Andreas Gross: "Ukraine is already under authoritarian rule"
Andreas Gross headed the PACE observation mission for the October 2012 parliamentary election in Ukraine. Before PACE publishes its official report on the Ukrainian election on November 12, Mr. Gross shared his opinion with The Ukrainian Week.
UW: How has the nature and the progress of the parliamentary campaign in Ukraine changed since the previous election in 2007?
If you want me to sum it up, I’d say that it was a trend towards more authoritarianism. Today, oligarchs and money have even more power than in 2007. They control the public sector; and the new election law increased their influence and reinforced their position in the election. Money dominates even more now, citizens feel more sidelined and excluded, the whole process has grown more unfair, the outcome of the election is even less legitimate now, and many more citizens failed to recognize themselves in the parliament elected in October 2012 compared to that elected in 2007.
UW: Have Ukrainian authorities already failed their test on democracy?
I would say, yes. They could have done much better and the citizens would have deserved much more democracy - and a better democracy.
UW: Are the reported falsifications in the vote preventing PACE from recognizing Ukrainian election as democratic, free and transparent?
For me personally this election was neither transparent nor free, or really democratic. Our collective view goes in this direction, but not all see it as clearly as I do.
UW: How do you see the impact of big business groups on Ukrainian elections?
It’s enormous. Big money has colonized the entire public sphere in Ukraine, which makes it the antithesis of democracy. The electoral process was designed by oligarchs for oligarchic interests, while the general interest of society and ordinary citizens was forgotten. This is very sad, but true, and that’s why we have to find ways for citizens to take back ownership of elections so that they express the power of the people, not just of the oligarchs.
UW: The enormous abuse of administrative resources before and during the election showed the lack of a clear division between the state and the ruling party. Does this signal that Ukraine is moving towards authoritarian rule?
In my opinion, Ukraine is not moving towards authoritarian rule – it is already under authoritarian rule. The way the ruling party does not respect the autonomy of the state, the way big financial interests dominate electoral legislation as well as economic policy, and the way the general interest is forgotten in favour of specific private economic interests are all signals of this fact which exists already.
UW: How might the election affect the Council of Europe's assessment of the political situation in Ukraine?
European politicians need to be aware that the voices of the Ukrainian government and parliamentary majorities are not the voices of the Ukraine people. In order to hear Ukrainians, they should listen to them more carefully and meet them more directly – of course it would help us if Ukrainians also spoke out more directly to Europeans who want to support them. I mean that any European body should respond to this with a more careful and wiser cooperation with people who serve the interests of the nation, and not oligarchs and wealthy Ukrainians. Isolation is not the right response.
The shambolic renovation of the Central Electoral Commission, which has been in progress for several years now, looks about to be finally concluded. On Feb. 5, the President submitted a list of candidates to the Verkhovna Rada and this suggests that the process is finally being unblocked