Governance, Democratization and Mass Media
For a state in which much of political life, governance and the judiciary has been captured by vested interests for the past 25 years, the tally of democratic reforms undertaken since the Euromaidan revolution is impressive. But these reforms are neither complete nor irreversible, and in 2017 there have been signs of substantial pushback from the Ukrainian establishment. Most observers continue to see grounds for optimism, but more needs to be done to secure the country’s still-fragile political transformation.
The national tradition in Ukraine is stronger than the state tradition and has become even stronger in the period since 2014. But the major tasks Ukraine has to undertake require institution-building and state management, and much of the change requires high-level political coordination. The Freedom House ‘Nations in Transit’ rankings for 2017 describe Ukraine as a ‘transitional government or hybrid regime’, on a par with Georgia and Albania. Ukraine’s self-proclaimed status as a European country invites high expectations both among the domestic electorate and international partners for improved governance – not least, in relation to obligations under the EU Association Agreement. Significant progress has been made in legislative, public administration, decentralization and local government reforms. Some 320 reform-related laws were adopted in 2015 and a further 200 or so in 2016; in comparison, legislative activity pre-2014 was among the lowest in the former Soviet region.
Yet formidable challenges remain. Ukraine’s constitutional framework has been in flux since independence. The 1996 constitution provided for strong presidential authority, which was weakened in 2004, reinstated in 2010, and in 2014 weakened again when the 2004 amendments were restored. Constitutional reform has been hesitant, and there is no clear division of powers between the executive, the legislature (Verkhovna Rada) and the judiciary, all of which are subject to influence by politicians with business interests. Ukraine by no means has an authoritarian system, such as that which Viktor Yanukovych tried to establish during his presidency (2010–14). The current president, Petro Poroshenko, shares power both with the government and – since the ruling coalition’s loss of its parliamentary majority in 2016 – with a variety of other political forces. Nonetheless, the presidency has considerable – and, many would argue, undue – influence over the political process; it is alleged, for example, that the new candidates nominated by the president for the Central Electoral Commission (CEC) in 2016 (but not accepted by the Rada) were affiliated with the governing parties, with no representation for opposition parties.
Corruption also remains rife. Measures to tackle it are discussed in detail elsewhere in this study (see Chapter 7, in particular). Crucial electoral reform is stalled, and there have been calls for early parliamentary elections (not due until 2019), but these would be unlikely to produce a fair result while the existing system is in place. Even if elections were entirely free and fair, this would not be sufficient to establish a fully functioning democracy. An expert on democratic transition concluded in early 2017 that substantive progress in Ukraine could take ‘several electoral cycles’. Despite significant progress, reform in most areas has required persistent pressure from the international community and civil society. In particular, conditionality and incentives from the EU and IMF, such as the lure of visa-free travel to Schengen countries, have been crucial. Opponents of reform have attempted to dilute crucial legislation concerning ‘e-declarations’ of the assets of public officials, as well as other areas. Meanwhile, the lack of clear procedural rules makes it easy to weaken legislation with amendments and counter-drafts.
Given this context, lack of popular faith in the political system is hardly surprising. In a recent opinion poll, 80 per cent of respondents indicated that they do not trust state officials, 77 per cent that they do not trust political parties, 74 per cent that they do not trust the government, and 67 per cent that they do not trust the president. Likewise, Ukraine’s pro-European civil society does not trust the political establishment to carry through fundamental reform. Using various mechanisms – such as the Reanimation Package of Reforms (RPR, a broad coalition of NGOs); CHESNO (an organization that pushes for transparency and fairness in elections); and direct civil society participation in government departments – civil society is involved in initiating and drafting legislation and monitoring progress. The RPR publishes timelines and checklists on reform legislation, showing which laws have been adopted and implemented and when.
