Post-Mortem on Yushchenko’s Presidency


By Myron Spolsky

The following comments were in response to an exchange of opinions on Facebook. They have been edited slightly. DRM

1. We should avoid stereotyping Ukrainians by nationality. By quirk of history they are here, are citizens and define this country. Xenophobia is then the next step. Thankfully, Ukraine is reasonably free of racism and anti-semitism (notwithstanding the efforts of certain elements of the Jewish community to paint a different picture, but that is a separate issue. Yanukovych is indeed Belarusian (but mostly Soviet thug), Tymoshenko is a Heinz 57 of Jewish, Armenian, Ukrainian, Tihipko is Ukrainian-Moldovan, etc, etc. Ultimately, the purity of one’s blood does not determine the effectiveness of the leader.
2. In 2004, Ukraine had a clearcut choice between the continuation of the thuggery and what appeared to be a downtrodden and wronged opposition, who appeared to have a programme (although, in the background, we knew that there was no real programme – more on this latter).
3. In fact, as the CPU leader often said, Yushchenko was no more and no less than the leader of a competing oligarchical grouping, or grouping of oligarchs, each with different plans. He himself led a small interest group consisting of family members and close friends with interests in land, banking and some natural resources. But he appeared to be more honest than Yanukovych,
4. Yushchenko lacked a written ideological position, a written strategic plan to implement his ideology, and hoped to rely on the “people” to implement this nebulous ideology….
5. Any effort by people within the election team to formalize the ideological basis and write an implementation plan were met with derision; the reaction to an strategic implementation plan was even less welcoming.
6. Yushchenko felt that it was sufficient to throw out a few slogans about Europeanization and the Euro-Atlantic defense shield, plus justice, to make the system change.
7. To suggest that Yushchenko appeared more honest may be an effort to be kind to him as his presidency ends – recall the defense of a minister caught in the first month of the presidency in a conflct of interest over the re-export of natural gas and crude oil and over a non-existing degree, the situation with Yushchenko’s son – and Yushchenko’s sense of entitlement which allowed his son to bring an expensive car into the country without paying duties for it, etc., etc., and several instances where his son was involved in “misunderstandings” with others.
8. Failure to return the constitution to its pre-December 2004 edition.
9. Failure to reform bureaucratic requirements (starting with the laws governing notarial requirements, corporations acts, etc.)
10. Failure to reform the police and prosecutor’s office
11. Failure to reform the entire justice system
12. Failure to reform the budgetting system and appropriations
13. The appointment of one of the most corrupt medical officers as minister of health, replacing a professional who wanted to reform the medical system
14. Failure to re-appoint Hrytsenko Minister of Defense and the appointment of Yekhanurov to the ministry.

Let’s examine what he really did:

1. Media: the media has become more russified than before 2004. And certainly the quality of the music played and the TV shows shown are lesser than those 5 years ago.
2. Much noise was made about Holodomor, the Kozak era, Trypillia, but no effort was made to educate in the public media and in the school system about the issues. None, zero. Some decree was occasionally signed asking the media to inform about these issues, but nothing was ever enforced.
3. Baturyn and other reconstructions: money was spent (wasted) on major projects, while other projects, less flamboyant, but no less important, were ignored. In many cases, funds were stolen, stalling projects (the Trypillian dig at Talne, Cherkaska oblast; Poltavske Zemstvo building, Crimean digs, etc.)
4. Other than the work conducted by Ivan Vakarchuk, nothing has occurred to Ukrainianize the school system.

Corruption:

1. In the days following the Supreme Court decision on the elections, Yushchenko’s people were already staking out land within Kyiv on which to start construction of their projects. Immediately following the inauguration, Yushchenko’s people were busy starting their construction projects and dealing with the Party of the Regions people to find compromises on questionable land plots.
2. The natural gas deal with Russia, 2006. Who’s pocket book benefited?
3. Yushchenko’s gubernatorial appointments all too often laundered away budgeted funds (and election campaign funds) into their personal projects. Yushchenko’s party’s election campaigns were badly financed not because of the lack of funds, but because the funds were being siphoned off by his governors. Despite reports from campaign workers directly to the president, nothing was done to change the situation.
4. Appointments: his best and most active supporters were swept away. In their places, corrupt cronies were appointed, often those who had served under Kuchma and who had been fired by Kuchma for corruption – if you were fired by Kuchma it meant that you had really stolen a great deal, so much that even Kuchma was embarrassed.

Work ethic and reality: meetings with the president went on endlessly, with Yushchenko expounding on either kozatstvo or holodomor. Bureaucrats were summoned to meetings, only to sit in the chambers for the whole day without result. Some, who had more panache, would send underlings to sit in the chambers waiting for the meeting. Yushchenko’s love of his flowers, bees and kovbasa making (reportedly) apparently took up part of his working day. Lack of desire to read: he signed documents without reading them, hence some inane appointments and awards. Inabiility to resolve direct issues: Gongadze case and his own poisonning. Bad judgement of people – if he knew that Tymoshenko was a criminal (and he certainly had full access to that information when he was PM), then why did he appoint her (twice). Why the deal in September 2005 with Yanukovych – he knew that his former nemesis would signed anything just to become Prime Minister.

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About DAVID R. MARPLES

Distinguished University Professor, University of Alberta

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