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12 November, 2012  ▪  Alla Lazareva,  Serhiy Voropayev

Separate Yanukovych from Ukraine

European officials come to realize that there should be a separation between the Yanukovych regime and the majority of Ukrainians

“Everyone is disappointed - and that’s good,” commented Marek Siwiec, a Polish MP at the European Parliament and member of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats, on the Ukrainian election. Indeed, the Ukrainian government is disappointed by its failure to win a majority in the new parliament at its first attempt in first-past-the-post (FPTP) districts. The opposition is unhappy with the vote-counting process in many FPTP districts where it was likely to win, had the votes been counted properly. So what’s good about this election? According to another Polish MEP and member of the European People’s Party, Pawel Zalewski, the positive thing is that Ukrainian society still had its right to pluralism; the opposition proved that it is still competitive and the concentration of power in the hands of the ruling party is not yet absolute.

About 20 people gathered in the session hall where the conclusions of the European Parliament’s observation mission to the Ukrainian parliamentary election were discussed. “They were those directly interested in developments in Ukraine, or who visited Ukraine as observers,” commented one of the administrators of the European Parliament.

15 MEPs who worked in Ukraine through 26-29 October heard the interim report of Pawel Kowal, the Polish MEP from the Alliance of European Conservatives and Reformists; gave their own comments and reported facts they noticed in the election.

“These are not the final conclusions,” the delegation head stressed. “We will wait until the vote count is completed and we find out the dates of additional elections in several districts, and study the opinions of other observer missions. After this, we will disclose our final opinion.”

Pawel Kowal has changed his tone somewhat since his first comments, which left many of his colleagues surprised. Back then, Mr. Kowal said that everything pertaining to the election was going fairly well with no significant violations. Now, ten days later, when the winners are still not known in a number of FPTP districts, he has corrected himself: “The initial counting went well, but what happened in the later stage raises great doubts. The fact that we are still waiting for results signals that matters are not going the way they should.”

It appears that Pawel Kowal shares the overall position of his colleagues in Brussels: Ukraine should not be punished severely and thus pushed into Moscow’s embrace. “Being familiar with the internal political situation in Ukraine, it would be naïve and ignorant to expect full compliance with democratic standards,” Pawel Zalewsky told The Ukrainian Week.

“On the outside, Ukraine looks like other European democratic countries,” he claims. “However, the nature and the reasoning of the system are different from what is accepted in the EU. The purpose of political parties (in Ukraine – Ed.) is not so much to represent voters’ interests, as it is to protect certain economic interests. The courts are corrupt and dependent on the government. Work in the civil service is used to accumulate personal wealth, not to serve the public. It is no coincidence that there are so many oligarchs in the government. Still, people are Ukraine’s huge asset. They represent the nation’s ambitions. They, not corrupt parties, are the ones we have to stand by. Unfortunately, officials in Brussels and many EU capitals listen to politicians who are integrated into the oligarch system. Behaving in this way, we support corrupt political structures and not Ukrainians. We are contributing to the shutting down of the political system.”

Observers who took part in the session of the European Parliament’s Committee on Foreign Affairs generally took the same tone. “The European Parliament should show Ukraine clearly that it is ready to assist it in preparations for the next election,” said German MEP and representative of the European People’s Group, Michael Gahler. “We must support the Ukrainian people, and not its government,” Romanian MEP Adrian Severin noted. “We should separate the election process from long-term cooperation,” commented Swedish MEP, Anna-Maria Corazza-Bildt.

With most views expressed, it looks like the interim opinion on the Ukrainian election is that “Everyone’s disappointed – and that’s good”. Polish MEP Marek Siwiec accurately captured the prevailing sentiment about Ukraine in the West. Pluralism has been saved, and voters have become more mature and wiser. Ukraine still has a corrupt and non-democratic government, but the prospect of removing it democratically in several years is perfectly feasible. Hence the cautious optimism in Europe that is the complete opposite of the fury among Ukrainian voters. “We expected it to be worse in Kyiv,” a French diplomat admitted in an interview for The Ukrainian Week. “Time and the reason of historical development are working to your benefit. Just have a little patience and consistency in standing up for your rights and freedoms.” 

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