Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko’s Our Ukraine bloc, the Yulia Tymoshenko Bloc, and the Socialist Party (SPU) have agreed to revive the Orange Revolution government coalition that existed until September 2005, when Yushchenko fired Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko. The news of an accord among the three came late on June 20, four days ahead of the deadline for forming a majority in parliament, after which Yushchenko would have been entitled to dismiss parliament and call new elections.
This coalition has been a serious defeat for the Party of Regions (PRU) of former presidential contender Viktor Yanukovych. The PRU, having performed in the March 26 parliament elections better than any other party, wanted to secure its grip on parliament and get control over the cabinet through an alliance with Yushchenko. This was also a defeat for Our Ukraine s business wing, which was represented in the coalition talks by outgoing Prime Minister Yuriy Yekhanurov and the leader of the Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs, Anatoly Kinakh.
This wing of Our Ukraine, wary of Tymoshenko and the SPU’s populism, wanted a coalition with the PRU — essentially a party of big business representing the interests of the heavily industrialized and Russified east and south. PRU was ready to agree to Yekhanurov as prime minister in a potential orange-blue coalition. Learning that their efforts fell through, the PRU announced it would be going into the opposition to the new government, as it “ignores the will of the millions of voters in the southeast of Ukraine.” A disappointed Yekhanurov said he would not work in the new executive, warning that it would be left wing.
Tymoshenko will dominate the new cabinet. The three parties agreed that she will be prime minister, and that 10 cabinet ministers will be from her bloc along with the head of the State Property Fund and the head of the State Committee for TV and Radio Broadcasting, the media regulation body. Unlike in the first post-Orange Revolution cabinet, Tymoshenko will fully control finances and planning — the posts of finance minister, economy minister, and first deputy prime minister — go to her people. Her people also get the posts of fuel minister and coal minister, giving Tymoshenko control over the energy sector. Our Ukraine will appoint six ministers, including a deputy prime minister for regional policy, interior minister, and justice minister. The SPU takes four portfolios, including first deputy prime minister.
The three parties signed a compromise coalition deal that urges EU membership, but says that Ukraine may join NATO only after a referendum. This is a concession to the SPU, which does not back Our Ukraine’s NATO membership plans. Another concession to the SPU is a pledge not to launch land privatization until 2009. The document provides for continuation of former President Leonid Kuchma’s course towards the establishment of a free-trade zone with Russia, Belarus, and Kazakhstan under the Single Economic Space project and a strategic partnership with Russia. At the same time, it urges a free-trade zone also with the EU and strategic partnership with the United States and Poland.
The Orange coalition became possible after SPU leader Oleksandr Moroz dropped his claim for the post of parliamentary speaker (see EDM, June 19). By mutual agreement, this will be in Our Ukraine’s quota. On June 27 Our Ukraine decided to nominate former National Security and Defense Council secretary Petro Poroshenko for this post. He is believed to be a bitter rival of Tymoshenko, and their rivalry was one of the main causes of the first Tymoshenko cabinet’s fall. Acting as an arbiter in the inevitable disputes between Prime Minister Tymoshenko and Speaker Poroshenko, Yushchenko should de facto wield more power than left for president by the constitutional amendments that came into effect earlier this year and shifted the balance of power away from the president.
Parliament is scheduled to endorse Tymoshenko and Poroshenko simultaneously in an open ballot on June 29, after which the cabinet should be formed and deputy speakers elected. The PRU is threatening to physically block the voting, and it held a dress rehearsal for that on June 27, disrupting a session of parliament by blocking access to the rostrum and the electronic voting system. The PRU wants separate votes for Tymoshenko and Poroshenko in secret ballots, apparently in a hope that, torn by rivalries, the newly formed 242-seat coalition will fail to provide 226 votes for either Tymoshenko or Poroshenko, thereby shattering its own foundations.
The new Orange coalition may be short-lived because of personal and ideological differences. Political expert Kost Bondarenko, who used to work for the PRU, told UNIAN news agency that the differences may bury the coalition as early as this fall. Another Ukrainian analyst, Volodymyr Fesenko, also said that a second “black September” may be the end of the Orange coalition. Valery Novytsky of the Ukrainian Academy of Sciences told Ukrayinska pravda, “Any mistake of the government may entail a no-confidence motion.”
(Ukrayinska pravda, UNIAN, June 22; Channel 5, June 21-27; Stolichnye novosti, June 27)