The blocs of Our Ukraine-People’s Self-Defense (NUNS) and Yulia Tymoshenko (BYuT) have agreed to form a majority coalition in Ukraine’s newly elected parliament. Tymoshenko should be the new prime minister, and the post of parliament speaker should go to Vyacheslav Kyrylenko, who is the leader of the biggest component of NUNS — Our Ukraine. The Orange majority, however, will control just 228 seats in the 450-seat body, while 226 votes are needed to secure the appointment of Tymoshenko and her cabinet. It may not be an easy task for Tymoshenko and President Viktor Yushchenko, who is behind NUNS, to hold this slim majority together. The Party of Regions (PRU) of the incumbent prime minister, Viktor Yanukovych, hopes the Orange majority will be short-lived.
Tymoshenko was prime minister from February to September 2005. Her Cabinet collapsed amid mutual accusations of corruption among several groups on the Orange team. Tymoshenko’s opponents note that economic growth slowed during her tenure, and that she mishandled privatization. Tymoshenko, however, insists that her first Cabinet was successful and stresses that her team fought corruption seriously.
In early October Yushchenko suggested that the PRU should take part in coalition talks. This was widely interpreted as a hint that Tymoshenko might not return to the post of prime minister (see EDM, October 10). Tymoshenko eventually had to accept several of Yushchenko’s conditions to secure his approval of a coalition with her at the helm.
Tymoshenko told journalists in Kyiv on October 12 that she agreed with Yushchenko’s demands that he, rather than the coalition, will offer a candidate for interior minister; that a new law on the Cabinet of Ministers will be passed; and that a new constitution should be approved by a popular referendum in 2008. Tymoshenko also said that the BYuT and NUNS had agreed to push for the early ouster of the unpopular mayor of Kyiv, Leonid Chernovetsky.
According to the constitutional amendments passed in 2004, the president picks the ministers of defense and foreign affairs. By also appointing the interior minister, Yushchenko will secure control over the entire “power block” in the cabinet. As to the law on the Cabinet, Yushchenko is unhappy with the current one, drafted by the PRU team early this year and backed by Tymoshenko. This law diminishes the president’s authority vis-à-vis the prime minister regarding appointments to the Cabinet. It was probably easier for Tymoshenko to accept the condition regarding a new constitution, as she agrees with Yushchenko that presidential powers should be beefed up in a new constitution.
Ukrayinska pravda reported that the BYuT and NUNS had agreed with Yushchenko that the economic bloc in the cabinet, including the key Ministry of Finance, will be filled by Tymoshenko’s people, and other ministries will go to the team of Yushchenko and NUNS.
On October 15, following several hours of talks at Yushchenko’s office, BYuT and NUNS initialed an accord to set up a Democratic Coalition. The accord’s exact details were not known on October 16, but Tymoshenko and Kyrylenko made it clear that previous agreements are valid, so Tymoshenko should be prime minister and Kyrylenko parliament speaker, while the post of interior minister will go to somebody picked by Yushchenko.
The two blocs also agreed to pass a new version of the Cabinet law and a new law on opposition. They also said that cancellation of the excessive privileges enjoyed by parliamentary deputies and an early mayoral election for Kyiv will be among the first issues that the new parliament should tackle.
The PRU has not recognized its defeat. It issued a statement on October 15 insisting that it will form a majority coalition, as it is the party that scored the most votes in the September 30 election. Taras Chornovil of the PRU told a press conference in Kyiv on October 16 that his party plans to launch talks to form a coalition with NUNS in November. He warned that the PRU might resort to blocking parliament’s work and forecast that a NUNS-BYuT coalition would hardly last for more than a week.
The PRU’s optimism is not entirely misplaced. The 228 seats controlled by the Democratic Coalition in the new parliament may not be enough to secure Tymoshenko’s appointment as prime minister. Several influential NUNS politicians, including Yuriy Yekhanurov, Tymoshenko’s successor as prime minister, are skeptical of her ability to head the Cabinet. The PRU is reportedly not against giving the post of prime minister to Yekhanurov in a PRU-NUNS coalition. Just three dissenters would suffice to torpedo a new BYuT-NUNS cabinet, as 226 votes will be needed for its approval.
The BYuT and NUNS want the Lytvyn Bloc (BL) to join their coalition. The BL will have the smallest caucus in parliament, just 20 deputies, but its support may be crucial for Tymoshenko’s nomination. The BL, however, is in no hurry to join the coalition. Oleksandr Turchynov, Tymoshenko’s right-hand man, told journalists on October 10 that “no reply has been received” from the BL regarding an invitation to join.
(Itar-Tass, October 11; Ukrayinska pravda, October 12, 15; Ukrayinski novyny, UNIAN, October 16)