Double standards of Ukraine authorities: Possible political consequences of defense corruption probe
The recent corruption scandal with defense procurements, which broke out after the publication of an investigation by the team led by journalist Denys Bihus, claiming that people from the president’s entourage were allegedly making illegal profit on corruption-laden supplies of Russian spare parts to military hardware, might deliver a serious blow to Petro Poroshenko. Such chances will be higher if the story develops further, drawing a coherent picture of embezzlement, misuse of funds, and government inefficiency. In this case, the authorities will not succeed in drowning the row in a pile of informational garbage, which they always apply. In fact, this story can significantly hit the positions of those in power, including Mr Poroshenko, on the eve of presidential elections set to be held March 31.
The key problem for Petro Poroshenko as a presidential candidate is to attract hesitant voters, whose number is significant, according to polls. Some 30-40% of Ukrainians have not yet made up their mind on their favorite candidate.
Since every percent matters in the struggle between the top runners for the post, this may play a critical role in Poroshenko's campaign as he may fail to reach the second round.
There is no doubt Team Poroshenko will try to beat this slamming report with something else
Let's draw an analogy with a 2016 presidential race in the United States where hacked e-mail correspondence was released of Hillary Clinton, who allegedly made serious mistakes as an official. There was nothing concrete in those letters, but still that story played a significant role, because a few percent of the wavering voters switched to the Trump camp or didn't show up at the polls at all. As a result, Hillary, who was in the lead throughout the race, got dumped at the very last moment.
I think that now, in Ukraine, the storyline with defense corruption could spark the same kind of serious consequences.
There is no doubt Team Poroshenko will try to beat this slamming report with something else. Surely, they will be trying to use their kompromat folders against other presidential candidates. For example, they might try to somehow play the issue of Yulia Tymoshenko's connection with ex-top official Pavlo Lazarenko (earlier sentenced in the U.S.).
But this won't work. Ukrainians are weary of any attempts to recall older stories – people have heard them for over 20 years. And here we have evidence of corruption in areas that are related to the basic messages of Poroshenko’s election campaign - “Army, Language, Belief”. And when Mr Poroshenko says that "there are many candidates but there's just one president”, it looks rather hypocritical given that his associates do such things.
As a “screen”, they show us some nice picture, but as soon as you look behind it just a bit, you see the rotten insides
This whole story looks even more cynical against the recent "Russia row" at the national selection for Eurovision 2019. It's funny how the winner MARUV and some other artists were blamed for touring across the aggressor state, Poroshenko’s allies (moreover, the structures that are part of Poroshenko’s business - Denys Bihus earlier announced that there will be a "leak" released on Lenynska Kuznia factory) are engaged in the resale of Russian spare parts for armored vehicles, purchased from smugglers, at prices inflated by margins. It does look really cynical.
This whole story has exposed double standards that permeate our society, above all, the elite. As a “screen”, they show us some nice picture, but as soon as you look behind it just a bit, you see the rotten insides.
All this talking about impeachment will lead to nothing
Well, as for the idea of Poroshenko's impeachment, it will see no development because there is simply no time for this, and not enough votes in parliament. Most likely, Yulia Tymoshenko put forward such a proposal so that the loud word “impeachment” drew attention to the very situation. That is, it is such a signal to engage those most hesitant voters. She had earlier used the same rant with regard to Viktor Yushchenko and Leonid Kuchma... This is her old scheme, which in this case was aimed at weakening Poroshenko.
However, I am 100% sure that all this talking about impeachment will lead to nothing because the elections will be held as early as March 31, and then there will be parliamentary elections later this fall. And in order to have the impeachment procedure go through thee Rada, first of all, a majority is needed, while the whole procedure is a very complicated. In particular:
The President of Ukraine may be removed from office by the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine in the order of impeachment in the event of him committing high treason or another crime;
The question of the removal of the President of Ukraine from office by impeachment is initiated by a majority of the constitutional composition of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine;
To conduct an investigation, the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine creates a special interim investigation commission, which includes a special prosecutor and special investigators;
The conclusions and proposals of the interim investigation commission are considered at the meeting of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine;
If there are grounds, the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine shall, at least by two thirds of its constitutional composition, decide on pressing charges against the President of Ukraine;
The decision to dismiss the President of Ukraine from office by impeachment is taken by the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine by at least three-quarters of its constitutional composition after the Constitutional Court of Ukraine reviewing the case and provides its opinion on compliance with the constitutional procedure of the investigation and consideration of the impeachment case, and after the Supreme Court of Ukraine rules that the wrongdoings of which the President of Ukraine is accused contain signs of treason or other crime.
I believe that the short-term goal of this move is to create a parliamentary investigative commission, which will receive broad powers to start probing corruption schemes in defense. This will hit Poroshenko’s closest supporters and provide materials to be used in the election campaign. Objectively, this will play into the hands of Tymoshenko and other opposition candidates. However, first, the Verkhovna Rada should give 300 votes to start the impeachment procedure, but there are not enough votes at the moment. The failure of the impeachment procedure will give Yulia Tymoshenko the opportunity to show who opposes Poroshenko’s resignation, and to widely promote the issue through the media. That is, this will demonstrate the real balance of forces on the eve of March 31. And this goal is quite realistic and understandable.
Yuriy Romanenko is a chief of political programs at Ukrainian Institute of the Future