They were promised Europe, they have arrived at… Gabon?
As shown by a recent KIIS/IFER poll, the incidence of corruption – far from going down, as a loyal consumer of the Western media might expect – has if anything gone up. 40% of Ukrainians in September 2015 admitted they had paid a bribe in the past 12 months, up from 37% in April 2014.
Surprising at it might be, but it seems that having bands of Neo-Nazi loons running about shaking down businesses and shoving hapless doctors and professors into garbage bins is not, in fact, an effective recipe for promoting civility and transparency in everyday life.
While it is hardly anything to write home about, it must be pointed out that similar surveys asking people if they had paid bribes in the past 12 months in the Russian “mafia state” have tended to be around 20%. After 2012, these surveys fell off, possibly because Transparency International – which had previosly carried out most of them – found that the incidence of bribery had started declining sharply and as such the data no longer fit the official narrative.
This must also explain the disillusion rapidly settling down on Ukraine, which is confirmed by other segments of the KIIS/IFER survey. 56% of Ukrainians think the country is going in the wrong direction, up from a low of 42% in September 2014. In most areas – limiting oligarchic influence, police and judicial reform, democracy and rights, and the fight against corruption – the vast majority of Ukrainians have found no improvements since the Maidan. The only sphere in which some substantial fraction of Ukrainians – a quarter, to be precise – have found “some” or “significant” improvements is in the “protection of Ukraine’s national culture.” Presumably, they have in mind great peremogi like ahistorically asserting ownership of the medieval Russian state, celebrating the 100th anniversary of an Austrian-Hungarian victory over the Russian Empire, and forcing local authorities to rename streets named after Communist criminals like Valentina Tereshkova (the first woman in space) – at the expense of the people who happen to be living on said streets.
Likewise, superceeding even the speed of the dissilusionment after the Orange Revolution, the new bosses have been quick to plummet in the approval ratings, as living standards cratered and neoliberal “reforms” proceeded apace. Poroshenko himself went from an approval rating of 69% last September to 32% today. PM Yatsenyuk’s drop from 60% to 20% was even steeper. The only major political figure who remained in steady place – albeit at a consistently low base – was Yulia Tymoshenko, the famously corrupt “gas princess” who at 25% is once again a credible potential challenger to Poroshenko. This disillusionment was what resulted in the lackluster results of the Presidential forces in the October 25 local elections, in which entrenched local elites swept to power across the industrial heartlands of east and south Ukraine. The old east/west divisions of Ukraine, temporarily dampened during the “crisis” period of the Euroaidan’s first year in power, are resurfacing with a vengeance.
These local elites are not pro-Russian. They are opportunistic and pro-themselves, even if they have had to pay lip service to the Maidan. This means that any real reform – that is, the sort of reform that helps ordinary people, as opposed to privatizing assets to the regime’s cronies, while keeping svidomy ideologues happy with the occasional lustration – becomes all that much more difficult, in the unlikely scenario that the oligarch Poroshenko is even interested in it.
Now to be sure, this survey doesn’t paint a particularly sweet picture for Russia either. From broadly equal with the EU in 2010-13 in terms of its attractiveness towards Ukrainians, its reputation plummeted after April 2014 and remains in the doldrums to this day. Just because Ukrainians are growing tired with the Maidanist regime isn’t translating into them reassessing their opinions of Putin/Khuylo. Nor is this going to change any time soon. But that is essentially the gamble Putin took in April 2014, when he refused to restore Yanukovych by force: That eventually, the revolution would come to hate its children more than himself.
On that score at least it is not clear that he is losing.