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3 February, 2014

An Enormous Task Ahead

The size and persistence of the protest movement that started in November has been amazing and admirable. I think it has greatly surprised not only almost all international observers but also most Ukrainian political and civil society activists

It is important to start looking at scenarios for the coming elections. The protest movement seems very much focused on getting new elections soon, but the question how the elections are organized and who runs them is probably more important than when they are held. ODIHR, the human rights and democracy unit of the OSCE, has issued reports on Ukrainian elections with a wealth of recommendations on making them really free and fair. It would be extremely valuable if they could be involved in designing the next elections.

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More in general, both the OSCE and the Council of Europe have a great deal of knowledge and wisdom to offer on rule of law development and democracy building. They are the real expert organisations in these fields.

I have noted a lot of scepticism among Ukrainians about politicians in general. This scepticism is comparable to the feeling among protestors in many other European countries. Part of the opposition political parties were in power themselves for five years. Why were many of the reforms required not set in motion in that period? Other opposition groups have an extreme nationalist position which may alienate sectors of the population from the reform movement. Russian-speaking Ukrainians are Ukrainians as well; the experience of yet another OSCE body, the High Commissioner on National Minorities, can play an important role here.

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So there is an enormous task ahead for active and concerned Ukrainian citizens: not just protesting against and trying to change the current government, but also continue to scrutinize those who will come next.

Harry Hummel is Executive Director of the Netherlands Helsinki Committee

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