Brian Mefford

  • Q&A: What’s Behind Moldova’s Massive Protests?

    Protesters are taking to the streets of Moldova’s capital of Chisinau again.

    On June 3, Andrei Nastase was elected mayor of Chisinau with 52.5% of the vote. Nastase, a pro-European prosecutor and anti-corruption activist, defeated Socialist Ion Ceban who favors closer ties to Moscow. On June 19, a Chisinau court struck down the election results, and the Moldovan Appeals Court upheld the decision on June 22. The case now rests with the Supreme Court of Justice.

    Nastase claims that the decision to cancel the results is politically motivated. He was one of the organizers behind Moldova’s large protests in 2015 after $1 billion vanished from the banking system.

    Why is an ostensibly pro-Western government in Moldova allowing a court to invalidate these election results? Are the court decisions politically...

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  • Pragmatism Prevails over Populism in Ukraine

    Successful politics is about getting things done. By that standard, October was a successful month. Not only did the government pass sweeping healthcare reform, pension reform, and judiciary reform, it also staved off populist protests. In short, pragmatism prevailed over populism.

    Each of the reforms passed was significant, but healthcare reform was the most far-reaching. This legislation will provide state insurance for all citizens and free medicine to those with chronic diseases; it also promotes the prevention of disease through healthy lifestyles, grants subsidies for internally displaced persons due to the war in the Donbas, and establishes patient-doctor contracts. The overall effect will be substantial: patients will receive better healthcare, the state will provide a safety net, and medical professionals will be able to earn a normal salary based on the number of patients they treat rather than receive a fixed subsistence salary from the state.

    Pension...

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  • Now Is the Time for Electoral Reform in Ukraine

    Ukraine’s parliament has a busy agenda this autumn. Not only is a sweeping healthcare reform package needed to fix the country’s broken system, judicial reform, the creation of a special anticorruption court, and land reform are also pending. In spite of these burning priorities, now is also the best time for parliament to pass electoral reform.

    The next general election is not until 2019, but now is the time to tackle this thorny issue. Ukraine needs electoral reform for the simple reason that the political environment will become progressively more heated in 2018. Every day that passes without electoral reform will make approving those reforms more difficult. Historically, Ukraine has waited until shortly before elections to pass changes. These intentional delays only strengthen corruption and produce self-serving politicians who anger the public. This negative cycle reinforces public cynicism and fuels support for extreme politics—something Ukraine most certainly does...

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  • From Fake News to Fake Opinion

    A few weeks ago, a colleague asked why I was a part of an organization called the Center for Global Strategic Monitoring (also known as the CGS Monitor). Despite working in foreign policy for seventeen years, I had never heard of this organization. Imagine my surprise when I discovered my photograph and biography listed on the CGS Monitor website as one of their “experts.”

    I immediately began searching the website for contact information to request that my name be removed. However, it became clear that there was something fishy about this website. Not only was no mailing address given; the only email contact to be found was a ubiquitous “info@” address. My email requesting that my name be removed has never been answered and the website continues to list me as one of their experts.

    As a political consultant in Kyiv and a senior non-resident fellow at the Atlantic Council, I follow politics in Eastern Europe...

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  • Tymoshenko and Kolomoyskyi Score Wins in Ukraine’s Special Elections

    Populism is on the rise in Ukraine, so it’s little surprise that Fatherland party leader Yulia Tymoshenko and oligarch Ihor Kolomoyskyi gained the most seats in Ukraine’s special parliamentary elections on July 17. Elections were held in seven districts across the country. Fatherland candidates won in Kherson and Poltava, while Kolomoyskyi's candidate won in Volyn and was leading narrowly in Ivano-Frankivsk. While no Poroshenko bloc candidates won, two independent candidates are likely to join the faction.

    Sunday’s results will increase the ranks of both Tymoshenko’s and Kolomoyskyi's factions in parliament. Kolomoyskyi's Renaissance faction will increase to twenty-five members and Tymoshenko's Fatherland will grow to twenty-one members. The Poroshenko bloc lost three seats. While some ballots are still being counted, the one clear signal is that competitive elections are alive and well in Ukraine.

