A toxic environment:
The present and future of the President’s party
The present and future of the President's party
In the 1990s, when first political parties were formed in Ukraine, there was a saying: "Whatever the name, any party is the communist party." Today I'd put it otherwise: whatever the name, any party is the Party of Regions. This is especially true for the current ruling party, Petro Poroshenko Bloc.
I witnessed the creation of PPB in 2014. It was obvious that the party building process had many flaws, and that just about everyone was admitted into this political force. But in that situation, the voters had to turn a blind eye even to the very obvious flaws of politicians and parties. While public attention was riveted to the front line, politics seemed a secondary issue. We all remember why Ukrainians voted for Poroshenko in the first round: the goal at that time was to elect a legitimate government and to overcome the political crisis of the winter of 2014 as soon as possible.
As a result, we have a President who in fact had no political force of his own in the Parliament. To be more precise, Vitaliy Klitschko’sUDAR faction became such a force, but it was obviously not enough. That’s why the old Parliament had to be dissolved and snap election held. It was scheduled for October 2014, and the newly elected President began forming the election list of his own party.
Very different people ended up on this list. After Poroshenko's victory, all sorts of opportunists quickly threw away their old party membership cards and rushed to the new leader. In fact, the new party became a haven for all kinds of moneybags and people with some administrative resources. They were all united by a common goal: to ensure the result. That is, to win the election and achieve the majority in the Parliament. After the race, numerous winners of the election at firstpast-the-postdistricts joined the faction. Such people always tend to join the party that is presently in power as they count on various preferences they can get as a result.
The final party was a patchwork uniting promising young politicians, such as Mustafa Nayem or Svitlana Zalishchuk, with outright crooks, who previously were in the Party of Regions and even voted for the draconian anti-protest laws on January 16, 2014, such as Vladyslav Atroshenko, the current mayor of Chernihiv, or Oleh Nedava from Yenakiyeve, the hometown of Viktor Yanukovych in Donetsk Oblast, who recently found himself in the heart of a scandal after voicing his support for Yuriy Ivaniushchenko, an ex-crime boss and current tycoon known by the name of Yura Yenakiyivskyi.
Those who expected new rules in politics after the Maidan were unhappy with how the new political force was formed. I and other Maidan participants on the PPB list had a simple choice: to either withdraw from the election as a matter of principle, or to run on the same list with rather dubious candidates. At that point, we thought that once in Parliament, we could provide some kind of a counterweight and would be able to contain the "bad guys." Unfortunately, this calculation was wrong, and our resources were insufficient. The corrupt environment either neutralized or absorbed the young politicians.
With time, PPB became increasingly similar to the Party of Regions. Same as PR, Poroshenko's party unites many different people and groups. Most of its MPs have absolutely no principles and think of a party ideology as some sort of a superstition. Everyone understands that PPB in politics is a temporary phenomenon, same as PR was, and that in the future they would have to change their party cardsagain, should they want to retain their mandates.
Having said this, the main difference between PPB and PR and, at the same time, the main flaw of Poroshenko's party, is the lack of solidity. We all remember how easily and quickly Yanukovych's party collapsed in the spring of 2014, even though it seemed everlasting shortly before. The collapse of PPB will probably be even easier. Even today, the President has trouble controlling his faction. Many PPB members are openly unhappy with what is going on, and hold a grudge against Poroshenko's "dear friends," namely, Serhiy Berezenko, Ihor Kononenko and Oleksandr Hranovsky, who today, thanks to their proximity to the President, spoon off the cream and damage the reputation of everyone in the president’s faction.
PPB's problem is that some of its members are allowed almost everything, while others have to beg the President for at least something. MP Hranovsky can easily and in front of the whole country raid SkyMall shopping center fromEstonian investors. Hence the result: some PPB members are sneakily directing their eyes to Yulia Tymoshenko’sBatkivshchyna party and hurry to establish a contact with the party leader.
It is not so easy to find people within PPB willing to defend the party's stand on TV. Today's speakers, who can be often be seen on TV screens, sound unconvincing and often act as whipping boys at different talk shows. Other MPs under various pretexts evade showing up on TV, even though the faction leaders are now scratching their heads over how to improve its reputation in the media. As a result, PPB ranking is gradually dropping, while the competing populist parties are gaining strength.
Can the current negative trend be reversed? Generally speaking, it is still possible, but I don't believe that Poroshenko will go for it. PPB's drawbacks are mainly due to the negative personal qualities of the President, such as greed and distrust. They made PPB a fraction of unequal opportunities and unequal people. The reluctance of the President and his entourage to fight corruption and pursue uneasy and unpopular reforms may soon turn PPB into a sinking ship. If the current negative dynamics of Poroshenko's and his faction's ranking continues, there may be nothing left of it by 2019.
From the beginning, the President had every chance to make PPB a party with a real ideology. This could have been either a liberal political force or a Christiandemocratic one, like the German CDU/CSU. He should have formed the party list much more carefully. Obviously, he could have done without the controversial MPs from the past. This was the strategy chosen by Samopomich, led by Lviv Mayor Andriy Sadovyi. Yulia Tymoshenko also brushed up Batkivshchyna's party list significantly, expelling all controversial and doubtful figures and replacing them with young politicians who have no negative track record. Unfortunately, Petro Poroshenko limited himself to just a few new figures who were soon either squeezed out or absorbed by the toxic PPB environment.
PPB faction members might have well required from the President to implement radical reforms and fight corruption but somehow they don't do it. Today it is clear that repeating the 2014 success for PPB will be impossible. If it manages to enter the Parliament after the next election, it will be with a largely downsized faction. This means that the political careers of many of the faction's MPs will be over, unless they join other political projects.
Today, many PPB members no longer see their future with this party. Serhiy Kaplin is spinning his own project, the Party of Common People. MPs Victor Kryvenko and Pavlo Kishkar want to revive Narodnyi Rukh, thes People's Movement of Ukraine. Mustafa Nayem, Svitlana Zalishchuk and Serhiy Leshchenko will continue their careers with the Democratic Alliance.
Obviously, PPB will keep losing its membership. I have no doubts today that the end of this party will be similar to that of Viktor Yushchenko’s Nasha Ukrayina, or the Party of Regions. The actions of those in power show that they are not able to learn from the mistakes of their predecessors and to change.
THE PRESIDENT HAD A CHANCE TO MAKE HIS PARTY INTO ONE WITH A REAL IDEOLOGY. IT COULD HAVE BEEN A LIBERAL POLITICAL FORCE OR A CHRISTIAN-DEMOCRATIC ONE, LIKE THE GERMAN CDU/CSU
In the footsteps of predecessors. The Petro Poroshenko Bloc risks taking the path of the Party of Regions, or Viktor Yushchenko's Our Ukraine which no longer exists de facto