Saturday, March 18, 2006

Potential outcomes

Markian Bilynskyj from the US-Ukraine Foundation lists three alternatives that might emerge from the elections and analyzes their likelihood. (I am looking for a link.)


What, then, of events after March 26? Extrapolating from today's dynamics,three scenarios present themselves.


[1] The first is a pro-presidential Orange majority in the new Rada consisting of Nasha Ukraina, BYuT, PORA/Reforms and Order, and theKostenko- Pliushch bloc. Since there is a question mark over whether thelatter two will negotiate the 3% threshold into the Rada the hue of thiscoalition might be altered with the addition of the Socialists and, possibly, current Rada chairman Volodymyr Lytvyn's bloc.

But, clearly, the viability of any exclusively or predominantly Orange formation will be determined by the nature of the relationship between BYuT and Nasha Ukraina.

Given the extent to which their relations have deteriorated, the prospects for the creation of a majority capable of forming a government will depend on one of the Orange groups clearly 'defeating' the other at the polls, with the 'junior' side forced to submit, no matter how reluctantly, to a solution imposed by the electorate. Any Orange coalition is likely to be brittle, and will more often than not resemble a situational one.

The spirit of the Majdan is dead. But that does not mean that the Orange family cannot still live under one roof and choose on a selective basis whether to dine and entertain guests together. However, it is increasingly clear that the electorate will have to be the catalyst that brings theOrange forces to their senses.


[2] A second scenario involves some sort of Orange coalition with the Party of Regions. To date, such an option appears to exist more in the minds of experts and observers than in the plans of the prospective Orange participants. Moreover, the discussion has focused almost exclusively on the pluses and minuses for the Orange camp without asking how palatable such a move would be for the Party of the Regions.

The Party of the Regions is widely expected to secure a plurality in the new Rada but one well short of allowing it to easily put together a majority.

Any Orange-Blue coalition would likely involve one, not both, of the Orange blocs for the simple reason that it would be considered only if the differences within the Orange camp were to prove irreconcilable.

BYuT has consistently declared the inadmissibility of such an accommodation, preferring even the dismissal of the Rada to this option. This leaves Nasha Ukraina, presumably on the grounds that last year's courtship with the Party of the Regions suggests that anything can happen. (Plus, Nasha Ukraina has still to categorically reject the possibility.) But such a hybrid would be even less stable than the Orange majority cobbled together under the first scenario.

Anyone doubting this would do well to recall the fate of last autumn's memorandum of cooperation between Messrs. Yushchenko and Yanukovych and the events that brought about its annulment by the President. Clearly, cooperation in the new Rada between any or all of the Orange forces and theParty of the Regions is possible on an issue-specific basis. However, creating a majority and coalition government consisting of these forces asthe necessary first step for getting to that stage is very difficult toimagine.

The Orange Revolution revealed that Ukrainians have largely rejected thevalue-neutral politics that the advocates of an Orange-Blue coalition are asking them to accept. While any formal accommodation would undoubtedly be presented as a grand gesture of reconciliation for the national good, it would actually be nothing less than an unambiguous expression of the participating Orange side's political bankruptcy.

It strains credibility, as well as the Majdan's self-imposed code of what constitutes political decency, to believe that President Yushchenko - or even those other significant Majdan actors, the Socialists, who would be critical to the creation of a Regions dominated majority - would sanction the idea of Renat Akhmetov as prime minister.

Indeed, that this coalition scenario is even being discussed (and advocated) testifies to possibly the Orange camp's single biggest failure since coming to power: the failure, not least because of the debilitating internal split, to develop a strategy for reaching out to the Yanukovych electorate in a concerted effort to separate it from the "criminal" elite that claims to represent it and to integrate this electorate into a clear vision of Ukraine'sfuture.

Calls by leading experts notwithstanding, the possibility of a formal Orange-Blue coalition is likely to be rejected - though later rather than sooner - by all of the Orange forces. Unanimity on this issue, however, should not be confused with a willingness to unite; which brings us to the third scenario.


[3] This sees none of the three principal forces in the new Rada able to form a majority. Should this situation persist for a month after the new Rada convenes, the president can exercise his newly acquired right to dismiss the Rada. Moreover, should a majority be formed but be unable to agree on the composition of a new government within sixty days of its predecessor's dismissal, then the president can also choose to dismiss the Rada. (It should be stressed: this is a presidential right not an obligation.)

Critics of this scenario argue that too many people will have invested too much money in securing a deputy's mandate for this scenario to transpire. Others point out that the budget simply cannot afford another election. Certainly, the prospect of a presidential 'hangman's noose' could serve to concentrate the Rada's collective mind and might yet place at the head ofthe government a relative outsider as a "technical" prime minister.

However, those very real and to date irreconcilable differences discussed above, as well as the ever- lurking law of unintended consequences, create a very powerful dynamic pointing to the new Rada's early dismissal. Moreover, the financial argument seems to imply that a poor country has no choice but to learn to live with an equally 'poor' democracy.

If the current batch of parliamentary pretenders proves incapable of coming
to agreement and squanders scarce budgetary funds in the process, the public
might welcome the immediate opportunity to cut its losses and exercise itsright
and responsibility to then choose a viable Rada.

This is good analysis. I think the idea of Akhmetov as PM is a bit too wishful. A lot of it is premised on the assumption that Akhmetov wants to be respectable in the West. "He is doing it with his businesses; he'll do it with the government." Not very convincing to me even if we assume the first part is true.

Akhmetov would only be palatable to Our Ukraine as a way to whitewash a deal with Party of the Regions for power. Hard for me to believe that one's going to happen either.

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