Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Bad News on the Polticial Front

A cartoon from a Romanian newspaper, but lots of people feel the same way in Ukraine.

A Peace Corps friend in southern Ukraine sent her fellow volunteers this news recently:

Mykola Azarov defended his decision to appoint an all-male government, saying he needed "people who can work 16-to-18 hours a day’ to fix the recession-hit economy."

”Conducting reforms is not women’s business,” the new pro-Russian prime minister insisted. He claimed it was too tough for women to say “no.”

He also ordered an Orthodox priest to exorcise the spirit of his female predecessor, former prime minister Julia Tymoshenko, from his office. “It was very hard to breathe in there,” he said

Women can’t work 16-18 hours a day? They can’t work for reform, can’t say no? Women are suffocating? Women’s place is in the home, not in politics?

Bad news. This doesn't say much for the new Yanukovich administration, or maybe it says more than we want to hear. Choosing a prime minister is the new president's first major decision, and for a lot of Ukrainians the choice of Azarov is a red flag. For some it is like a red flag in front of a bull. They are furious. It didn’t take long for Azarov to put his foot in his mouth. But then Barbara reminded me that Yanukovich himself had suggested, during the campaign, that woman’s place was in the kitchen, not in the cabinet. He got elected anyway.

Is this the 21st century? Is this a democratic society? Does such neanderthal thinking about women's place still exist? More than that, would a knowledgeable, fair-minded, contemporary executive call in a priest to exorcise his female predecessor's spirit?

Poor Ukraine. So many real problems to address, so little hope. First there's the problem of transparency. Then there’s the issue of accountability to the people, with the interests of oligarchs and power-hungry politicians taking precedence over the needs of ordinary citizens. There’s a desperate need for social change and enlightenment, for jobs and infrastructure building, for improvements in higher education, for rule of law.

Now Ukraine faces six years of rule by a misogynist prime minister who can't breath if the spirit of a woman is present, and a president who chose him and doesn’t care. Former president Leonid Kravchuk thinks Yanukovich is too busy ensuring he has control over the Parliament and the Courts (Kiev Post, 9 April 2010). He urged Yanukovich to provide democratic leadership, not authoritarian rule, but the signs are not good.

Is this what the people voted for? Some Ukrainians are already saying “I told you so.” Others are turning away from politics altogether. A few are protesting, but perhaps not enough. Is it any wonder so many people feel pessimistic about Ukraine’s future?

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