Entrepreneurs were protesting in Dnipropetrovsk The Day before the national convention of deputies of all levels from the Party of Regions on March 23 in Kyiv. One of their requirements was as follows: “Out with Tihipko and his reforms!” But doesn’t Ukraine really need reforms? The protestors didn’t answer this question directly, instead gathering a “fat-free social package” for the head of the Party of Regions and Ukrainian Prime Minister Mykola Azarov. It included a kilo of wheat cereals, pearl barley, millet meal, peas, Chinese buckwheat, “frozen potatoes,” a cabbage, two carrots, “Pryma” cigarettes and a pack of Mezim. They suggested the premier live on this for an entire month.
The same day the results of a survey by the social group Rating came out (the study was held on March 4-14, with personal interviews of 2,000 respondents over 18 years old). It showed a drop in support for President Viktor Yanukovych (from 32 percent in December last year to 26 percent in March this year) and the Party of Regions (from 30 percent to 26 percent). Thus, it showed that since the presidential election the head of state lost almost a third of his supporters, or about 10 percent in the ratings, and almost half when compared to the high level of support he enjoyed in May-June 2010.
This clearly set the tone for the convention of deputies from the Party of Regions. The 80,000 party members working in councils of all levels set themselves the informal goal of bringing up the president’s ratings.
The appeal of president, who suddenly fell ill, was read by the head of his administration Serhii Liovochkin. It stressed: “Our common goal is building a thriving country of social progress, where decent life will be ensured for every person. I believe that this high mission will become a winning national idea capable of uniting society, governmental and social institutions. In the transitional, extremely difficult period the country needs national harmony and mutual understanding.” “We cannot allow political quarrels and confrontations,” Liovochkin continued in a more strict voice, “to slow down the European integration direction of the state.”
Azarov also dwelled on this topic in his speech. “We won’t allow intimidation and deception,” he appealed to absent opponents and saboteurs, who raise prices again and again. “Gradually people will regain their confidence in the government,” he predicted, acknowledging this way that today there is none or very little confidence.
What should the Party of Regions deputies do to restore confidence? According to Azarov, they should communicate with people every day, know their problems, how they react to the reforms the government realizes. According to premier, “reforms can’t be efficient unless they are accompanied by trust…” One might have added that the head of the government, as they say, sees the core of the problem.
How are representatives of the Party of Regions going to practically realize his directions?
Ivan VOVK, deputy of the Volyn oblast council (town of Kamin-Kashyrsky):
“People elected us deputies of different levels to solve the problems emerging in the given region. This is the task of any deputy. Certainly, we solve these problems. Regarding some unpopular decisions of the central government, you know, one would have to do this someday anyway. One can’t go forward without [these decisions], you see. In addition, in the previous five years there were no reforms at all. Now we have to catch up. This concerns, in particular, health reform, pension reform, and tax reform. These decisions, when they are made, are always considered to be unpopular. But all this is done to have improvements and positive results for people in the future. Indeed, one should revive the faith of our people in the government. This concerns both deputies and the government. Citizen’s confidence starts from a low level and goes up: if people who were elected deputies defend the interests of their voters and have a just attitude to everyone regardless of party preferences, then confidence in the center grows as well.”
Oleh KOSENKO, head of the Smila district council (Cherkasy oblast):
“Ukraine is a young country. And all states which passed through the phase of independent development we experience now survived even tougher reforms. But look at them now. To help people understand it, we work first of all with our deputies, explaining them how one should talk to people. And they find convincing arguments. Like with the big loans from the IMF. The new government got one tranche. It already did a lot to pay off the body and interest on the previous loans. In addition, the state and the government subsidize the Retirement Fund in the amount of over 50 billion hryvnias and this has a considerable impact on people’s lives. Our citizens allegedly started living worse. This is a wrong assumption. Because in our country there was a time when people gave their lives to win [in the war], lived in dugouts, fed lice. So we explain that these are no longer such tough times, that we need to go through this period to first, as they say, come clean in terms of international loans, to make the Retirement Fund work properly, to carry out reforms in health and education, and in a few years, as the president stresses, from 2013 or 2014-15 we will reach quality of life standards of developed countries. ”
Volodymyr PASHCHENKO, first deputy head of the Mykolaiv oblast council:
“In our region confidence is stable: it remains as it was before. That is because in our region, confidence in the future government appeared back in 2004. And with their votes during the elections, with their actions, our populace showed that they have a high confidence in the current government, in the Party of Regions — over 70 percent. And the fact that the deputies are mainly members of the Party of Regions or members of this party’s faction is also evidence of the population’s confidence. What we do here complies with the program of the president and our party, and also with our local programs.”
Petro TARASIUK, deputy of Khmelnytsky oblast council:
“Not all reforms are received negatively. People, for example, understand very well that if the health sphere is reformed today, it’s only for their benefit. We know how much money is spent on medical treatment. And nothing is left for prevention of diseases. So the government wants to return, for example, to preventive examinations, and organize in each village, as before, dispensaries where a disease could be detected at an early stage by means of preventive check-ups. Generally, I know no cases in the world of reforms being painless. Someone has to realize them anyway. And our president, despite the fact that parliamentary elections will be held next year, took the responsibility of carrying out reforms. Yes, maybe today not everyone believes in reforms, not everyone sees that they lead to a better situation. Therefore, on-site we try to organize roundtable discussions, reach out to every resident of our region and say what we want to achieve by means of these reforms; like, for example, more justice in pension support. It can be ensured, but not at once and not in days, but anyway people will see by the end of the year that life really will get better.”
Stanislav US, deputy of the Dnipropetrovsk city council, chief designer at the design department of Pivdenne, Hero of Socialist Labor, scholar:
“I work in the military and industrial complex. I am very concerned that the weapons available to the Ukrainian army already exhausted their guarantee period. Our enterprises can and must develop new modern kinds of weapons. Everyone understands this, including the country’s leadership. But understanding is not enough. One also needs to possess resources to finance our, actually, not cheap developments. The government and president give us all possible signs of attention. We expect all the time that everything that was promised will be fulfilled. Then the enterprises making up the military and industrial complex will have tons of work and they will be retained, they will be able to realize the tasks linked to creating perspective weapons. But for this one should develop the country’s economy to fill the budget. So far what is allotted for us from the budget is not enough. You know that prices for electricity and gasoline are growing, and this influences the whole economy. Our government and deputies, who also represent the authorities, found themselves in a situation in which one needs to persistently look for a way out. The governmental coalition is steadily moving in this direction, striving to bring back financial security to a proper level. But in this case people will have to strain themselves a little, too, and tighten their belts. Thus, a lot depends on the people as well. Especially how we will support our government, what confidence we will have in it. This is the objective of our today’s convention — to secure the people’s confidence in the government.”