Now The Hard Part Begins
As I had predicted in some of my recent columns, Yanukovych’s days were indeed numbered. When the end came, it came quickly. As with most revolutions, once a key turning point is reached, tyrannies and dictatorships tend to crumble very quickly. That is because such structures are held together mostly by fear amongst the suppressed majority caused by a small but oppressive and ruthless minority. Once the fear disappears, the oppressors are in trouble. The reason for this is that the oppressors are invariably bullies and cowards. Revolutionaries are willing to give all, including their lives for the cause. Oppressors are not.
So now, Yanukovych and his pack of rats are fleeing for their lives as a new and hopefully more honest government starts to take shape. Although the euphoria is somewhat muted in the face of the tragic toll in lives that the Maidan revolt exacted, there is now at least hope that a new and better day has dawned in Ukraine. Yet, it also a time of great danger. As one historical pundit once said, it is relatively easy to start and even win a revolution, but it is infinitely harder to build a better government and a better and more just society.
We have the tragic example of the 2004 Orange Revolution where one band of corrupt ex-Soviet political sharks were replaced by a supposedly more honest and democratic band of ex-Soviet bureaucrats and politicians. The end result was little different. What was needed then was, as the professional consultants say, a paradigm change. What we got instead was more of the same old, same old.
That is why the Ukrainian people need to be very careful over who they place into power this time around. If the ranks of the Verkhovna Rada, the Cabinet and the top level bureaucrats are filled by a simple reshuffling of the same faces that have been there for the past two decades of Ukrainian independence, then no matter what promises they make, or what charismatic speeches they lay on us, all the sacrifices of the past three months will have been in vain.
I think we must start with the premise that the main leadership ranks of all existing parties are tainted with a mindset that was probably the major contributing factor to the corruption and incompetence that has plagued Ukraine for the past two decades. What is required is a fresh, young, new generation of leaders and professionals whose values and principles have not been subverted by the kleptocracy that has been the Ukrainian government since it became independent. The return of people like Yulia Tymoshenko or Petro Poroshenko to positions of power would be a serious mistake and would indicate that nothing much has really changed in Ukraine’s political ethos. You would simply get a government that serves another bunch of supposedly “democratic” oligarchs rather than the interests of the people.
Aside from the leadership aspect, the other major challenge will be the very structure of the government itself. To a large degree, not much has changed since Soviet times in the way the Ukrainian bureaucracy is structured and how it operates. Ukraine must rapidly transform its government operations into more transparent, accountable and efficient models of how to transact its day to day business. There is certainly no shortage of examples it can turn to, and the large Ukrainian diaspora in the west is filled with experienced professionals and experts that could be tapped to help make this happen. In the immediate post-independence era, there was too much of an inherited Soviet phobia about adopting western processes and methods, and that has hurt Ukraine’s development deeply.
Lastly, Ukraine desperately needs serious reform of its whole judicial system to insure that the rights of the people are properly protected. For the past several decades, the legal system in Ukraine has simply been a tool of the people in power to harass and eliminate their personal enemies. The courts and the prosecutorial structures must be protected constitutionally from interference and manipulation by political masters.
The Maidan must be on guard to prevent a return to “business as usual”. The sharks, the toadies, the manipulators and the leeches are already jockeying for positions and a return to what they hope will be a new opportunity to exploit the Ukrainian state and the Ukrainian people. Those that led the Maidan must now change their focus towards a new struggle to make sure that that does not happen.