Saturday, January 30, 2010

VR decisions always influenced by insider business arrangements

Yesterday in the VR minister of internal affairs Yuriy Lutsenko was voted out of office by 231 votes. They included those of virtually all PoR deputies, Hryhoriy Omelchenko of BYuT, president Yushchenko's brother and Stepan Plyushch who is close to the pres, Viktor Baloha's people from 'Yedyniy Tsentr's' part of NUNS, and those of the Communists.

The surprise was the Lytvyn Bloc, who had been part of the ruling coalition, but crucially, had also supported the motion.

By means of some legally dubious smoke and mirrors, Lutsenko is now merely acting minister of interior affairs, who can sit in at cabinet meetings, but not vote, apparently.

Just over an hour later after the VR vote PoR's official website posted a statement by Viktor Yanukovych addressed to law enforcement personnel, judges, prosecutors, and state security officials. He appealed to them to remain on guard to protect the constitution, "when certain politicians are attempting to agitate the nation, to incite brother against brother, provoke civilian unrest for their own ambitions..."

"I assure you I will do everything to create dignified conditions of work for you, so that you have worthy remuneration, so that all of you be calm about your future. As president I will do everything [in my power] so that all of you who today are fulfilling such an important mission to protect the law and order in the country remain at their responsible posts...etc."

Tetyana Chornovil, in an article in 'Lyevyi Bereg' which well illustrates how Ukrainian politicians really operate, provides background to what went on yesterday. Here's a summary:

After the vote, all of the Lytvyn Bloc [BL] deputies carefully avoided the gathered journalists who were eager to learn why they had voted with PoR. Eventually one of BL deputies emerged from the main chamber to make a 'phone call. He was immediately surrounded by journalists and had to beat a hasty retreat through an emergency exit door, striking the writer of the article, [for which he later apologised].

Apparently it was Lytvyn himself who had ordered his tightly disciplined bloc to vote to sack Lutsenko, even though most of his deputies had serious reservations about this. VR speaker Lytvyn, who had started negotiations on his future with PoR immediately after the first round of the presidential elections, audaciously did not vote..

Chornovil speculates that one reason why BL defected to PoR's camp is that one of their main sponsors is Vasyl Khmelnytsky, a PoR deputy, who makes a lot of money from business schemes involving state contracts so it is vital for him to stay on the right side of any government, and heaven forbid, find himself on the opposition side.

In fact, BL have had it good in coalition with BYuT. Lytvyn was appointed VR speaker, his brother remained at head of Ukrainian Customs and border control administration. Other BL sponsors were appointed to allegedly 'lucrative' positions at the state railway company, state strategic reserve, and state land registry.

[Chornovil, in previous articles in 'Levyi Bereg' had revealed a budget deficit of over one billion hryven as a result of 'refreshment' of state strategic reserves, e.g. 'out-of-date' diesel fuel etc. or similar as I recall]

It is unlikely that BL deputies would readily dissolve the government and ditch such lucrative positions. And Tymoshenko, who is hanging on by her fingernails to the PM's chair can't afford to upset BL either.

As for Baloha's 'Yedyniy Tsentr' - Yanukovych had an excellent result beating Tymoshenko in his Transcapathia oblast in the first round of the presidential elections, so no surprise that they voted with one eye on the future..

The Communists had been an 'unofficial' part of the ruling BYuT-lead ruling coalition because until recently this had suited their main sponsor, 'red businessman' Konstyantyn Hryhoryshyn. [But he recently complained that Tymoshenko had not delivered on her promise to return bidders deposits on the aborted privatisation sale of the Odesa Portside Plant. Tymoshenko had accused potential buyers of colluding to depress the sale price.]

Chornovil concludes: "The voting to sack Lutsenko indicates Yanukovych is quite capable of raising a parliamentary majority and he can turn the current government into an 'acting' government. But the formation of a new coalition is problematic - the factions [required] cannot be easily stuck together, there are insufficient positions of power to satisfy everyone. Even a Yanukovych presidential victory will not solve the problems in the VR. It would be a little easier to [successfully] organise the Rada in the event of a Tymoshenko victory. Ukraine's emergence from the political crisis is hardly likely to be easy and is not yet even on the horizon."

p.s. Viktor Yanukovych and other PoR spokesmen adamantly refuse to tell the electorate who their preferred candidate for PM would be in the event of a Yanukovych presidency and the formation of a new PoR-led ruling coalition in parliament.

