by Elena Galkina
In the early morning of October 31, 2015, the searches in UKROP party offices and the arrest of the party leader Hennadii Korban triggered the active phase of counterrevolution in Ukraine.
In the context of history, the situation is unique. No one could initiate the pogrom of UKROP but the President Poroshenko personally. The same President who came to power on the wave of revolution in the crytical situation of Russian aggression, scoring unprecedented for post-Soviet Ukraine 54,7% of votes in the first round of Presidential elections.
The attemps to explain it as fighting against oligarchs, corruption and organized criminality do not convince because this time the pressure is put on a political party. In the context of local elections still running, the Presidential power vertical overtly plays on the side of pro-Russian Revanchist Opposition Bloc against the team of Kolomoyskyi who destroyed the Novorossiya project and defended the independence of post-Revolution Ukraine in the spring of 2014.
No, it is not a struggle between two opposing forces of revolution. Nor a classic development of revolution “devouring its own children”, nor Thermidorian reaction for Jacobins, nor Stalin replacing Lenin. It’s a true, real, proper counterrevolution. The union of the main beneficiary of revolution with the remnants of ancien regime has no historical precedent.
A short retrospective may help to understand the logic of the process and motivation of the President’s decisions.
On March, 25, 2015 Kolomoyskyi was forced to resign as the head of the Regional State Administration of Dnipropetrovsk, lost access to the powerful administrative resource and, under a heavy fire of the pro-Presidential propaganda, was transformed into an oligarch whose business interests accidentally coincided with the needs of Ukraine from March, 2014 till March, 2015 – but later the interests irreversibly diverged. No evidences were given of the damage the team of Kolomoyskyi caused to the civic nation of Ukraine (it is not the same as political system or bureaucracy). Actually, there was no need of evidences. The filthy rich are unpopular anywhere, especially in the post-Soviet world where most of the adult population remember 1990s, their own financial hardship and a dramatic increase in the wealth of the few through fundamentally unjust privatization and overtly criminal actions.
Despite the strentgh of negative oligarch-related stereotypes in a post-Soviet mind, it’s true that in 2014, a difficult year for Ukraine, Kolomoyskyi and his team acted not as an oligarchic group but as globally thinking state leaders. In the critical moment, they proved themselves to be more intelligent and creative than Ukrainian and Western political elites. Putin’s plans to tear Ukraine in two were known both to Europe and the States before the beginning of February, 2014. Russian propaganda overflew with the respective content from December, 2013. Nevertheless, no one but the team of persons with controversial reputation took the crazy Kremlin scenario seriously and started their team work to prevent it. Their asymmetric unconvential moves allowed to stop the motion of a huge hybrid war machine supported by the world’s 2nd Army and the world’s 7th economy.
It’s another thing if the team could not realize all their ideas as they were concieved – for lack of resources and denial of support, sometimes completely irrational, from the central government.
Very few know about the English-language information and analytical TV channel Ukraine Today opened in August, 2014. Such a channel is strategically important for the national security of Ukraine, because the world community takes the information about Russia-Ukraine conflict from the turbid fonts like Russia Today or Sputnik, due to the fact that the state of Ukraine, during 24 years of its existence, has never bothered with the creation of an efficient foreign-language TV.
The creation of an efficient tool of resistance to Kremlin’s propaganda is an impossible mission for Ukrainian private capital. It seems that the partnership of the State and the private capital should be perfect for a fast development of the project crucially important for the positioning of Ukraine in the world and the defence of Ukrainian interests at the international level. Nevertheless, the authorities refused to support Ukraine Today, and Ukrainian Ministry of Informational Politics, simply to disoblige Kolomoyskyi (no other explanation fits here) announced its own project with the same concept. As a result, no one of the projects developed to the necessary level, and the world still consumes the content provided by Russia Today.
When the Presidential vertical entered the public phase of fighting Kolomoyskyi for the control over Ukrnafta oil company, Ukrainian society took the President’s side, believing the incident to be the first step of a systematic deoligarchization. However, the “deoligarchization” touched no other oligarch but Kolomoyskyi. All the President’s men, Mikheil Saakashvili included, were summoned to the war against Kolomoyskyi’s Privat Financial Industry group.
Nearly all the “anti oligarchic” media wars, started and still waged by Saakashvili, are directed against Kolomoyskyi personally and his Privat FIG, beginning with MAU airlines and ending with Odessa port trade unions.
A separate story was offered by the Parliamentary elections in Chernihiv, where the President’s team committed plural violations to “push through” their candidate, Serhii Berezenko. The style of Berezenko’s campaign and the kinds of electoral cheating in use from April to Jule 2015, were typical for stable “electoral” autocracies (patron-client traditions with administrative resource added). It was there when Poroshenko’s team revealed itself to be an oligarchic clan, defending their private interests and having no duties to their constituents. It was there when Saakashvili, despite his progressive reformer’s reputation, overtly performed as a clan’s candidate spin doctor.
The abundance of administrative resource of the top level at the elections, in no way crucial for both sides, has shown that Poroshenko is neither above the fight nor the first among equals when it comes to concurrency with Kolomoyskyi, even if indirect. Reputational losses from the campaign are enough to suspect that the President’s mission statement was not wholly rational. To the events of the similar kind should be probably added the political project called Nash Kray, Our Land, commonly related to the President. A closer look at the field of its activity does not show it as a political opponent to Opposition Bloc as it should be, but to Renaissanse party affiliated to Kolomoyskyi. Opposition Bloc can be placed among the most precisely positioned political forces in Ukraine: it’s pro-Russian, proclaiming peace and friendship with Russia as it was in good old pre-Maidan times. Renaissance party is different: a kind of UKROP for old ladies, as some facebook user called it. Their electoral campaign was centered on social and economical problems underlaid with a strong pro-Ukrainian base. Renaissance party was created to represent the industrial regions with their old-fashioned (post)Soviet managers from a pro-Ukrainian position. Nash Kray appeared in a public space several months after Renaissance, with the same regionally economical but not as strongly pro-Ukrainian positioning, and entered the same regions as Renaissance did. As a result, the projects of Kolomoyskyi and Poroshenko worked with the same target audience, consuming each other’s votes.
