Sergey Tigipko: The System Must Be Broken

KIEV, Ukraine -- Why does Ukraine remain amongst Europe's poorest states, after having been independent for 18 years? Why did the world economic crisis hit our country harder than it did our western or eastern neighbours? And what should be done to overcome crises, stimulate our national economy and increase the wealth of our people?

Presidential candidate Sergey Tigipko.

Sergey Tigipko says he knows the answers to these questions and is ready to solve the problems. In the middle of June he resigned as Chairman of the Board of Swedbank, as Prime-minister's counselor, as co-head of Investment Council of Cabinet of ministers and is running for President in the elections of January 17, 2010. Mr Tigipko's motives, targets and tasks are outlined in the following interview.

Q: Your Presidential campaign polling rate/chance of success is quite low according to sociologists.

T: I think you'd better ask these sociologists about people's attitude to the Verhovna Rada. The answer will be this: 90-98 % of Ukrainians don't trust their Parliament. The next question: who is responsible for that? Leaders of the main political parties, Y. Tymoshenko, V.Yanukovych, and the speakers of the Parliament, A.Yatseniuk and V.Lytvyn. What's more, the majority of the nation is not satisfied with government policy, led by Tymoshenko (who else?).

President Yushchenko is not a person worth believing in either. It's an absurd situation - those who have failed in their fields of political work are becoming the main contenders for the Presidential post? I don't think they will succeed in telling lies to the electorate for too long, as things are getting worse and worse in this country.

Q: For them, it is about their personal ratings?

It is about manipulating social consciousness. The country is in need of new leaders - responsible, competent, able to settle the disputes between each other and limit their personal ambitions. Only such people can stop economic downturn and sustain development. It is essential that the present system, I would call it a system that reproduces incompetency, be broken, so people shall be given the real possibility of choice.

Another fact according to sociology - over 50% of Ukrainian people see no leader amongst the current ‘top brass' worth electing (voting for). That is the answer to your question about my chances of winning.

Q: You are a supporter of strengthening of Presidential power. Are you sure your electors will side with you? As you know, the current trend is the opposite of this, seeing the transfer of more power to Parliament.

T: This trend is driven by those politicians who have totally discredited Ukrainian Parliament. Let me remind you that the constitutional reform agreement concluded during the Orange Revolution was a kind of compromise. I was concerned about what it would lead to at the time and unfortunately was proved right. We have state power being paralyzed, a permanent political crisis, total corruption, economic downturn and millions of people becoming poorer.

The country has lost five years. If things are not changed, Ukraine will lose any chance it has for its future. Despite this, Members of Parliament continue behaving quite irresponsibly, blocking the tribune and preventing it from appointing the missing ministers to the government. This Parliament is supposed to possess the full power? I don't think so. (I'm against it)

Q: No Parliament will go for decline of its power...

T: But history has demonstrated such cases. France in the late 1950's resembled our present situation: chaos and depression. The underrated General de Gaulle spoke straight to people. He said the problems of France were too huge for a party regime and Parliamentary power would lead to catastrophe. He showed his full willingness to take charge of "full power of the Republic".

And he managed to push through a new constitution that gave him full power, despite the resistance of Parliament. That is how the 5th Republic was born. Our Ukrainian constitution took after de Gaulle's constitution; some events are very similar. However, the Ukrainian constitution was weakened in many ways after 2004 political reform.

Q: So you have the intention of speaking directly to people?

T: I think the Presidential elections will remove the barriers. If a candidate proclaims his readiness to take full responsibility and power wins, that will mean his idea of strong Presidential power has the electorate's support. Hereafter the Parliament will have no choice but to accept the nation's will. And the people are the only carrier of power according to the Constitution.

Q: Would you please state your main elections thesis? Do you have an election program?

T: Everything must serve the only goal - to revitalize the economy. Economic growth means jobs, social security for the poorest, education, healthcare, armed forces and so on. All the necessary reformation schemes and plans are already written. We need only two things: strong political will and effective state machinery. And the election program will become public as soon as the campaign begins.

Q: Have you any particular ideas for reforming the Ukrainian economy?

T: There is a typical way for the countries which were considered undeveloped 'outsider states'. A strong leader appears - the strategy appears. But it is essential that a leader has strong will enabling him to control and implement that strategy. My principle is quite plain: you may say whatever you want but there must be a result.

Q: Everybody promises to suppress the corruption, but no one has succeeded yet. Any ideas?

T: I believe that the 2010 President will exert more influence on powerful ministries and institutions, with the Prosecutors Office and Security Service foremost in this. Sure, everyone talks about corruption but no cases are settled, there are no court cases. The thieves must be imprisoned! Until the people see the evidence of direct and decisive action, there is no point in talking about fighting corruption.

Essentially, our law enforcement bodies are ineffective. They are suppressed by politicians, and so many things need rectifying first. If a general-colonel is not able to cope with the task then a colonel should take charge and specific goals should be set. But the point is to create the conditions to deal with corruption lest it emerge.

Q: What are these conditions?

T: First of all there shall be no unnecessary limitations and boundaries for small business. This will cut off thousands of corruption opportunities for clerks. Secondly, all the governing bodies' activity (both government and local administrations) must be transparent. No social control means no success in fighting the corruption. It is high time for deep judicial reform.

We are in need of concrete and clear laws that will prevent any clerk from abusing them. Creating the laws and guiding principles is the key function of Parliament and the wider community. But currently, members of Parliament prefer political fights and act to divide the spheres of influence instead.

Q: What is your attitude to NATO and the EU?

T: France, Germany, Italy and so on - they do not really expect to see Ukraine there within 10-15 years and we've no prospects to be there until then the way things stand. Our politicians are too emotional, too romantic. We have to remain realists and pragmatists, especially today when our economy is down. We have to learn about promoting and protecting our interests, creating better conditions of cooperation with Europe, Russia and other states, protecting our markets and sustaining national producers.

Q: Will you insist that Russian is the official second language?

T: I wouldn't dwell upon problematic matters like Russian language, an attitude to the Holodomor, various visions of Ukrainian history and so forth. Most of these are artificial or overestimated, pushed into the society by politicians who are forcing people to pay attention to virtual problems rather than real ones. There are two fundamental problems that need addressing immediately: a weak state and a weak economy. If these are righted, everything is going to be alright.

Q: Obviously, your opponents have accumulated enough financial resources for the campaign. Have you?

T: Money is a secondary matter. First of all, ideology should be crystallized. The winner will be one who engages more allies, not the one who spends huge amounts of money on technologies or tricks. The point is to convince people. We are in need of a leader that the nation trusts.

Q: What is your confidence in winning based on?

T: I have solid, diverse professional experience. I have always managed to form teams of high quality specialists who work effectively towards a common goal. I'm also highly experienced in macroeconomic issues, having been head of the National Bank, Deputy Prime minister, and the Minister of Economy of Ukraine. I have spent many years actively involved in business which means I am acquainted with the workings of the economy from the ‘inside'.

No other candidate has such relevant experience. I took a break, long enough for me to rethink everything and decide my future course. I feel I have become more confident and mature, fully prepared for the most complicated challenges that face Ukraine today.

Source: Kommentary Magazine