Their problem could be that NUNS [and perhaps BL] would never accept Boris Kolesnikov or a Mykola Azarov [PoR's leading contenders] for this position. As a price for joining a new ruling coalition NUNS could press for Yuriy Yekhanurov to be PM...or Viktor Yushchenko?

Thursday, January 28, 2010

What happens after a Yanukovych victory?

If Yanukovych wins the presidential race in under two weeks time he would undoubtedly want to remove Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko from office.

An article in Unian suggests this could be done in three ways: by a legitimate process, an illegitimate process, or by an alternative process.

The legitimate process would include winning a vote of no confidence in parliament, forming a new coalition, forming a new government, and approving a new prime minister.

In theory PoR would be able to garner enough votes to pass a no confidence resolution, but not enough to create a new government-controlled majority.

In order to form a majority coalition it is not sufficient to have the support of a majority of deputies - the majority coalition must nominally include sufficient complete factions to have a majority in parliament. Without the participation of Yulia Tymoshenko's Bloc in a ruling coalition, even if the PoR faction is joined by the Lytvyn Bloc and the Communists, they still require the support of the NUNS faction.

About 36 NUNS deputies [out of 71] are oriented towards BYuT - if Tymoshenko goes and early elections are called, they will find themselves out on the street, so clearly they will not favour joining any new coalition.

The remaining deputies that remain loyal to Yushchenko also potentially interested in limiting the impact of PoR in the government and in the preservation of the current parliament, as they also may not get back into the parliament. However members of this group may be given certain guarantees from Yushchenko, Yatsenyuk or Tihipko and may be placed on these leaders' electoral lists in any future elections.

About 5 to 8 members of the NUNS faction are loyal to Viktor Baloha, but they also are not interested in the removal of Tymoshenko, because in the event of early parliamentary elections, they have virtually no chance to getting on electoral lists of any party likely to overcome the three-percent threshold to enter parliament. The same is true for a smaller, residual group of NUNS deputies.

Any attempt to change the government, therefore, is problematic. The NUNS deputies could, possibly, agree to replace Tymoshenko with someone not from PoR, e.g. Viktor Yushchenko, but considering Yushchenko's miserable electoral performance, such a move would damage PoR's voter appeal and is unlikely. In theory, PoR and NUNS could offer this position to e.g. Arseniy Yatsenyuk or Yuriy Yekhanurov, but a Tihipko candidacy would be viewed with suspicion by PoR.

The Lytvyn bloc in parliament would not favour any early elections either. Their leader's poor showing in the presidential first round elections indicates that they may not enter into any new parliament, and Lytvyn himself would lose his current important pivotal parliamentary speaker position.

Non legitimate means of removing Tymoshenko are unlikely - they would result in a major backlash in any future elections.

An alternative process would involve the election of a compromise candidate, acceptable to all political players, but who would not support early parliamentary elections. The staging of early "semi-legitimate" parliamentary elections, as in 2007, cannot be ruled out, particularly in view of the parlous state of the country's finances and the consequent risk of government default.

Another option would be a new Constitutional Court decision requiring the government to constantly benefit from the support at least 226 deputies. If the government cannot satisfy such a requirement there would then be legitimate grounds for early elections. But this would not reduce the need for PoR to remove Tymoshenko before then. They would dearly like to deprive her of any administrative and financial capabilities provided by the post of prime minister. In addition, they themselves would want access to administrative and financial levers of power, which would provide the opportunity to use information gained to discredit their arch-enemy.

The Unian article also hypothesizes on events that would follow a Tymoshenko victory..but maybe more on this later..

p.s. My views on speculation surrounding 'bronze medalist' Serhiy Tihipko:

Tymoshenko made a cunning and desperate move in her attempt to gain some of Serhiy Tihipko's votes from the first round of the elections by letting electors know that if she becomes president, Serhiy Tihipko will be offered the PM's chair.

However, if as it seems far more likely, Yanukovych is elected president, Tihipko could be left out in the cold - other PoR pretenders for the PM's chair will not be happy to have an interloper dash their own ambitions at the moment their leader has been elected president and when imminent personal financial reimbursements could be put at risk. Tihipko, who has no political base in parliament, has has allegedly clashed on business matters with Rinat Akhmetov in the past.

If PoR manage to set up a new parliamentary coalition why should they call early elections and possibly lose some of their voters to Tihipko's 'Strong Ukraine' political project? PoR will not be too happy to have their vote diluted by leakage to Tihipko in any such early elections. If Tihipko 'cozies up' too close to PoR he will lose the support of those amongst his electors who are more likely to have BYuT and Tymoshenko as their second preference.

