04 June, 2017

The article is written by UDI Associate Sunil Sharma.

A week back Mr. Petro Poroshenko marked his third year in office as President of Ukraine. To highlight accomplishments of his third year Poroshenko addressed a press conference on 14th of May, 2017. Journalists and media persons raised questions related to Ukraine’s security, defense, Russian invasion, ATO, sanctions on Russia, Ukraine’s EC integration course. Also, questions were asked about functioning of parliament, working of various important Government organizations like General Prosecutor’s office, Prime Minister and Cabinet Ministers, state of reforms, measures against corruption and so on.

As Poroshenko has completed three years there was definitely the question of Poroshenko standing for the 2nd term, which matter of fact, he is eligible as per the Constitution of Ukraine. Poroshenko preferred to evade a direct response but did emphasize that his work would speak for itself and his views on this question would be made public at the appropriate time.

Already 26 years have gone by since Ukraine attained its independence from the former USSR. Since then Ukraine has had five presidents, none better than the other, in their governance, motives, ideals, priorities, leadership role and issues of economic development and national importance.

Ukrainians have been in dilemma and world perplexed at the choices Ukrainians have made of their presidents in all these years. At times the elections have been a mockery of democracy but poor Ukrainians have had the unenviable job of “picking the lesser of the evils” and in some case having no choice but to go along with the quasi-democratic system that had been perfected by vested top leadership to filter out more deserving candidates for the presidential post.

That’s why we had the likes of Leonid Kuchma, who was able to extend his corrupt-oligarchal-patriarchal rule by second five years, in all ruling Ukraine for two terms of five years each and robbing Ukrainians of a better destiny, prosperous future and ten years of their lives. It was his rule that laid the fundament for centralized, undemocratic political system with power concentrated in one hand and entire state machinery functioning at the whim and fancy of one man. Corrupted by absolute power Kuchma indulged in all sorts of shady deals, sordid affairs, blasphemy and created the unholy nexus of ‘oligarchs-criminals-Russians’ that strengthened his grip on power, promoted corrupt practices and furthered their common vested interests.

Viktor Yushchenko, who followed Kuchma had an eminently forgettable five-year term and wasted his time in trying to broker peace among the factionalized and power-hungry Ukrainian politicians rather than to carry out bold reforms that would have opened Ukraine to the world and liberalized the economy and brought some respite to the weary and disillusioned Ukrainians.  Viktor Yanukovich, who took over the presidency from Yushchenko, earned notoriety reserved for thugs, rogues and dictators for his ‘anti-national’, ‘anti-people’ and totalitarian rule that robbed billions of dollars of state funds, maimed and killed people and reversed Ukraine’s European Union course to Russian vector. Mass protests and demonstrations by tens of millions of Ukrainians all over the country forced him to flee and seek haven in Moscow, Russia, under the tutelage of his guide and mentor – Vladimir Putin.

Petro Poroshenko won the presidential elections that took place in May, 2014 defeating all his rivals in the first round itself, by securing 57 percent of votes, a comfortable majority than the necessary 50 percent of the total vote count as envisaged by the Constitution of Ukraine.

The old lot, which Poroshenko represents has outlived their utility, especially for a country like Ukraine which requires a more visionary, dynamic, patriotic, earnest, people-oriented ‘no-nonsense’ leader to usher in the much needed vital reforms, stem the tide of massive state corruption and win along people’s confidence with clean, corruption free, result-oriented, strategic, national interest based rule and governance with ‘zero tolerance policy’ towards bribery, malpractices and siphoning of state funds.

Ukraine has had 6 general elections for president and Ukrainians and its people had enough of such eminently forgettable personalities who have displayed vanity more than humility or loyalty to the country, disdain to people rather than service and support, arrogance and betrayal rather than trust or honesty in state affairs and a remarkable lack of patriotism, contempt for national interest and hardly any love or respect for Ukraine.

These people through their rule have brought Ukraine to the state of apathy, poverty, backwardness and plight and suffering in all areas of life. Instead of providing able leadership and statesmanship to guide  the country to move ahead and forward they have pulled Ukraine, with its vast natural resources and great educated, hard-working talented people, back by two decades as compared to other neighboring countries like Poland, Slovakia, Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary, which were no better than Ukraine politically, economically, socio-culturally, in the early nineties but have progressed dynamically and democratically to achieve prominent success in all spheres, including economic development and political management.