Parliament and political parties
Ukraine has a premier-presidential system, a form of semi-presidentialism in which the prime minister and cabinet are collectively responsible solely to the legislature. This often results in rivalry between the president and prime minister. Deputies to the Verkhovna Rada are elected through a mixed system, with half of the 450 seats filled by proportional representation and the other half in majoritarian (single-mandate) constituencies. Twenty-nine seats, representing Crimea and the occupied parts of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts, are currently vacant. (There is little prospect at present of free and fair elections taking place in the occupied territories.) Political parties are still personality-driven rather than ideology-driven. The work of the Rada itself is only partly reformed, and informal ways of agreeing legislation and policies persist.
The October 2014 parliamentary election resulted in a wide-ranging realignment of political forces
The October 2014 parliamentary election resulted in a wide-ranging realignment of political forces. This realignment did little to reduce institutional resistance to systemic reform, however, and the power of vested interests remains entrenched. The eastern Ukrainian elite saw its parliamentary position dramatically diminished, as the Opposition Bloc (which inherited what was left of the Party of Regions, the power base of the Yanukovych regime) won only one-tenth the number of seats secured by the pro-Euromaidan parties. Of the previously existing parties, only the Fatherland Party (Batkivshchyna) led by Yulia Tymoshenko and the populist Oleh Lyashko’s Radical Party were able to retain seats (the Radical Party gained 22 seats, having had just one in the 2012 parliament).
Other parties disappeared or reconstituted themselves as new ones (in order to circumvent the legal ban on electoral blocs or alliances) composed of members of previous parties: President Poroshenko’s Bloc of Petro Poroshenko (BPP); the then prime minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk’s People’s Front (which included several former leading members of the Fatherland Party); Lviv mayor Andriy Sadovyi’s Samopomich (Self-Reliance) party; and the Opposition Bloc, which won 29 seats.
For the first time since the Soviet era, the Communist Party did not win enough votes to enter the Rada. Far-right groups did badly: Svoboda (Yanukovych’s coalition partner in the pre-Euromaidan government) won only six seats, and Right Sector only one seat.
Overall, the composition of parliament changed substantially. More than 50 per cent of members of parliament (MPs) elected were new to the Rada, and its younger entrants included leaders of the Euromaidan movement, battlefield commanders, and investigative journalists pressing vigorously for reform.
The People’s Front and the BPP won the largest number of seats (226). On 27 November 2014, they formed a pro-Western, reformist ‘European Ukraine’ coalition, controlling 288 seats jointly with Samopomich, the Radical Party and the rump of the Fatherland Party, with Yatsenyuk again as prime minister. The coalition lasted in this form until August 2015, when the Rada passed at first reading a constitutional amendment on administrative decentralization. However, the amendment failed to win the 300 votes necessary for full enactment of constitutional change, because it included provision for special status for the occupied parts of Donbas (as required by the Minsk II agreement). The populist Radical Party left the coalition over this issue.
In early 2016 Yatsenyuk narrowly survived a vote of no confidence, after which the Fatherland Party also left the coalition, as did Samopomich, in the latter case over the slow pace of reform. As a result, the ruling coalition was left with only 215 votes in the Rada, 11 short of a majority. In April 2016 Yatsenyuk was replaced by Deputy Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman, an associate of President Poroshenko and former mayor of Vinnytsia in western Ukraine. The coalition survived. Groysman has shown that he is his own man, rather than the president’s, and he appears to have mended fences with the People’s Front. However, voting records in the Rada show that many parties are divided, that about 40 MPs from the BPP and People’s Front form an ‘internal opposition’ within the coalition, and that opposition parties sometimes vote with the government. The popularity of the BPP and People’s Front has plummeted, while the Fatherland Party seems to be on the rise once again (see Figure 2).
Figure 2: Changes in popularity of political parties in 2014–16
The BPP’s division goes back to November 2015, when 15 mainly new Verkhovna Rada members formed a sub-faction in the party under the banner of fighting corruption. In June 2016, its leaders, Svitlana Zalishchuk, Serhiy Leshchenko and Mustafa Nayyem, key members of the 23-strong ‘Euro-Optimist’ cross-party caucus in the Rada, joined the Democratic Alliance (‘DemAlliance’), a hitherto insignificant party, to form a new party described as based on liberal values and pro-European orientation. They had been critical of Poroshenko’s anti-corruption efforts since the Euromaidan revolution. Some Samopomich MPs also joined DemAlliance. In July 2016, at its first congress, the reconstituted party adopted a platform of ‘transforming Ukraine into a modern European country’, with the hope of winning 12–15 per cent of the vote in the next parliamentary election (due in 2019). However, it is far from certain to get over the threshold of 5 per cent needed to enter the Rada, and its members accept they will likely need to form a new party with other like-minded politicians.
