Sunday, June 29, 2008

Tymoshenko fights on?

A loose translation of an article in the current 'Kommentarii':

Yushchenko scared off by Tymoshenko's [possible] resignation

The president decided against personally calling [VR speaker] Arseniy Yatsenyuk to announce the fall of the ruling coalition

The two-pronged attacks on the Yulia Tymoshenko government by the President's Secretariat and Party of Regions has ceased despite the the fact that her demise - her resignation as prime minister - was seconds away. It seemed nothing could prevent Tymoshenko's opponents finishing her off.

The leader of BYuT was to be removed from power according to the following scenario: the announcement of the dissolution of the democratic coalition; the reading of the KabMin's economic progress report in parliament [see previous blogs]; a vote of no confidence in the government; and the formation of a new semi-legitimate 'broad' coalition and new 'broad' KabMin. Bank Street [Pres's Secretariat] had planned all this according to tight schedule: even the date for Tymoshenko's 'execution' - June 24th - had been 'pencilled in' by 'Regionaly' when the reading of the KabMin report at an extraordinary parliamentary session of parliament was to take place. But the extraordinary VR session proposal was still-born as it became clear that at each stage of the plan, [named by ill-wishers as the Baloha/Kolesnikov plan], there were unsurmountable obstacles.

Yatsenyuk acts dumb

Problems for the initiators of reformatting of the parliamentary majority begun at the first stage, i.e. the official announcement of "death" of the ruling BYuT/NUNS coalition following the exit of deputies Ihor Rybakov and Yuriy But. The speaker of the Supreme Rada Arseniy Yatseniuk showed unexpected obstinacy. The ignoring of demands and threats from the Party of Regions fraction by the VR speaker was quite predictable, but a similar reaction from Yatsenyuk to desperate requests from the President's Secretariat to 'bury' the democratic coalition was an unpleasant surprise for Bank Street. A 'Kommentarii' source claimed that Arseniy Petrovich Yatsenyuk had a long telephone conversation with the head of this joint venture, Viktor Baloha, about this. Baloha demanded the speaker make an official statement in parliament declaring the absence in the VR of a majority during an extraordinary session planned for June 24th. Such a statement would have cleared a direct route to resignation of PM Yulia Tymoshenko, and would at least downgrade the government and its head to "acting" status only. The source asserts that the conversation between Yatseniuk and Baloha was heated, but without success for the head of the presidential office. It seems the speaker Yatsenyuk had explained to the head of the joint venture that he would terminate the democratic coalition only if he was personally asked to do so by the President. Yatsenyuk's calculations were correct - the president did not have the guts to make this request and as a result all the clever schemes to get rid of Tymoshenko collapsed like a house of cards.

Its no secret that any reformatting of the parliamentary majority would harm Yatsenkyuk's political interests and the chances of him hanging onto the speaker's chair would diminish. He has begun to enjoy his leading role parliament, and for him it had become important to find ways to rescue the democratic coalition, thereby raising his own rating. Yatseniuk had spent a fruitful round of personal negotiations with Tymoshenko, and right away the parties agreed mutual neutrality and non agression postures. So, in exchange for his adherence to principles of preservation of the coalition the premier promised Yatsenyuk support in the mass-media controlled by BYuT. After Bank Street became aware of the mutual understanding reached between the prime minister and the speaker, Baloha broadcast a statement on behalf of Yushchenko that the head of parliament is a key figure in action to renew the democratic coalition, and has tried to place all responsibility for the majority's future prospects on speaker's shoulders.

Publically, the formation of this 'situational' union between Tymoshenko and Yatseniuk was marked by a meeting of the prime minister, the speaker, and leaders of fractions of the coalition covered by television cameras when Yulia T. entirely supported Arseniy Petrovich's initiative to urgently pass a law about internal and foreign policy of the country until 2010. (In truth, the prime minister is suggesting consideration be given to this bill in a package together with a statement on the program of activity of the government which would give Tymoshenko a year's immunity from dismissal). She also informed of the KabMin's intention in the near future to submit the long-awaited project of changes to the state budget. At the same meeting both Tymoshenko on behalf of BYuT, and Vyacheslav Kirilenko from NUNS mutually declared pre-term parliamentary elections of which the opposition and also President's Secretary frequently speak, to be unnecessary.

'Regionaly' fail to do homework set by President

'Kommentarii' sources in Bank Street assert that Yushchenko has already approved the formation of a new parliamentary majority, requesting Party of Regions do the 'spadework', the President's position being: "I am ready to support you if you collect the necessary 226 VR votes".

'Regionaly' quickly got down to business garnering 150 VR deputies' votes demanding examination of the question of responsibility of the KabMin, but then encountered problems organizing an extraordinary session of parliament. The Communist Party declared they were against any extraordinary sitting of parliament. Party head Petro Symonenko even called a special press conference to explain there was no sense in it. Their position is clear - they realize they will not be asked to participate in any majority coalition of whatever variety, primarily because of a Yushchenko's hostile attitude to the Communist Party. At this moment the Communist Party is more inclined to co-operation with Tymoshenko, situationally supporting some of BYuT's initiatives, so to change the current political set-up would serve no purpose for them.

