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Who voted for Ukraine’s anti-corruption court?

Who is for and who is against reforms in the Ukrainian parliament? The answer to that question might be more complex than it might seem at first glance.

June 11, 2018 - Taras Kuzio - Articles and Commentary

The building of the Verkhovna Rada Photo: Benymarc (cc) wikimedia.org

The June 8th vote for a law forming an Anti-Corruption Court confirmed three long-term trends in Ukrainian parliamentary politics that have been in place since the 2014 Euromaidan Revolution of Dignity.

The first is that the voting records of Ukrainian political parties shows that ‘pro-reform’ and ‘anti-reform’ labels are confusing. Vox Ukraine found that the Popular Front loyal to former Prime Minister Arseniy Yatseniuk and Poroshenko Bloc loyal to President Petro Poroshenko have the highest attendance rates of MP’s and highest number of votes for reforms. Vox Ukraine writes that without the support of these two factions, ‘there could not be in practice the adoption of any laws’.

Samopomich (Self-Reliance), often viewed as the most pro-reform faction in the Ukrainian parliament, is ranked in third place. Populist Batkivshchyna (Fatherland Party) led by Yulia Tymoshenko and the Radical Party, led by Oleh Lyashko, have a poor voting record for reforms. The Opposition Bloc constitute a small hard line anti-reform and anti-EU group with the worst attendance record.

The Popular Front (70/81) and Poroshenko Bloc (123/136) voted nearly unanimously for the Anti-Corruption Court without which the vote would not have received a constitutional majority. Self Reliance (22/25) also voted near unanimously. The Radical Party (2/21) and Opposition Bloc (2/43), with the same financial backers, opposed the Anti-Corruption Court. The Fatherland vote was to be found as usual in the middle, not as good as the Popular Front, Poroshenko bloc and Self Reliance but not as bad as the Radicals and Opposition Bloc. Key Fatherland MPs such as Hryhoriy Nemyria, Borys Tarasiuk and Serhiy Vlasenko did not vote for the law. 

The second is that Western scholars writing about populists, state they have disregard for formal politics and parliaments believing them to be ‘corrupt,’ controlled by a unaccountable elite and not reflecting the will of the ‘people.’ Ukrainian populists have a poor record of parliamentary attendance and voting. The Committee of Voters of Ukraine calculated that in May 2018, Tymoshenko and Opposition Bloc MP and presidential candidate Yuriy Boyko attended only 1 and 6 per cent of parliamentary proceedings respectively.

The third factor is that although anti-corruption rhetoric is commonplace among populists in Europe and Ukraine they are not immune to corruption. There are many scandals in the European parliament related to extreme right populists (UKIP – United Kingdom Independence Party) and Front National who have abused European parliamentary funds and are under investigation.

Tymoshenko has only participated in 55 per cent of parliamentary votes on corruption and as low as 34 per cent in banking reforms and 13 per cent in energy, two sectors that have been traditionally rife with corruption in Ukraine. Fatherland did not support judicial reforms. 

This poor record of voting on corruption is reflected in an equally poor record of voting by Fatherland the Radical Parties for pension, healthcare, judicial and other reforms and their staunch opposition to land reform. Last month the ECHR (European Court on Human Rights) condemned Ukraine’s moratorium on land sales, the only one in post-communist Eastern Europe, which increased corruption as it has permitted the creation of a grey economy in the sale and purchase of land. The World Bank also condemned the moratorium and said if it was lifted agricultural production would increase by 15 billion US dollars

As with the fight against corruption, European populists pay lip service to reforms and the same is true in Ukraine. Vox Ukraine ranked Tymoshenko a low 38 per cent on their Index of Support for Reform. Vox Ukraine calculate that over the four years of the current parliament Tymoshenko has participated in 30 per cent of votes and her average support for reformist policies is 36 per cent. Fatherland are ranked fifth in parliamentary factions voting for reforms which is even lower than the populist Radical Party 

In other words, the vote for the Anti-Corruption Court and votes for reforms during the last four years have shown that there are three groups of parties in the Ukrainian parliament. The first (Popular Front, Poroshenko bloc, Self Reliance) have good faction discipline, high rates of attendance and strongly vote for reforms.

The second are populists Fatherland and the Radical Party who have poorer rates of attendance and their voting record on reforms is weaker. After the 2014 elections, these five actions joined the governing coalition which led to claims that Ukraine had for the first time a constitutional majority in support of reforms and European integration. As reforms were introduced by Prime Minister Arseniy Yatseniuk’s governments the second group (Fatherland, Radicals) withdrew from the coalition.

The third group are reconstituted counter-revolutionaries in the Opposition Bloc and affiliated oligarch-controlled factions (Revival, Power to the People). They have the worst attendance rate and as seen in their vote for against the Anti-Corruption Court they traditionally vote against reforms.

That the former Party of Regions, now Opposition Bloc is opposed to reforms is not a surprise. Similarly, with the Radical Party funded by oligarchs as a false flag populist force. But, perhaps we also need to re-define Tymoshenko and her Fatherland party as neither ‘pro-reform’ and thereby ‘pro-European’ political force.

Taras Kuzio is a Non-Resident Fellow at the Center for Transatlantic Relations, Johns Hopkins – SAIS and Professor at the Department of Political Science National University Kyiv Mohyla Academy. His book, Putin’s War Against Ukraine. Revolution, Nationalism and Crime was published in March 2017.

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