A straw poll at the end of last Friday's Savik Shuster show, following a long debate between Yanukovych and Tymoshenko deputies, revealed that amongst those in the representative studio audience who had voted for Tihipko in the first round of voting, about 2:1 were more convinced by the arguments made by Tymoshenko's people than those of her rival.

In most western countries bankers such as Tihipko are 'keeping their heads down' right now - they are the ones who are principally being blamed for the current global crisis..He has had a very easy ride so far in his recent political career - but there are weaknesses that make him vulnerable to attack.

Neverthess, he is safe in the knowledge that that either new president has to deliver, or his [or her] political project is at an end. Voters will only give the winner of the presidental elections one more chance before a third force eventually come to the fore.

In the meantime the words of one British PM will be going through Tihipko's mind: "We have no eternal allies and we have no perpetual enemies..."

p.p.s . Another short video from the 'FT' on the elections here

Monday, January 25, 2010

Vera Rich R.I.P.

A really well written obituary for the late Vera Rich from today's London 'Times' here

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Much for Yanukovych to ponder after first round of presidential elections

Although the first round result indicates Yanukovych is far more likely to be sitting in the president's chair after the February 7th run-off, there is much for both of the two remaining candidates' teams to consider, particulary on how to hold or gain control over parliament and the cabinet of ministers.

Tymoshenko, a political fire-fighter and crisis manager par excellence always relishes the position of underdog - her chances of victory cannot be entirely written off. The recent rapidly fluctuating ratings of lesser candidates Serhiy Yatsenyuk and Serhiy Tihipko reveal that a significant portion of the electorate is soft. In light of recent OP's the Tymoshenko camp can be reasonably pleased that Yanukovych has not gained momentum and YVT has closed the gap between them to just over 10%.

The dilemma facing Yanukovych in the event of his victory is, if PoR are unable to quickly form a new ruling coalition in the current parliament, what will happen if parliament is, by some means, dissolved and fresh parliamentary elections called? Apart from extending the current long period of political instability well into Spring, what would the result of such fresh elections be when the immediate introduction of reform and crisis management programs via parliament is vital?

This weekend's vote suggests that parties led by the second-string presidential candidates, including the current president, would probably secure seats in any newly-elected parliament. Neither of the big two would gain overall command and the traditional destabilising horse-trading would continue. Tymoshenko could even remain PM for some time to come.

Tihipko and Yatsenyuk have much to consider too in their quest for political glittering prizes. They both must be confident that any political groups they lead would enter parliament in early parliamentary elections but would, however, remain lesser partners in any coalition. The youthful and sophisticated Tihipko in particular is a threat to PoR, his recent support has been principally at the expense of Yanukovych in areas where PoR dominate.

Some commentators even say that had Tihipko come in second in the first round presidential vote, Yanukovych would be 'dead meat' in the second round. But Tihipko will be most aware of the recent political trajectory of Yatsenyuk, also a formidable performer - their ratings can swing frightening quickly. Tihipko and Yatsenyuk's backers have made large financial outlays in their presidential campaigns which could all go to waste - and they do not have the party machines or financial hinterland of Ukraine's big two parties, Nasha Ukraina or even of the Socialists or Communists.

So what to do for him and Yatsenyuk? Offer support to YVT in exchange for a high cabinet post? Their endorsement and a subsequent defeat for Tymoshenko in the run-off could be damaging to their careers. Do nothing and just wait for parliamentary elections? By this time their moment may have passed.

For the next three weeks Yanukovych's minders will be sitting tight too, doing their utmost to ensure their man avoids any political banana skins. Yanukovych's core vote should hold and he will pick some votes from the eliminated candidates, as will Tymoshenko. But the wiser PoR people will have much on their minds right now - and Yulia T's team will be desperately working the telephones.

Update: According to one exit poll slightly more than half [about 57 to 43%] of Tihipko's voters would vote for Yanukovych rather than Tymoshenko in next month's presidential run-off. So more for Tihipko to consider.

Over 70% of Yatsenyuk's voters would vote for Tymoshenko according to the poll.

