Sad standstill

Tatiana Urbanskaya
09:00, 18 October 2017
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Opinion

Any Ukrainian protest "for all good things against all bad", especially if it’s organized by a dozen "hetmans", trying to use in their own interest the bits of public outcry, traditionally turns into a farce. Unfortunately, that’s what happened with the rally for the "Great Political Reform".

On Tuesday morning, “frames” were set up by “AutoMaidan” activists at all three main entrances to the square in front of the parliament. There were two ways to pass these "frames": one of them was “designed” for the MPs set to vote against the demands of the street (which read "I am an a**hole") and another one for those who support such demands ("I hear the people"). And these very frames showed a complete misunderstanding by this pulsating street of its own desires. After all, there has been no vote scheduled whatsoever for the demands voiced at the rally. Instead, the Tuesday agenda of the Verkhovna Rada included a long-promised healthcare reform. And, given that most of the activists of today's rally actually support the reform, it was rather strange to witness the scandal which unraveled at the Conciliation Council of the leaders of parliamentary factions, which boiled down to a single point: let's postpone healthcare reform and first vote in support of the protesters’ demands. As a result, the reform was postponed, while it didn’t turn out to be as expected with the crowd’s demands, either.

Initially, there were three of them: the abolition of parliamentary immunity, modification of electoral legislation, and the establishment of an anti-corruption court. A bit later, Mikheil Saakashvili also voiced the demand for Petro Poroshenko’s resignation in case the above-mentioned demands are not met.

It's a shame though that the organizers of protests did not bother explaining to the protesters that there is no law on the impeachment of the president as none of the parliamentarians who pumped up the protesters in front of the Rada had drafted such a bill, so this whole “president resignation” thing is yet another populist catchword. They also chose not to mention the fact that the bills supposed to deal with the first three demands had actually been submitted to parliament but have for years been lying back-shelved.

For example, the bill on lifting immunity submitted by the president (after some claimed he got “scared” of protests) is not a concession to the protesters but rather another delay in the adoption of this law for more than a month. The thing is that on Tuesday, the Rada, following the due procedure, voted for forwarding the bill to the Constitutional Court. Given that the CC has recently been working under the shaky leadership of the acting chief and considered no serious cases for quite a while, it would be naïve to expect that the immunity issue will become the constitutional judges’ priority.

It's a shame though that the organizers of protests did not bother explaining to the protesters that there is no law on the impeachment of the president as none of the parliamentarians who pumped up the protesters in front of the Rada had drafted such a bill, so this whole “president resignation” thing is yet another populist catchword.

In other words, Ukrainians will have to wait much longer until they might see the deputies stripped of their immunity, while Petro Poroshenko can consider his Tuesday’s "concession" as his latest political win. This is evidenced by his comment during the meeting with the president of Malta: "I am happy that my initiatives have seen such a response both in the hearts of the people and the organizers of the rally"...

All this leads to a complete lack of understanding of reality. And it is not surprising that in the late afternoon activists stated that they would block all exits from the Verkhovna Rada until the required laws are adopted. After that, there came protesters with tents, who brawled with police, there were also “activists” with faces hidden behind balaclavas attacking the national guards… As a result, there were people injured in clashes, both among the protesters and law enforcers.

Globally, everyone just held their ground to a sad standstill. The authorities are convinced that they hear the people and, in case of emergency, the security forces will come to the rescue; the organizers of the rally can boast a nice picture for their sponsors, claiming they can mobilize supporters, if necessary; the parliament still has the said bills registered but not enough votes to pass them; spin doctors can enjoy the inflow of new orders; while the Ukrainian society retained its highly-active protest mood.

Perhaps, the organizers of the Tuesday rally made the same mistakes as their predecessors.

Incidentally, all of this is very similar to the already forgotten all-Ukrainian rally "Get Up, Ukraine", when in the spring of 2013 the opposition troika gathered people in the center of Kyiv almost every weekend, but these protests never turned into a popular uprising that would unite the country.

Perhaps the organizers of the Tuesday rally made the same mistakes as their predecessors. First, they did not take into account that the passive majority is much more interested in pensions, prices in stores, and figures they see in their utility bills, and it is rather difficult to entice them with abstract discontent with the authorities. Secondly, it would be logical for the organizers to show Ukraine’s active minority at least some results of their own work in parliament in order to be able to ask citizens to support their efforts.

It’s a shame that no one draws conclusions from past mistakes, preferring to keep stepping on the rake.

Tatiana Urbanskaya

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