Publication: Eurasia Daily Monitor Volume: 3 Issue: 151

Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko

Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko has decided not to disband parliament. Instead, he nominated Viktor Yanukovych, who lost the presidential election to him in December 2004, for prime minister. These were the only two options that Yushchenko faced after the Orange coalition between his Our Ukraine bloc and the Yulia Tymoshenko Bloc fell apart in early July, and the left-of-center majority of Yanukovych’s Party of Regions, the Socialists, and the Communists nominated Yanukovych for prime minister. Our Ukraine is now joining the majority; Tymoshenko, having dismissed the compromise between Yushchenko and Yanukovych as “betrayal,” goes into the opposition.

On August 2, Yushchenko was about to dissolve parliament after failing to persuade Yanukovych to accept his conditions, as outlined in the national unity declaration that Yushchenko offered at a roundtable meeting on July 27 (see EDM, August 2). By the end of the day, however, he had changed his mind, as Yanukovych accepted several of Yushchenko’s ideological conditions, including the language issue and a renunciation of federalism, in return for his nomination as prime minister.

In the early hours of August 3, Yushchenko addressed the nation on television, announcing that Yanukovych’s Party of Regions (PRU) and his Our Ukraine had agreed to sign the declaration. This, Yushchenko said, prompted him to accept Yanukovych’s nomination as prime minister. Yushchenko called the development a “unique chance” and a dream that had come true about “bringing both banks of the Dnieper River (i.e. Ukraine’s Russia-leaning east and national-minded west) together” for the sake of national unity.

Both Yushchenko and the PRU made compromises, as reflected in the final version of the national unity declaration. Yanukovych’s camp made three main concessions. It agreed that Ukraine should be “unitary,” thereby dropping the idea of federalism (which Our Ukraine feared would lead to separatism); accepted Ukrainian as the only national language, dropping its demand for a higher status for Russian — the language of its core electorate; and agreed that a sentence urging “good-neighborly and mutually beneficial relations with Russia” is dropped from the document.

Yushchenko made more concessions. He agreed to drop the clause urging the implementation of a NATO membership plan; instead, the declaration provides for NATO entry only after a nationwide referendum. This means that Ukraine will not join NATO any time soon, as public opinion in the country is overwhelmingly against this step. Yushchenko also agreed with the PRU, Socialist, and Communist demand that the state should not interfere in church matters — originally, Yushchenko had urged unification of the Orthodox churches in order to put an end to Moscow’s influence on the Ukrainian church. Yushchenko agreed to the PRU’s demand that the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages should be adhered to — this reflects the fears of the PRU’s Russophone electorate for its cultural and linguistic identity. Yushchenko also agreed to insert a paragraph urging Ukraine’s participation in the Single Economic Space with Russia, Belarus, and Kazakhstan.

The points on which Yushchenko and Yanukovych had agreed from the beginning included continuation of the European integration course in order to join the EU; the need to join the WTO by the end of 2006; constitutional, judicial, and economic reforms; the need to fight corruption; and protection of property rights.

On August 3, Our Ukraine, the PRU, and the Socialists signed the declaration. Communist leader Petro Symonenko signed it with reservations — the Communists are against NATO membership, they view Russia as Ukraine’s main partner (Russia is not mentioned in the document at all), and they insist that Russian should become the second official language. Tymoshenko, who had insisted on the dissolution of parliament, flatly refused to sign the document, calling it “a capitulation act” on Yushchenko’s part, and announced that her bloc would stand in opposition to the Yanukovych cabinet. One MP from Tymoshenko’s bloc, Volodymyr Polokhalo, went even further, calling Yushchenko “a traitor of the Ukrainian nation,” according to Forum web site.

To all the appearances, Tymoshenko will not be alone in the opposition. The Communists are expected to leave the majority after Our Ukraine joins it — this is apparently another concession that Yanukovych agreed to make. A government dominated by Our Ukraine and the PRU should be more stable without them, given the considerable ideological differences; on the other hand, a departure of the 20 or so Communists will not affect the numerical strength of the new coalition. A majority consisting of the PRU, Our Ukraine, and the Socialists should include at least 270-280 people, which is far more than the 226 seats needed for a majority — even if at least 10 radical members of Our Ukraine leave Our Ukraine and join Tymoshenko in the opposition as is widely expected.

(Channel 5, Ukrayinska pravda, August 1-4; For-ua.com, August 3)