Incidentally, one of the reasons proposed for Tymoshenko's frequently depressed ratings in opinion polls is some Ukrainian male respondents do not feel comfortable openly declaring their support for a woman.

p.s. Tihipko's evenly spread support across all of Ukraine's regions, details of which can be seen on the Central Election Commission's website, is remarkable. [Refer to Rezul'taty holosuvannya - Po kozhnomu kandydatu at my link]. No other politician in Ukraine's history has managed such a feat. The challenge now for him is how to develop his political career on this platform.

p.p.s. A couple of interesting videos from F.T. here

Monday, January 18, 2010

From a small corner

My father-in-law reported yesterday that four large men blocked the way to the place where the voting was held in their village. The reason was ostensibly that there was something wrong with the voting list. They didn’t allow anyone in until after twelve.
It’s an older village and many went early. They would have been turned away by these goons and with the cold and the fact that snow and ice haven’t been cleared all that well meant that they likely didn’t come back.
He thought these goons were Yanukovych people which says a lot I think even though I don’t know how he could know. The significant thing might be that that village was highly pro-Tymoshenko.
It’s a small village and you would wonder why bother with it. But I try never to underestimate the ability of the Ukrainian elite to do stupid things or to allow them to be done (nor the Ukrainian people to accept them, unfortunately.)
We live in a village just outside of Kiev and there were problems with the voting list here too according to the head of the village council. But no one blocked the door and prevented people from coming in. Ours is a much, much large village, though.
I have no idea how it was in other places. I guess it will come out if there were any-- what do they call them here?—political technologies-- that’s it-- used.
I don’t think there were any observers from the EU present though someone else might know. The EU has lost patience with Ukraine and that because of gas. It is understandable, I guess, because of European interests—cold is cold whether its in Europe or Ukraine—and my people being cold is worse than yours being cold, naturally. But you would wish that they might take a more enlightened view of it-- at least I do.
Some analysts that the indefatigable Levko has posted about—thank you—say that there is going to be a lurch toward authoritarianism whether Yanukovych or Tymoshenko is elected. That is unfortunate. In the last part of the election, Yanukovych said that Ukraine needed “the rule of law.” Well, about “the rule of law,” he doesn’t mean what everybody else means. What he means is what Vladimir Putin means by it; order. Yanukovych said recently that Ukraine has paid a high price for free speech. Oh, really? (He also said that he was tired of speaking the rubbish that was Ukrainian, and his Crimean audience laughed in gales.)
I do think it will be more difficult to do what he did earlier though. There are more power centers around than there were before. But again, the ability of the elite in Ukraine to do something stupid should not be underestimated, nor the tendency of the people to accept them, unfortunately. (Though the Orange Revolution was a bright exception to this and creates some hope for the future.)
This all means that Tymoshenko would be better for the country even though it will mean some authoritarianism as well. It will be a softer kind-- a gloved fist with the smell of lilacs?-- perhaps less damaging to the country though that may be naive. This makes her preferable even though she is completely tone death when it comes to economics and to foreign investment.
Why not someone else? You’d think that someone else would show up in Ukrainian politics who would be better. It’s always, always, always the same people.
We thought maybe Yetsinuk would be that candidate, but he’s been a bust. Apparently, he was saddled with the political technologists of the pre-Orange Revolution Yanukovych. They have tried to triangulate between Russia and Europe which has succeeded magnificently in making Yetsinuk look like the old guard; like everybody else. (Though I must say his later commercials were pretty personable. Too late.) His candidacy and campaign have been a spectacular failure. A pity because he was one who spoke with a lot of candor. But Yuschenko spoke that way during the Orange Revolution and then ended up governing like the old guard—except, that is, when it came to elections for which people ought to thank him. I am afraid though that things like that won’t stick.
But, as with anything else, I guess we’ll see.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Red faces for pollsters?

Ukrainian media, e.g. U.P. are now posting the results of 4 exit polls taken during today's first round presidential elections.

Three of the exit polls commisioned by TV companies or TV programmes show Viktor Yanukovych about 10 points ahead of his nearest rival Yulia Tymoshenko. The other one, the National Exit Poll, gives Yanukovych about a 4 points lead. [More about the NEP here ]

The NEP claim they are the most trustworthy.

In most countries that I have visited over the years, if you ask a local about the location of a certain place, or for information on transport or local events etc. most people are only too happy to help. In Ukraine, maybe I've been unlucky, maybe it's just me, but the response has often been: "Why do you want to know?" or, "Do you have a smoke?"

My guess is that more voters in Ukraine will be more reluctant to respond at all, or if they do, to respond so as give him the questioner the answer that he is looking for, than in other countries. In other words the above polls should all be treated with caution...just a bit of fun, as they say.

