November 18, 2012

Family ties that bind parliament

Family ties that bind parliament
Nov. 15, 2012, 9:37 p.m. | Politics — by Denis Rafalsky
President Viktor Yanukovych with his son Viktor. The new lineup in the 450-seat Verkhovna Rada will be dotted with father-son, uncle-nephew, husband-wife and sibling combinations.
© courtesy
The new lineup in the 450-seat Verkhovna Rada will be dotted with father-son, uncle-nephew, husband-wife and sibling combinations.
A charitable way to look at such a phenomenon is to say that superior talent runs in the gene pool.
A less charitable way is to call it nepotism, or “kumivstvo” in Ukrainian.
Wherever it flourishes, the practice dismantles societies where positions and privilege are awarded on merit rather than connections. Corruption, impunity and mutual protection flourish where nepotism reigns.
Ukraine is far from alone with this problem. In fact, the nation is in crowded company among nations plagued by nepotism and other forms of privilege. But while many countries have their family political dynasties – the Bushes in America and the Gandhis in India, Ukraine has deeply embedded blood ties throughout government and business.

One of the families to roam the corridors of parliament for the next five years will be the Kaletniks.
Ukraine’s chief customs official, Ihor Kaletnik, was elected on the Communist Party ticket. His father, Hryhoriy, won as an independent in district 18 of Vinnytsia Oblast, although he is a lawmaker now with the ruling pro-presidential Party of Regions. His niece, Oksana, also won a race in Vinnytsia Oblast.
The Baloha family in Zakarpattya Oblast is another dynasty.
As head of the United Center Party, Viktor Baloha won in a Zakarpattya single-mandate district. The former chief of staff to President Viktor Yushchenko and current emergencies minister made it into the Rada with his younger brother Pavlo and cousin Vasyl Petyovka, who also won in  Zakarpattya constituencies – the family’s home region. But the family doesn’t win everything. A third Baloha brother, Ivan, who lost in Zakarpattya’s district 73.
The Party of Regions also has several brother duos.
Andriy Kliuyev, secretary of the National Security and Defense Council and close ally of President Viktor Yanukovych, won on the party ticket. He will be seated near his younger brother Serhiy, a single-mandate district winner.
Former Prosecutor General Hennadiy Vasilyev was re-elected on the party ticket while his older brother Oleksandr took the single-mandate track.
Then there are the cases of sons following in the footsteps of their powerful fathers.
The president’s son, 31-year old Viktor Yanukovych Jr., comfortably won re-election to parliament on the party lsit.
Oleksiy Azarov, son of Prime Minister Mykola Azarov, breezed to election in a Donetsk Oblast constituence despite spending lots of time living abroad. His election district received millions of hryvnias in government infrastructure improvements before the elections. His father, meanwhile, resents questions about helping his son.
Artem Pshonka, son of Prosecutor General Viktor Pshonka, won as a party-promoted candidate in Zaporizhia Oblast.
Likewise, a Chernivtsi Oblast district went for Artem Semenyuk, the nephew and adopted son of the region’s Governor Mikhail Papiev.
Yulia Lyovochkina, a current lawmaker and sister of Serhiy Lyovochkin, the head of the Presidential Administration, was elected in a Crimean district.
Her fiance, Vitaly Chudnovsky, kept up by winning a seat as an independent in Kyiv Oblast.
The opposition fiercely criticizes cases of insider privilege and nepotism at higher levels, but doesn’t always practice what it preaches.
The leader of the Svoboda (Freedom) Party Oleh Tiahnybok headed his party’s list, while his brother Andriy, a deputy in the Lviv Oblast council, won in district 125 in Lviv Oblast.
In another instance, Iryna Lutsenko, the wife and defense lawyer of imprisoned former Interior Minister Yuriy Lutsenko, became a parliament deputy on the United Opposition ticket. Her appointment looked like a “thank you” to her husband who is a key figure of the nation’s oppositional forces.
More examples of family ties in the Ukrainian parliament.
Andriy Pavelko heads the United Opposition headquarters in Dnipropetrovsk. He was 27th on the list while his father-in-law, local businessman Leonid Serhiyenko, was 44th;
Party of Regions lawmaker Artem Shcherban, 38, the son of former Donetsk and Sumy governor Volodymyr Shcherban, was re-elected once again as number 57 on the list.
Deputy board chairman of the state-owned oil and gas monopoly Naftogaz Ukraine Serhiy Katsuba won as a Party of Regions’ candidate in district 92 in Kyiv Oblast while his father, Volodymyr, head of the Derhachi district administration in Kharkiv Oblast, won over voters in district 175;
Ruling party representative Iryna Horina triumphed in district 171 of Kharkiv Oblast, although Oles Dovhiy’s loss in Kyiv makes this a bittersweet victory. She is the mother-in-law of the former top Kyiv city official who ran as an independent;
Dmytro Dobkin, the younger brother of Kharkiv Oblast Governor Mykhailo Dobkin, won in a constituency in his native region;
Volodymyr Melnychenko, husband of outspoken Party of Regions lawmaker Inna Bohoslovska, won as an independent in Khmelnytsky Oblast; his wife was re-elected as number 60 on the party list;
Yukhym Zvyahilsky, born in 1933, will be the oldest lawmaker in the new Rada. Zvyahilsky who is reportedly an owner of Zasyadko mine in the eastern city of Donetsk has been actually re-elected for the seventh time. And he is, probably, happy to see his daughter Stella’s husband, businessman Volodymyr Vecherko, in Rada who had number 31 on the Party of Regions list.
Independent Oleksandr Gerega was luckier than his wife Halyna. Acting Kyiv Mayor and Kyiv City Council Secretary Halyna was defeated by a 25-year-old Svoboda Party activist while Oleksandr won in Khmelnytsky Oblast.
Kyiv Post staff writer Denis Rafalsky can be reached at

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