In the past few decades, Ukraine has become one of the most corrupt countries in Europe. Many who protested against the regime of former president Viktor Yanukovich, deposed early this year, said that under his rule, corruption worsened dramatically.
Ukraine’s new authorities have assured voters they are ready to fight corruption. Donors such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) have associated their financial support with Kiev’s anti-corruption measures.
So, what are the chances for success?
“Previously, in the past 15-20 years, the problem of corruption was not as prevalent on the agenda of cooperation with international organizations” says Andrei Marusov, chairman of Transparency International in Ukraine.
Ukraine agreed a $17bn two-year support package with the IMF in April. It has received $3.2bn and is waiting for the second tranche of $1.4bn.
The latest IMF mission to Ukraine noted that the country’s authorities:
plan to implement a wide range of anti-corruption measures, including the establishment of an independent anti-corruption agency with broad investigative powers and adoption of legislative amendments to support the anti-corruption effort.
The agency will be independent from other state structures and will investigate corruption among Ukraine’s elites.
Marusov says the issue was discussed a couple of years ago but was “buried” by the pro-Yanukovich Party of Regions and the Batkivshchyna (Fatherland) Party, led by former prime minister Yulia Timoshenko. “Nobody wanted to create an independent body to investigate elite corruption,” he says.
Transparency International’s 2013 Corruption Perceptions Index ranked Ukraine 144th out of the 177 countries surveyed. Ukraine was in the group of “high risk” countries, together with Cameroon, Iran, Nigeria, the Central African Republic and Papua New Guinea.
Last month, Ukraine’s government adopted a package of high-priority anti-corruption measures, including draft legislation. “It is a significant step forward, compared to what we had a year ago when we and our partners ran into a stone wall… I see a clear desire on the part of the government and president Petro Poroshenkoto to adopt this legislation by the end of the year,” Marusov says.
Earlier, after the ousting of Yanukovich, the government adopted a law to regulate state procurement, one of the most corrupt areas in past years. Marusov notes that adopting the law was a precondition of the financial packages provided by the IMF.
Poroshenko said in a recent TV interview that he aimed to purify Ukraine’s elites through the upcoming parliamentary elections. “The elections are the most effective way of purifying not only the parliament but also the political system,” he said. Snap elections were called after the collapse of the pro-western parliamentary coalition in July.
Poroschenko believes that a new “pro-European, anti-corruption” ruling parliamentary coalition will emerge from the elections. He also called for a “reboot” of the judicial system and purification of the police.
Meanwhile, some activists are demanding faster and more radical steps. On Saturday, hundreds of protesters gathered in Kiev appealing to the parliament to adopt a bill on “cleansing the authorities”, meaning government officials, judges and law enforcement personnel.
“Yanukovich has escaped, but almost all his system remains,” said Egor Sobolev, leader of the protesters.
The proposed legislation would remove from their posts persons who had connections to communist organisations or the KGB during the Soviet period; persons who supported the Russian invasion of Ukraine; and officials who are unable to provide an explanation of the origin of their property or of property owned by their families.
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