If the three polls mentioned above prove to be inaccurate, this be used by Tymoshenko as evidence to illustrate how her opponent's oligarch supporters, owners of the TV channels, manipulate the mass media in Ukraine.

We will see...somebody is going to finish up with a red face..

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Last roll of the dice

Tonight's slightly alarmist address by President Yushchenko to his people, broadcast in all mass media, on his website, in English, here.

Don't know where he found time to make it between packing his suitcases, and flicking through exotic holiday brochures..Ah..just a few more weeks..

Monday, January 11, 2010

Yanukovych presidency best for Ukraine?

There's an interesting piece of speculative commentary entitled 'The matter of Ukraine's Democracy', by Stanislav Byelkovsky, on Ukraine's upcoming presidential election in today's 'UP'

The main points are as follows:

Both Viktor Yanukovych's and Yulia Tymoshenko's attitude to democracy and civil liberties are the same: "Democracy and freedom are good when we are in opposition, but bad when we in power".

However it cannot be said that the consequences for Ukraine will be the same whichever of these two candidates becomes president.

In case of a Tymoshenko victory Byelkovsky proposes the following scenario:

Party of Regions falls apart or ceases to exist in its current form. As a 'quasi-political' structure created by a few big business groups it needs to be in power or have a good chance of acceeding to power quickly. Long spells in opposition are of no concern to them.

Yanukovych's possible successor as the political leader of the South and East parts of the country will not be fundamentally hostile to the Ukrainian authorities. Instead, he will try to find a compromise with Tymoshenko and lead a constructive opposition, possibly in the current Russian manner.

The ruling parliamentary coalition will grow due to the influx of defectors and will be stable. Any new Prime Minister will be totally loyal to Tymoshenko i.e. Tymoshenko will be at the same time a de facto president and head of government. The threat to democracy and freedom are obvious.

In the case of a Yanukovych victory Byelkovych predicts:

Yulia Tymoshenko will not disappear from the political scene. She is a true charismatic leader that can survive regardless of external circumstances.

Yanukovych's success especially, against the background of Yushchenko's departure, will lead to consolidation of lesser political groups around PM Tymoshenko. In the event of a Yanukovych victory the current parliamentary coalition is unlikely to collapse, on the contrary, it may rally. Obviously Tymoshenko will be against any strengthening of constitutional presidential powers. It will be difficult for Yanukovych to call for early parliamentary elections in such circumstances.

As a result President Yanukovych will have limited powers but will act as strong counterweight to the government and their parliamentary majority. In such a scenario democracy and freedom of speech will be preserved.

[Some BYuT , NUNS and Lytvyn bloc deputies might not 'run to matron' but could be enticed to defect to a re-energized PoR VR fraction. However most if not all of the 72 NUNS deputies would not get back into parliament in any fresh elections..same goes for BL..a powerful disincentive.. LEvko]

Byelkovsy concludes that, ironically, five years after the Orange Revolution, the interests of Ukrainian democracy may be best served by a Yanukovych victory.

He also downplays the chances of Ukraine being drawn into some kind of Russian Eurasian project 'that does not exist'. Ukraine, unlike Russia, does not need a tsar to legitimize the kleptocracy of the type that also exists in many third world countries having an abundance of mineral wealth to be plundered. In Ukraine there are no large stocks of such materials to provide an economic base. Under either future president, Ukraine's movement toward EU and NATO will continue.

p.s. FT is going with Yanik too but pities Ukraine that it has come to this..
The FT editorial should had mentioned economic policy in Ukraine is in the hands of the PM and her cabinet, not in the hands of the president.

Friday, January 08, 2010

'Strong president' arriving soon?

In a recent interview in the Austrian daily 'Die Presse', Viktor Yanukovych declares that if he is elected president he will make proposals to parliament to change the Constitution. If they do not confirm the changes, he will call fresh parliamentary elections. He suggests he may call a referendum to ascertain what kind of system of rule the country wants, and says: "In my view, the [current] situation requires a strong president."

Yulia Tymoshenko has similar ideas. The National Radio Company of Ukraine recently ran this:

"In her opinion, it is expedient to make the amendments to the Constitution of Ukraine that would introduce a presidential form of government. Yulia Tymoshenko underscored that only in this way it is possible to put an end to chaos and helplessness in Ukrainian today's politics."

