British General Election Results

                      Cameron Gibson, visiting expert, University of the West Scotland Following the election of yesterday, the British political landscape has been thrown into short-term turmoil. The Prime Minister, Theresa May called this election in order to gain a mandate for Brexit and to consolidate her parliamentary majority. This morning, she has lost that majority, having now been left with a slim minority and the loss of eight former cabinet ministers. The Conservative’s loss has been Labour’s gain with the party being voted in 31 more seats than previous election. The Scottish Conservatives also gained support north of the border, with the Scottish National Party losing 19 seats than before. However, given the need for 326 seats to form a majority government, a hung parliament has been declared (with the Conservatives carrying 316 and Labour at 261). It is this status that informs the immediate aftermath of this election.  Attempt to govern The Conservatives could attempt to govern as the minority party, and this seems the most likely of options. The Conservatives could draw upon the support of the DUP and other interested parties to push their agenda through the House of Commons. Whilst the first past the post system used to elect representatives is designed to elect a workable majority, there have been examples of minority rule, from Harold Wilson’s 1974 Labour government; James Callaghan’s 1976 Labour government; John Major’s 1992 government and David Cameron’s 2012 Conservative-Liberal government. However, a slim minority is susceptible to being short term, such as Wilson’s 1974 government which lasted for seven months, and ever reducing workability, such as Callaghan’s 1976 government. It would also that the party in power cannot fully implement their manifesto or policy ideas without sizable opposition. However, minority governments are additionally open to equal claims of stewardship, with both the Conservatives and Labour. A situation may arise where May cannot form a minority government, so it is then up to the Head of State to assist in the forming of a government.   A coalition of some form A coalition of some form may pursued, either a Conservative-Democratic Unionist Party one which would allow the Conservatives to govern sufficiently, or an uneasy Conservative-Labour coalition. Whilst these parties are viewed as opposites in terms of social and economic ideology, it would not be the first time there has been a Conservative-Labour coalition. The National Government, which composed of members of the Liberal, Conservative and Labour party, ruled in some capacity from 1931 to 1940. As this election was called in order to give a mandate for the Brexit negotiations, it could be said that a coalition of any form would be more appealing than a short term minority government or the prospect of another election, given what faces the country in the coming months. This is one theory (in addition to the day-to-day practicalities of running a government effectively) that may gain traction in the coming hours as party leaders jostle for position. May’s position untenable? Another possible consequence of this election is that Theresa May reconsiders her position of leader of the Conservative party. The Parliamentary Party, it has been said, aren’t pleased with losing a majority and whilst MPs are being cautious in this immediate period, it is worth remembering that the party traditionally are quick to reward success and even quicker to punish failure. Nevertheless, there is no clear view on the future of May in the Cabinet and a leadership contest will inevitably lead to another general election, which may bring further damage. May will wish to bring stability to the situation throughout the day, but criticism over her actions is mounting. Postponing of Brexit talks? The overarching concern of this election result is where it leaves Brexit. Whilst the need to leave the European Union has been accepted by the main political parties, this result throws up ambiguity over negotiations. This morning there are two schools of thought on this matter: one, which argues that the election changes nothing and negotiations can still occur in the agreed timeframe and secondly, that there could be the postponing of talks until a clear direction in leadership is found. This would be a practical suggestion, which is also based upon the idea that no serious discussion will occur until after the German elections. Given the nature of elections and the result, the situation in Downing Street this morning is highly fluid. What has been discussed are only possible outcomes of this election and Britain will gain a clear idea of what type of governance it will receive over the course of the day and the weekend. The only concrete conclusions that can be drawn is that the Conservatives have lost their previous majority, a rise in support for Jeremy Corbyn and Labour, a revival of the Scottish Conservatives with a fall in support for the SNP and that any government will be a minority and by that nature, highly dependent upon compromise to deliver day-to-day governance. ...

