Thursday, February 09, 2006

Akhmetov’s shuffle, and Partiya Regioniv’s VR election list

It's looking increasingly as if Partiya Regioniv will be the largest party in the Verkhovna Rada after the March 26th elections. PR leader Viktor Yanukovych's facial de-wrinkling treatments are giving him a burnished and confident glow, his leering smile resembling the glint on a coffin nameplate... But enough of the metaphors..

I have already written about the dubious and sinister composition of the PR party election list. The party's unofficial 'capo' and financier is billionaire Rinat Akhmetov; 38 of the top 100 candidates on the PR election list are direct subordinates who manage his companies and businesses. [In terms of party influence Yanukovych himself is probably #3, behind former chair of Dontesk Oblast Council and Akmetov's close associate, Boris Kolesnikov.]

But why is the party list so heavily loaded with Akhmetov's men, many of who have such suspicious criminal backgrounds?

Some answers are provided in a recent article by Sergey Garmash published on the Ostrov website [UkrPravda have also run it in Ukrainian].

Garmash writes there have been long-standing rumors that Akmetov, in order to clean up his image with Western investors, has wanted to clear out from his entourage a lot of the 'old-school' guys who came to prominence in what were the Donbas region's 'Dark Ages' in the 1990's . They are to be replaced by a new generation of bright-eyed and bushy tailed 'Oxford-trained' MBA's, as well as other clean-cut professional managers 'with American smiles'.

Akhmetov considers, quite reasonably, that such changes will ease entry into European markets, attract investors, and increase the efficiency of various branches of his business empire to 'yevropeyskyi stadart'. At the same time the 'old-school guys' who he has put on the election list and who enter the Verkhovna Rada after the elections will provide him with a relatively large, loyal block of 'voting-button pushers'. As compensation for their loss of position in Akmetov's empire, they will receive compensation in the form of political status, as well as handy Parliamentary immunity from prosecution.. Neat..

Garmash suggests that this may even all be happening with the agreement of the present authorities, and wonders if the new business elites are to be a screen set up merely for public consumption.

What is not clear to me though is how readily will these subordinates accept being moved from their business positions into the VR, and what will their activities comprise when they move to Kyiv and get bored with day-to-day politics?

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