In a December 2016 survey of voting intentions, 53.1 per cent of respondents said they were undecided, would not vote or would spoil the ballot
Other newcomers on the scene are Sila Ludey, another party with a strong anti-corruption agenda, and the Movement of New Forces set up by Mikheil Saakashvili, the former president of Georgia. In early November 2016, Saakashvili resigned as governor of Odesa, accusing the president of tolerating corruption. Saakashvili described his party as a new Ukrainian political force without links to big business or established political factions, and said he would push for early elections. It is, however, essentially a populist movement rather than a genuine force for progress. In April 2017, the Movement of New Forces joined with Volya, which won one single-mandate seat in 2014. However, Saakashvili’s political future in Ukraine is now in doubt, after President Poroshenko stripped him of his Ukrainian citizenship in July 2017.
Opposition parties have also evolved. There have been reports of a split in the Opposition Bloc between the ‘Donbas group’ led by Rinat Akhmetov and the ‘Energy group’ led by Dmytro Firtash (an energy tycoon currently under house arrest in Austria). However, the Opposition Bloc is unlikely to split and is still well positioned to benefit from popular dissatisfaction. It is a vociferous critic of the government’s pro-reform policies and fiercely opposes any moves to limit Russian influence in Ukraine. It is the only parliamentary force that openly refuses to recognize the Donbas conflict as Russian aggression against Ukraine. There is also a smaller group of parliamentarians controlled by Viktor Medvedchuk, a pro-Russian politician and confidant of Vladimir Putin. The concept of ‘opposition’ has itself become muddled, since the Opposition Bloc usually votes against anti-corruption legislation but supports the governing coalition on an ad hoc (opportunistic) basis, in so-called ‘situational coalitions’.
The Opposition Bloc is a vociferous critic of the government’s pro-reform policies and fiercely opposes any moves to limit Russian influence in Ukraine
In June 2015 a new party, the Association of Patriots of Ukraine (UKROP), was established, based on a group of non-party deputies in the Rada called the Patriotic Alliance. UKROP’s support base is the industrial Dnipropetrovsk region, which became prominent in 2014–15 due to its proximity to the conflict zone and the tough line taken towards pro-Russian militants by its then governor, Ihor Kolomoyskyi, a media owner often described as the only truly pro-Ukrainian business tycoon. In the spring of 2017, after the government had responded to a spontaneous blockade of the occupied areas of Donbas by populist and nationalist forces by imposing its own official blockade, the largest nationalist and veterans’ movements, Svoboda, Right Sector and National Corps, formed an alliance. This alliance may not last long. In addition, populist forces from Tymoshenko’s Fatherland Party, which currently enjoys the highest popularity ratings, are pushing for early elections.
While many of the old practices in politics persist, attempts are under way to reform the parliamentary process; to improve MPs’ links with their constituencies, local authorities and the media; and to build capacity in policy development, working practices and ethics. There has been a sharp reduction in the practice of MPs voting on behalf of absent members, and Rada attendance has improved. The number of women MPs has risen steadily, from 11 (2.4 per cent of the total) in 1991–94 to 47 (11 per cent of the current total, excluding vacant seats) in 2014. However, some of the October 2014 cohort of new MPs say they are not fully accepted or able to influence the Rada to promote reform – they still feel ‘like guests’. Low salaries and inertia are thought to be drawing some of the new MPs into the same sort of bad practices as those of the old guard.