ICPS Press
09.06.2017

British General Election: What It Will Mean For Britain

                             Cameron Gibson, visiting expert, University of the West Scotland On the 8th of  June, Britain votes  to elect a new Prime Minster. This election was the result of the Prime Minister, Theresa May, calling it in order for the British public to have a say in how a ‘Brexit’ Britain and Brexit itself ought to be governed. British governments are elected through a process called ‘first past the post’, where seats (constituencies) are allocated on a majority basis –the candidate with the highest amount of votes wins the seat, and the party will the largest amount of seat in parliament can form a government). Polling suggests that this election will be between two individuals: Theresa May from the Conservative Party and Jeremy Corbyn from the Labour Party. It is these two who wish to become British Prime Minister, to form a government and to shape Britain around their ideas. With this in mind, it is worth considering what this election will mean for Britain and its place in the world. Foreign Affairs Foreign policy has taken central stage in this election, given the fact it has been called as Britain goes into negotiations for leaving the European Union. Such a decision will have implications for trade, immigration and Britain’s position in the world, so it is vital for a prospective Prime Minister to have a coherent foreign policy. Of note this election is NATO, trading relationships and defence. The Conservatives desire a gradual year-on-year increase of 0.5% in defence spending; a commitment to spend 2% of GDP to the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation; expanding transnational involvement with the Modern Slavery Act and the promotion of free trade. This last aspect will involve strengthening partnership and economic ties with the Commonwealth and the United States. Labour wishes to facilitate reform of the United Nations with regards to the veto held by the permanent members of the Security Council and the likelihood of abuses; the formation of a Ministry of Peace department to work on conflict prevention, post-conflict peacebuilding and protecting civilians in conflict; a commitment to the recognition of Palestine and the two-state solution; continued investment into the armed forces; minimising tariff and non-tariff barriers to trade and finally, unrestricted trade of goods and services with the European Union. The possible reform of the United Nations, formation of a new Ministry, pursuit of multilateral nuclear disarmament and necessity to support “meaningful negotiations” with regards to the Israel-Palestine conflict align themselves with the pacifist wing of the Labour party, but may be viewed as overburdening government departments in view of negotiations to leave the European Union. Both parties are discussing the possibilities of trading easily both internationally and within Europe. For the Conservatives this is an ideological position to take, given their support for market forces in economic affairs; for Labour, it is a pragmatic position. Nevertheless, both parties could find it difficult to achieve their aims. The success of which depends on the conditions of negotiation (both through Brexit, with the World Trade Organisation and possible trading partners) and their other commitments vis-a-vis movement of people, goods and immigration. The changing relationship with Europe obligates a focus upon diplomacy and reaffirming trading relationships, hence the strong inclusion of such aspects in both manifestos. However, there remains key policy bias. The Conservatives have historically favoured a strong armed forces and a strong protection of the national interest; whereas Labour have favoured the upholding of international law and promotion of international humanitarian efforts. These biases are clearly illustrated within these manifestos to maintain key party support. Economic Policy The Conservative manifesto is a bid for the centre ground of British politics –witness policies such as an energy cap and a higher living wage. Despite these policies, concessions to low-taxation are multiple. There will be no Value Added Tax, a commitment to maintaining low corporation tax and increasing the personal allowance to £12,500 before taxation. It is clear that through this manifesto, the Thatcherite thinking of the Conservatives is a waning force. Pragmatism is the only show in town, and typically Thatcherite-minded Conservative politicians are backing May due to her support of Brexit. In comparison, Labour under Jeremy Corbyn aims at core Labour supporters, both in language and policy. Like the Conservatives, Labour is committed to no further VAT rises, but that is where the similarities end. Labour wish to increase corporation tax for businesses, a closing of taxation loopholes and empower the HM Customs and Revenue to clamp down on tax avoidance.  There will be no income tax increase for those earning less than £80,000. The economic model of Labour has been clearly influenced by Corbyn and his Shadow Chancellor, John McDonnell. Their desire for taxation and investment is marked Keynesian and it is clear that Labour have been reshaped from the highly successful election winning ‘Third Way’ thinking of Tony Blair. The Union As well as being perceived as ‘Brexit election’, this election carries a significant Scottish Independence dynamic. This issue will be viewed through the prism of the two parties discussed throughout. The Conservatives have benefitted in Scotland from defining themselves as the bulwark against the Scottish National Party and the possibility of another referendum. However, there is a co-dependency between the SNP and Conservative parties –each brings one another joint gains in support. This is the paradoxical nature of politics in Scotland currently. If Theresa May wins this election, it may extinguish the possibility of another Scottish independence altogether, or inflame a greater push for it. However, this seems unlikely, given the drop in s0upport for another referendum, overall disaffection for the SNP’s governance record (especially in education) and the precedent which allows the Prime Minster to grant or deny requests for referendums. The Union looks to be safe, for now. The Parties Regardless of the outcome, Jeremy Corbyn has stated his intention of staying as leader. This is despite a majority of the Parliamentary Labour Party not supporting him. Whatever the result, they may be an opportunity to form an additional party in British Politics for either side. However, this is unlikely to happen. Labour have form when it comes to internal disputes, but can overcome them if they are to govern. Corbyn has strong ‘grassroots’ appeal with activists but has always maintained the position of outsider when it came to party politics. This appeal with activists and groups outwith the parliamentary framework may be enough to bolster him in the short term, but he will have to gain a foothold when it comes to support from the parliamentary party if he is to maintain his position soon after.  Conversely, the Conservatives have rallied around Theresa May, given that the only likely area of conflict for the party –Europe- is being pursued on the terms of the referendum result. However, despite the personal narrative of this election, if the Conservatives do not win, as a party they will not think twice about replacing May, especially as during this election support for the party polled its highest since 1983. However, it is expected that the Conservatives will win this election. Thus, several Tory MPs, it has been said, are looking to be in power for the foreseeable future. Nevertheless, given the outcome of Brexit, trusting polling results has become a suspect practice and with voting underway, it could all change. Conclusion In conclusion, there is a defined choice for Britain to make, despite the Conservative shift to the ‘middle’ ground. A government under Theresa May will be a continuation of the last five years, but with a distinctly pragmatic flavour: low taxation, a strong foreign policy but attempts to answer concerns of living costs and wages. A Britain under a May government will pursue Brexit, yet attempt to foster a new relationship with Europe and trade deals outwith the single market, whilst maintaining a strong commitment to NATO, transatlanticism and the armed forces generally.  Conversely, a government under Jeremy Corbyn will be a marked change from the previous government. An increase in taxation and government expenditure and a foreign policy which is predicated upon involvement in trans-national frameworks such as the United Nations with transatlantic relations conditional. A Labour Brexit, much like a Conservative one, will be reliant upon negotiations in the shape it will take. That said, internal politics (be it Eurosceptic Tory MPs or Labour MPs who supported Remain) will govern the likelihood of concessions made by either government.     ...

