Thursday, October 18, 2012

Ukraine Slowly Loses Its Freedom


I said in an earlier post that the Regionnaires would likely win the election 10 days from now and it appears I was right to think so.  The Economist blog Eastern Approaches today posted this article: 

Ukrainian politics - Ten days before polling day


The ruling Party of Regions and its allies look set to win Ukraine’s parliamentary election on October 28th. They may even gain a constitutional majority with control of two-thirds of the parliament. This will likely happen despite the fact that most Ukrainians regularly tell pollsters their country is heading “in the wrong direction” and less than a quarter of them plan to vote for the Party of Regions.
Perhaps the most important reason for this is that Ukraine has reverted to the mixed proportional and first-past-the-post system last used in 2002. Back then, it allowed Leonid Kuchma, an unpopular president, to secure a working majority in parliament thanks to a divided opposition and post-election defections to his camp.
The same conditions are in place now for Viktor Yanukovych, the current president. His candidates can come out on top in first-past-the-post constituencies where three or more opposition politicians are competing. On October 14th the two main anti-Yanukovych forces agreed to withdraw some of their candidates in some districts in order to limit this phenomenon, but they have stopped far short of a genuine alliance. It is testament to the current parliamentary opposition’s ineffectiveness that it allowed this electoral reform to pass last year, giving the ruling party a chance to retain power in an election that could be classed as free and fair (given that an elected parliament had agreed to its rules).
Still, it appears Mr Yanukovych’s team sees no compelling reason to take that chance: there are plenty of ways to skew the vote before international observers, who see this election as a crucial test for Ukrainian democracy, arrive to observe the polling itself. Evidence from various quarters suggests this machinery is in motion across the country.
For more click HERE
This article is not comforting and simply reflects how Ukraine is sinking deeper into the morass.  It is becoming more and more like Putin's Russia.  It was more free under Yushchenko than ever before but that is rapidly giving way to government control and a police state.  Ukrayinskiy Tyzhden, Ukrainian Week has a very depressing article on how the government is clamping down hard on the few remaining independent media outlets, including their own magazine. They concluded the article with this information on a new Law on Slander that will kill investigative journalism.
On September 18th, the Verkhovna Rada passed a bill “On Amending the Criminal Code and the Code of Proceedings of Ukraine to Increase Liability for Attacks on the Dignity and Business Reputation of Individuals”. Officially sponsored by the Party of Regions’ Vitaliy Zhuravsky, the draft law was actually designed at the Presidential Administration as proven by an electronic file posted on the parliament’s website. The list of crimes in the new draft law includes slander, punishable with prison terms of one to two years or two to five years. Slander that accuses someone of a serious crime may carry up to a three-year jail sentence. Top officials are not hiding the purpose of the draft law. In its response to a question by the online publication Economic Truth regarding corrupt property foreclosures based on court decisions, the Ministry of Justice wrote that it was “dishonest activity” similar to that of the publication that “brought forth the legislative initiative to implement liability for slander”. The question about corruption was left unanswered.
  
If passed, the law on slander will destroy the remnants of independent journalism in Ukraine. In lieu of a fair judiciary, any journalist who criticizes an official or publishes an investigation on potential corruption will automatically become an object of criminal persecution with the outcome known in advance. This is essentially an attempt to apply the tools used against jailed opposition members to attack legitimate free media outlets using obsolete soviet provisions of the Criminal Code. Despite promises from government representatives to soften the draft law following sharp reactions by the Western and Ukrainian public and politicians, the law, if passed, will signal the end of free speech and journalism in Ukraine. After that, journalism in the country may degrade completely.The government seems to have taken a step back under pressure from the public. When this publication was being prepared, the Party of Regions’ Vitaliy Zhuravsky stated that he would recall his draft law on slander. However, he also said that he was going to submit a finalized version to the parliament after the election. According to The Ukrainian Week’s source in the Party of Regions, legislative changes on criminal liability for slander will “definitely” be passed after the parliamentary election. 

This is nothing new. If the tactics employed by the government on a massive scale succeed to win them a constitutional majority in the new parliament (300 out of 450 seats)—even if supported by no more than 25% of the population—the Yanukovych regime will be able to completely ignore the international community. In doing so, he may point to having “absolute popular support” and a constitutional majority in the parliament as signs thereof. “All questions about Ukraine will be answered after the election,” said Yanukovych at the Yalta European Strategy conference. In this light, this phrase may gain an entirely new meaning.

For the full article, click HERE

To be honest, moving to Russia is appealing.  At least there it is all Russians and one knows how the system works.

4 comments:

  1. Worse that Harper's Canada. Maybe Stephen will follow this example.

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    1. America, Canada, Russia, Ukraine: not much difference other than in sophistication. We are pretty simple and brutish here.

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  2. I can't believe it, but I'm leaning toward that bloc of old wrinklies who say: "I don't read the papers any more; it's all too depressing". I say 'leaning' because in fact I do still read the news, avidly. But it definitely is depressing, and I can see a time coming when I'll just float free of current affairs and confine my interest to the garden and family!

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    1. I have cut back a lot in my reading of news and am careful of the sources.

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