A majority of the Ukrainian population favours the abolition of immunity from prosecution enjoyed by parliamentarians and members of the judiciary. In July 2016, in a rare case, 275 members of the Rada voted to remove the immunity of Oleksandr Onyshchenko, an MP from the People’s Will faction accused of fraudulent conduct in energy trading. Onyshchenko himself claimed that the case against him was fabricated and politically motivated, and fled abroad, where he himself has made allegations of corruption against the Poroshenko administration. There have been other recent attempts to lift the immunity of members of the Rada and prosecute them in respect of allegations of fraud and embezzlement. In his annual address on 7 September 2017, President Poroshenko suggested that parliamentary immunity might be abolished with effect from 1 January 2020, a proposal that is likely to meet with resistance.
On 7 September 2017, President Poroshenko suggested that parliamentary immunity might be abolished with effect from 1 January 2020
Electoral reform, though essential for Ukraine, is not making progress. Civil society, reformist parties and international experts are pressing for the following changes: a shift to an open-list proportional system for parliamentary elections; renewal of the CEC, which organizes and oversees elections; the enfranchisement of internally displaced persons and internal labour migrants; the application of effective and dissuasive penalties for violations of electoral law; and effective investigation of offences. There is also a need for continued reform of political financing, including the establishment of an electronic declaration system for the financial reports of political parties and candidates, and restrictions on campaign spending and advertising.
The 2014 parliamentary election was held under the existing mixed system (proportional representation plus single-mandate constituencies). The proportional lists brought in new people, while the old guard hung on in the single-mandate districts. Reformists, with support from the Venice Commission, have advocated an open-list proportional system for all elections in Ukraine. They call for the elimination of the single-mandate constituencies, which tend to preserve the influence of vested interests and bad practices such as vote-buying and the use of government resources in elections. The new ruling coalition’s programme promised change. A new draft electoral code exists, but there is no consensus for adopting it. Open-list proportional representation would involve direct voting for candidates on party lists in all the regions. The system has some drawbacks, but would reduce the influence of vested interests.
The CEC is still as constituted under Yanukovych, with 13 of its 15 members now more than two years beyond expiry of their seven-year mandate (extended to allow local elections to be held in 2015). The CEC’s head, Mikhail Okhendovskiy, was recently under investigation for corruption but remained in his post. In September 2017 the criminal investigation was suspended due to lack of evidence, and he claimed that the case against him had been politically motivated. President Poroshenko nominated 11 replacements for 12 members of the CEC, but many were seen as politically partial and were not accepted by the Rada.
One move to reduce manipulation of elections is the provision of state funding for political parties. Parties received more than UAH 90 million ($3.3 million) from the state in the first quarter of 2017. These funds may not be used for election campaigning and are only paid to parties that reached the threshold of 5 per cent of the vote in the previous election, but from the next election the threshold for funding will be lowered to 2 per cent. The issue of state financing of parties remains controversial, as many politicians lack enthusiasm for openly regulated financing, and the public do not see why their taxes should fund what they perceive as corrupt entities. The placing of paid advertisements in election campaigns is to be restricted, in order to establish a more level playing field for parties and reduce their ‘capture’ by private business interests.
Political party funding is monitored by the National Agency for Prevention of Corruption (NAPC), which became operational in the spring of 2016. Limits are set for donations to parties and candidates: donations are only permitted from Ukrainian legal entities and individuals; the maximum individual donation is 400 times the minimum monthly salary (UAH 3,200 – about $116), while the maximum from legal entities is 800 times the minimum salary. Local party branches have to report quarterly on donations received and how they are used. Some parties have been fined for providing false information in their statements on property, income, spending and financial liabilities.
World Bank governance indicators place Ukraine in the 25th to 50th percentile for quality of governance, along with Russia, Belarus and much of Latin America. Ukraine has remained in this position more or less constantly since 1996. A bloated bureaucracy, numbering around half a million people, is inefficient and provides opportunity for corruption. Reform has begun, assisted by large-scale financial support from the EU. The National Bank of Ukraine and the ministries of finance and the economy have made considerable progress. However, the resignation since 2016 of a number of reformist ministers and deputy ministers – such as Aivaras Abromavičius, minister of economy and trade from 2014 to February 2016 – constitutes a setback even though these individuals had already achieved a good deal in launching far-reaching reform.
