Anticorruption and lustration in the pre-election programs of the presidential candidates

Lesya Shevcheko

Anticorruption and lustration are the top issues of this year's election campaign. All the candidates talk about them. Most voters want to hear such talks. Do they mean the same thing? How do presidential candidates see these changes, so desired by voters, and how will they implement these, according to their pre-election programs?

This year's programs of presidential candidates have made a small step forward compared to the previous years, when the voters were consciously "fed" with the pure populism. The promises are more specific and clear, yet populist abstracts are still often used.

Apocalyptic prophecy at the beginning of most texts seems to be designed to compensate for the lack of ideological content, clear vision and meaningfulness of concepts. Instead of offering targets and development vectors, the candidates mostly scare the voters and promise to punish all those responsible. The anticorruption part shifts the responsibility for combating bribery on business and citizens, civil society and the international community – everyone but not the authorities. There is no doubt that the combat of corruption is the task of the entire society. Still, it is logical to expect the plan of action in the candidate’s election program, and not a story about the importance of certain changes.

The above, however, is truly impossible without personnel and structural changes of the country. So let’s have a deeper look at the anticorruption and lustration agenda of the candidates.

Olga Bohomolec offered citizens the ability to recall inappropriate politicians, though specifying neither the mechanism of realization of this right, nor the criteria for officials to be recalled. She praises high hopes for the newest technologies to help create the power system with no temptation for corruption: "Implement electronic services to citizens, including "e-government" and "e-democracy" and to introduce a new model of open elections without political corruption and dependence on the oligarchs".

Poroshenko seems to be determined too. Judging from his program, much of the responsibility for fighting corruption the candidate translates into the society. Compared to the attention the candidate pays to this subject, the program does not have many specific steps to tackle this problem. Being close to Maidan, he hopes for civil society to get "the mechanisms for effective control of the authorities" in case of his victory. The tools for such control include the availability of information on the decisions of the authorities at all levels, public personnel policy, the information about the lifestyle of bureaucrats and politicians. Increased transparency is certainly good. Will this in itself reduce the amount of money stolen remains questioned. Given the number of articles and investigative journalism on corruption cases at the times of the previous government, the availability of information does not guarantee the presence of investigation. The candidate’s program does not specify how to overcome this problem.

At the same time the candidate hopes for Ukrainians. He believes that ordinary people have to stop giving bribes: “Realizing that offering or giving a bribe is as immoral as demanding and taking. Adoption of a kind of the national idea of intolerance to corruption”. The candidate does not specify how to change fact that the bribe may be the only way to exercise your legal rights in the Ukrainian realities.

Specific legislative initiatives of Poroshenko include reduction of the number and amount of taxes for entrepreneurs, and 'blocking' the offshore. He proposes to hold the lustration for corruption signs in judicial, police, tax and customs authorities. Hopefully, the promised "formation of a professional civil service, its social protection and strengthened accountability" will turn effective.

Perhaps the largest attention to the anticorruption topic among all presidential candidates was paid by Yulia Tymoshenko. She has a very specific vision of lustration: to lustrate judges, prosecutors, police officers, and all officials involved in political persecution, human rights violations, unjust decisions, the failure to implement the decisions of the European Court of human rights and corruption. Tymoshenko, just as Bohomolec, had promised to introduce a recall mechanism for MPs. As Poroshenko, she hoped for information transparency and public control. The new law on public procurement and offshore blocking are listed as her prospective legislative initiatives.

Tymoshenko’s program includes sufficient but risky steps for the elimination of corruption: to give broad powers, including the right to provoke bribe-giving, to an independent national anticorruption bureau, provide citizens with the right to carry concealed audio-video recording of a conversation with corrupt officials, etc.

Tymoshenko also has idealistic and even populist theses, devoid of a specific explanation as to how this will be done: "to make the oligarchs pay taxes in full in Ukraine", " arrest and return to Ukrainian state of illegally alienated property and funds of the state budget that have been bred by corruption abroad", etc.

Yuriy Boyko, the former Minister of Fuel and Energy of Ukraine, and now presidential candidate from the Party of Regions, considers anticorruption activities as a valuable financial resource for national development. Yet his vision looks rather oversimplified in the program: "The recipe is simple - the maximum transparency of interaction between business and the state multiplied by the refusal of citizens to tolerate bribery". In other words, his position is that a loss of at least UAH 160 billion annually is due to the citizens and non-transparent interaction with business? It appears that the candidate considers high-level corruption a minor problem, or has no real intention to solve it. Remember the famous story of "Boyko Towers" connected with a large scale high-level corruption. The issue of lustration is not mentioned at Boyko’s program at all.  

