exchange for the advantages of material well-being and comfort, this was no longer the case.
We will find out in the near future whether our contemporaries will be tempted by “wine, tea and big fish” (Vasily Rozanov). The Orange Revolution proved beyond doubt that the Ukrainian people are ready to fight for freedom. There remains however the strategic question as to the degree of such readiness. Ukrainians had exactly a year to take important steps towards freedom. And it would appear that specifically in consolidating freedom this year was not spent effectively.
It is entirely nature that the sounds of political sirens can be heard today on the full length of our north-eastern borders. Moreover, “comfort” is not only cheap Russian oil and gas, unlimited territory and virtually all climate zones. It is also a powerful culture, common history and a language which doesnt need to be specially studied. Freedom, on the other hand, as competitor, is splendid in the fact that its content cannot be foreseen. Freedom promises nothing, but rather has the habit of giving much that is unexpected. And although it is specifically freedom that today is not so very alluring for our pocket, freedom turns us towards generosity and humanity. It is the latter that Ukrainians now so badly lack. Freedom, according to Vaclav Havel, promotes the restoration of justice, the ability to see the world not only through ones own eyes. Freedom is wisdom which embodies a sense of taste and faith in the importance of specific actions. However freedom never offers anyone universal recipes for salvation.
In order to understand freedom and make use of its opportunities, one needs to have not only the instinct, but knowledge, educational technologies and particular instruments. It is useful to learn the technology of freedom in the West, and that is significantly harder to do at home. Since we begin with we needed to give an appropriate level of attention to the teacher. Viktor Yushchenko promised to send thousands of Ukrainian students to countries where freedom had long and securely taken root. However it ended up as it always does with virtually nobody studying in the West on Ukrainian money. Provincial teachers continue to live on pitiful salaries, and in regional centres they have long done without bookshops.
It would thus seem that the revival of the functions of Ukrainian freedom will again take place without anaesthetic. We have yet again ended up at the crossroads, while our body of Deputies clearly aspire in the direction of “to have” rather than “to be”. The President recently gave a pragmatic speech before journalists about Ukraines prospects. However today it would not be easy to predict how exactly Ukrainians will respond to the March challenge of freedom. To some extent one can say that they have yet again been betrayed by the national elite.
As Zbigniew Brzezinski said quite recently, if Ukrainians do not wish to forget about progress for ever, their leaders will need to pay more attention to principles. It is extremely likely that it is specifically principles that we most badly lack right now. It is clear at least that these have not thus far been in any way attractive to any of the political forces in Ukraine. And yet, we will have to somehow establish them.