Zelensky's Victory Is Bad News For Oligarchs And Strategic Loss For Putin

KYIV, Ukraine -- As Europe gets ready for its biggest nation in the west of Europe to say goodbye under a nationalist leadership, and a parliament unable to control the executive at the other end of Europe, the parliament of Ukraine has just been elected with serious hopes for the first time since the Berlin Wall fell that it can lead Ukraine out of bad politics and worse economics.

Ukraine has had two revolutionary moments this century.

First when its people arose in the 2004 Orange revolution in Kyiv and then again in Maidan in Kyiv in the winter of 2014/14.

It was not so much that Vladimir Putin wanted Ukraine to rejoin the Russian Federation but it was vital that the Russian system of a corrupt economy controlled by oligarchs loyal to the boss, and an absence of effective rule of law for the political-oligarch complex, should continue in Ukraine with the 48 million strong nation being protected from a European future.

After the humiliation of the two Kremlin endorsed presidents in 2004 and 2014, new presidents were elected who proclaimed the wish to turn Ukraine towards the EU or NATO but did little to break up the oligarch-politics networks.

In addition, Ukraine’s president and its parliament were controlled by different opposing forces which made difficult if not impossible to pass laws to reform and update the country.

After five years of the presidency of an oligarch, Petro Poroshenko, who protected his fellow oligarchs, a young reformer, Volodymyr Zelensky, was elected with a massive 73 per cent of the vote in the presidential election.

He needed however a majority in parliament to pass the laws required for reform.

Votes are still being counted from Sunday’s parliamentary election but it looks certain that Zelenksy has won an overall majority of seats in the Ukraine parliament which is elected partly on a party list system and partly on constituency MPs elected on a first past the post system.

This the first time a president and parliament are in lock-step.

Some political analysts in Kyiv hope the new parliament, where two-thirds of MPs elected on national party lists are first-timers, can turn Ukraine round.

None of the other parties including the pro-Russian Opposition Platform or the Russian-speaking Ukrainians who have never really given up hopes of reuniting with the motherland got much over 10 per cent. 

Other parties headed by oligarch-friendly politicians like Poroshenko himself or the blonde-tressed Yulia Timoshenko each won 8 per cent.

Zelensky won an estimated 126 seats with his share of the list system elections but is estimated to have won a further 100 seats in the first-past-the-post section of the election to have a majority in the 450 seat parliament.

In the past these individual seats, elected locally by majority votes were much closer to Ukraine’s oligarchs and business men who have vote buying operations in remoter, poorer or anti-Kyiv cities and regions of Ukraine to make sure their men and women or indeed themselves get elected.

The cost of buying a seat in the Ukraine parliament is about US$2-3 million but if the public sector contracts come to the different oligarchs with the help of their rotten borough MPs it is money well spent from their point of view.

This rotten system means Ukraine per capita GDP is only about a quarter of neighbouring Poland.

If seats with their parliamentary immunity can be bought by oligarchs and even criminals then this corruption spreads throughout the economy and state administration down to small towns and even villages.

If Zelensky can convert his presidential and now parliamentary majority into reforming the police, public prosecutor’s office, the security services and judiciary by appointing clear reformers to head these public agencies, Ukraine can move forward.

Economist Anders Aslund, the leading expert on the post-Soviet economies of Russia and Ukraine, suggests the legalisation of private sales of land, and attracting investment from abroad as well as domestic savings can raise Ukraine’s growth rate from today’s 2-3 per cent to 7 per cent.

A more prosperous Ukraine where good money from legal economic activity drives out bad money from corruption and illegal trading will worry Putin.

Russian annexation of the Crimea remains unsolved.

Most of those elected in Ukraine reject the Kremlin’s military occupation and activity of both the Crimea and the Donbas.

But a growing, energised Ukraine fully entering the European democratic orbit is a strategic loss for the Putin, Russian nationalist world view.

Putin sits in the Kremlin looking at the inability of the EU, let alone the US or Canada with its 1.3 million Ukrainian diaspora, to help Ukraine.

The list of Europe’s unsolved borderland problems from Brexit Britain, the Western Balkans, the southern and eastern Mediterranean failed states spewing out refugees and migrants, Turkey with its destabilising drilling for energy in the seas off Cyprus, as well as Ukraine since 2004, is not getting smaller.

But there is now a glimmer of hope that the Ukrainian people who have twice staged peaceful revolutionary protests are finally using the ballot box to replace oligarchical politics with the democratic variety.

Source: Independent