In all, these people and their totally forgettable and deplorable rule has become a problem and since they are very much a part of the problem, they cannot be the part of the solution. Apart from the general economic woes, and socio-cultural stagnation, Ukraine has lagged behind internationally in all the important things, like integration with EU, membership of NATO, enhancing its industrial potential, developing its shabby infrastructure, improving its economy, augmenting its exports, especially of agro-products, Ukraine has had a dismal track record and stunningly poor performance so far.

Such situation has not happened of itself or occurred overnight. It is the collective, gross, reprehensible work of the politicians both past and present and time for all of them to take pride in their misdeeds, misrule and mal-administration and owe it all up smartly and candidly. For, there are scores of their ill-doings and machinations that have harmed Ukraine, its national interest and people no less. Some of the illustrious ones can be enumerated as follows:

Compromising the national security, defense and interest by hobnobbing with corrupt and shameless Russian politicians, business groups, and criminals by allowing them undue advantages and privileges in Government orders, state tenders, mercantile and commercial deals, and all at the expense of Ukrainian national interest, its economy and its people.

Development of the heinous culture of favoritism, nepotism, and sycophancy that breeds ruination of democratic principles, apathy among citizens and leads to degradation of society, morale loss and lack of motivation among the talented and competent lot of the population.

Just as donning the hide of a lion or tiger doesn’t make hyena a one, similarly these politicians are erstwhile communists who have renamed and rechristened themselves as democrats, socialists or republicans and simple re-nomenclature doesn’t make one a true representative of people. A former communist, especially bred and brought up in Soviet times, would sometime or other display his or true colors and simply cannot don the garb of democracy, and cannot tolerate plurality of choice and multiplicity of political options and alternatives to the simple man, woman and average citizen of the country. A communist is born and that’s way he/she dies applies to all the Ukrainian politicians of Soviet era and the further with them, the better for the country.

Almost all of the politicians are deeply connected to business and most are directly in the league of ‘crooked offshore transactions’, evasion of taxes, embezzlement of state funds (charges cannot be proved as the police, judiciary, customs,  the politicians, and oligarchs form an evil nexus, where only the tried and trusted are allowed). They run most of the big state enterprises which had been privatized for peanuts and handed to the syndicates of ‘oligarchs-business politicians’ as loss-making units, which subsequently required state funds for their modernization, rejuvenation and turnaround.

For these 26 years, they have enjoyed power whereas the ordinary Ukrainian has suffered. The poverty levels have increased, salaries, incomes have not kept pace with inflation and cost escalation. Millions of the retired old people, who gave their best years of youth to service of nation, receive a paltry amount which hardly covers up the monthly ration. Same is the situation in other sectors of economy, GDP growth is abysmal, per capita income is lowest in Europe, and healthy products/useful, relevant services are almost out of the reach of the common Ukrainian, whereas at the same time these politicians have indulged in their favorite pastime of political brinkmanship and one-upmanship. Their personal wealth has increased by hundreds of times, family possessions have multiplied by dozens, luxury apartments, jewelry, super-rich cars/yachts are snapped up like pieces of garment and their lifestyle is the envy of their counterparts from richer European countries and staple fodder to the tabloids and yellow journalism.

Most of the Ukrainian politicians had used power to simply amass wealth, from all the ill-begotten sources, create/run own big-time businesses, rob the state budget of funds, siphon off foreign aid and simply enjoy the perks, privileges and position as MPs, ministers, or as Government functionaries and bureaucrats. To all of them service to the nation, duty towards people and responsibility of managing the national affairs patriotically, adroitly and astutely are alien and foreign concepts that look and appear good in textbooks on democracy or in the ‘soap-opera’ like discussions on Television shows.

And as much these politicians had been in power, either as influential members of parliament or as aides, advisors, associates to the ruling president, they had their opportunities and clear chances to roll out new ideas, visionary goals and work out a time-based, sound implementation model that would have brought out the fruit of selfless labor and hard-work publicly, openly and clearly. Sadly, nothing of that sort has happened over the past 26 years, only the situation has grown from bad to worse.

That’s why it is time for people like Poroshenko, his closest rivals (as of today) Tymoshenko, Tyagnebok, Yatsenyuk, Anatoliy Grytsenko, Moroz and the notorious, obnoxious tyrants from the former party of regions – all of the present lot of politicians had been at the centre of power in one way or the other – to bid farewell to active politics of their own and if they cannot or would not do that than Ukrainian public should bid them goodbye for good and forever.

