Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Rescuing a revolution

On Tuesday BYuT blocked the working of the Ukrainian parliament [VR] and prevented President Yushchenko from making a state-of-the-nation speech, plunging the country into yet another crisis. Opposition Party of Regions deputy Nestor Shufrich considers that had BYuT not blocked parliament, then PoR would have. [Maybe they can come to some form of alternating shift-sharing arrangement..]

Seriously though, I reproduce this piece, in full, from the latest 'Moscow Times', before it goes to 'subscribers only':

Rescuing a Revolution By Elmar Brok, Jas Gawronski and Charles Tannock

There is no more depressing sight in politics than a leader who, desperate to cling to power, ruins his country in the process. By his recent actions, Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko now looks like he has joined the long list of rulers who have sacrificed their country's future simply to prolong their misrule.

Yushchenko's recent moves in both politics and economics suggest that his instinct for self-preservation knows no limits. Once a proud supporter of the free market and the man who banished hyperinflation in Ukraine in the 1990s, Yushchenko has in recent weeks vetoed -- sometimes on flimsy grounds and sometimes for no stated reason at all -- a series of vital privatizations. He blocked the sale of regional energy companies, for example, because he claims that their privatization will threaten the country's "national security," though it is corrupt and incompetent state management of these companies that is threatening Ukraine's security by making it vulnerable to energy cutoffs.

Yushchenko seems motivated only by a desire to damage his prime minister, Yulia Tymoshenko, whom he perceives as the biggest threat to his re-election in 2010. To undermine the Tymoshenko Cabinet even more, Ukraine's Central Bank, under the leadership of a presidential crony, is pursuing a policy that is importing high inflation. When confronted about this, Volodymyr Stelmakh, the bank's governor, is said to have told Tymoshenko that his policies would destroy her government before they broke the back of the economy.

In politics, too, Yushchenko is playing with fire, having lost the support of most of Our Ukraine, the party he created. Since his victory in 2004, Yushchenko's popularity ratings have plummeted to about 8 percent. As a result, the party has been reduced to junior-partner status in Tymoshenko's coalition government.

Instead of trying to recover support by pursuing the reforms and privatizations that he promised during the Orange Revolution, Yushchenko is planning to take the few members of Our Ukraine that he still controls and forge a strategic alliance with the Party of the Regions, the very party that opposed the country's turn to democracy and an open society. To clinch this deal, the Party of the Regions would dump their unelectable leader, Viktor Yanukovych, as their presidential candidate and adopt Yushchenko as their standard-bearer.

Yushchenko has only himself to blame for his political predicament. His decision in 2006 to bring Yanukovych out of the wilderness and back into the premiership was an act from which he has never recovered. Only when Yanukovych sought to use the parliament to strip the president of his powers did Yushchenko summon the will to fight back, dismissing Yanukovych's government and calling for a special election last year. That election, however, was won by Tymoshenko, who has parlayed her return to power into a commanding lead in the polls for the coming presidential election.

Throttling Ukraine's economy and political system need not have been Yushchenko's legacy. After he came to power in 2005 on a huge wave of popular support, he started off well. The economy was growing, and he and Tymoshenko began to tackle the country's black hole of corruption. Moreover, he seemed genuinely committed to reconciliation between the country's Russian-speaking east and Ukrainian-speaking west. Throughout his presidency, he has overseen fair elections and a free and vibrant press.

But Yushchenko's chronic dithering and poor political judgment consistently undermine his fundamental democratic credentials. Sadly, he now appears poised to make another serious political miscalculation, because he is backing a radical constitutional reform aimed at creating a purely presidential system. That proposal has no chance of success in the parliament. Yushchenko sought to circumvent the parliament by way of a national referendum, but the Constitutional Court has ruled that only the parliament may determine how constitutional reform is to occur.

Although Yushchenko seems unable to save himself politically, Europe can help both him and Ukraine's democracy. Tymoshenko is prepared to offer Yushchenko a compromise that Europe's leaders should urge him to accept. Her proposals for constitutional reform would make Ukraine a pure parliamentary republic, while retaining a president as head of state and commander in chief of the armed forces. Yushchenko can yet secure an honorable place in history if, instead of undermining and obstructing Tymoshenko at every turn, he supports her anti-corruption initiatives and constitutional reform, the latter aimed at bringing the country's political system closer to Europe's parliamentary democracies as well as to facilitate the country's European integration.

Given that Yushchenko has almost no chance of winning the next presidential election, Tymoshenko has made him a generous offer. If accepted, it promises Ukraine, which aspires to European Union membership and is currently negotiating a free trade agreement with the EU, the stable, effective and democratic government that it needs. Europe's leaders, who helped broker a peaceful and democratic end to the Orange Revolution, should once again help Kiev avoid political deadlock.

Elmar Brok, Jas Gawronski and Charles Tannock are members of the EU parliament [well-meaning friends of Ukraine..LEvko]


Anonymous said...

