10.05.2006 | Inna Sukhorukova, Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group

The Orange Revolution – 18 months later


Those who remember the amazing sense of uplifting national spirit in Ukraine in autumn f 2004 must notice that the mood in society now is quite opposite. At best it’s one of apathy and a loss of hope. At worst, there is downright disillusionment with the regime, the President and government. The backlash that the “blue-white” camp hoped for did not eventuate, Even the most detailed spectral analysis of the new Verkhovna Rada shows the predominance of warmer colours. Yet a large number of those who voted for the “orange” team supported the bloc “PORA-PRP [Reform & Order]” and bloc of  Kostenko-Plyushch and several small parties. If one adds these votes to the total quantity of the “orange” (which could have happened were it not for the totally inability of our politicians to sensibly negotiate), then the question of a backlash would not seem relevant.  Yet the fact is that owing to the “political reform” which from the start was a delayed reaction bomb for the state order of Ukraine, the division of votes for different political forces was absolutely regional.

Ever since the “political reform” was adopted, we have been trying to get through to reasonable politicians of all shades in order to prove that this political reform, approved without any concern for the views and will of Ukrainian citizens, will at best lead to problems. This was confirmed by the political crisis at the beginning of April, and only those blind or overly interested in inept constitutional changes can fail to see this.

The democratic regime brought to power by nationally conscious voters having agreed to the political reform did something that even authoritarian Kuchma had not dreamed of. The authorities deprived itself of power and did not give any alternative to the state. Regular replacement of speakers and the dismissal of governments showed that, unfortunately, Ukraine cannot be a real parliamentary republic today. It has no stable political parties and blocs with distinct difference in economic and social positions, ideological blocs, not purely situational companions. Yet, just this forms parliamentary power. And the reform of electoral laws also envisages the election by party lists to all local councils. These elections and the possibility of dismissing a governor, appointed by the President, by 2/3 of votes of deputies of a regional council will deprive the central power of any influence on events in the state. Incidentally Parliament ihas also lost this power. In this sense our Verkhovna Rada resembles the famous literary work, where a corporal’s widow flogged herself. When MPs adopted the political reform, they acted as wisely as a man, who cuts an electric wire to improve the light in his room. The consequences for the state are the same.

We feel it especially keenly in our native north-eastern city – Kharkiv. The regime had only just started paying attention to citizens’ opinion, dialogue however weak and uncertain had only just begun between the regime and society, when the most democratic elections during Ukraine’s post-Soviet history led to the complete fiasco all more or less democratic candidates for city and regional office. And such a situation is observed in all Western and Southern regions, except Kherson and, strangely enough, Kremenchug. It is difficult to predict what will happen next: collapse in economy, local attack on rights and freedoms of citizens together with threats and pressure on businessmen and mass media or, on the contrary, the sides will seek reconciliation and to forget differences in political shades.

However, even now it is clear that the model of power offered us by the respected deputies is devitalized. It is essentially oligarchic neither during the elections nor in changes to the Constitution nobody takes into account the opinion of citizens. These were merely inter-party conflicts and collisions. Of course it’s important which party a local council deputy belongs to, but voters are more interested when the rubbish will be collected or whether their flats will be warm in winter. This means that elections by party lists are not only dangerous for the integrity of the country, but are also not needed by anybody except the party members. So, the people of Ukraine who asserted their right to choose their leaders are again deprived of any influence on them

Our regime is closed in on itself which can hardly be called democracy. It is strange that most political scientists do not want to notice this, insisting that with this political reform, we are marching directly to Europe. There is a historical trend that events first take place as tragedy, then return as farce. However, a farce can sometimes turn into tragedy. We have approached, as never before a loss of integrity of our state, power in the country and the power as a whole.

The most democratic power, so it seemed, did not prevent flagrant violations of human rights: the extradition of Uzbeks who were seeking refuge from Karimov, the beating by special squads of prisoners in penal institutions, torture in police, etc. Everybody who has studied history  understands that modern democracies were based, first of all, on the rule of law. However, when Ms. Vitrenko says that Crimean Tatars should be driven out from the Crimea, when extremists and provocateurs from Korchinskiy’s “Bratstvo” try to prevent the arrival in Kyiv of Catholic Cardinal Lubomir Huzar, and the so-called law enforcement bodies pretend that they do not notice this, then this is not democracy, this is anarchy. The Criminal Code of Ukraine contains an article envisaging punishment for inciting inter-religious and ethnic enmity. Nor do Articles about encroaching on on state order and territorial integrity do not work in Ukraine as vividly shown by our regime which disregards statements of some politicians in Severodonetsk. Besides, there are articles on rigging of election in the Criminal Code. Yet, who is brought to answer but as a rule  the most pure and vulnerable layers of population?  The laws still do not exist for state officials and people’s deputies.

However, it is impossible to establish order in the state without observance of the law, in the face of which all are equal. Only then will it be possible to unite the country. A regime which punishes nobody, protects nobody. Then ordinary citizens seek help from those more powerful than the power: some turn to criminals, some – to extremist or populist forces. The real democrats who came to power must make society respect not state officials, but laws, and only then the officials as guards of the law.

Any revolution as we know from history is a serious upheaval for society. After a revolution the society either moves forward rapidly, or descend into a situation much worse for citizens and the state than before the revolution. Let us hope that we will not end up there.

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