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  • The Savchenko Effect

    The release from a Russian prison and return of helicopter pilot Nadiya Savchenko to Ukraine has ignited speculation about her future political plans. Elected as the first candidate on the party list of Yulia Tymoshenko’s bloc in the October 2014 parliamentary elections, Savchenko immediately entered politics upon her return to Ukraine.

    Savchenko’s initial speeches focused primarily on the war in the Donbas. About her personal ambitions, she went as far as to state, “Ukrainians, if you want me to be president—well, I’ll do it.” She appeared at a press conference at the Fatherland Party headquarters soon after returning, and promptly joined the Fatherland faction in parliament.

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  • A Saakashvili Party Comeback? Not in Georgia but Maybe in Ukraine

    Odesa Oblast Governor Mikheil Saakashvili is preparing for the launch of his political party later this year in Ukraine, but this has not prevented him from pondering a return to politics in his native Georgia. Georgian voters go to the polls on October 8 to elect a new parliament in a contest viewed as a referendum on the performance of Bidzina Ivanishvili’s Georgia Dream coalition, as well as a barometer of the public’s desire for Saakashvili to return to power.

    In the October 2012 parliamentary elections, following eight years of Saakashvili’s rule, Ivanishvili assembled a wide coalition of Saakashvili’s opponents to compete. Due to constitutional changes initiated by Saakashvili, most powers of the presidency had shifted to the prime minister following the 2012 election. This move was designed to allow Saakashvili to skirt the two-term limit for presidents and continue to rule. However, the move backfired and resulted in Ivanishvili’s Georgian Dream coalition winning a...

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  • Ukraine’s Parliament Is Getting a Facelift, but Will It Make a Difference?

    The newly elected Speaker of the Verkhovna Rada, Andriy Parubiy, wasted no time in announcing a series of internal reforms for the Ukrainian parliament, which has long been the most hated institution of public life. In the latest International Republican Institute (IRI) poll, 88 percent of Ukrainians viewed the institution unfavorably. Contributing factors to this negative view include parliamentary immunity, parliamentarians’ habit of voting for other members, and an overall perception of massive graft and corruption.

    In an effort to clean up the institution’s image, Parubiy announced three reforms. First, he advocated increasing the number of plenary meetings from two sessions to three sessions per month. Plenary sessions are the equivalent of voting meetings and typically occur on four consecutive days. With an...

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  • Let’s Do the Numbers: What Would Ukraine's Parliament Look Like if Elections Were Held Today?

    Ukraine will likely avoid early parliamentary elections this year. Some analysts feared that early elections would bring populists to power, while others reasoned that they might bring more reformers into parliament. Barring a collapse of the thin parliamentary majority that made Volodomyr Groisman Ukraine’s prime minister on April 14, he has one year to perform before he can be dismissed. This timeframe means that there won’t be parliamentary elections until the summer of 2017 at the earliest. However, that has not stopped Ukraine’s politicians from jockeying and preparing for future elections.

    Based on an average of the four latest polls asking members of the public who they would support if parliamentary elections were held today, the numbers show that Yulia...

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  • Moldova’s Presidential Election Pits Pro-Europe Candidates Against Pro-Russia Ones

    Moldova’s presidential elections are shaping up to divide the electorate between pro-Europe and pro-Russia candidates even before campaigning officially gets underway.

    On April 1, Moldova’s Parliament voted to hold direct presidential elections on October 30. It put off the official start of the election campaign until July 30 to allow Parliament time to pass electoral legislation and fill vacant seats in the Central Election Commission. The vote in Parliament followed a surprise Constitutional Court decision on March 4 that struck down a 2000 amendment, which required a supermajority of sixty-one out of 101 members of Parliament to select a President. The political consensus required to obtain such a supermajority turned out to be more difficult than anyone had expected.  In fact, a failure to achieve a supermajority led to a 900-day period between September 2009 and March 2012 when Moldova lacked an elected President.

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