Democratic progress?

One of the subjects discussed at our roundtable in Toronto last week was the prospects for the development of liberal democracy in Ukraine. Peter Solomon, who wrote a book about the criminal justice system in the Soviet Union, expressed some very cautious optimism that judicial reform in Ukraine could make positive progress. Ivan Katchanovski, by contrast, was far more sceptical and suggested that Ukraine had become less not more democratic since the Maidan revolution.

Those who support the idea that Ukraine is moving towards becoming a Western-style democracy have been rejoicing this week over the news that the Netherlands has ratified Ukraine’s EU Association Agreement. ‘Ukraine won. Putin lost’, crowed RFE/RL’s Brian Whitmore, adding that ‘Ukraine is finally getting what it has been fighting for.’

By contrast, anti-Maidan commentators have picked up today on the news that the city of Kiev has renamed one of the city’s major thoroughfares from General Vatutin Prospect to Roman Shukhevich Prospect. And for sure, replacing the man who led the forces which liberated Kiev from the Nazis with somebody who collaborated with them seems an odd way of marking the transition towards liberal democracy (though I am sure that Vatutin himself was no liberal democrat).

Missed in all the fuss about these stories, however, were a couple more which are quite revealing about the state of democracy in Ukraine.

First, the Kyiv Post reported today that, ‘The municipal council of Kyiv has approved the granting of combatant status for volunteer battalion fighters’ after ‘The war veterans burst into the assembly hall demanding the legal status on June 1.’ According to the report:

Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko proposed changes before consideration of final passage during the next council meeting, but protesters forced the council to take a final vote. Several persons in camouflage entered the hall, initiating a scuffle with the assembly’s security, and succeeding in persuading the city council to vote on the issue.

Indeed, I am sure that they ‘succeeded in persuading the city council’ very easily. I have no opinion on whether members of the volunteer battalions should have official veteran status, but it’s an odd sort of democratic procedure when it’s undertaken in the presence of camouflaged soldiers who have burst into the council chamber. Also rather odd is the Kyiv Post’s insouciance about this act of blatant intimidation. One would surely expect supporters of Western liberal and democrat norms not to be too keen on this sort of thing.

It isn’t unique, however.  Earlier this week, the founder of the nationalist Azov Battalion, Andrei Biletsky, led a group of supporters in an action to occupy the Lvov regional council building. Their aim was to force the council to send a request to President Poroshenko to amnesty members of volunteer battalions accused of crimes in the war in Donbass. Afterwards Biletsky declared ‘that, on the basis of the example of the storm of the Lvov regional council, activists would storm councils in other regions to demand an amnesty for those who had fought in the Anti-Terrorist Operation’. ‘We want to create pressure, to show that every region supports these things’, said Biletsky, ‘We will come to other regional councils, and will continue to do this.’

Again, it has to be said that this is an odd sort of democracy.

In our panel, I avoided taking any firm position on the subject of Ukraine’s future development. On the whole, I’m trying to avoid making predictions, as I have got too many wrong in the past. But these stories make me lean a bit more to the sceptics’ point of view. How things turn out in the future, I cannot tell, but as far as the present is concerned they don’t look too healthy.

Advertisements

8 thoughts on “Democratic progress?”

  1. “‘Ukraine won. Putin lost’, crowed RFE/RL’s Brian Whitmore, adding that ‘Ukraine is finally getting what it has been fighting for.’”

    Sacred BezViz? Bandera Street in Kiev? Debt in more that a trillion of $ ? Gay Parades?

    That’s what they got and for which, obviously, died the Heavenly Hundred.

    ” I have no opinion on whether members of the volunteer battalions should have official veteran status, but it’s an odd sort of democratic procedure when it’s undertaken in the presence of camouflaged soldiers who have burst into the council chamber. “

    It was very щиро and справжно! Centuries long traditions of Sich democracy are at play! And lest you forget – it was Zaporozhiyan Cossacks that had first Constitution, first пiднодный човен and Anna Taroslavna was like totally 110% Ukrainian.

    SUGS!

    “”One would surely expect supporters of Western liberal and democrat norms not to be too keen on this sort of thing.

    Boris Yeltsin was the Great Democrat, because he was the friend of the West. Your democratiness and liberalism depend on your handshakability with the West – not on some silly stuff. Chek-mate!

    “‘We want to create pressure, to show that every region supports these things’, said Biletsky, ‘We will come to other regional councils, and will continue to do this.’”

    If I might suggest – while at it, they must blow up (“decommuniza”) Kiev’s Metro as the symbol of the Occupation and Russiphication. Only horse carriages as the traditionall Ukrain form of transportation is acceptable!

    Like

  2. I agree with your scepticism. But on the other hand, did not all democracies need some kinds of dubious myths to legitimate their historicist identity and ‘wash off’ some of their historical guilt/dirt – at least temporarily, for the time being? After all, it might sound cynical but part of the reason why democracy succeeded in Western-Europe was because of a self-believe that, aside from all those World Wars, we Europeans are still superior beings and therefore deserve democracy. I don’t think he democratisation of post-war Western-Europe would have been succeeded if one wouldn’t have simultaneously celebrate a mystical glory of Enlightenment and colonialism. Only now that one feels more confident about one’s democracy, colonial guilt starts to become a topic.

    Like

    1. “After all, it might sound cynical but part of the reason why democracy succeeded in Western-Europe was because of a self-believe that, aside from all those World Wars, we Europeans are still superior beings and therefore deserve democracy. I don’t think he democratisation of post-war Western-Europe would have been succeeded if one wouldn’t have simultaneously celebrate a mystical glory of Enlightenment and colonialism. “

      How many so-called “democracies” were there in Europe in 1939? Less than in late 1940s, that’s for sure.

      No, the secret is not in some mystical reverence to Enlightment and colonialism. The democracy took off at that time only because of the American bayonets and money, supplied on the unprecedented scale in the name of winning ideological war that matter for them so much, that the laws of cheapster bean-counting free-market capitalism had to take the back seat – for a time being. Yankees needed their showcase. As for the Ukraine – only Canado-Ukrainian loon Oleh “Смачная Кава” Ponomar’ from Toronto and his cultists belive that the Ukraine is indeed a new shocase for the West, who’s willing to supply proud Ukrs with money and shit in the name to say “take that!” to Russia.

      Like

  3. How cynical of you. Like in 2003 Iraq, what we’re witnessing in Ukraine today is the birth pangs of a new East European Democracy. Yes, democracy is messy, and stuff happens, but there is no place for defeatists in our ranks.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Vatutin was actually assasinated by the OUN/UPA, in perhaps their sole militarily significant operation against targets likely to shoot back.

    They renamed the street of someone who liberated their city after the guy who presided over the organization which assasinated the liberator.

    Like

  5. Another excellent piece, Paul. In fact, ‘democracy’ is a rubber soother the cynics stick in the public’s mouth whenever they want to sally forth upon another adventure for gain, but need to reassure the public that there is a compelling reason for it so they will support it. If the Founding Fathers were brought miraculously to life today and invited – after a week or two’s cramming on current events – to name any democracy within the western alliance which held true to the ideals they originally espoused when the ideal was in its youth, I would be surprised if they could do so, and I guarantee none would name America. What we now maintain is a carefully-crafted illusion that the people rule through their elected representatives, while in fact there is plenty of legislation to ensure the people do not actually gain too much power.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s