On February 4 Ukraine’s parliament approved President Viktor Yushchenko’s choice for prime minister, his populist ally Yulia Tymoshenko. She mustered 375 “yes” votes in the 450-seat body, beating the record set by Pavlo Lazarenko, whose bid for prime minister was supported by 344 parliamentarians in 1996. The stunningly high approval figure should not be seen as a sign of trust in Tymoshenko, which is not very high even among her allies (see EDM, January 31), but rather a show of loyalty to the new government. Representatives of the defeated regime are jumping on the bandwagon and hoping to save their position in society and their property, which was often accumulated illegally. Even the Regions of Ukraine faction, which is dominated by the Donetsk-based allies of former Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych, saw 46 out of its 54 members vote for Tymoshenko.
After the vote, Tymoshenko announced the composition of her Cabinet of Ministers, the product of difficult negotiations among the many groups in Yushchenko’s diverse coalition. As Tymoshenko had promised, no minister from Yanukovych’s last cabinet preserved his position, a clean sweep that is unprecedented in post-Soviet Ukraine. Tymoshenko’s cabinet consists of four deputy prime ministers and 17 ministers. It does not include a single representative of the eastern and southern industrial elites, which backed Yanukovych in the drawn-out presidential race.
Tymoshenko slightly changed the structure of the cabinet, scrapping two ministerial positions — one minister responsible for staffing and coordination between ministries and one minister responsible for liaison with parliament — and charging deputy prime ministers with supervising different reform directions, rather than industries. Anatoly Kinakh, 50, who was prime minister in 2001-2002, will serve as first deputy prime minister. He is the leader of the Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs, which unites directors and owners of mostly mid-sized businesses; he also leads a party with the same name. The other three deputy prime ministers come from Yushchenko’s Our Ukraine parliamentary faction: Oleh Rybachuk, 46, a long-time aide to Yushchenko, will be in charge of European integration; Mykola Tomenko, 40, who has chaired parliament’s committee for mass media and was one of the organizers of the Orange Revolution on Independence Square in Kyiv, will deal with humanitarian issues; and Roman Bezsmertny, 39, one of the organizers of Yushchenko’s election campaign and of the tent city in Independence Square, will supervise administrative reform. Bezsmertny was a vocal defender of former president Leonid Kuchma at the height of the tape scandal in 2000-2001, when he was Kuchma’s official representative in parliament, but in 2002 he joined Our Ukraine. It is interesting that just one week before Tymoshenko’s triumph in parliament, Bezsmertny had rebelled against her nomination (see EDM, January 31).
Only four cabinet ministers do not represent Our Ukraine. From the Socialists, Tymoshenko chose: Agriculture Minister Oleksandr Baranivsky, 49; Interior Minister Yuriy Lutsenko, 40 (another hero of the Orange Revolution and one of the leaders of the Ukraine Without Kuchma movement of 2000-2001); and Education Minister Stanislav Nikolayenko, 38. The non-aligned head of the Kyiv Energo company, Ivan Plachkov, 46, becomes Fuel and Energy Minister. Plachkov served in the same position in the cabinet of Prime Minister Valery Pustovoitenko in 1999. Other old faces are Foreign Minister Borys Tarasyuk, 55, who lost this post in 2000, it is widely believed, for being too pro-Western; Finance Minister Viktor Pynzenyk, 50, an economic liberal who served as deputy prime minister in 1993 and 1994-97; and Transport Minister Yevhen Chervonenko, 45, who chaired the state reserve in 2000-2001. Chervonenko has interests in the transport and food industries and is one of the richest members of Yushchenko’s team. He is a vice president of the Eurasian Jewish Congress, which unites the Jewish communities of Ukraine, Russia, and Kazakhstan.
Anatoliy Hrytsenko, 47, the head of the Kyiv-based Razumkov sociological think tank, has been picked as Defense Minister. In 1997-99 he headed the analytical service of the National Security and Defense Council. Hrytsenko is a convinced supporter of integration with NATO. He was educated in the United States, having studied at the Defense Department Foreign Languages Institute and the Air University in 1993-94. Another U.S.-educated minister is Justice Minister Roman Zvarych, 54, who was born in New York and became a Ukrainian citizen only a decade ago.
Oleksandr Turchynov, 40, has replaced Ihor Smeshko as head of the Security Service (SBU), which is formally not a ministerial position. Turchynov has been Tymoshenko’s faithful ally ever since the start of her political career in late 1996. Despite his relatively young age, Turchynov is a veteran of Ukrainian politics. He served as an adviser to then-prime minister Leonid Kuchma in 1992, and in 1993 he founded the Hromada party, which Lazarenko and Tymoshenko took over from him in 1997.
Tymoshenko’s cabinet worked to defend itself from a possible counteroffensive by the defeated elites entrenched in parliament on the very first day of its work. Parliament approved Tymoshenko’s formal action plan by 357 votes on February 4. According to the constitution, parliament may not dismiss the cabinet within a year after approving its action plan.
(Channel 5, Korrespondent.net, February 4, 5; Inter, February 6).