Saturday, April 07, 2007

'Economist' article

Here's a piece from the latest 'Economist'.

Tragedy and farce
Ukraine's president dissolves parliament. Maybe

SIT-INS, blockades and fisticuffs are routine distractions in the Rada, Ukraine's parliament. But this week's chaos was unusual even by Ukrainian standards. After a big demonstration last weekend urged him on, President Viktor Yushchenko signed a decree on April 2nd to dissolve parliament and call a fresh election for May 27th. In the Rada, the ruling coalition promptly denounced the president and refused to budge. Each side now accuses the other of usurping power.

Mr Yushchenko's immediate worry was a run of defections from his party, Our Ukraine, and the one led by Yulia Tymoshenko, his ally during the “orange revolution” of 2004. Ms Tymoshenko later became his prime minister, until her alliance with the president drowned in a mire of corruption allegations in 2005. The government is now led by Viktor Yanukovich, whom Mr Yushchenko defeated in the presidential race that sparked the revolution, but who became prime minister (again) last August. The methods used to swell the ranks of his parliamentary coalition are widely rumoured to include bribery and blackmail. [Usually more sophisticated that this - see previous posting..LEvko]

The dodgy recruitment drive is the latest phase of a campaign to emasculate Mr Yushchenko, which began at the start of the unlikely cohabitation of the two Viktors. A constitutional reform agreed on during the orange revolution transferred some of the president's functions to parliament. Another law passed in January, with the help of the opportunistic Ms Tymoshenko, weakened Mr Yushchenko further. His efforts to nominate a foreign minister were repeatedly frustrated, as was his foreign policy itself.
The coalition's leaders are now openly bent on amassing a majority big enough to override the presidential veto and strip Mr Yushchenko of his residual powers. It sounds like the sort of constitutional fine-tuning to be expected in a young democracy. In Ukraine, alas, disputes that may seem like issues of principle are often disguised struggles for wealth. Politicians' attitudes to any given office depend on their prospects of occupying it. Beyond the Rada, the country is worryingly divided between Yanukovich supporters in the east and south, and those mostly in Kiev and the west who want a more enlightened government.

Many in this second camp, who have despaired of Mr Yushchenko's indecisiveness, were gleeful over the dissolution. But there are two reasons for caution. One is that, if the election goes ahead, it may produce a parliament that is just as fractious and corrupt as the existing one, which took almost six months after the previous election just to produce a government. Mr Yanukovich's Party of the Regions could even emerge stronger. The country may thus be fated to endure yet more political horsetrading and backstabbing—unless and until the entire ruling group of venal politicians is replaced.

The other trouble is that there may not be an election at all. The legal basis for the president's dissolution is questionable, and Mr Yanukovich's lot have referred it to the constitutional court—though the chances of a timely ruling that is not tainted by threats and bribery are remote. Some in Moscow note the similarities to the Russian stand-off of 1993, which ended with Boris Yeltsin's tanks shelling Russia's parliament. Ukraine's defence minister says the army is loyal to the president; the police answer to the government.

Meanwhile, anti-dissolution tent camps have sprung up in Kiev. For outside observers, the tents that housed the orange revolutionaries became symbols of peaceful democratic protest. For Ukraine's politicians, they have become just another way of getting what you want.

[I've posted it in full because it may go to subs. only.]


Anonymous said...

"alas, disputes that may seem like issues of principle are often disguised struggles for wealth."

I think this is very much the way alot of Ukrainians currently see the situation and are 'sitting this one out'. But it is not because of political apathy but realistic assessment of the situation. And should elections be held voter turnout will be high IMHO (unless polls are closed.)

Anonymous said...

"note the similarities to the Russian stand-off of 1993"

This I very much do disagree with and it reflects the Moscow lens. Analogies are shortcuts based on generalizations which exclude the finer details. It is almost like stereotyping (very ugly.)

I see it as (odd as it may sound) the East (rep. by Tymoshenko from Dnie.) fighting with the East (rep. by Yanu Donetsk) while manipulating images of themselves in the public eye. Because my ques. has always been: who is Kuchma's inheritor? And based on the SDPU(o) party members - they are now in BYuT.