It's really hard to answer this without complicating about how Soyuz spacecraft designers obviously didn't. Or crack a joke or two. It's a cramped little space vehicle and that space between the three crew, the seats they occupy and the control panels is pretty much all the space they have to crawl into it and later out of it.
Moving the panels closer would simply leave too little space with all the gear surrounding them, the hatch wouldn't open all the way down, and a stick to push buttons happens to be good enough for the job. Here's how the Soyuz capsule looks from inside:
Yes, that's all the space there is. Actually, even less, as I don't see the backup parachutes and a few other pieces of equipment. Because it's from a training vehicle / simulator. OK, let me try once more:
ISS crew members, U.S. astronaut Daniel Burbank and Russian cosmonauts Anton Shkaplerov and Anatoly Ivanishin, crowded
inside their Soyuz capsule shortly after landing in Kazakhstan, on April 27, 2012. (Reuters/Sergei Remezov)
Comfy! And this is how "big" it looks from the outside on landing:
Russian support personnel work to help get Expedition 29 crew members out of the Soyuz TMA-02M spacecraft shortly after the
capsule landed on November 22, 2011. (AP Photo/NASA/Bill Ingalls)
That wide open compartment on the capsule on the last photograph is where the drogues and main parachutes are stored, and is not where the crew comes out of. The orange thing with white stripes inside is an inflated "airbag" that pushes the chutes out. And there are three astronauts / cosmonauts inside, and ...
The reentry capsule also contains life-support systems, batteries for
the descent phase of the mission, primary and backup parachutes and
solid-propellant engines for landing. The reentry capsule is also
equipped with eight small attitude control thrusters, which are used
exclusively during the descent phase of the flight.
So the "stick" it is. And a small furry toy mission mascot that the spacecraft commander usually receives from his / her daughter / son / other family member, hangs it in that little free space left and in front of the onboard crew camera to double as a "weightlessness indicator".
Not wanting to leave you completely empty-handed and dismissing your question with "that's how it is", here's a nice blog post that I found searching for these photographs above: How To Fly A Soyuz Space Capsule.
Here is a nice video, showing where the crew sit, and why a stick is a useful extension tool. Inside a Soyuz capsule