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Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Black Sea Fleet vote: Know thy heroes

Smile of betrayal. Valeriy Pysarenko, 30, one of 9 Tymoshenko MPs who voted to support extending Russian's Black Sea Fleet lease until 2042. The vote would not have passed if it weren't for turncoats like Pysarenko.(

Eggs, smoke bombs, sirens and fisticuffs were not enough to stop Ukraine’s parliament from making a mockery of the democratic process on April 27. Without any debate or discussion, the legislature ratified an agreement that will allow Russian military maintain a presence in Ukraine until 2042 and adopted the state budget for 2010. Video footage of the Rada circus was carried by media worldwide as the Kremlin scored yet another victory in Ukraine in the 50 days since Victor Yanukovych became president.

In his first weeks in office Yanukovych was praised for the speedy consolidation of power. When he quickly formed a cabinet of ministers and cobbled together a majority in parliament using le$$ than constitutional means, most observers looked the other way. They reasoned that anything was better than the chaos that resulted from the standoff between president and prime ministered that characterized Yushchenko’s presidency. They looked the other way when Yanukovych secured a constitutional court ruling using le$$ than constitutional means. All three branches of government – executive, legislative and judicial – were brought under the control of a single political party (like the good old days of the Soviet Union - Back to the U$$R!).

So it should have come as no surprise that Yanukovych found 234 votes in the 450-seat parliament to vote for extending the Russian Black Sea Fleet lease. But in Soviet times, the party members would actually show up to vote, even if the results were fixed beforehand. In post-Soviet Ukraine, MPs do not have to be physically present in parliament to vote: it’s enough for their “voting cards” to be in the right hands under the dome on Hrushevsky Street. For example, where was Regions MP Serhiy Holovaty when he voted to ratify the Black Sea Fleet agreement? In Strasbourg, France. Ukrainian democracy allows for elected officials to perform their duties virtually.

Ask a Ukrainian who represents their community in parliament and they won’t know, because the current Rada was elected according to a proportional, closed list system. There is no direct representation. All a voter saw on the ballot when he/she voted in 2007 were the first ten names of every party of electoral bloc. Ukrainians not only do not know who represents them, they don’t even know who they voted for. As a result, a bunch of no names responsible to nobody except their party boss, who bought their way onto their party list are in parliament. This is the worst Rada ever, making some of the worst decisions – ever.

But Ukrainians did not give any one party the carte blanche to rule the country in the last presidential or parliamentary elections. In fact, Ukrainians cast their votes for political forces who would never trade Crimea for lower natural gas prices or adopt a state budget without any debate. They voted for pro-Western forces such as the Bloc of Yulia Tymoshenko and Our Ukraine Peoples’ Self-Defense. But wouldn’t you know it? MPs from these parties were instrumental in making sure Yanukovych’s Kremlin-appeasing initiatives were successful in Parliament: 9 MPs from Byut and 7 MPs from OUPSD. Their combined 16 votes pushed the necessary number over the minimum 226 mark. They joined forces with Yanukovych's Party of Regions, the Communists and the Rada Speaker's Lytvyn Bloc, who did not have enough votes on their own.

Their names are: Valentyn Zubov (Валентин Зубов), Volodymyr Ivanenko (Володимир Іваненко), Petro Kuzmenko (Петро Кузьменко), Oleh Malich (Олег Маліч), Sviatoslav Olynyk (Святослав Олійник), Valeriy Pysarenko (Валерій Писаренко), Ihor Savchenko (Ігор Савченко), Ivan Sidelnyk (Іван Сідельник) and Oleh Cherpitsky (Олег Черпіцький) from Byut and from OUPSD Yuri Boot (Юрій Бут), Serhiy Vasylenko (Сергій Василенко), Stanislav Dovhy (Станіслав Довгий), David Zhvania (Давид Жванія), Oleksandr Omelchenko (Олександр Омельченко), Ihor Palytsia (Ігор Палиця) and Volodymyr Poliachenko (Володимир Поляченко).

These are the names of people who betrayed the people who voted for their party. Voters can’t recall them even if they know their names. They can’t be replaced by their parties. They are immune from criminal prosecution. They don’t even have to be in the Rada to vote. Their terms in office won’t expire until 2012. They answer to nobody. Except to Yanukovych. And he answers to nobody. Except Putin.

1 comment:

Stanislav said...

Ironically, Mr. Pysarenko once critically (and crossly) commented on Santa Claus visiting Ukraine in winter 2009. It was the Shuster Live show and I thought: "Something must be wrong with guy". Few months afterward he voted for the Black See deal.