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Letter: Ukraine urgently needs Canada's help
To the editor;
If one was to think of a dessert instead of a problem, Ukraine will be a luxurious wedding cake. So many layers, so colourful and so incomprehensible, this cake would surely win the prize. One of the most serious issues ailing the country is corruption. Corruption in Ukraine comes in any size and flavour. It permeates all strata of society.
Nowhere it is more perfidious than in Ukrainian politics. While on the surface the Ukrainian political scene is very lively, in its core it is utterly rotten. The issue is not one of design, as the Ukrainian system of partial proportionate representation is definitely superior to the "first past the post" British system. In fact, the electoral design in Ukraine is a hybrid akin to one that was proposed and defeated in the B.C.-wide referendum held in 2005.
The problem of the Ukrainian political scene is money. Money is paramount as there is virtually no election funding that comes from the state. Of course Ukraine is not the only country grappling with this situation. However, in contrast to rich western democracies where the power of very large donors could be partially eclipsed by funding from more popular sources, the Ukrainian general population is too poor to finance its own demands. By default they cede the entirety of electoral space to the ones who can finance themselves – i.e. the infamous oligarchs.
The sad outcome of this economic disparity is the inability of the Ukrainian electorate to mount a movement that would be truly popular in its core. And it is tragic. Tragic in the long run, and tragic in the immediate sense as the recent events in Kiev have demonstrated. Having brought the life of the country to a standstill, having sacrificed numerous lives and having burned a good chunk of Kiev, all the people of Ukraine appear to have gained from anti-Yanukovich protests is a new group of ruling oligarchs.
In my opinion, before the West decides which Ukrainian project to finance, they should consider jump-starting a new, publicly funded-electoral system that would displace the power of rent seeking oligarchs with truly popular movements. Having proposed this, I strongly doubt that the current Canadian government will be content with such a proposal, or will they? After all, Mr. Harper, after his ascension to the post of Prime Minister, has not tired in his undertaking to dismantle all vestiges of the publicly-financed electoral system introduced by the Chretien government more than a decade ago. In any case, whatever our own political scene in Canada is, Ukraine needs our help and needs it urgently.
See part II: 'Ukraine: What can be done?'