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Ukraine Needs Lustration to Dismiss 90% of the Political Elite (part 1)

Thursday, 04 September 2014 479
Author: Lesia Shevchenko
Lustration cannot serve as the only anti-corruption tool. In that case it turns into mere populism and is used to gain the voters’ support.

The INSIDER published the position paper by the President of the Open Society Foundation Lesya Shevchenko on the draft law "On Purification of Government" titled "Ukraine Needs Lustration to Dismiss 90% of the Political Elite” (part 1).

Ukrainian Parliament will consider the second reading of the draft law 4359a "On Purification of Government" on August 4th. The previous vote for the first reading had clearly indicated the members’ of Parliament (MPs) desire to simplify the lustration criteria.

Among the obstacles to lustration of Ukraine’s authorities at least three can be named.

Firstly, Ukrainian system of public administration is ultraconservative. In the best Soviet tradition the system was based on a dense network of personal connections.

Secondly, most politicians are unwilling (to put it mildly) to deprive themselves of the political future by their own votes. Even the most liberal provisions of the lustration law will be affecting a significant part of the MPs.

Thirdly, for big business it is (at least) not profitable to invest in the "fresh faces" or the new projects.

The factions representing Ukraine’s largest oligarchs ("For Peace and Stability", "For Sovereign European Ukraine" as well as independent MPs) did not wish to update the authorities’ composition and had no desire for ‘political retirement’, as demonstrated by the voting.

At the same time, ‘pro-governmental’ parties had supported the draft law. Yet, they seemed to understand the lustration differently.

The election program of the "Batkivschyna" Union stated:

- Creation of the National Anti-Corruption Bureau, which will break the spine of government corruption, especially that in law enforcement. How can those running corruption fight it? We will hold the anti-corruption lustration of all officials, including judges, prosecutors and investigators. Anyone who violated the law or lied in income declaration will be dismissed from the office, prosecuted and deprived of the right to work in the civil service. The lustration will purify the judicial system and the civil service.

"Svoboda" party had promised:

- Conduct lustration - a radical purification of the authorities. Fill in the vacant positions with young professionals, the graduates of Ukrainian universities, selected according to the criteria of patriotism and professionalism.

UDAR had promised:

- Holding the anti-corruption lustration: holding an independent assessment of all officials, police officers, judges and prosecutors and dismissal of all corrupt ones from the office. Create an independent Anti-Corruption Agency for the detection and prosecution of corruption.

Obviously, in 2012 UDAR and "Batkischyna" had quite similar intentions and focused on the anti-corruption component of the lustration process. Their promises referred primarily to the creation of an independent body. Corruption was chosen as the primary (and rather subjective) criterion of lustration. Instead, "Svoboda" did not define the mechanism for lustration. The policy of filling the vacant seats by the patriotic youth was indicated as the essence of the lustration process.

The Presidential race slightly adjusted the positions on the lustration.

Petro Poroshenko seemed determined. Reduction in number and amount of taxes for entrepreneurs and offshore shut off were among his specific legislative initiatives to combat corruption. These should be expected from the current president.

He also proposed to lustrate judiciary, law enforcement, tax and customs authorities based on the corruption criteria. In addition, he promised the "creation of the professional civil service, employees’ social protection and strengthened accountability”.

His rival, Yulia Tymoshenko’s vision of the lustration focused on the judges, prosecutors, police officers, and all officials involved in the political persecution, human rights violations, unjust decisions, the failure to implement the rulings of the European Court of Human Rights and corruption.

“Svoboda” leader Oleg Tiagnybok had substantially corrected his anti-corruption promises. The list of his most radical theses includes:

- Full reimbursement of moral or material damage incurred by the person through the unlawful decisions of state authorities, local government officials and their actions at the expense of the offender. Payment of damages for wrongful judgment at the expense of the judge. Mandatory verification of public officials and candidates for public office with the "lie detector" for the involvement in corruption, the cooperation with foreign intelligence services and the possession of dual citizenship.

In addition, Mr Tiagnybok advocated for increased liability for corruption offenses, closer control over the officials’ expenditures, etc. His position on the lustration was also broader. The candidate promised the dismissal of the former Soviet state employees and those working for Yanukovych regime if they gave criminal orders. The promise to publish the lists of the USSR KGB and Russian FSB agents was also unique.

Generally speaking, in May 2014 the adjusted programs of the party leaders became more substantial. At the same time, they rather resembled "stitching the holes" of "fixing the bugs" rather than a holistic vision of the lustration and the anti-corruption policies.

The results vary. Some fear staff shortage in case of large-scale clean-up. The representatives of the factions have no common position on the concept of the lustration draft law. The head of the Lustration Committee Ehor Sobolyev warns against "talking off the expected law"...

The society expects the mindful lustration policy to eliminate the social tensions, especially considering the desire for retaliation against the members of the former criminal regime. To meet the society’s expectations one has to offer the most specific design and clear criteria for lustration. Removing the ‘old regime’ and unqualified officials from the office would increase confidence in the state apparatus and facilitate the reform process.

However, most importantly, the lustration itself cannot be the tool for fighting corruption. In that case turns into mere populism and serves as a mechanism to gain the voters’ support under the banner of fairness. Under these circumstances, it seems that lustration itself is not that important. Instead, the effective mechanisms for detecting corruption and ensuring the inevitability of punishment become crucial.

Ukraine needs lustration first and foremost to dismiss 90% of discredited politicians, and open the politics for the new ideas, fresh people, and policy alternatives.

Therefore, the second reading of the draft law 4359s "On Government Purification" needs the substantial processing of certain provisions to strengthen the public control over lustration process, and immediate entry of the law into force. Additionally - as a bonus - the lustration law needs to be adopted in the package with the new law on civil service (this had been postponed by MPs for five years).

To be continued.

The analysis is based on the monitoring of parliamentary political parties’ draft laws performed by the Open Society Foundation experts and supported by the National Endowment for Democracy, USA (NED).

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