ICPS Press
08.06.2017

The Netherlands ratified EU-Ukraine Association Agreement

The point of view inside the Netherlands - Michelle de Clercq:  Yesterday the Dutch senate voted in favor of the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement. Now that the upper house backs the decision of the lower house, all EU members agree and the ratification of the agreement is almost becoming a reality. Does the approval of both houses of parliament mean that the Dutch reluctance towards the EU-Ukraine association agreement has disappeared? In April 2016 a substantial majority (60 percent) of Dutch voters rejected the Association Agreement in an advisory referendum. The electoral outcome however can be nuanced, as people might have intentionally abstained from voting. Until the last moment it was unclear if the turn-up threshold of 30 percent would be reached which was needed to give the outcome of the referendum any importance at all. In then end the minimum was just met with 32 percent. The average person in the Netherlands has little knowledge of Ukraine and the struggle people went through to make the Association Agreement possible. Nevertheless it cannot be denied that lack of information is not the only reason causing skepticism towards the Ukraine and the Association Agreement.  The Dutch referendum was campaigned for and initiated by a popular Internet media site unique in its sort. It is called Geenstijl, which literally means "no class” and characterizes itself through ruthlessness, Dutch directness and provoking questioning methods. The platform mostly appeals to right-winged voters who are more likely to sympathize with Eurosceptic feelings. As the initiators of the referendum might have had a minor effect on the electoral outcome, there are three main reasons why the referendum was initiated and the agreement was later rejected.  The first is that the referendum was seen as a means to express Eurosceptic feelings that are seen in many EU member states at the moment. It is important to remember that the Dutch referendum was held before the Brexit referendum and therefore had a more symbolic function to reveal the discomfort people feel over the decision making process of the EU. The second reason that was mentioned by the referendum campaigners was corruption. The question was raised whether EU cooperation was favorable due to the high level of corruption in Ukraine (131 on the corruption perception index in 2016, after Mali and Sierra Leone). The final reason was that the Association Agreement was seen as a harbinger towards Ukrainian EU membership. In December 2016 the Dutch Prime Minister Rutte decided to set the outcome of the referendum aside and ratify the EU-Ukrainian Agreement on one condition. An annex was included that the agreement cannot be seen as a steppingstone to EU membership and cannot be used as one in the future. The Annex of course is symbolic and doesn’t make a significant difference to the agreement. Ratification was not without risk as it was done three months before the national elections were held and according to polls Geert Wilders’s party was lurking not far behind from the Prime Minister Rutte. The elections in March this year showed however that Rutte’s decision could be forgiven as he convincingly won the elections again. So whether the Dutch reluctance towards the EU-Ukrainian association has disappeared remains unclear. Apart from the new multilateral agreement the future of Dutch-Ukrainian relations is uncertain. But the two nations might have more in common than they realize as the Dutch too have had a difficult relationship with Russia the last few years. 193 Dutch people have lost their lives in Eastern Ukraine during the MH-17 flight and many are still hopeful to find those responsible for bringing down the airplane. Perhaps in the future the two nations might find some common ground in their grief and tightening the belts between the two nations might not be so bad idea after all....

