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23 November 2015

Experts: Time running out for government to fulfill EuroMaidan goals

Nov. 20, 2015, 4:15 p.m. | Ukraine — by Mark Rachkevych,
КyivPost


Thousands of people commemorate the Heavenly Hundred during a memorial ceremony marking the first anniversary of the killings of demonstrators in the final act of a dramatic uprising around Independance Square in Kyiv, known as Maidan, on Feb. 20 in Kyiv.
© Volodymyr Petrov

 

Mark Rachkevych

Mark has been a reporter for the Kyiv Post since 2006, but joined full-time in 2009. A native Chicagoan, Mark currently is editor-at-large and still contributes stories on an ongoing basis. He has written bylines with the Financial Times, Bloomberg News, Associated Press, Irish Times, and Ukraine Business Insight, among other publications. He is a former U.S. Peace Corps volunteer, a graduate of St. Norbert College in Wisconsin, and fluent in the Ukrainian and Russian languages.

 

The EuroMaidan Revolution was successful in terms of ousting disgraced ex-President Viktor Yanukovych and his cronies, and shifting Ukraine back toward the path of European integration, according to a significant majority of 31 experts polled this month by the Democratic Initiatives Foundation policy center.

However, two years later, the revolution’s other goals have not been achieved, namely eradicating systemic corruption and punishing those guilty of crimes.

These failures could lead to the undoing of the current government, led by President Petro Poroshenko and Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk, because public trust in them is low, Iryna Bekeshkina, director of the Democratic Initiatives, said at a roundtable to discuss the expert poll’s findings in Kyiv on Oct. 20.

Authorities haven’t brought one conviction related to crimes committed during the Maidan, including killings of protesters, torture, police brutality, abuse of power, Ukraine’s prosecutor’s office announced this week in a series of briefings.

The situation reminded Bekeshkina of the aftermath of the Orange Revolution in 2004, a peaceful uprising that reversed a rigged presidential election that favored Yanukovych. Afterward, Freedom House elevated Ukraine’s status to being a “free country,” yet the nation remained extremely corrupt, according to Transparency International.

Ukraine is in the same precarious position today, Bekeshkina said. More than 70 percent of Ukrainians believe the nation is heading in the wrong direction, Social Monitoring found in a separate nationwide public opinion conducted earlier this month.

“This (current) regime isn’t sustainable. They must act fast because what’s needed is painful and it will affect their close ones, their relatives and friends,” she said of the urgency to combat corruption. “(Public) trust towards government is falling rapidly, this is very dangerous, but it is still not that high as during the Maidan.”

Iryna Bekeshkina

Iryna Bekeshkina, director of the Democratic Initiatives policy center.

What also is needed is for parliament to pass legislation in line with the revolution’s goal of “democratization,” Kyiv Mohyla Academy political science professor Oleksiy Haran said at the discussion.

“We need a ‘Maidan’ in parliament to pass the necessary laws, that’s the path we need to take…we need civic activists who can write specific laws related to sectoral changes and then lobby them to fruition,” Haran said, who was one of the experts polled.

He lamented that that civic activists from the revolution didn’t form their own party in the movement’s aftermath and instead joined existing parties.

“They did this for pragmatic reasons because they feared the new party wouldn’t have passed the 5-percent threshold” in the October 2014 parliamentary election, Haran said.

A new political nation is emerging following the revolution, the poll found among its positive outcomes, in addition to “growth of national consciousness” and heightened civic activity and volunteering.

On the negative side, Russia’s aggression and war against Ukraine was the most frequently mentioned by experts, including the loss of “territorial integrity.”

Experts were roughly divided in half on whether a third mass uprising, or Maidan III, could erupt in the near future.

Foremost among the reasons given for another popular uprising to occur is the “lack of progress with the implementation of essential reforms and corresponding tangible changes in the lives of ordinary citizens.”

To this end, according to Haran, thanks to changes brought on by the revolution, “no branch of government can ignore pressure from civil society or the public (anymore)…this is revolutionary.”

Kyiv Post editor Mark Rachkevych can be reached at rachkevych@kyivpost.com