Ukraine held the second round of its contentious 2004 presidential election on November 21. When the incumbent regime of President Leonid Kuchma tried to steal the election from popular favorite Viktor Yushchenko, thousands of Ukrainians took the streets in what came to be known as the “Orange Revolution,” in honor of the Yushchenko campaign color. One year later, the new administration has not fulfilled many of the expectations that arose from the Orange Revolution. Nevertheless, it would be wrong to paint the first year of Yushchenko’s administration as either all positive or all negative, although the latter is currently has the lead.
The November 21 issue of Eurasia Daily Monitor detailed the 10 notable achievements of the Orange Revolution. This concluding article looks at seven areas that still need to be addressed.
Market Economic Reform. Quarrels among senior Orange leaders, coupled with expensive social policies and unclear plans for re-privatization, led to policy incoherence and government malaise. Economic reform and privatization failed to become a government priority. Economic growth slumped from 12% last year to only 3% this year, with August seeing the first negative growth since 1999.
Rule of Law. The National Security and Defense Council under former secretary Petro Poroshenko applied pressure to the legal system and courts. Poor personnel policy led to the continuation of questionably qualified individuals such as Sviatoslav Piskun as prosecutor-general and Roman Zvarych as minister of justice.
Divisions and “Betrayal.” The Ukrainian public finds it difficult to accept an internal split in the Orange camp. As a Financial Times (October 17) editorial wrote of President Yushchenko and former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko, “A Yushchenko-Yulia Tymoshenko coalition remains the best chance for a reformist, Western-oriented government.”
By signing a Memorandum this fall with former presidential rival and Regions of Ukraine leader Viktor Yanukovych, Yushchenko unleashed a sense of “betrayal” of the Orange Revolution ideals. In Kyiv, a Razumkov Center poll found that 25% of respondents believe that Yushchenko “betrayed” the Orange Revolution, while only 6% thought Tymoshenko had abandoned the cause.
Poor Leadership. Yushchenko extensively traveled abroad in his first year, and his absences created problems at home, a factor he himself recognized only last month. His hands-off style of leadership is very different from that of his micro-managing predecessor, Leonid Kuchma. As a result, Yushchenko has only sporadically intervened when crises emerged. He was unwilling to make tough decisions until the September political crisis.
Yushchenko’s perpetual lateness for meetings, often up to two hours or more, has become legendary. He also has been inconsistent with his policies and statements.
Dual Power. Poroshenko, as secretary of the National Security and Defense Council, reigned over a de facto second government, obstructing and interfering in areas beyond his remit while ignoring key national security issues.
No Break with the Former Regime. One year after the Orange Revolution, no senior official from the Kuchma regime has been charged with abuse of office, corruption, election fraud, or the murder of journalist Heorhiy Gongadze. The investigation into Yushchenko’s September 2004 poisoning has also made no progress.
Rather than being arrested, key Kuchma-era players are escaping Ukrainian jurisdiction. Former interior minister Yuriy Kravchenko committed suicide, while General Oleksiy Pukach fled abroad. Other senior Kuchma officials were permitted to flee to Russia or the United States. U.S. law-enforcement arrested one of these officials, Volodymyr Shcherban, while Russia continues to provide protection for them.
Business Allies. The shady businessmen surrounding Yushchenko were only removed after State Secretary Oleksandr Zinchenko accused them of corruption in September 2005. These businessmen had provided vital resources for Yushchenko’s presidential campaign. For example, Poroshenko and Andrei Derkach provided resources to support the only two television outlets available for the opposition (Channel 5 and Era TV, respectively).
Their continued presence in Yushchenko’s entourage became a problem as it recalled the oligarchs that had surrounded Kuchma. When asked if the new authorities were different from Kuchma, 52% of voters responded “Yes” in March 2005, but that number dropped to 37% by September (uceps.com.ua).
A balance sheet covering the first year of the Orange Revolution would reveal a mixture of positives and negatives. Yushchenko is committed to democratization, economic reform, and Euro-Atlantic integration. But he may not possess the necessary political will to deal with high-ranking officials from the Kuchma era. Signing a Memorandum with Yanukovych, Kuchma’s last prime minister, was a major strategic miscalculation.
Tymoshenko has greater political skills. She is also more credible in possessing the political will to prosecute former Kuchma loyalists. The organizers of the Gongadze murder are more likely to be brought to trial by Tymoshenko than Yushchenko.
Western reports often wrongly blame the Tymoshenko government for the policy incoherence that dominated the first nine months of the Orange Revolution. Other factors are Poroshenko’s parallel government, Yushchenko’s lack of leadership, and his inability to take decisive decisions, except in crises. His extensive travels abroad also negatively affected domestic policies.
Both Yushchenko and Tymoshenko have positive and negative traits. If the Orange coalition could reunite during, or after the 2006 parliamentary elections, these traits could potentially balance one another to promote a reform agenda and Euro-Atlantic integration (Ukrayinska pravda, November 19). The only alternative to an Orange coalition in the 2006 parliament would be parliamentary coalitions composed of either “Kuchma-lite” or “Kuchma-hard” political forces.