ICPS Press
31.05.2017

The results of the year of General Prosecutor Yuriy Lutsenko

  The analysis of the year of work of the General Prosecutor Yuriy Lutsenko showed that his activity is more focused on creating beautiful images in the media, than on achieving real results. Most of the promises of Yuriy Lutsenko were populistic, and some were only partially implemented. Almost all high-profile criminal cases initiated by the General Prosecutor are stopped at the investigation stage, either through procedural violations by the prosecution and the weakness of the evidence base collected by them falls apart in court. Yuriy Lutsenko uses GPO as an instrument of political competition and pressure, and also as a PR platform for a future political career. During the year of his work as General Prosecutor Yuriy Lutsenko was not able to reform a body towards European standards, which for 20 years acted as a tool of promoting political interests. On May 12, 2016 Yuriy Lutsenko was appointed the General Prosecutor. For the first time in the modern history of Ukraine, a politician was appointed to the position of the Prosecutor General, and what is important, without law education and the necessary experience in the field of law. On the new post Yuriy Lutsenko in the first place, promised to reform and clear the Prosecutor’s Office, to punish members of the previous government, responsible for the killings on the Maidan, to return stolen Yanukovych's team funds. Lutsenko also emphasized the political impartiality of his work and promised that politics will in not affect the investigation of resonant cases. Yuriy Lutsenko talked a lot about the intensification of the lustration processes within the Prosecutor’s Office. The purification began with the verification of probity of prosecutors – collected using a special questionnaire of information on occupations and lifestyle of the employees of the Prosecutor's Office and possible corruption risks. Such information has become the basis for performance verification and public scrutiny. But the use of questionnaires caused great doubts as to the effectiveness of this mechanism, because the prosecutors just confirmed or denied a number of allegations and did not provide any specifics. As a result, almost zero results were obtained. Instead of layoffs, the Prosecutor’s Office issues warnings and reprimands to prosecutors. Among 12,5 thousand prosecutors only three were brought to disciplinary proceedings. The GPO repeatedly took the competences of the NABU and SAPO that created excessive competition between old and new anticorruption institutions, and contributed to the collapse of cases in court. A vivid example of relations with the GPO and the newly established anti-corruption institutions was the scandal in August 2016, when the Prosecutor's Office detained two detectives of NABU. The statistics is vivid and according to it, by 3.5 times fewer people were detained for this crime than in 2013 during the presidency of Viktor Yanukovych. The following cleaning mechanism was the creation of the General Inspectorate of the GPO. But the launch of this body was accompanied by a scandal. Lutsenko decided to assign odious Petro Shkutiak as a person responsible for the inspection, he was not only subject to lustration, and even was involved in corruption fraud. After the resignation, according to the results of competitive selection, Volodymyr Uvarov was chosen for his position. During four month under Uvarov’s leadership the office submitted criminal proceedings to the court in respect of nine prosecutors. Thus, purification of the Prosecutor's Office on grounds of quality did not happen. Competitions to the regional Prosecutor's Offices and the GPO were not held. Competitive selection was carried out only in the local offices, but the results can hardly be considered satisfactory. Almost all of the heads and deputy heads of local prosecution offices are from the old system, and the ordinary structure has not been restarted. Public confidence in the prosecution is declining, the official salary, despite promises, remained at an uncompetitive level, and mismanagement leads to degradation of personnel of the GPO. Yuriy Lutsenko did not offer any plan for the reform of the Prosecutor's Office and turning it into a judicial body. The adjustment to the new requirements of the Constitution, the law on prosecution and procedure codes were also left without attention of the General Prosecutor. On the contrary, through lobbying bill No. 5177, Yuriy Lutsenko did not seek to narrow the powers of the prosecution, as required by the basic law, but rather to expand them. This issue, in particular, attracted attention of experts of the Council of Europe, which provided an appropriate conclusion. In general, we can talk about the folding of the prosecution that is a confirmation of the unwillingness of the authorities to lose control over such an important instrument of political pressure. The start of functioning of the prosecutorial self-government, the Council of Prosecutors and Disciplinary Commission (CDC) of prosecutors, which should form the personnel policy department also did not happen without scandals. The fact that the Ukrainian conference of prosecutors in the last year, until the appointment of Yuriy Lutsenko, elected their representatives to these bodies. Legal grounds for exemption of the elected members did not exist, but that did not stop the current management of the Prosecutor's Office breaking the law and carrying out a new Ukrainian conference of prosecutors and electing other members to the prosecution bodies. On May 4, 2017 in the Obolon district court of Kyiv a preparatory