16 November 2016

As Kyiv girds herself for what some are already calling the “third Maydan,” Ukrainians have long since concluded that the first two didn’t work out so well. On Saturday, as many as 100,000 demonstrators are expected in the capital’s main square, and the government is already making its own preparations to contain them by closing streets and deploying police. We have seen this movie before.

The reality in my country is that people are not happy with the government that followed the last Maydan nearly three years ago. And there is good reason for this: today our economy is stagnating, increases on utility tariffs now exceed 100 percent for ordinary citizens whose wages and salaries are frozen, substantial tracts of our territory are outside of our control and we have confronted in this period a curious inversion of justice, as if out of the pages of Alice in Wonderland, where nothing is at it seems, or ought to be. Consider my own example:

While I am primarily a businessman, I am also a leading member of the Opposition Bloc which, as its name suggests, opposes the current government. As a member of the Verkhovna Rada, our national parliament, I am entitled by our constitution to immunity from prosecution. Yet recently, the Prosecutor General and the Speaker of Parliament – both political allies of President Petro Poroshenko – publicly demanded that my immunity be lifted so I could be prosecuted for collusion in the kidnapping of a priest who, to the best anyone can tell, was never kidnapped.

The case against me is so absurd on so many levels, that I am voluntarily surrendering my immunity to let them try and prosecute it. As President Ronald Reagan once said, “you can run but you can’t hide.” I’ll do neither, but rather allow this comedy of errors to play itself out so the public can judge for itself what sort of justice system we have.

But for too many, the comedy isn’t funny. In some cases, its downright perverse. Last month in Odessa, the regional prosecutor brought charges of murder against a man who was himself killed by radicals while protesting the unelected regime change of the last Maidan. Essentially charging him for his own death, the prosecutor privately apologized to the man’s family but said he was only following orders. Odessa, you may recall, was supposed to be the laboratory of reforms for former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili whom Poroshenko appointed governor there in 2015. Two weeks ago, Saakashvili resigned, citing his inability to function in such a corrupt atmosphere.

And while our authorities invent charges in a desperate effort to look as though they are doing their job, no one has been charged in the shootings of 100 protestors in the last Maydan. Our current government feigns deference to the memory of this “holy hundred,” but takes no action to bring their killers to justice. Instead, the Prosecutor General, who lacks a law degree and was once detained for drunk and disorderly conduct, fighting with his son in Munich’s airport, berates reporters who ask him about results and instead makes vague promises to reform the system.

Real reform is not impossible, it only takes political will and priorities that are aligned with those of the Ukrainian people. More than one million Ukrainians today are displaced by conflict, so ending that conflict should be the government’s first priority. Our economy is crippled by indebtedness to foreign lenders, so why not focus on re-building our own industrial sustainability rather than simply taking news loans to pay the interest of the ones that preceded them? And our hunger for accountability is quite natural. There is a simple, peaceful, and orderly way to hold the current government accountable: an honest election.

Time is running for what was supposed to be a government of reform. America’s last ambassador to Russia, Michael McFaul, tweeted last week that the world’s biggest loser in the stakes over the U.S. election was Ukraine . By electing Donald Trump, a businessman who asserts himself to be an outsider ready to fix a broken system, Americans rejected their status quo. Hopefully Ukrainians to not have to stand in the streets through another winter to get the same result as we have before. We deserve a government that does what it promises, and governs based on actions – not words, or hallucinations. To hold our government accountable, we too should have the chance to vote.

Vadim Novinsky is a member of Ukraine’s Verkhovna Rada, or national parliament, a co–leader of the Opposition Bloc, and the chairman and CEO of SMART Holdings, a major Ukrainian metallurgical corporation.


All related news