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Civic anger over hijacked public councils

01.03.2013    source:
Civic organizations believe that those in power have orchestrated the effective hijacking of the Public Councils under the Foreign Ministry and Kyiv City State Administration in order to make them malleable as part of an assault on civic society

The Democratic Initiatives Foundation reports that the creation of a new Public Council attached to the Foreign Ministry was staged in advance. It says that the organizations on the Public Council were carefully selected, with many of them puppet organizations. On the other hand, key organizations with an obvious interest and considerable expertise to offer were not selected. This includes not only the Democratic Initiatives Foundation [DIF], but also the Razumkov Centre, and the Ukrainian Independent Political Research Centre.

A similar situation is seen with the Public Council attached to the Kyiv City State Administration. Experts are convinced that it is the government which is orchestrating this as part of a wide-scale assault on civic society.

DIF Director Iryna Bekeshkina says that at first glance you could believe that everything was done correctly. Certainly organizations coordinated together well and managed to create a majority. This happened last year also when members of the Assembly of God managed to get their person elected Chair of the Public Council, though there was soon a new election. In previous years, however, all who wished to could get on the council.  Last year there were 160 organizations. Those that didn’t attend meetings were filtered out, leaving the active groups wishing to work.

This year, she says, there was something strange. 500 organizations expressed the wish to be on the Kyiv Administration Public Council; 360 on the Foreign Ministry’s.  The majority suddenly voted for a reduction in the number of members – to the Kyiv Administration up to 50; to the Foreign Ministry Public Council – up to 75.

Having analyzed the lists of members, experts believe that there are certain quota groups:

-          business interests;

-          representatives of officialdom;

-          people directly linked with the ruling Party of the Regions;

-          organizations who have received serious grants from government structures, and are unlikely to prove “ungrateful”,

She says that the theatre of the absurd which took place demonstrates that a process has begun of creating parallel civic structures.  She points out that the Councils now even have members known in the West as GONGO (Government-Organized Non-Governmental Organization).  She is blunt in calling this imitation of democracy and says that one can in no way talk of dialogue with civic society.

With regard to the Public Council under the Foreign Ministry which is presently moving away from European integration, such a puppet structure will be useful to say “yes” if, for example, the course changes towards joining the Customs Union.

The former Chair of that Public Council, Ihor Zhdanov, President of the Open Policy Foundation, is convinced that the regime is following a clear course towards seizing control of all public councils.  He recalls that in December last year, when President Yanukovych was wavering as to whether to go to Moscow, the old Public Council issued a statement regarding the inadmissibility of Ukraine joining the Custom Union.  The statement, he says, had widespread support among the public, but did not please those in power.

Yulia Tyshchenko from the Ukrainian Independent Political Research Centre points out that the Council now includes a number of organizations, supposedly representing national minorities, linked with Vadim Kolesnichenko, author of the highly controversial language law, are now on the Council. The law has deeply divided the country, and she notes that many of those now on the Council were signatories to the letter to the OSCE attacking the OSCE Komissar Knut Vollebek (see

There are trends visible towards monopolization of power by the Party of the Regions and various segments of this, including the “Family” (around President Yanukovych and his son Oleksandr – translator).  Seizure of the public councils, the experts believe, is yet another brick in this monopolistic structure. 

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