Pora, the non-governmental organization that played a decisive role in Ukraine’s Orange Revolution, has adopted a highly critical stance towards the ten-point memorandum signed last week by President Viktor Yushchenko and the leader of the Party of Regions, former prime minister Viktor Yanukovych (see EDM, September 23; pora.org.ua, September 27).
An interactive poll on Pora’s website found that 29.2% of respondents believed Yushchenko had “betrayed” the ideals of the Orange Revolution. Another 32.5% believed that ousted National Security and Defense Council secretary Petro Poroshenko had betrayed them, while only 10.3% believed former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko had done so.
One wing of Pora (commonly referred to as “yellow” because of their symbols) worked closely with Yushchenko in the 2004 presidential elections. Another wing of Pora (commonly referred to as “black” for the same reason) worked independently and drew its inspiration from Serbia’s OTPOR youth group (see EDM, February 2).
The “yellow” wing of Pora clashed with the minister of justice when he attempted to block the registration of their new political party. Eventually, a Kyiv court ordered the Ministry to retroactively register the party as of March, so that it could stand in the March 2006 parliamentary elections.
Outgoing minister of justice Roman Zvarych will not be re-appointed to the new government headed by Yuriy Yekhanurov. Zvarych, an American-Ukrainian who exchanged his American citizenship for a Ukrainian passport in the 1990s, was embroiled in a separate scandal surrounding his exaggerated academic credentials (see EDM, May 4). Pora’s relationship with Zvarych has remained lukewarm (see the Pora film at pora.org.ua/content/blogcategory/124/171/).
The Pora political party has appealed to outgoing government members sympathetic to Tymoshenko to join their 2006 election bloc. The appeal was sent to outgoing state secretary Oleksandr Zinchenko, his deputy, Markian Lubkivsky, Channel 1 state television CEO Taras Stetskiv, and MP Volodymyr Filenko. Stetskiv and Filenko played prominent roles in organizing the Orange Revolution.
“These politicians,” according to the appeal, “have similar positions, political views, and moral beliefs that concur with the values and principles of Pora’s activities” (pora.org.ua, September 20). The appeal then called upon these four men to join the Pora party.
Zinchenko is considered to be a likely candidate to lead the Pora 2006 election bloc. At a September 27 press conference entitled “Memorandum. Betrayal. Crisis? Pora’s Response,” the NGO unveiled its own policy recommendations for the Yushchenko administration. The “black” wing of Pora issued a similar list of demands on the authorities four days earlier entitled, “Memorandum of the Maidan” (maidan.org.ua, kuchmizm.info, September 23).
The Pora political party called upon everyone who participated in the Orange Revolution to form a “civic coalition” that would work “to clean up the Ukrainian authorities” (pora.org.ua, September 27).
The Pora party has not garnered widespread public support until now. But the September political crisis could tip the balance, with Orange voters critical of Yushchenko flocking to either Pora or Tymoshenko’s bloc.
Andriy Ihnatov, a founder of maidan.org.ua, which has close ties to the “black” wing of Pora, told Jamestown that he believed the Pora party could cross the low 3% threshold in the 2006 elections. He believes that readers of maidan.org.ua, a prominent Orange Revolution website, are likely to split their votes evenly between Yushchenko and Tymoshenko.
Vladyslav Kaskiv, head of the Pora party and an adviser to Yushchenko, theorized that the current crisis was due to the “inability of the authorities to place the interests of Ukraine above those of business groups and personal ambitions.” With an eye toward attracting voters disillusioned with Yushchenko but unsure about Tymoshenko, Kaskiv also criticized the “lack of professionalism of the Ukrainian government, which sought political dividends through social populism.”
Pora is especially critical of one particular clause in the Yushchenko-Yanukovych memorandum, which would expand immunity from prosecution from parliamentary deputies, who have had it throughout Ukraine’s independence, to local deputies. Such a change would give them, in Pora’s words, “criminal and administrative immunity.”
An earlier Pora statement complained about changes to the law on local deputies that ruled out filing criminal charges against individual elected deputies without authorization from the local council. Pora complained that such a step would lead to criminal and corrupt elements seeking election to local councils in order to obtain immunity.
Such a step would violate Yushchenko’s pledge to expand the campaign against corruption. Speaking on Ukraine’s independence day Yushchenko admitted, “Corruption is retreating rather slowly so far. The former system often grinds the newcomers before they can change it” (president.gov.ua, August 24).
The memos from both wings of Pora seek to draw attention to the Yushchenko administration’s lack of progress toward implementing what they believe were the ideals of the Orange Revolution. Pora’s memorandum blamed the political crisis on the authorities and the economic crisis on the government. “Ukrainian citizens went to the Maidan not for Yushchenko or for Tymoshenko, but for a normal way of life and moral authorities” (pora.org.ua, September 27).
Interior Minister Yuriy Lutsenko, a Socialist, agreed, saying, “The Maidan stood not for Tymoshenko or even not completely for Yushchenko. People stood for liberty and against [election] falsification” (Ukrayinska pravda, September 26). This demand led to an unusual alliance of “socialists, nationalists, democrats, anarchists” and people of different religious confessions.
Yushchenko may come to regret signing the memorandum with Yanukovych. Serhiy Rakhmanin, a prominent commentator on Zerkalo Tyzhnia/Nedeli (September 24-30) confessed, “I pity this person [Yushchenko]. He has no place in my own Maidan.”
Yushchenko’s popularity has declined from 33% in August to only 20% today (Zerkalo Tyzhnia/Nedeli, September 24-30). The latest poll shows that Peoples Union-Our Ukraine has collapsed in support to only 13.9%, while the Tymoshenko bloc has grown to 20.5% (Ukrayinska pravda, September 28).
The outcome of the crisis suggests that Yushchenko will face a serious challenge from both Pora and Tymoshenko in the 2006 elections.