BEHIND UKRAINE’S POLITICAL CRISIS (PART 2)
Publication: Eurasia Daily Monitor Volume: 2 Issue: 172
The Orange Revolution and subsequent election of President Viktor Yushchenko showed that Ukrainian society wanted “change.” But as the Economist (September 8) pointed out, the “Orange Revolution promised much but has so far delivered little.”
Indeed, Ukrainians believe that, eight months into Yushchenko’s presidency, there has been little genuine change from the prior regime of Leonid Kuchma. Indeed, crimes committed by the Kuchma regime have gone unpunished. As one Razumkov Center analyst commented, “Ukraine gave Yushchenko a giant credit of faith, but now they want results” (AP, September 7).
One reason there have been no charges against high-ranking Kuchma-era officials is that the prosecutor’s office is headed by Sviatoslav Piskun. Piskun was prosecutor in 2002-2003, fired, then reinstated on December 10, 2004, only two days after parliament voted on the “compromise package” to permit a repeat presidential runoff on December 26 and constitutional reforms in 2005 or 2006.
Was Piskun brought back to protect high-ranking Kuchma officials? To date, only low-and medium-level Kuchma officials have been charged with abuse of office, corruption, and election fraud.
Serhiy Kivalov, head of the Central Election Commission (CEC) in the 2004 elections, provides a telling example. The Yushchenko camp directly accused the CEC of open falsification in rounds one and two. But after the elections, Kivalov was allowed to return to his position as Dean of the Law Academy in Odessa. “As long as bandits are not punished, they remain examples for criminals of all types,” warned Socialist leader Oleksandr Moroz (Ukrayinska pravda, September 5).
A commission is set to investigate the charges of corruption in Yushchenko’s entourage leveled by former presidential administration chief Oleksandr Zinchenko (see EDM, September 8, 9). Guilty or not, the commission poses a no-win situation for Yushchenko.
If the commission exonerates the three accused officials, the public disillusionment that the new guard is little different from the old will likely deepen, increasing ousted prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko’s popularity in the 2006 elections. Already 51.3% of Kyivites, a city that staunchly backed Yushchenko in the Orange Revolution, believe the accusations made by Zinchenko (Zerkalo Tyzhnia/Nedeli, September 10-16).
Yushchenko has already been criticized for pre-judging the outcome of the investigation. While welcoming the creation of the commission, Yushchenko declared, “I am confident that these facts will not be found” (Zerkalo Tyzhnia/Nedeli, September 10-16). In post-Soviet states, officials may take such presidential comments as hints on the preferred verdict.
If the commission does find evidence of corruption among Yushchenko’s close allies, it would irrevocably damage his presidency. He would have to explain why he has tolerated corruption within his inner circle.
Another Yushchenko judgment error was the granting of additional power to the National Security and Defense Council (NRBO), headed by one of the accused, Petro Poroshenko. Not only was the move unconstitutional, it caused a paralysis of decision-making and in-fighting as Poroshenko turned the NRBO into a parallel government.
Disillusionment with Yushchenko is especially acute among young people, without whom the Orange Revolution would have been impossible. Younger generation politicians from the Reforms and Order Party (RiP), and young people more generally, are likely to gravitate towards Tymoshenko in the 2006 elections. RiP was Yushchenko’s main political ally in the 1990s, and its defection to Tymoshenko is a potentially damaging outcome of the Zinchenko crisis.
Yushchenko’s decision to remove the Tymoshenko government has four main consequences.
First, with constitutional reforms that transfer some of the executive’s power to parliament due to go into effect in January 2006, Yushchenko must secure a parliamentary majority after the 2006 elections, as the legislature elects the government.
Yushchenko had intended to ask the Constitutional Court to annul the constitutional reforms this fall. Ironically, his case would have been strengthened had Tymoshenko also opposed their implementation. But now Yushchenko must rely on centrist forces, which are strong supporters of the constitutional reforms.
It would be politically disastrous if constitutional reforms left Yushchenko a figurehead facing a hostile parliamentary majority and government. This scenario would return Ukraine to the executive-parliament conflicts of the 1990s and damage progress on reforms.
Second, Yushchenko’s People’s Union-Our Ukraine party now polls at only 18%, while Tymoshenko’s bloc draws 11.3% (Ukrayinska pravda, September 9). To secure Yuriy Yekhanurov’s confirmation as prime minister now and to establish a parliamentary majority and government after the 2006 elections Yushchenko will be forced to align himself with former pro-Kuchma centrists in parliament.
Third, after breaking with Yushchenko, Tymoshenko will now draw votes away from the hard-line opposition currently grouped in Regions of Ukraine (RU), the Social Democratic Party-United (SDPUo), and the Communists (KPU). All three are led by uncharismatic, unpopular leaders. In contrast, Tymoshenko has great media appeal, skill as a fiery orator, and popularity that matches Yushchenko’s.
Fourth, Yushchenko and Tymoshenko are now expected to publicly duel over who has the right to claim to represent the “true ideals” of the Orange Revolution. Tymoshenko’s bloc will campaign to separate business and politics, one of the main goals of the Revolution (Ukrayinska pravda, September 8).
Yushchenko still surrounds himself with businessmen who supported his Our Ukraine bloc in the 2002 parliamentary elections and his presidential campaign. Their ties will be strengthened further if, as expected, the commission exonerates his close allies of corruption.
As the 2006 ballot approaches, the Tymoshenko camp will campaign on a platform asserting that the Orange Revolution is “unfinished.” Ukraine needs to “commence preparations for another stage of the revolution,” former deputy prime minister Mykola Tomenko argues, “as he [Yushchenko] has not used the chance that history and the revolution gave to him” (Kommersant, September 9).
The 2004 presidential election was a struggle between the Kuchma regime’s last prime minister, Viktor Yanukovych, and the Orange democratic alternative, Yushchenko. This battle sidelined the Communists, which had been the main opposition force in the 1990s. Now both the Communists and the centrists stand to be marginalized in the 2006 elections, which is shaping up to be a contest between two wings of the Orange Revolution — Yushchenko and Tymoshenko.