And the man many are predicting to come third in the 17th January presidential elections, Serhiy Tihipko, supports "strong presidential authority" too.

Tihipko could become 'king-maker' after the first round of the presidential elections. Some bloggers have doubts about this, but according to one of the lesser presidential candidates, Inna Bohoslovska, Tihipko has sunk as much money into his election campaign advertising as has Tymoshenko. This is an investment for the future - whether in the PM's chair or the future presidency.

I guess, one way or another, the new president, whoever he[or she] may be, will quite soon have greater levers of power in their hands than the current president.

Incidentally, Bohoslovska also claimed a couple of days ago that Tihipko is in cahoots with Tymoshenko, and that he is "doing everything for a Tymoshenko electoral victory".

There is still a 'what if' question still hanging in the air - What if Yushchenko comes in third? It may be that his OP ratings have been depressed because his supporters are not willing to openly declare their support for him. The same could be said of Tymoshenko's supporters.

If Yushchenko does indeed come in third, what does he do? After years of bitter criticism there's absolutely no chance of him credibly supporting Tymoshenko. But if he openly supports Yanukovych it would be counterproductive and could weaken Yanukovych's position. Tymoshenko and others have repeatedly accused Yu and Ya of working in tandem to prevent her becoming president. However if he announces that he is 'against all', this would, on balance, benefit Yanukovych because the current president's supporters would abstain from voting leaving Yanukovych's first round lead intact. And Yush may even find himself head of the National Bank of Ukraine.. following a Yanik victory...

Friday, January 01, 2010

What does 2010 hold in store for Ukraine?

In a previous blog I mentioned an excellent in-depth analytic article in 'Leviy Bereg' that followed a seminar held jointly by the publication and the Kyiv Horshenin Institute, to predict what 2010 will bring to Ukraine.

The article makes the following conclusions, which I've loosely translated below:

The battle between Viktor Yanukovych and Yulia Tymoshenko will continue, not only during the election campaign, but also after it. Interrelations between these two politicians will determine the state of Ukrainian politics for at least a year - this will be not a battle of ideas, platforms or concepts, but rather an interpersonal fight.

Next year the prerequisites for the formation of a wide coalition and for instilling order in the country will be actualized. The only question at the moment is who is to be the moderator of this process - Yanukovych or Tymoshenko. The style of moderation will depend on which of those two becomes President, as well as what diplomatic moves are made, and what the main subject of negotiations will be, but the result will be one and the same, whatever the scenario. A broad parliamentary coalition with a high ability to co-operate with the president would improve conditions for effective realization of presidential authority.

On February 7th 2010, [the date of the final round of the presidential elections] it will not be just the president that is chosen, but also the prime minister. The result of the election will be decided by the extent one or other main candidate can garner the support of the candidate who comes third in the first round.

Everyone understands well the conditionality of any pledges made to any future prime minister because it is not the President that designates the PM. However, it is obvious that the appearance of a 'tandem' would give either of the two presidential candidates numerous electoral benefits. It appears, at the moment, that most desired partner, both for Yanukovych and for Tymoshenko, is Serhiy Tihipko.

Next year will be a year of rotation of elites. Serious processes with disintegration and the regrouping of large party formations will occur inside political parties. Next year will be the year when new political realities will be conceived.

Whoever becomes president, Ukraine will be fated to reboot its relations with the Russian Federation, but it will not be possible to avoid conflicts. From a predominantly humanitarian plane they will be transferred to an economic plane and will not be limited exclusively to questions of the price of gas.

Whoever becomes President in Ukraine, under the pretext of restoration of order, a roll-back to authoritarianism and curbs to freedom of speech in its current form, will unavoidably occur.

It is unlikely next year will become a year of breakthrough in the economic sphere. The economic crisis will not have been overcome, and political processes (including frequent election campaigns) will only contribute to its deepening.

The primary task of the new president will be to obtain an obedient and loyal parliament, and for the duration of the next year we could see a complete neutralization of the system of parliamentarism in Ukraine - the Verkhovna Rada's role gradually reduced to purely nominal functions.

The role of local self-governance will grow - regional elections will become the third stage of the presidential campaign and either they will make it possible for the new president to consolidate victory, or they will lead to weakening of his, or her, position and will create preconditions for the loosening of the foundations of presidential authority. The elected President will not be able to ignore the interests of regional elites and it will have to build new relations with the regions.

p.s. Happy New Year to visitors of this blog! I'll try and post more regularly in the weeks to come!