04.10.2007 | Halya Coynash

A Democratic ABC for Ukrainian politicians with learning problems


Let’s hope that Ukrainian politicians have learned one lesson this week and have understood that Ukraine’s democratic choice is unequivocal and not subject to novel adaptation. And that is in spite of Ukrainian politicians. 

This was, of course, a repeat lesson.  The first was given most dramatically on the snow-clad squares and streets of Ukraine in late 2004. 

The problem was that last time the voters stood their ground until victory was secure and then left them to it.  They didn’t scrutinize them, didn’t monitor their actions and when some behaviour raised eyebrows they looked down at the ground so nobody would see.  It was, in fact, for the best of motives, out of genuine support and trust.

Any teacher, however, will tell you the worth of lessons not consolidated - precious little.

Three years later, a little bruised, with illusions vanished, the Ukrainian people have once again demonstrated their right to freedom and dignity. 

This time, however, they, at least, have certainly learned.  This time, they will be taking no chances.

Some of the lessons are easy if we don’t balk at being a touch monotonous and if we don’t fear stating what any idiot should understand.  We made that mistake before.  From now on, let them groan with boredom – they will learn!. 

A simple ABC could begin with: the laws are made to be obeyed, and that includes by politicians. If they ignore them, we will remind them, take them to court and demand our rights. For those slow on the uptake, not just once!

Speaking of which, we have every right to expect that deputies’ immunity and shameful concessions will be severely curtailed forthwith!

Another reminder would be that politicians are there to represent those who voted for them. It’s a brutal game, this education lark, and some just won’t learn.  Certain politicians who invented their own version of democracy were flung out of parliament this week. Many with clear learning difficulties remain, it has to be said.  The choice unfortunately was somewhat limited.

Some lessons are harder.  The subject matter is less clear and the teachers may not be quite sure of their ground.  Take, for example, fundamental expectations of independence and non-interference by politicians in areas outside their realm.  We have become so accustomed to hearing politicians inform us that this or that ruling by a court was flawed, to hearing them make decisions only the Constitutional Court is empowered to make and threaten judges whose rulings were not to their taste, that we have forgotten how entirely unacceptable such interference is. Or, regrettably, we remember only when the politicians represent different views from our own.  “Our” politicians behave just as outrageously with our tacit consent.  This, of course, is nothing but a pedagogical time bomb.

Ukrainian journalists stood up for their rights almost three years ago, and they won.  Not entirely, a lot of work still needs to be done, but politicians have learned that they won’t get away with flagrant pressure and censorship. Journalists have in their turn learned to defend their rights, and most cheeringly to stand up for their colleagues. And the public has become much less tolerant of being fed lies and disinformation.

We need to develop this more widely, and here I am thinking specifically of the judiciary.  Work is needed to reduce tolerance for any blurring of the demarcation line between branches of power.  Politicians are not feudal lords, and they are empowered – by the voters - only to legislate, not to stand in judgment over the courts and its judges.  There is simply no excuse for the behaviour of many politicians in placing the very foundations of a law-based society at risk.  There is also, of course, no excuse for those judges who allow themselves, for what ever reason, to be influenced, and this must also be addressed.

There can be no excuse, and there must therefore be no tolerance.  We will be endeavouring to make this less so clear and accessible over the next months that – following concentrated measures in lesson consolidation  –  nobody will be in any doubt as to how much tolerance they can expect.  They can expect none.

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