Friday, March 31, 2006

Sleepless nights for 'Vitya'

Yuliya Tymoshenko's excellent showing in the parliamentary elections, which took many pundits by surprise, [but not us at foreignnotes ] has really given Yushchenko a problem of nightmare proportions.

If Yushchenko's NSNU go with BYuT [and Socialists] into an orange coalition, they will be junior partner - Tymoshenko can now call herself undisputed leader of the Orange voters. If they go with PR they will be an even more junior partner; but much worse, this could well cause a split in NSNU, and trash any possibility of Yuschenko serving a second term as President - Tymoshenko possibly beating him to win the highest position in the land. NSNU as a party would probably be torn asunder and never recover. There are already reports of links and deals developing at regional level between some disgruntled members of NSNU, and BYuT.

One of the reasons Tymoshenko did so well in last week's elections was that she received a large sympathy vote from orange supporters, many of whom felt that although Yushchenko owed her 'big-time,' he has treated her abominably on more than one occasion.

During her spell as Deputy PM from 1999 to 2001 when Yushchenko was PM, as 'poacher-turned-gamekeeper' she was able to shut down many major fraudulent operations, particularly in the energy sector. The vast sums recovered meant that unpaid wages and pension arrears were paid on time at last. Yushchenko gained as much kudos for this as Tymoshenko, even though it was she that did a lot of the 'heavy lifting'. She was so successful that even some of President Kuchma's corrupt allies were being 'hurt', so he threw her into a filthy jail cell. Yushchenko did very little to help her out, as I recall.

Fast forward to 2004. She gives up her aspirations to stand in the Presidential elections, and decides to support Yushchenko's campaign, both secretly agreeing that if he wins, she becomes PM. He is poisoned - at one stage in the Austrian clinic he tells his closest friends, 'Boys, I think I'm 'checking out..' [Khloptsi, meni kayuk..] thinking he is going to die.

Yulia continues to lead the campaign on her own, and of course everyone knows of her electrifying performances in the 'Maidan'. Once elected, Yushchenko delays for weeks and does not announce who he will nominate as his PM, keeping her on tenterhooks until the last possible moment, even though he had signed a written understanding with Tymoshenko.

Fast forward to early September 2005. Head of presidential secretariat Oleksandr Zinchenko resigns and 'blows the lid' on alleged continuing corruption in the President's administration and closest circle. He names big names - tellingly his press conference ends with a standing ovation by the journalists present. His revelations are supported by the resignation speech by Min of Culture Tomenko [now one of BYuT's top men] in which he also accuses the president's administration of hindering the solution of the Gongadze case. Both name the same chief 'corruptioneers' - Poroshenko, Tretyakov and Martynenko - all of whom have now been elected to the new Parliament.

Yushchenko has a big problem. To deflect attention from himself he sacks Tymoshenko and the entire cabinet, as well as the named 'corruptioneers', and puts into place as stop-gap PM, Yuriy Yekhanurov, a grey 'technological' bureaucrat - a relic from Kuchma's era. Yushchenko's live TV dismissal of the PM and her cabinent left many Orange supporter totally shocked and dismayed, after the support Tymoshenko had given him during the Orange Revolution.

Soon after, on 9th September, sacked PM Tymoshenko in a highly charged TV performance, while not directly accusing Yushchenko of corruption, implies this, accusing his closest associates of persistently torpedoing her efforts to root out corruption in the energy field and to claw back stolen government assets. She certainly makes it clear that from the day he was elected president Yushchenko was jealous of her popularity. She even quoted Yushchenko, annoyed of the attention she had been attracting in the media, 'Who knows who the PM of Russia is, who the PM of Belarus is?'

More background from RFE/RL:
"In June 2005, the Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) began a criminal investigation into RosUkrEnergo. This investigation was stopped, according to Oleksander Turchinov [Tymoshenko's oldest and most loyal confidant], then head of the SBU, on Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko's orders. One of the purported reasons the investigation ended was that there were grave suspicions by the SBU that former Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma, Niyazov, and Russian President Vladimir Putin were all involved in substantial kickback schemes through RosUkrEnergo. Had these schemes been exposed, Ukraine stood to lose gas deliveries from both Russia and Turkmenistan. The other reason provided by Turchinov as to why the investigation was stopped was that some of Yushchenko's closest advisors were themselves now linked to RosUkrEnergo."

After the brief 'gas war' with Russia early January this year, BYuT combines with other opposition parties in Parliament to bring down the Yekhanurov government for 'bungling' the unsound newly-negotiated Russian/Ukrainian gas deal. Grave suspicions still linger about shady intermediary companies who now monopolize the supply of gas to Ukraine.

After all of this, can Yushchenko and NSNU really work again with Tymoshenko, now the undisputed leader of the Orange camp?

But what's the alternative? Work with Yanukovych? - the man who urged Kuchma to use force to clear the orange protesters in the Maidan, and team up with the ' rogue's gallery of Ukrainian politics' that is the newly-elected PR deputy list?

'Vitya' Yushchenko is in deep doo-doo..


DLW said...

I guess, as a rather religious person, I'd frame it differently that I believe Vitya is in deep need of prayer for wisdom and more humility.

I was impacted this past summer when my Ukrainian pastor friend told me that he believed a patriot is someone who prays for their president.

I really do think the future of Ukraine will depend greatly on whether Yuschenko can turn away from his serious lapses in leadership from this past year.


Anonymous said...

The facts you present can also be interpreted in a different way. Yushchenko did almost check out - there were in fact several attempts on his life as well as his family. Were these Orange forces or the usual soviet scum that Yushchenko was resisting?

Yush has always been in deep do-do but thats where the action is and that is where you have to be to make real change.

The agents of the long running oppression of Ukraine are in fast decline. The Yanukovych boys and the Communist Party once comprised a majority of the vote and now they are less than a third. More important, Ukrainians now believe in their country as a sovereign nation and not an appendage of Moscow.

This was Yushchenko's express goal in the first year and he has done well. And there will be no coalition without Yushchenko so in effect, he is very much in control.

That his new goal is to move the economy forward might be in conflict with some of the Oranges but the political victory is secure and the economic battle is now afoot.

LEvko said...

Thanks for the comments.

I was a little flippant and used a diminutive of his christian name in this blog to indicate Yushchenko's authority has declined over the last year, as demonstrated in the number of votes cast for NSNU compared with BYuT.

The decline has been primarily of his own making - pledges made in the Maidan have not been kept.

As James Sherr puts it in his analytic piece 'At the Crossroads of the Precipice? The Fate of Ukraine's Revolution and its Implication for Europe'

"With few exceptions, there has been no attempt to challenge the country's dysfunctional institutional inheritance or replace the culture of patronage with meritocracy. This failing has not only created new internal cleavages, but reopened old international vulnerabilities."

One year ago it appeared that he could confidently look forward to an absolute Orange majority in the VR - now there are no easy choices. Stability will not be provided, whether NSNU decide to go with PR or with BYuT.

Anonymous said...

stability and reform are going to need for BYuT and NSNU to meet somewhere and accept a process for adjudicating their diffs.