A bloated bureaucracy, numbering around half a million people, is inefficient and provides opportunity for corruption
A new Law on the Civil Service, adopted in December 2015, entered into force on 1 May 2017. Implementation of a strategy for reform of state administration started in July 2016. Henceforth all appointments have to be made on a competitive basis. The most senior appointments in all government departments are to be decided by a commission, in which four out of 12 members are from civil society (academics and NGO members). Experts from the Centre of Policy and Legal Reform (CPLR), a think-tank involved in the commission, suggest that the reform has been implemented in a ‘back to front’ manner: they believe that the ministries should have been reorganized first, in order to clarify the roles of senior civil servants. There is currently confusion over who should apply for senior positions and what their roles will be. But low salaries deter good people from applying. Training in strategic policy planning has begun, but civil servants tend to see this as interference in their work.
Devolution from the highly centralized system of government has begun. It is enhancing local democracy and has the potential to empower communities. Reforms cover three main areas: administrative-territorial reforms (amalgamation of local government entities); devolution of executive power; and fiscal decentralization. Legislation was passed in 2014–15, but its constitutional underpinnings were not adopted because of opposition to the granting of special status to the occupied parts of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions in the east of the country. Draft legislation on decentralization had been on the agenda for a number of years; in 2008–09 implementation began but then stopped. In 2014 the then deputy prime minister and minister for regional development, Volodymyr Groysman (now prime minister), restarted the process.
A government decree on local self-government launched the reform in June 2014, and the amalgamation of communities began in February 2015. In 2015, 159 amalgamated hromady (communities) were formed, the number reaching 400 by mid-2017. Previously, there had been 11,000 municipalities, with little power and no money. Eventually there will be no more than about 1,200. Amalgamation is voluntary and takes a few months, once the councils concerned have decided to go ahead with the process. Support from 50 per cent of the population is also required, with new hromady formed after local elections. In the region of Vinnytsia, for example, out of 800 municipalities, only about 50 will remain. There was a surge of support from local authorities for amalgamation in 2015–16, when they saw that they would have their own funds and could provide better services for their communities. Voluntary amalgamation is scheduled to go on for four to five years, after which the government will reorganize those communities that remain unreformed. Some parliamentary forces would like to stop amalgamation, however, and there have been allegations of political interference involving populist parties at local level.
Local taxes will play an important part in decentralization. In addition to raising their own revenues, local communities receive government grants for education, healthcare, infrastructure and regional development. There is also a tax-equalizing grant to reduce inequality between the regions. Some communities were not keen to amalgamate, but the new tax-raising powers are a major incentive, as they allow the hromady to keep tax receipts on property, parking and tourism, as well as 60 per cent of personal income tax receipts. Thanks to fiscal decentralization, the 159 amalgamated communities formed in 2015 increased their budget revenues by 50 per cent. Decentralization has had a positive effect in the education and healthcare sectors, where services have improved and spending has become more efficient.
Decentralization of regional planning in major sectors of the economy is also under way. For example, decisions on construction are no longer taken at central government level. A new regional policy has been developed with EU support, based on a framework law on regional policy. Strategic planning is to be conducted on a top-down basis for state funding, and on a bottom-up basis for regional decision-making. A State Fund for Regional Development provides subsidies similar to EU structural funds. The fund gets 1 per cent of the total state budget, distributing 80 per cent of this among all regions and 20 per cent to poorer regions such as Ternopil and Chernivtsi. In Soviet times, most subsidies went to factory towns, so after 1991 factories in poorer regions such as western Ukraine closed as they had no resource base. Administrative capacity and the political integrity of oblast decisions are still weak, so the process is being closely monitored.
