The Government Breaks Bad

29 November 2011, 09:00

Some NGOs had planned public events in Kyiv on 22 November to celebrate the seventh anniversary of the Orange Revolution. In accordance with the Constitution, they had duly notified the Kyiv City State Administration in advance. The latter appealed to the court for a ban on any public events on that day. The appeal was far from being democratic, but technically legitimate. The court satisfies the demand, which it has the right to do under the letter of the law. The police and State Guard Department thought that public events on the Day of Liberty, as the anniversary is commonly referred to, would fuel clashes. Why would they, though? Moreover, the rallies at Maidan could get in the way of the cortege of Dalia Grybauskaitė, the Lithuanian President, during her visit to Kyiv on the same day. The authorities brought in several hundred Berkut officers, internal soldiers and, according to various estimates, nearly 100 undercover plainclothes police officers to Independence Square. This was also perfectly legitimate, after all, the police was enforcing the court ruling. Surprisingly, though, the infamous Party of Regions’ Oleh Kalashnikov turned up at Maidan in the afternoon with his gang, officially known as The Joint Military Union, and held a full-scale rally. Brave Berkut, the troops and undercover officers suddenly suffered a memory loss as to why there were there in the first place: they just stood there and did not lift a finger to ensure that the court ruling was complied with. Quite on the contrary, they encircled Kalashnikov’s group to protect it from the orange supporters. This travesty of justice arranged by the government on 22 November was painfully absurd. A crime makes sense in cases where millions are at stake. But what was the point of Kalashnikov’s rally and the government’s blatant neglect of law on the Day of Liberty? Would this add the 10% to the Party of Regions’ popularity that it needs to win the upcoming parliamentary election? Quite the opposite, all Kalashnikov did was to humiliate the government and especially the Party of Regions.

This is showing a curious trend, though. The government does something equally stupid and illegal on quite a regular basis. To this day, Mr. Tabacnhyk has not faced any punishment for his anti-Ukrainian statements, nor has Mr. Mohyliov for his anti-Tatar ones. On 9 May, just like on 22 November, provocateurs were delivered to the Honor Monument in Lviv with Victory flags despite the court’s ban on any public events on that day. The police protected the buses. On Independence Day, the police violated the court’s decision by preventing the public from marching across Volodymyrska Street in Kyiv.

The government can be democratic or not. It can be authoritarian or liberal. It can do what it wants and make unpopular decisions. There is just one thing it cannot do: break the law. A government that does not honor the law puts its own legitimacy in question. Yanukovych&Co have offered the public a dangerous game without rules. Today, they can ignore the law, while tomorrow, the law can become a superfluous formality for every citizen.  

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