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Which political forces have supported reforms and European integration in Ukraine since 2014?

Many Ukrainian political movements claim they are working towards European integration and supporting reforms. The only way to verify this is to look at how they vote.

October 9, 2018 - Taras Kuzio - Articles and Commentary

A protester wearing an EU flag face mask on the second night of Euromaidan in Kiev Photo: Ivan Bandura (cc) wikimedia.org

Facts do not lie and when compiled by a professional think tank such as Vox Ukraine, they give us a very good picture of which political forces have supported reforms since 2014 and in the process have advanced Ukraine’s European integration. On the ICTV Channel’s Svoboda Slovo talk show, Batkivshchyna (Fatherland) deputy Serhiy Vlasenko angrily denounced President Petro Poroshenko as a “chameleon” over his four-year record on reforms. Vlasenko also derided Vox Ukraine saying “We call it Fox Ukraine” in what can only be understood as an anti-Americanism.

Pro-European facade  

During the Yalta European Strategy conference, BBC Hard Talk presenter Stephen Sackur asked Yulia Tymoshenko how she could be a supporter of European integration when Batkivshchyna voted against reforms? I repeated the question to Vlasenko on the Svoboda Slovo talk show and similarly to Tymoshenko, he rejected the evidence showing Tymoshenko’s very weak commitment to reforms. Her approach reminds me of President Leonid Kuchma’s “multi-vectorism” which talked loudly of being in favour of European integration but at the same time did nothing to support this goal in the domestic arena.

Tymoshenko and Batkivshchyna use the same populist language as that used by the Opposition Bloc when accusing the International Monetary Fund of committing  “genocide” against the Ukrainian people. Oleksandr Vilkul kept repeating the populist claim the IMF is committing “genocide” against the Ukrainian people during the 112 Channel PULS talk show that I participated in last month. Last month Tymoshenko said, “All deputies who do not blame the authorities for raising tariffs should be considered their allies in the genocide they are committing against the Ukrainian people.”

Reforms promoted by the IMF are also backed by the EU and Western governments and to differentiate between these two international organisations is simply cheap populism.

Tymoshenko’s billboards around Ukraine claim she supports EU membership while her voting record which is outlined below shows her to be in sixth place in support of reforms, lower than four “pro-Western” factions and even lower than Volya Narodu (Power to the People). Her ranking on votes for reforms (34 per cent and in 330rd place) is only slightly better than even Vidrozdzhennya (Revival) (27 and 30 per cent and in 340rd and 351th places).

The ones who just talk and the ones who actually vote

By analysing the data on votes for reforms compiled by Vox Ukraine we can see three groups of political forces. The first group includes former Prime Minister Arsen Yatsenyuk’s Popular Front, the Petro Poroshenko bloc and Samopomych (Self Reliance) who have provided the bulk of the votes for reforms; sometimes, the Radical Party has voted more for reforms than Samopomych. The second group includes populists and waverers such as Batkivshchyna, the Radical Party Vidrodzhenya and Volya Narodu whose commitment to reforms is half hearted. The final group is the Opposition Bloc which is a political force totally opposed to any of the reforms, including fighting corruption.

In other words, Ukraine’s parliament is similar to previous parliaments which included a pro-reform group (usually national democrats), a swamp (Kuchma era centrists) and reactionaries (Communist Party and from 2005, Party of Regions).

The best way to analyse who has supported reforms is to check the voting record over the last four years of eight faction leaders. Vox Ukraine compiles an updated index on support for reforms that states the following:

  1. Maksym Burbak, Popular Front (90 per cent backing for reform legislation)
  2. Artur Herasymiw, Petro Poroshenko Bloc (86 per cent)
  3. Oleh Lyashko, Radical Party (73 per cent)
  4. Oleh Berezyuk, Samopomych (72 per cent)
  5. Yaroslav Moskalenko, Volya Narodu (51 per cent)
  6. Yulia Tymoshenko, Batkvishchyna (34 per cent)
  7. Vitaliy Khomutynyuk (30 per cent) and Viktor Bondar (27 per cent), Vidrodzhennya
  8. Oleksandr Vilkul (14 per cent) and Yuriy Boyko (9 per cent), Opposition Bloc

Vox Ukraine’s ranking on reforms gives a number to each of Ukraine’s 423 deputies based on their overall record voting for reforms.

  1. Burbak, Popular Front, 21st (out of 423 deputies) 
  2. Herasymiw, Poroshenko Bloc, 58th place
  3. Lyashko, Radical Party, 161st place
  4. Berezyuk, Samopomych, 171st place
  5. Moskalenko, Volya Narodu, 284th place
  6. Tymoshenko, Batkivshchyna, 330th place
  7. Khomutynyuk (340th place) and Bondar (351st place), Vidrodzhennya
  8. Vilkul (394th place) and Boyko (400th place), Opposition Bloc

Batkivshchyna is a staunch critic of President Poroshenko. Nevertheless, the leaders of the Yatsenyuk and Poroshenko Bloc factions are ranked very highly for their commitment to reforms at 21st and 58th respectively compared to far lower down Tymoshenko in 330rd place. Tymoshenko’s criticism against the reforms supported by the Popular Front and Poroshenko Bloc is a way of seeking power through shrill populist rhetoric.

War on corruption

Opinion polls show that the fight against corruption is one of the top issues for voters in next year’s elections. The voting record of faction leaders on corruption legislation shows them to be consistent with their overall voting records on reforms with one exception, Tymoshenko is in fifth (rather than sixth) place. Nevertheless, this still shows Tymoshenko has the poorest record voting on corruption at the bottom of five “pro-Western” factions. Vlasenko and Hryhoriy Nemirya, key allies of Tymoshenko, did not vote for the Anti-Corruption Court.

  1. Burbak, Popular Front (voted on 92 per cent of occasions for reform legislation)
  2. Herasymiw, Poroshenko Bloc (79 per cent)
  3. Berezyuk, Samopomych (77 per cent)
  4. Lyashko, Radical Party (63 per cent)
  5. Tymoshenko, Batkvishchyna (55 per cent)
  6. Moskalenko, Volya Narodu (45 per cent)
  7. Khomutynyuk (35 per cent) and Viktor Bondar (33 per cent), Vidrodzhennya
  8. Vilkul (5 per cent) and Boyko (3 per cent), Opposition Bloc

Tymoshenko’s poor record of voting for key reforms is also seen in energy (13 per cent), decentralisation (20 per cent), deregulation (31 per cent), and banking (34 per cent). Of these, corruption features prominently in at least energy and banking.

We can thank Vox Ukraine for providing researchers and journalists with the data to see through the fog of lies surrounding the parliamentary record of factions in the last four years. It is clear from this that only three factions (Popular Front, Poroshenko Bloc, Samopomych) can claim to be reformist and therefore supporters of European integration. Claims by other political forces to support European integration while not supporting reforms is a throwback to Kuchma’s “multi-vectorsm.”

Taras Kuzio in a professor in the Department of Political Science National University “Kyiv Mohyla Academy” and Non-Resident Fellow, Center for Transatlantic Relations, Johns Hopkins University – SAIS. Joint author of The Sources of Russia’s Great Power Politics: Ukraine and the Challenge to the European Order.

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