But the utter surprise for the President was the success of UKROP party who, according to the polls, did not even have the necessary passing 5% two weeks before the elections, except in the core Privat’s regions. UKROP’s campaign, based on the strong and consistent criticism of the authorities, swayed the undecided voters and scored about 8% nationwide. No new party could take that much. The main contribution to such a percentage was the reputation of Kolomoyskyi’s team, still high not in some regions only but all over the country. By the way, they did not even push the Service Rendered to the Country theme button in their electoral campaign.
The overwhelming victory of Renaissance in Kharkiv (51%) was not a risk for the President because the party is built on clientelism and has no potential outside the regions where it is supported by the local patrons. But UKROP who keeps on accumulating the young patriotism of Maidan, are a whole different story.
When the head of the state feels the ground of legitimacy slipping out from under his feet, he is tempted to do something utterly stupid or utterly disgusting. Sometimes, he is tempted to do both.
The last months’ polls were discouraging for all the central authorities: public confidence to the President, the Government and the Parliament fell to the lowest values of Yanukovich era, and no objective reason for an increase could be found.
In fact, the authorities wasted the time they had for radical reforms.
The demolition of post Soviet control system – the issue they had to get started with – is remained a mere declaration. The “deep state”, demoralized in the first months after the revolution, has succesfully regenerated. Ministries, GPO, courts, tax system remained the same as they have been before. The only purpose of the current “reforms” seemed to support competitive oligarchy – the political system established in Ukraine in the years of independence – progressively restructuring it into the monopoly of a single oligarchic group.
On October, 21, a few days before the local elections, the President let out the word about his crucial plans and fears: “I have never said it and I didn’t want to say it before the elections, but now I’m saying it: after the elections we will have four years with no elections, no populism, when we finally will be able to demonstrate the decisive steps in the development of the country.”
Decentralization reform scheduled the new local elections for 2017, and the President surely ment something else. “No elections” was related to a possible early dissolution of Parliament and the new .
The President estimated the polls and considered them right: he was unpopular. Nor the local politicians were in a hurry to express their loyalty joining “the party of power” as they used to do under Yanukovich. They increasingly chose to lead their personal projects or disappointed the President even more by joining non-Presidential national political projects. UKROP, for example.
Here, we have Pavlograd case where the Central Election Commission tried to cancel the second round when Evhenyy Terekhov, an Anti Terroristic Operation veteran and UKROP member, came second in the first round. Even if the President had an agreement with Opposition Bloc it does now throw light on why the Commission utterly destroyed their reputation by eliminating several hundred voters from the list. A respectable nomenklatura representative of Opposition Bloc had all the chances to take an easy victory over a young and really oppositional candidate.
The obvious cheating of CEC raised a wave of public indignation, and the second round was restored. It greatly increased the chances of Evhenyy Terekhov and all the other candidates not connected to “the authorities”.
Clientelist voters felt the authorities’ weakness and started considering a possible change of patron. UKROP gained even more credit, applying their power in defending the voters’ and the candidate’s rights.
Korban was arrested a few days after. If we look at the essence of his charges, he was charged with supplying the Army and fighting corruption, two things that the post-Soviet nomenklatura still in power over Ukraine, is not able to do, has never been able to do and has no will to learn how to do.
The President of Ukraine could not find any other arguments against his political opponents, except arrests and searches.
At local elections. Not even Parliamentary.
In fact, Poroshenko confirmed that:
1) Mayoral elections (Borys Filatov vs Olexandr Vilkul) in Dnipropetrovsk play a pivotal role for Poroshenko regime and for the entire nation.
2) In Ukraine, a classic post-Soviet “party of power” is recreated by the union of Bloc of Petro Poroshenko-Solidarity and Opposition Bloc.
3) In an equal competition, the “party of power” loses the elections.
4) The major enemies of the “party of power” are those who stopped Putin’s aggression.
5) The “party of power” is ready to fight their enemies with all means available, collaborationism included.
Meanwhile, the media resources of Novorossiya project approved the arrest of Korban and searches in the offices of UKROP, complained the lack of chances for Poroshenko to eliminate Kolomoyskyi’s team at once, and expressed their concern about Filatov’s chances to become the Mayor of Dnipropetrovsk.
All this demonstrates that the President Poroshenko has chosen his major enemy a long time ago, irrationally and incorrectly. The major enemy of Poroshenko is not Putin’s Russia but Kolomoyskyi and anything linked to him. The outcomes are two, and both are sad. First. The foreign and internal policy of Ukraine depend on the President’s irrational decisions, undermining the very existence of Ukraine as a sovereign state. Second. If the fate of nearly fifty million people depends on a single person’s old scores, Ukraine is still very far from achieving the end on its way of democratic transition.
The current President’s ground is really fertile both for merging with Revanchists and collusion with the aggressor.
A possible new President would not help. The next will became the same as the current. No new social contract is established in Ukraine, nor is the post Soviet political system demolished, despite the fact that the civil society outgrew it long ago.
It means that the Revolution continues.