"Maybe they can come to some form of alternating shift-sharing arrangement."

ROFL - hilarious image. I can see this working.

And my question is whether ANYTHING printed in the Moscow Times, anything at all, will be promoting Ukrainian national interest? Think about it - "The Moscow Times". Enough said.

"under the leadership of a presidential crony, is pursuing a policy that is importing high inflation"
I agree that NBU should pursue a policy of unhitching the hv from the $ to the euro, but the wisest policy would be to do this slowly over time. And it DOES NOT solve the problems upon which inflation is based on - this only a short term absorption of inflation and does not attack the roots of the problem.

"Yushchenko is planning to take the few members of Our Ukraine that he still controls and forge a strategic alliance with the Party of the Regions"
They are damming Yushchenko for the offense that BYuT currently engages in --- namely cooperation between BYuT and PoR - LEvko, u even joke about their cooperation in your post.

"Tymoshenko, who has parlayed her return to power into a commanding lead in the polls for the coming presidential election" I thought she had NO interest in running for Pres. (lol)

"her anti-corruption initiatives" ??? which, are what exactly? REALLY, they are ready to take away deputy immunity or even privileges?

"as well as to facilitate the country's European integration"
Is the EU EVEN CONSIDERING Ukraine for entry into the EU? Last I heard was the cry of: bring us your cheap labor, brilliant students and beautiful women, all while building nuclear power plants in your country - not anything about EU membership for Ukraine. They won't even let Ukraine into NATO.

Masterful article - a bit of truth, lots of spin, and voila, real truth is obscured. In fact, it is a situation of "Damn them both." Yes, Pres. Yushchenko has made mistakes just like PM Tymoshenko has and neither should escape responsibility. Which leaves PoR, where exactly? grinning from ear to ear and enjoying the repaste, I would imagine.

But I raise a toast to the Premier in that she has achieved a truly masterful stroke - not having achieved the aim of being fired, she has achieved opposition status, while being the leader of the government. Brava! Now, nothing that goes on in the country even while being PM is her responsibility. Her numbers will rise. While the country suffers.


Anonymous said...

"Tymoshenko has made him a generous offer" to strip the President of all his powers. I don't think even Tymoshenko is deluded enough to call it generous. What on earth do they think the word generous means? Funny at least one of them seems to be Englih speaking.

h said...

I gotta say, between the Vanco thing, blocking the rostrum to prevent Yushchenko's speach, and throwing Turchinov and her political might into the mayor race -- only to help Chernovitsi get reelected, Tymoshenko is losing points with me.

First time ever a party not in opposition has used such obstructionism, and very obviously for a selfish, visceral goal. "I'm going to start acting now," she says, claiming to be frustrated that the pres won't enact her pet anti-inflation laws. Laws he says a) won't help now (I do still trust the guy a bit on the econ stuff), and b) anyway should have been passed back in March, if at all.

Blair Sheridan said...

Perhaps it's significant that all three signatories are members of the European People's Party - the same bloc to which "Batkivshchina" was admitted last year.

Party solidarity, anyone?

I'm no defender of Yushchenko, but I stand in awe of the PM's ability to make no significant activity look like a life-and-death struggle for the people.

Anonymous said...

"but I stand in awe of the PM's ability to make no significant activity look like a life-and-death struggle for the people."

I too stand in awe and have always maintained the line that Western politicians could learn from the hyper-competitive environment that define Ukrainian politics.


Anonymous said...

The article was posted in ukrainian on UNIAN

and the commentary is interesting


Gene said...

While I agree Yulia is making a very stupid move regarding the mayor of Kyiv, Yush is also, by not allowing a runoff election. Both are mired in this very stupid and childish power struggle.

Together they could have accomplished great things for Ukraine, but almost from day one, Yush and Baloha were publicly criticizing Yulia, as well as interferring in her govt far more than they did with Yanu. Most team members try to work out their issues in private instead of taking them public. That in itself is evidence of his intention to only undermine her rather than work with her.

I see nothing to indicate that Yush was ever willing to work with Yulia. In fact, everything we read from him, indicates that he is more interested in undermining Yulia than in working with her.

Because of Yush and Baloha's backstabbing behavior it is easy to accept that there is much truth in the Russian article.

It is also interesting that some Yush supporters are willing to criticize Yulia's relationship with PR while completely ignoring Yush and Baloha's relationship with PR and Renat.

In other discussions with Yush supporters, I find them unwilling to look critically at Yush, blindly supporting him. Yush has done some great things for Ukraine, but since Baloha came onto the scene he has changed and seems as power hungry as the rest of the leading politicians.

I think Yulia is being VERY generous to offer Yush anything, as his behavior towards her has been very damaging for Ukraine. In addition, his behavior has caused him to fall in the polls and has given Yanu and PR new life with his numerous mistakes and blunders. It is time for him to join Moroz in retirement.