For a few weeks I – and I suspect not only I – have quietly sat watching the increasing lack of – or at the very least dysfunctional – leadership within the Batkivshchyna Party – the party of Ms Tymoshenko, with “stand-in” leader Arseniy Yatseniuk currently at the helm.
Whilst opposition parties UDAR and Svoboda are seemingly holding things together quite well, Batkivshchyna seems to have a leadership problem and looks as though it is fraying at the edges and running out of control. It is snapping at internal and external would be/should be allies publicly – rather than privately – if the air needs to be cleared.
As regular readers who have followed this blog for the past few years will know, I have been quite sympathetic towards Mr Yatseniuk historically, and publicly rued the day he joined Batkivshchyna in the full knowledge that it would be the end of the erudite and considered Arseniy Yatseniuk – and the birth of a completely different persona which was likely to strike far less of a chord within me.
And so it turned out to be.
Cognitive and creative thought replaced by ill-conceived knee-jerk populism on a magnitude only surpassed by Ms Tymoshenko in her prime. Considered opinion replaced by populist undeliverable promises. Carefully crafted strategy replaced by public campaign disasters such as “Rise Ukraine” – where almost nobody did “rise”, and those that did had no real idea why or for how long they were supposed to. Wise and genuine statements replaced by empty rhetoric overflowing with poorly chosen words.
I could go on, but you get the picture. A politician whom I considered of better potential than most a few years ago, has sunk into the Ukrainian political cesspit from which I do not think he can now extract himself with very much moral integrity remaining.
When actions such as the below are caught on video, published on YouTube – a Batkishchyna MP assaulting a police officer – and not a single public word is muttered by Mr Yatseniuk as his party leader, you begin to wonder where the leadership is. If there is party leadership does it has any ethics to it whatsoever? Where are Mr Yatseniuk’s morals?
When Euromaidan protesters in their hundreds of thousands pride themselves – quite rightly – on their peaceful assembly over such a prolonged period, then the actions of this MP are hardly representative of those people – and yet without condemnation by his party leader, inference will be drawn that his actions are therefore representative and/or tolerated by his political party – and thus its leadership.
Some form of public statement was required from Mr Yatseniuk, and internal party disciplinary action taken – yet there was none. Nothing at all.
In stark contrast, when Anatoliy Hrytsenko mentioned the recent Euromaidan rally had significantly less attendees than prior to the festive holidays on his blog – he is expelled from the Batkishchyna Party faction almost immediately.
It is almost as if stating this fact is in someway undermining a planned and visible result of a Batkivshchyna political call to arms, and thus treasonable within party ranks – and yet being caught unnecessarily assaulting a police officer, and then for it to be broadcast, is quite all right.
The message here is that immunity and impunity will continue under Mr Yatseniuk, but dissenting voices will not be tolerated? Who does that remind us of?
People do not gather at Euromaidan for Batkivshchyna or Arseniy Yatseniuk – and he is deluded if he thinks otherwise. Stating numbers had shrunk therefore doesn’t effect Batkivshchyna or Mr Yatseniuk that much. It is not as if he knows what he wants to do with Euromaidan, and even if he did, it is unlikely Euromaidan will do what he wants. For many he remains part of the problem and untrusted when it comes to offering solutions.
It should be hoped that police officer assaulted wasn’t a Batkishchyna voter or that would be yet another one lost, just as those who vote for Mr Hrytsenko will probably vote for a different opposition party now too.
I could go on and on with more examples of absent, failing or failed leadership over the past month or so – and perhaps I should do so to underscore the matter – but this entry is not meant to be a demolition job on Mr Yatseniuk or Batkivshchyna – it is an entry highlighting leadership issues within Batkivshchyna that are not so visibly manifesting themselves within the other opposition parties.
When Svoboda MPs cross the line, as expected of a nationalist leader, Oleh Tyahnybok is unfailingly swift to try to mitigate and reframe their actions in a broader nationalist battle against “the regime”. A time honoured nationalist tactic the world over. Thus far Klitshcko has yet to have to deal with any serious lack of discipline within the UDAR ranks, at least by way of public embarrassments – however when and if it does occur, it seems very unlikely he would say or do nothing.
Yet Mr Yatseniuk seems to think willful ignorance is a quality of leadership – not a quality that many seek within a presidential candidate you have to suspect.
When it comes to European integration and European values, it doesn’t take much working out as to how any police officer assaulted in the instance shown above would react in almost any European nation – the MP would have been arrested.
Also, MP arrested or not, any European political party leader would have made a public statement both distancing themselves and the party, whilst simultaneously expressing concern at the actions of one of their own party in the YouTube clip.
Would Merkel, Cameron, Hollande, Tusk et al say nothing and pretend such an assault by a member of their party didn’t happen, or would they be swift in being seen to do or say something? Of course it would be the latter, as the first to politically frame robustly and convincingly normally wins the day!
Any European MP would be expected to resign after such an incident – and expelled from their party if they didn’t.
Conversely, expelling people from a European political party for making a statement of fact – in this case regarding the falling number of people attending the Sunday Euromaidan protests – simply wouldn’t happen in a European political party either. No European leader would even consider it.
In short, Mr Yatseniuk is displaying a style of leadership so un-European, so undemocratic, so willfully blind and unaccountable for the wrong doings that are on-going within his own party, that it is much closer to the leadership style of “Homo-politico Sovieticus” than that of “Homo-politico Europa”.
Sadly, much as Ms Tymoshenko did, Mr Yatseniuk seems to see Batkivshchyna as little more than a vehicle to carry him to power – the rights and wrongs within that machinery seemingly irrelevant and to be ignored as far as he is concerned – as long as it carries him to the presidency.
Perhaps that is to be expected?
After all, whether he becomes president of Ukraine or not, the release of Ms Tymoshenko will depose him as leader of Batkivshchyna, as she will almost certainly be returned to that position by the party – and any parliamentary elections after her release will almost certainly return her to the RADA as leader of that party.
In short, unless Ms Tymoshenko quits politics, if Mr Yatseniuk is not president at the time of her release then he will be jettisoned from any serious position of power within the current opposition. For him it is president or bust – or a decade in the political shadows once more.
Becoming Prime Minsiter to a Klitshcko presidency would not be enough. Upon Ms Tymoshenko’s release and return to party leadership and the RADA, Mr Yatseniuk would be faced with the probable de jure position but a de facto Prime Minister in Ms Tymoshenko controlling Batkishchyna.
Nevertheless, the leadership he is currently displaying is very much a disappointment - and a contributory factor as to why the largest opposition political party fails – by some distance – to have the most popular opposition presidential candidate amongst the Ukrainian constituency.
The Batkivshchyna leadership needs to be sorted out – and rather swiftly, for I will not be the only one noticing the deficiencies and obvious gaps between pro-European integration rhetoric and actual values displayed within the leadership. Such briefing notes will fill files within the embassies of Kyiv too!