It should be remembered that most of the present lot politicians had two decades and even more to complete the so vitally required institutional reforms, restructure the centralized, communist-like power system, rein in the monster of corruption and usher in bold, radical, dynamic new moves which would have altered the economic terrain and geopolitical landscape of Ukraine and today we would have had a different, more positive, vibrant, proud history to write about. These very people preferred concentration of power instead of democratization of the political process. Instead of strengthening the budding democratic process in the country they were devious enough to weaken it which led to the authoritarian regime of Kuchma and the wretched dictatorial rule of Yanukovich, so it is time these power-hungry, good for nothing leaders bowed out of Ukraine’s political scene and yield place for new order.

As these ‘honorable men and women’ didn’t do anything much in their earlier stints and avatars there is no reason to hope for a miraculous change of heart and a diametrically opposite orientation in their way of thinking, working functioning and doing things now or in future anyways. Better to politely say ‘Adieu friends”, your time is over, please make room for others.

The next presidential election in Ukraine are scheduled to happen in May, 2019, two years from now by that time Ukraine would have completed 27 years of independence and would be in its 28th year as free, sovereign state. Time has come to elect someone who would not compromise with the national interest and for whom strengthening Ukraine externally, internally and internationally would be of top priority and matter of personal integrity, pride and honor. Blessedly, he/she would be patriotic Ukrainian to the core of his/her heart and serve the country well with a repertoire of skills, competencies, capabilities, new ideas, fresh perspective and strategic long-term vision.

Ukraine needs someone who

Would preferably have been born in the eighties when the winds of change, in the form of Glasnost (openness) and Perestroika (restructuring) had started to sweep the iron curtain territory of former USSR, that way he/she would be in thirties without the burden of having spent the formative years in the suffocating dictatorial communist regime.

Wouldn’t be connected with the present lot of Ukrainian politicians nor have any truck with the communist influenced, authoritarian past leadership that believed in concentration of power.

Shouldn’t have, whatsoever, any mercantile or business interest, all the more, none with the aggressor and invader the Russian Federation and neither should be a beneficiary of financial largesse from some business organization or a multi-national corporation.

Must be educated and preferably possess professional post-graduate qualification in the field of education, management, law or journalism. Multi-lingual talent would be a bonus which would add on to the international appeal and charisma of the person.

Some overseas exposure, desirably in the European Union or a Western country, as a student or as an employee of a well-respected multinational organization.

Some experience in Government functioning like people’s representative in a local body or a civic councilor is desirable but not mandatory, as a person with fresh perspective, imagination and thrust is more important.

Should de devoid of any communist hangovers or ultra-nationalistic jingoism and have clear, sharp focused vision of how to go about doing things necessary and relevant to Ukraine and its citizens.

Should be blessed with strategic orientation and operational soundness which would help consolidate the vast resources and potential of Ukraine and can open up new opportunities, especially for start-ups and new entrepreneurs.

Can ensure Ukraine’s emergence as a leading nation of agro-products, modern IT services and solutions provider and a trustful, helpful partner in services, international trade and commerce.

Would be able to augment the industrial might of Ukraine in various sectors like aviation, defense supplies, metals, minerals, automobile, oil, gas and others.

Should be sensitive to ‘Mother- Nature, be aware of the precarious ecological situation of the planet Earth, a firm believer of gender-equality, champion of human and minorities rights’, appreciator of cultural diversity, be an enthusiastic innovator and a dispassionate leader of all irrespective of caste, creed, color, religion, beliefs, orientation and philosophy.

Should love sports, everything creative and natural and believe in the hands down approach of “Roll up your sleeves and do it yourself”

Is determined, knowledgeable, calm, composed, cool, considerate, resolute in action and sophisticated in words because all these qualities and attributes would be required to implement the much needed vital structural reforms in all sectors and to deal with the complex web of Ukrainian political environment, then only much-awaited positive changes would be possible and visible and its time Ukrainians had someone who can lead the nation and its people towards prosperity, strength, higher standard of living, better quality of life, cultural  renaissance and sustained economic growth.

These are but few of the essential qualities and attributes that the new leader, who should emerge by the end of 2018 on the political spectacle of Ukraine, should possess. Any more than these would be surely welcomed, loved and applauded.

(In nutshell someone like Macron – balanced, astute, dynamic, rational, thoughtful – and may be more because Ukrainian environment is more complex, fast-changing, unpredictable and full of surprises)