Creating a democratic, transparent and accountable media landscape is crucial to Ukraine’s transformation. In Freedom House’s press freedom ranking for 2016, Ukraine was classified as ‘partly free’, ranking 112th out of 199 countries. (Its ranking is depressed by the lack of media freedom in Crimea and Donbas.) Although the main media companies are still owned by powerful vested interests, Ukraine has a genuinely pluralistic media environment. Television is the preferred source of news for 85 per cent of the population, but the internet is also very popular. People are able to obtain news from multiple sources.
Creating a democratic, transparent and accountable media landscape is crucial to Ukraine’s transformation
Ukrainian tycoons still own seven of the country’s eight major television stations, giving some political parties disproportionate access to the media during election campaigns. Media assets also provide prominent business people with other means of influencing political and public life. President Poroshenko has retained ownership of his 5 Kanal channel, despite widespread calls for him to give it up. A package of amendments that came into force in October 2015 requires broadcasters and programme service providers to disclose detailed information about their ownership structures, including the identities of ultimate beneficiaries; companies are obliged to comply within six months, but this requirement has not yet been fully enforced. There is no independent press and media regulator.
A law adopted in 2014 and amended in 2015 established a new public broadcasting corporation, overseen by a supervisory board of 13 openly elected members with strong civil society representation. The law made Ukraine’s only state-owned broadcaster, the National TV and Radio Broadcasting Company (NTU), into an independent public broadcaster; the new entity was registered in January 2017. While NTU broadcasts can be viewed in 90 per cent of Ukrainian territory, its audience so far makes up less than 4 per cent of the total viewing audience. This is partly because the channel was previously popular with rural and older people for its Soviet-era content such as concerts, and this cohort of viewers no longer watches NTU because the content is now mainly news. The concept of public broadcasting is not yet widely understood in Ukraine. Because it is government-funded, people tend to think that the channel is state-run. Nonetheless, it is gaining in popularity due to the high quality of its content.
New media outlets have sprung up in the wake of the Euromaidan revolution. Many of them are actively trying to counter Russian propaganda in the world media. Among them are Hromadske TV, StopFake, Ukraine Crisis Media Centre, Euromaidan Press, and other websites and blogs. StopFake has a weekly programme reporting what demonstrably fake news has been circulating. It broadcasts on up to 30 television channels Ukraine-wide and has a website in 10 languages. However, the new channels cannot compete financially with the tycoon-financed ones, so they depend to a large extent on foreign funding.
Combating propaganda and fake news from Russia has been a major challenge for the Ukrainian authorities, who lay themselves open to charges of censorship when they attempt to curb the influence of Russian channels, especially in the east and south of Ukraine. At least 70 per cent of broadcasting in Ukraine has hitherto been in Russian, but the government has been trying to tilt the balance towards Ukrainian-language services by establishing quotas in radio and television broadcasting. The law on quotas for the Ukrainian language on radio entered into force on 8 November 2016. It requires at least 25 per cent of songs and at least 50 per cent of programmes to be in Ukrainian. A 2017 law requires 75 per cent of television broadcasts to be in Ukrainian. On 15 May 2017, the government banned the use of Russian internet service providers and social media platforms such as Vkontakte. The ban has been partially observed (though Russian Federation media claim that it has not): it is estimated that use of Odnoklassniki and other Russian platforms fell by 50 per cent in Ukraine within a month of the ban, though it seems that many people are getting around the prohibition by accessing sites via European intermediaries.
Russian disinformation has severely damaged trust in Russian media and has dragged down opinion of other media with it
Despite Ukraine’s relatively free media space, public trust in the media is in decline once more, after reaching a high point in 2014. This may seem surprising, given the proliferation of new outlets, but Russian disinformation has severely damaged trust in Russian media and has dragged down opinion of other media with it. In addition, the continued dominance of tycoon-owned television channels, along with opposition among parts of the population to the government-imposed bans on some Russian channels and social media, has contributed to disillusionment.
Tensions have emerged in the journalistic community over what to report: some take the ‘patriotic’ view and avoid reporting what they consider negative issues, such as violations of the human rights of prisoners of war, because Ukraine is at war; others want to publish the truth, and are then labelled unpatriotic. In the government-controlled territories of Donbas, the EU is funding a Donbas Media Forum, training journalists on issues such as hate speech.
