Sunday, November 11, 2007

Ever-shifting loyalties

Alliances of convenience and subsequent betrayals are a characteristic of contemporary Ukrainian politics. Meanwhile, behind-the-scenes deals are continuing to be thrashed out in an attempt to assemble a workable coalition in the newly-elected Verkhovna Rada.

Tymoshenko knows better than anyone that her plan to lead an orange coalition could be scuttled by just a handful of turncoat NUNS or BYuT deputies - those who would prefer a grand coalition with PoR. According to an article in 'Gazeta po Kiyevski', she has been busy trying to gain support of the 20 Lytyvyn bloc deputies for a while now, in order to achieve her aim and become PM again.

Although she has been unusually quiet, signs are her attempts have a reasonable chance of success. Hints of a possible arrangement between Lytvyn and Tymoshenko became public toward the end of last week.

Lytvyn declared that if Tymoshenko includes the basic pre-election pledges of his bloc: a moratorium on the sale of land, and a minimum wage in the program of government, then he would support her premiership. The price to be paid would be a number of posts for his bloc in Tymoshenko's government, and the vice- speaker's chair for Lytvyn himself. [The speakers chair itself would not be available as this has been 'bagsied' [called dibs] by NUNS, in their coalition agreement with BYuT.]

According to 'Gazeta po Kiyevski', Lytvyn will support Tymoshenko, but will not formally enter the "orange" coalition. He would rather take up a pragmatic 'pick and mix' neutral position.

The negotiations between Tymoshenko and Lytvyn have messed up the plans of head of the presidential secretariat Viktor Baloga in particular, and Lytvyn will now be under great pressure from PoR and some elements in NUNS to change his mind.

Meanwhile this week's 'Kommentarii' writes of a calculated warming of friendship between Yushchenko and Yanukovych, which may be of mutual benefit. [Something of which I've posted recently.]

Yushchenko continues to leave the door open for a possible broad coalition, so a working relationship with Yanukovych needs to be maintained, particularly as the 'bottom may drop out' of any BYuT-NUNS-Lytvyn bloc coalition.

Yushchenko has successfully strengthened his own position since dissolving the VR in April, taking advantage of a window of opportunity whilst Yanukovych is acting PM, but Tymoshenko not yet heading the Kabmin. He has strengthened his control over the sylovyk sectors, and rotated oblast governors, which he could hardly do with Tymoshenko as PM - Yanukovych has not protested. He has personally overseen gas affairs with Russia, with Yanuk's co-operation, so enlarging his own, new, more 'hands-on' personal image.

PM Yanukovych retains some hope of hanging on to his post in a grand parliamentary coalition. And if coalition-building in the VR drags out to a fruitless stalemate, he could continue as acting PM - retaining the loyalty to the President - a situation which could well suit the [more dynamic] president too.

For this reason Yanukovych has avoided conflict, and, on the contrary, has adopted a constructive attitude ready for broad compromises.

Even if he is thrust into opposition, a reasonably well-developed working relationship with the president means that some influence would be retained by Yanukovych - this could bring important dividends in the near future.

Cordial relations with the president could even ensure that Yanuk's significant newly-acquired properties and assets would be protected from Tymoshenko-led authorities.

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