Regime Restoration And Ukraine

KIEV, Ukraine -- In his study, “The Problem of Restoration”, Robert Kann concluded that regime restoration is unlikely unless it is done in the lifespan of a political generation by people active in the old regime and able to take effective part in the restored regime.

Leonyd Kuchma (L) and Viktor Yanukovych (R)

This condition was met in Russia where Putin successfully controls a neo-Soviet style resource-based autocracy.

In Ukraine, the neo-Soviet Party of Regions/Communist Bloc lost the 2004 elections despite widespread fraud, bribery and blackmail.

Had Viktor Yushchenko been more resolute at the time, he would have arrested and tried the convicted felon Viktor Yanukovych and all his top associates for what they did.

Consequently, within the year the discredited Kuchma elite had returned from self-imposed exile or retirement.

A man who because of his criminal record could not by law hold any government job became prime minister and by May 2006, the Party of Regions/Communist coalition was able to take power again in what amounted to a coup d’etat.

Within the year, resorting to dubious methods and bribery, this coalition was on the way to creating a majority in parliament.

In the summer of 2007 Yushchenko reacted and called for new elections.

He realized at last that neo-Soviet forces had no intention of compromising with his national democrats.

They were not interested in bringing Ukraine into the English language communications sphere, democratizing the country, or preparing it for entry into the EU.

But because he foolishly failed to exploit his popular support in 2004-05, the old neo-Soviet elite had entrenched itself and the national democratic Orange Coalition still faces the threat of restoration.

The neo-Soviet Regions leaders also understand that if they fail to restore the old regime again, they are unlikely to get a third chance.

Having again taken over the government, the Regions stopped the few changes begun by the Orange national-democratic government and re-established Kuchma’s “blackmail state.”

A state in which officials apply the full force of the law to those who do not do what they are told or don’t pay up on time.

More aware than before of the importance of democratic patina to their activities, Regions’ leaders fired their old Russian campaign advisors and now listen to new American ones like Paul Manafort, who are not known to have supported democratic leaders in the past and are close to the US Republican Party.

Old time Communists, new neo-Soviet capitalists and American neo-conservatives may seem a strange mix, and it is rumoured that one of Manafort’s suggestions that the Regions’ ignore is his advice to join the EU.

In any case, in the neo-liberal global world where politicians in country after country have been selling off the public-sphere to private corporations and lining their pockets with the profits, this ostensibly strange association in Ukraine is not abnormal.

So, no one should be surprised when a majority Regions’ government begins selling off what is left of Ukraine’s public sphere to its biggest supporters.

On May 25, for instance, we learned that Kyiv Region will sell all of the region’s museums.

Those interested in the upcoming Ukrainian election, therefore, should note that Yanukovych’s fraudulent and manipulative electoral practices were similar not only to Putin’s.

US Republicans also used dubious and outright illegal methods to bring George W. Bush into power.

And since they worked in the US, observers must realize that American advisors in Kyiv will want to add some of their inventions to the Regions’ bag of tricks.

Thanks to this kind of “American know-how” the Regions’ now not only pay “political tourists” and ‘rent-a-crowds” but also wear the “right” shoes and sport new hairstyles.

The tricks, sadly, work.

Naive journalists look at this and then run articles in newspapers like the Telegraph and the Observer explaining how Yanukovych has become a “new man.”

Perhaps his Americans have told Yanukovych that time is on his side.

People cannot remain indefinitely mobilized. And, as disinterest and indifference set in they will withdraw from politics, which for most means not voting.

From this perspective, we can understand why for the last two months the Regions ignored presidential decrees. They were delaying.

Convoluted events, accusations and counter accusations can make voters cynical enough not to bother to vote.

Also, perhaps, the intention was to discredit Yushchenko by obliging him to use force, a move they hoped would discredit Ukrainian national independence in moderate world opinion, which has difficulties in accepting the use of force to protect or establish democracy.

All sides compromised by the end of May 2007, but the likelihood of planned Regions’ brinkmanship must not be overlooked.

Robert Kann’s book reminds us that regime restoration is rare but not unprecedented. It also reminds us that the conditions for restoration still exist in Ukraine.

A new Ukrainian election that still includes a restorationist party, therefore, obliges observers to remember that the top and middle-level people in that party responsible for the dirty tricks in 2004, and on a smaller scale in 2006, are still in their offices and will do the same again.

Only this time they will probably do it better, which means observers must watch even closer. Observers must observe behind the scenes, in the provinces, and what goes on at places of work before polling time.

They must not be distracted or confused by smoke, lights, hairstyles and outright lies.

The Party of Regions is a neo-Soviet party and should it come to power in Ukraine only Russia and a small minority will benefit.

While Russian-speakers may be relieved of the need to learn Ukrainian, they might also find themselves relieved of their jobs, pensions, government-funded services, medical care and education.

Source: Kyiv Post