Anatoliy Grytsenko’s program is written in vague slogans. The "anticorruption" agenda of the candidate demonstrates a populist commitment to action: "I will clean the state of corruption, will make an official abide by the law. I will hold lustration of officials, especially judges and law enforcement officers".

Mykhailo Dobkin, Kharkiv former head, tackled the anticorruption issues in an interesting and even funny way. He attempted to scare corrupt officials with public opinion: "Regional leaders, MPs and judges need to understand that in case of poor performance, corruption and nepotism they cannot count on people's trust in the future".

The namesake of the former Minister of Taxes and Duties, Ukrainian People's Party leader Oleksander Klymenko plans to deal with corruption by reducing the tax burden on business. He believes that this should take place by reducing the social responsibilities of the state. Also the candidate intends to constantly check the income of civil servants, while increasing their salaries. The candidate did not touch upon the issue of lustration.

Klymenko is not the first candidate who talks about corruption as a phenomenon triggered only impossibility for businesses to survive legally. Unfortunately, the recent history (the example of the famous presidential "family") suggests that civil servants’ family business can grow ten times over a short period of time. So business survival is out of question. Still no clear answer from the candidates on how to prevent a repetition of this scenario in the future.

Oleg Lyashko was another candidate who promised to introduce a recall of MPs.  It appears he’ll begin to reform the law enforcement system. The candidate promises rather drastic steps: to change the personnel of law enforcement agencies, to introduce election of judges and higher responsibility for bribery. Mr. Lyashko promised to pay particular attention to lustration - "to eliminate the werewolves and opportunists in the new government".

The presence of the political player, offering more radical suggestions, certainly enriches the political process. Yet, each radical step is accompanied by certain risks and losses. For example, the simultaneous release of a large number of law enforcement officers will result in a number of short-term and long-term outcomes, including employment of those released. Lyashko’s program does not really focus on consequences of possible miscalculations.

The anticorruption component of the program of Petro Symonenko is difficult to comment on. He promised "fair and transparent public procurement system, fighting corruption in the budget allocation".  It seems that the Communist party still relies on declarative and populist slogans.

Serhiy Tihipko also uses rather general slogans: "reform the state apparatus”, “eliminate the grounds for corruption", etc. These theses provide no clear vision what the candidate in going to do.  Particular promises again introduce a procedure for the MPs recall at all levels and the impeachment of the President. The promises to hold a judicial reform are just as vague.

Anticorruption policies of Oleh Tyagnybok are quite objective and bold. The most radical theses include: "to compensate moral or material damage incurred by a person through unlawful decisions of state authorities, local government decisions and officials’ actions, in full at the expense of the offender”, “to pay damages for wrongful judgment at the expense of the judge who approved it”, “to establish a mandatory inspection of civil servants and candidates for elective office with "lie detector" for involvement in corruption, cooperation with foreign intelligence services and the dual citizenship". In addition, the candidate suggests the abolition of parliamentary immunity, the prohibition of political persecution (except anti-Ukrainian, anti-state, Ukraine-phobia activities) as well as the increased responsibility for corruption and control over expenditures of the officials.

Tyahnybok’s opinion on lustration is also quite radical. He promises to eliminate former Soviet state officials and those who worked with Yanukovych regime if they gave criminal orders. His promise to publish the lists of agents of the USSR KGB – FSB is unique among other election programs.

In general, the candidate's program looks objectively, yet more like "stitching the holes" and "fixing the bugs", rather than a holistic vision of anticorruption policy.

Dmytro Yarosh, the leader of “The Right Sector” could be suspected of more radical steps. Instead, he offered simple and somewhat declarative steps: to reduce the administrative procedures, to legalize the lobbing activities, to increase the punishment for corruption with a lifetime disqualification to hold public office. The officials should expect certification, lustration, increased transparency of work and e-government.

Mentioned problems cover only one sector of corruption risks. At the same time the issues such as high-level corruption and conflict of interests in the public service were left unattended.

The review of the programs of the main contenders for Presidential chair suggest an ambiguous conclusion. On the one hand, compared with the previous presidential race, a lot more attention was paid to these sensitive issues. On the other hand these contain a number of flaws. First, few of the candidates focused on measures for all levels and types of corruption. In most cases their understanding of corruption was simplified and superficial. The problem of conflict of interest as a less obvious reason for corruption was not touched upon at all. The most of the programs contain the slogans that resemble "stitching the holes", some single "target" measures, in the absence of strategic visions. Therefore, one may conclude that the candidates were responding to public demand while moving forward with anticorruption and lustration rhetoric, but the process of growth will be difficult and time-consuming. The voter will have a difficult but crucial choice that must determine the fate of this process.

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