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5 December, 2011

Opportunists

Ukraine does not have any other elites except these – the corrupt, opportunistic, demagogic elites that only care about the real future of a coterie of companions rather than that of the country at large

It sounds horrible, but I am beginning to understand Lenin. He hated opportunists more than anyone else and made sure he conveyed that sentiment in almost every article he wrote. The people he disparagingly called opportunists were representatives of social democratic movements who in what seemed to be the tough conditions of a police state insisted on seizing existing opportunities. More exactly, they refused to fight and wanted an amicable agreement with their political opponents. In simple words, opportunism is timeserving. It would be interesting to know what Lenin, the prototype of a granite monument at the corner of Khreshchatyk Street and Shevchenko Boulevard in Kyiv, would say about the result of the November 17, 2011, vote on a new parliamentary election law in Ukraine. What would he call the opposition members who voted in favor of the draft law? Remembering the sheer range of Lenin’s polemic temperament, it is horrible to even imagine.

Everyone knows that politics is the art of the real and must involve compromises. However, compromises are not all alike. Striking situational agreements, maneuvering and making temporary retreats is completely different from totally betraying your declared principles. Admittedly, the ruling coalition was defending its own interests, and even if it had contradicted its interests, there are not many mischief-makers in its ranks who would have ignored the voting instructions from the party leadership. But the opposition? Didn’t BYuT and Front of Changes MPs understand what they were doing? Despite the fact that the cultural and intellectual level of some MPs leaves much to be desired, there are no clinical idiots among them. On the contrary, they are perfectly aware that raising the parliamentary threshold and banning blocs from elections are grist for their mill, because they will receive the votes that would otherwise be cast for “marginal” opposition parties. However, it is equally clear that under the new law, the serried ranks of the Party of Regions will swell, thus ruling out or utterly complicating the return to a normal representative government with a human face. This is something that is gradually happening even now.

There is no arguing that an ideal electoral system is nonexistent. Even the most perfect system of checks and balances may be mutilated by countless seemingly subjective and minor factors, from low overall political culture to conspiracies among the elites. We appear to be dealing with both woes at the same time, but it seems the former is nothing unusual and sometimes even leads to wondrous bursts of civic activity like the Orange Revolution. Unfortunately, there is no cure for the latter woe. At present, Ukraine does not have any other elites except these – the corrupt, opportunistic, demagogic elites that only care about the real future of a coterie of companions rather than that of the country at large. They are not concerned about true development — they merely fake it.

The ruling party was given a carte blanche by the opposition to do anything it likes during the next elections to the Verkhovna Rada. Its hands are untied and it has even been given a blessing – that is the drama of the situation. No one really pressured the opportunists to do what they did. It was proven in practice a long time ago that Party of Regions MPs plus defectors from other parties can pass any law – I mean literally any law. So what was the point of participating in it and getting smeared? You introduced an illusory safety net against falsifications and won some pro forma concessions? Opportunists – that’s the word for you. Or did you care about your narrow interests? In any case, the fatal number of 366, which is how many votes were cast in favor of the new law, is a sad new record in Ukrainian politics and a new dirty page in its history.

But celebrations are premature. Our voters may have short memories, but not as short as the rope-walkers in the recently fenced-in parliamentary building would want to believe. I don’t know if anyone has noticed a connection between the plummeting popularity rating of the previous president and the invitation he at one point extended to Viktor Yanukovych to head the government. Or have you perceived a link between the unforgettable attempt at forging a coalition between BYuT and the Party of Regions and the reluctance of the general public to gather to free Yulia Tymoshenko from the pre-trial detention unit where she was kept? If public opinion were surveyed, a convincing correlation would be found. Here is another example: Oleksandr Moroz, the leader of Ukrainian socialists, made a fatal decision to enter into a coalition with the Party of Regions. In this case, the link between this move and Moroz' total disappearance from the political arena is in plain view. Where is he? He’s gone. Who is next? Crucially, there is not anyone else to blame here. Say what you may, but politics has to do with values. And values, true or false, are unforgiving when betrayed. Ask Lenin. There he is, in pink granite, standing at the intersection across from Besarabka marketplace in downtown Kyiv.


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