While Ukraine ‘s president-elect Viktor Yushchenko deliberates about whom to choose for prime minister (see EDM, January 10), differences within his motley team are threatening to break it up from within. With Yushchenko’s victory, the very broad coalition backing him, consisting of nationalists, market liberals, populists, socialists, political idealists, and those who simply jumped on the bandwagon, has probably lost its raison d’etre.
Near insurmountable policy differences among Yushchenko’s allies have come to the fore over the last week. On January 14, Socialist leader Oleksandr Moroz submitted to parliament a bill calling for elevating Russian to “official language” status on par with Ukrainian. The 1996 Ukrainian constitution, which provides no status whatsoever for Russian, has so far been one of the major achievements of the nationalists who form the core of Yushchenko’s Our Ukraine bloc. Moroz’s bill will be very difficult for them to digest.
Populist leader Yulia Tymoshenko, who is the junior partner in her and Yushchenko’s People’s Power coalition, is also ready to quarrel with Moroz. Speaking at a press conference on January 15, Tymoshenko pledged to torpedo the constitutional reform passed in December, which provides for expanding parliament’s authority at the expense of President Yushchenko’s. But the constitutional reform is the main condition on which Moroz agreed to back Yushchenko in the elections. Meanwhile Moroz’s Socialists have hinted that they would break ranks with Yushchenko if they do not get top posts in his cabinet. “The Socialist Party will not be part of the government if it has no chance of being responsible for it,” the party said in a January 15 statement.
While constitutional reform is set to be the principal bone of contention between Tymoshenko and Moroz’s Socialists, different attitudes to privatization may alienate Tymoshenko from market liberals and big businessmen in Yushchenko’s camp. Such liberals as Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs leader Anatoly Kinakh and parliamentary budget committee head Petro Poroshenko — both of whom are competing with Tymoshenko for the post of prime minister — admit that many state companies were privatized illegally during the “grabitization” of the Kuchma era, but they are against re-privatization, arguing that it would harm the economy and simply scare the business elite. Yushchenko apparently shares this point of view.
But firebrand Tymoshenko would prefer radical methods to restore justice. At the same January 15 news conference, she said that only small- to mid-size businesses “should be confident of their existence,” while company stakes that were sold at reduced prices “should be re-evaluated” and their owners should pay the price difference, and “the state should restore its control” and “the process should start from the very beginning” in cases where privatization was illegal. These plans send shivers down the spines of the majority of Ukraine ‘s nouveaux riches, many of whom are behind influential groups in parliament. It is parliament that will have to approve Yushchenko’s candidate for prime minister. If Yushchenko really promised the prime minister’s office to Tymoshenko, as she claims, her re-privatization plans are sure to put him in an awkward position.
Moroz’s Socialists and the Yulia Tymoshenko Bloc are essentially equal partners of Yushchenko’s Our Ukraine, free to choose their own ways. Their departure would not be as dramatic a defeat for Yushchenko as would be serious discord within his own team. Yushchenko’s plan to form a single party in place of his bloc with an eye to the 2006 parliamentary elections may sow such a discord. Yushchenko wants a single political party to be formed by March this year. The smaller and weaker parties within Our Ukraine, like Poroshenko’s Solidarity, have embraced the plan. But the institutionalized and ambitious People’s Movement (Rukh) and the People’s Party of Yuriy Kostenko have voiced strong objections. Oleksa Hudyma, a leading member of the People’s Party, has been especially outspoken. In a recent interview to the Vgolos website, he warned against “uniting something that cannot be united.”
Yushchenko’s most ardent supporters, the inhabitants of the tent city and the main force of the pro-Yushchenko Orange Revolution, have also become disobedient. Still living in Kyiv’s main street, the Khreshchatyk, they refuse to go home until Yushchenko’s inauguration. Yushchenko on January 14 called for the dissolution of the camp. “We need to put the Khreshchatyk back in order as soon as possible,” Yushchenko’s aide Roman Bezsmertny said. But the tent city has refused to dissolve until Yushchenko personally comes to the camp and asks them to go. “We are not rubbish that can be swept away,” Interfax-Ukraine quoted one of the camp’s inhabitants as saying. Tymoshenko supports them. “I am for letting people go when they themselves think it is time for them to go,” she said, calling the tent city “the last barricade” defending Yushchenko from possible last-minute attacks by the elite defeated in the December 26 election.
(Channel 5, December 29, January 14, 15; vgolos.lviv.ua, January 13; UNIAN, Interfax-Ukraine, January 15)