The range of reforms being introduced is impressive and challenging for a country that, to quote Prime Minister Groysman, had drifted along for 23 years with its Soviet legacy intact. Defending the record of reform, he said that it could not all be implemented at once, not least because of the huge cost of sweeping changes such as education reform. New legislation is also only the beginning; it needs to be robustly implemented. Ukrainian voters rate honesty above most other attributes in politicians, and want their politicians to communicate with them and fulfil promises made.
Civil society is not only watching closely but is willing to take action – as was evident when the head of the State Fiscal Service, Roman Nasirov, was arrested in March and then prevented by activists from leaving the hospital to which he had been taken. In 2017, civil society activists have complained of a loss of reform momentum. A number of developments, including setbacks to judicial reform, suggest that this pushback is real. While another Euromaidan-type movement is generally thought unlikely, real social anger could break out if governance does not improve and if reforms do not deliver wider economic and social benefits.
Continued corruption and rent-seeking remain the greatest threats to reform of Ukraine’s democratic institutions. These problems are the product of a range of factors, including vestiges of the Soviet system and mentality, the dominance of state-owned industry, over-regulation and low salaries. Yet a change of culture and mentality takes time. Institutionally, Ukraine needs a new moral compass. This probably requires many members of the existing elite to quit politics and public life. The country also needs an honest judiciary; economic reform to boost incomes and thus reduce incentives for graft; a new electoral system that allows for fair access to the media; and resolute monitoring of progress.
Continued corruption and rent-seeking remain the greatest threats to reform of Ukraine’s democratic institutions
Reformers hope that the 2019 presidential and parliamentary elections will not be brought forward. Voters need time to see the results of the nascent economic recovery, and of key reforms such as those due to be made to the pension system. If early elections were to be held, populist parties would most likely make gains. The international community needs to provide support and apply pressure – and Ukraine has to find the political will to make changes and make them stick. The recent apparent rowback on anti-corruption measures and other hesitation over reforms could be a sign that pre-election manoeuvring has started and that rivalry is mounting between the centres of shared power, the presidency and government, as occurred in 2005–10 with detrimental consequences.
95 Chatham House roundtable, ‘Renewing the Political Class in Ukraine’, February 2017.
101 Minakov, M. and Webb, I. (2016), ‘A new party for Ukraine’s euro-optimists?’, Open Democracy, 15 August 2016, https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/minakov-webb-a-new-party-for-uk….
103 Kolomoyskyi funded some of the volunteer battalions and is reputed to have offered a bounty for the capture of separatist militants.
104 Kolomoyskyi fell out of the president’s favour in 2015, in a row over control of the state oil pipeline operator UkrTransNafta, and was replaced as governor of Dnipropetrovsk. His powerful bank, PrivatBank, was nationalized in 2016.
105 Private conversation with a Rada member, February 2017.
107 The Venice Commission is an advisory body of the Council of Europe, composed of independent experts on constitutional law.
108 Author’s interviews in Kyiv, January 2017.
111 Author’s interviews in Kyiv, January 2017.
113 World Bank (2017), Worldwide Governance Indicators, (accessed 20 Jul. 2017).
114 Briefing by Ihor Koliushko, head of the board, Centre of Policy and Legal Reform (CPLR), Kyiv, February 2017.
115 Jarábik, B. and Yesmukhanova, Y. (2017), ‘Ukraine’s Slow Struggle for Decentralization’, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 8 March 2017, http://carnegieendowment.org/2017/03/08/ukraine-s-slow-struggle-for-dec….
116 Based on discussion with Yuri Tretyak and Serhiy Maksymenko, members of the project ‘Support for Ukraine’s Regional Development Policy’, February 2017.
120 Comments by David Stulik, press and information officer at the EU Delegation in Kyiv, and Oksana Romaniuk, director of the Institute of Mass Information, Kyiv, in February 2017.
121 Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman, at Ukraine Reform Conference, London, 6 July 2017.