hearing in relation to the long-awaited prosecution of Viktor Yanukovych for treason was held. The General Prosecutor considers the mere fact that there was the commencement of legal process to be a big victory for himself and the result did not particularly worry him. Lutsenko does not want to see that the procedure of conviction giving a lot of loopholes for lawyers of the fugitive president, and any deviation from the accepted European understanding of the process of conviction will give the opportunity to successfully appeal the decision to the ECHR. If we consider the merits of the case, the basic allegations of Yanukovych are based actually on a single action – the so-called appeal of Yanukovych to Russian President Vladimir Putin with a request for sending troops to restore order in Ukraine. But there are serious doubts that the prosecution will be able to comply with the requirements of part 1 of Article 23, part 3 of Article 99 of the Criminal Procedural Code and will provide the court with the original letter, and the examination will state the authenticity of the signature. In the absence of the original, the defense may argue that the letter did not exist at all or to claim that the text of the letter was distorted. That is, without the original document the case is in a procedural impasse. The decision of Interpol on the termination of the international investigation of the former president and his team was also unexpected and very unpleasant decision for Yuriy Lutsenko on the eve of consideration of the case of Viktor Yanukovych by the Ukrainian court. The fact is that Article 3 of the Charter of the Interpol says that he can't be involved in political, religious and racial disputes. And the documents filed by the Ukrainian side stated that Viktor Yanukovych became President of Ukraine, headed an organized criminal group, consisting of the Prime Minister, Ministers and so on. Criminal procedural legislation of Ukraine in this context is also imperfect, because Viktor Yanukovych, despite the open proceeding is not a person to whom the measure of restraint “detention” was applied. And according to the rules of Interpol, the person in respect of whom no measure of restraint in a form of detention was chosen cannot be declared in the international search. Also, the office of Yuriy Lutsenko held a number of searches, which was accompanied by a bright covering in the media. For example, the GPO searched the two mayors of the cities of Bucha and Irpin, Kyiv oblast – Anatolii Fedoruk and Volodymyr Karpliuk, who were accused of illegal allotment of land plots to people close to them. We speak about 890 acres of priceless forests near Kyiv. However, no arrests took place, and mayors calmly continue to work at their jobs. The Prosecutor General's Office raided the estates of the former head of the presidential administration of Yanukovych Andrii Kliuiev and former Deputy Secretary of the NSDC Volodymyr Sivkovych, suspected of involvement in the events on the Maidan, but they did not bring any result. The GPO sent to the Verkhovna Rada a request on deprival of Oleksandr Onyshchenko of the parliamentary immunity, he is suspected of embezzlement of public funds in especially large scale. The MP was deprived of immunity, but at that time Onyshchenko was far away from Ukraine. Lutsenko personally, not once, tried to convince MPs to withdraw the immunity of the oligarch and representative of the “Opposition bloc” Vadym Novinskyi, who was a suspect in the kidnapping. The deputies supported the idea of Lutsenko, but that was it. One of the key issues of GPO against the previous government is a proceeding against the former head of the fraction of Party of Regions Oleksandr Yefremov, who is suspected of high treason, organizing and carrying support for the “LPR”. But one of the main witnesses in this case – Volodymyr Medianyk was released. The case against Yefremov is now being considered in a court of Starobilsk in Luhansk region. It is not excluded that Yefremov may escape punishment, because as practice shows, the GPO constantly makes procedural violations. Also, the GPO has still not finished investigation into the circumstances of illegal actions of officials within the Ministry of Defence of Ukraine and General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, which could lead to a decrease in the level of national defense. Also a criminal investigation into the events in Ilovaisk has not been completed. If we speak in the language of statistics, Lutsenko gave 43 promises (the data of the portal “Word and business”) at the office of the General Prosecutor, of which only 5 were kept.Thus, the Prosecutor's Office in Ukraine has always been a political authority and a tool of repressive actions. During the work of Yuriy Lutsenko politicization of the Prosecutor's office reached its peak, because he has his own political ambitions and considers the current position as a kind of career springboard towards the presidency. In the matter of personnel policy the Prosecutor decided not to go into conflict with the system, although several times he has rudely violated the guarantees of independence of the prosecutors. In the matter of implementation of the changes to the Constitution in the direction of the transformation on the GPU in a system of justice, Yuriy Lutsenko has not offered any plan to reform the institution, but rather lobbied for the extension of the powers of prosecutors by limiting maneuvers for NABU and SAPO. The most high-profile cases under the auspices of Yuriy Lutsenko collapsed in the courts, or are being slowed down in the absence of evidence against the suspects....

ICPS Press
24.05.2017