The removal of Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko’s government on September 8 came as a surprise in Ukraine, as it had not been accused of corruption until days earlier. On September 5 the outgoing head of the presidential secretariat, Oleksandr Zinchenko, had raised such accusations against close members of President Viktor Yushchenko’s circle (EDM, September 7 and 8).
Similar accusations were made a week earlier by Mikhail Brodsky, an adviser to Tymoshenko. Brodsky had been an opponent of Yushchenko’s 1999-2001 government and had voted for its dismissal in April 2001 (Times, September 5).
Members of the outgoing government are angry that their reputations have been tarnished due to their association with those accused by Zinchenko. Tymoshenko could not understand how her government, which had fought against corruption, was now being removed (Ukrayinska pravda, September 9).
Few Ukrainian citizens had felt the effects of the Tymoshenko government’s battle against corruption. A poll of Kyivites found that 73.1% did not believe that corruption had declined (Zerkalo Tyzhnia/Nedeli, September 10-16). Another poll found that only 31% of Ukrainians believed that the government had successfully battled corruption, with 59% disagreeing (UNIAN, September 9). The poll also found that Ukrainians did not credit the government with positive developments in inflation, job creation, or re-privatization.
Accusations of corruption are common in Ukraine and other CIS states, often with little supporting evidence. But the reasons for the split between Tymoshenko and Yushchenko go far beyond the issue of corruption.
First, Tymoshenko and Yushchenko differ on how to address the legacy of former president Leonid Kuchma.
Ukraine’s national-democratic forces have split for a second time. In the early 1990s Rukh divided over whether to cooperate with the national communists, which are today’s centrists. Now the national-democratic camp has divided over the issue of how to relate to the past. Tymoshenko seeks to prosecute high-ranking centrists in the former regime implicated in corruption, abuse of office, the murder of journalist Heorhiy Gongadze, and election fraud.
In contrast, Yushchenko seeks “stability and peace” and turning over a new leaf (Financial Times, September 9, 12). Members of the Gongadze family, in particular, remain pessimistic that Yushchenko has the necessary “political will” to find who ordered the murder (eng.imi.org.ua). Many suspect that Yushchenko promised Kuchma immunity in the December 2004 round-table negotiations.
Acting Prime Minister Yuriy Yekhanurov was head of the State Property Fund in 1994-97 and opposes re-privatization. With this issue resolved, oligarchs may no longer feel threatened by the government and seek to cooperate with Yushchenko.
Yushchenko’s People’s Union-Our Ukraine party will now fight the 2006 parliamentary elections in alliance with centrists, the former backbone of the Kuchma regime, such as parliamentary speaker Volodymyr Lytvyn’s People’s Party. Tymoshenko had opposed cooperating with centrists in the 2006 election.
A fundamental difference is that Yushchenko never felt comfortable in opposition, unlike Tymoshenko, and tends to seek compromise. During the Orange Revolution, for example, Yushchenko chose round-table negotiations while Tymoshenko wanted to storm the presidential administration.
In contrast, Tymoshenko has considerable experience working in the opposition. She went into opposition in 1998, four years ahead of Yushchenko and his business allies. After her government was removed last she immediately announced her readiness to go into opposition in the 2006 elections. She also intends to stand against Yushchenko in the 2009 presidential elections (Inter, September, Ukrayinska pravda, September 13).
The Orange Revolution was bankrolled by businessmen who accompanied Yushchenko into opposition in 2001. The continued presence of these businessmen around Yushchenko, such as National Security and Defense Council Secretary Petro Poroshenko, reportedly worth $350 million, had led Ukrainians to wonder if politics really had changed. Kuchma had his oligarchs, and now Yushchenko has his own.
Second, Yushchenko and Tymoshenko embrace different ideologies. The Orange coalition was eclectic, including socialists, populists, and reformers. Yushchenko’s “liberal-right” views were opposed by Tymoshenko’s “monopolistic left” policies (Zerkalo Nedeli/Tyzhnia, September 10-16).
Although a populist at heart, Tymoshenko has not exhibited firm ideological beliefs in the past. She first entered politics within former prime minister Pavlo Lazarenko’s Hromada, the first dissident oligarch party, in the 1998 elections. After he fled abroad, Tymoshenko created her own Fatherland Party. Fatherland has no clear ideological position, and in 2002 it merged with the radical nationalist Conservative Republican Party led by Stepan Khmara. Two years later Fatherland merged with Brodsky’s Yabloko party, representing Russophone small and medium businessmen.
In the first year of Yushchenko’s presidency Fatherland has attracted parties away from the People’s Union-Our Ukraine coalition. These include Reforms and Order (RiP), led by former Economic Minister Viktor Pynzenyk and Yuriy Kostenko’s Ukrainian People’s Party. Former First Deputy Prime Minister Mykola Tomenko, a leading member of RiP, has become a vocal critic of the Yushchenko administration and a proponent of an alliance between the RiP and Fatherland.
The Ukrainian Republican Party-Sobor and the United Ukraine parties are also expected to align themselves with Tymoshenko. Of the national democratic parties, only outgoing Foreign Minister Borys Tarasyuk’s Rukh will support People’s Union-Our Ukraine.
Zinchenko may now head the Pora party, created out of the more pro-Western wing of the Pora youth movement, provided the politically ambitious head of Pora and Yushchenko adviser Vladyslav Kaskiv steps aside.
If correct, the 2006 elections could well see Pora, which played a key role in the Orange Revolution, joining Tymoshenko in the anti-Yushchenko camp (see pora.org.ua, September 10 for statement).