Bank Street and PoR placed much hope in co-operation with Lytyvyn's Bloc too. According to observers, Volymyr Lytyvyn really did engage with them on the creation of a broad coalition, but simultaneously continued a dialogue with the democratic coalition about the possibility of joining the still-existing de jure majority. Lytvyn's aim, by operating on two fronts, was to secure the VR speaker's chair for himself. However, Yushenko is against giving Lytyvn this important position because he is afraid that under a Lytvyn speakership he would definitively lose control over parliament. At least the current VR speaker, Yatseniuk, does not have his own political project, or ideas of political independence, so dialogue between Bank Street and Yatsenyuk are much simpler.

So, at the moment its is unlikely that the necessary number of votes in favour of a non confidence vote in the KabMin could be assembled. The situation is aggravated by that fact that those in favour of reformatting of parliamentary majority are split on the nomination of any future prime minister.

There are several pretender to replace Tymoshenko from the Bank Street/Akhmetov combination - Bohatyryova, Baloha, Yatseniuk and others, but not one of them is a candidate of general concensus. The are different views on who should head the government even in the Party of Regions where Viktor Yanukovych's ambitions are well-known. The internal party group focused on the current PoR leader were the most enthusiastic in proposing the resignation of the KabMin and were most heavily engaged in conducted a mass p.r. attack against the goverment. Authors of the no-confidence vote project included Alexander Efremov, Elena Lukash and Alexander Lavrinovich -all of them from Yanukovych's circle, rather than that of Akhmetov. And nobody is seriously mentioning one important nuance: according to the new version on the law on the KabMin Viktor Yanukovych actually has no right to hold a post in the government because of previous criminal convictions. Unlike previous versions, the new version does not include a clause stating that a citizen can be a member of Cabinet, if any previous convictions have been legally quashed. Therefore any second premiership for Yanukovych could be met with the most serious legal problems.

p.s. Tonight Spain beat Germany 1-0 in the final of the Euro 2008 soccer competition and have been crowned soccer champions of Europe. The next European championship is planned to be hosted jointly by Ukraine and Poland in 2012, but a final decision is to be made in the Autumn.

The whole of Spain are united by the joy of victory, but there is a lesson to be learned by Ukraine here. Seventy years ago Spain was in the grip of a bitter civil war. Regional and linguistic differences are deeply felt even today, but the country has prospered partly as a result of putting aside old scores.

In soccer too their national team has perennially underachieved, in no small part because of the disharmony between players from different regions. It seems these problems have been overcome too, and as a result their team has produced success on the field of play. Well done Spain.

p.p.s. LEvko is sorry for not posting more recently - have been engaged in other matters..Will try and do more in the days and weeks to come..

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Tymoshenko's day of judgement imminent?

Some speculation from 'Segodnya':

Tymoshenko's 'day of judgement' delayed for two weeks - Lytvynites are now ready to support motion to dismiss the government, Communists would help, but Yushchenko's position is not clear.

Parliament took a time-out on Friday for a couple of weeks - its next session is designated to take place on July 7th. By that time the opposition hopes to be thoroughly prepared for the main battle - to overthrow Tymoshenko's government.

The 'Regionaly' have already registered a resolution, for which they collected 154 deputies' signatures on Friday afternoon, demanding a [progress] report from the government. "Now, according to the law, committees should prepare questions for the government in the next 7 days, and during the next 10 days the government must report back," explained Serhiy Lyovochkin, one of PoR's leaders. According to him, once the report is produced (which could be as early as July 7th, when the next pleniary session of parliament takes place) his colleagues intend to dismiss Tymoshenko's KabMin for "incompetence, non professionalism and destruction of the Ukrainian economy".

Earlier today 'Segodnya' reported that deputies from the Lytvyn bloc as well as those from [Baloha's] "United Centre" and also, possibly, the Communists, could support them.
On Friday a congress of the People's Party (led by Volodymyr Lytvyn) decided it would be impossible for Lytyvyn's bloc to join existing coalitions. It would only be possible for them to participate in the formation of new coalitions. The hopes of BYuT to persuade the Lytvynites to joined them in a "democratic coalition" has come to nought, and the participation Lytyvn's bloc in any possible new coalition is now open.

BYuT, however, are sure that no resignation of government will take place, at least during the summer. An encouraging rumor is spreading among the bloc's deputies, that the President will not give his people 'the nod' to support a no-confidence vote against government.

"The President has simply realized, that after the resignation of Yulka T. and the formation of a broad coalition between PoR and NUNS, they will have to submit the candidature of Yanukovych for the post of premier. But on the threshold of presidential elections this would not be desirable. Therefore Yushchenko has decided to stall the process of the resignation of government and of the disintegration of the ruling coalition," assured a high ranking BYuT official. The day before, sources in the President's secretariat indicated to 'Segodnya' that at least the Baloha wing of NUNS would vote for the dismissal of the government.

But if 'Regionaly' can secure the support of the Communists and Lytvynites, then it will be possible for them to succeed without the approval of the Pres's secretariat. All that would be required would be to find 2 or 3 people in NUNS or in BYuT, ready to vote for Tymoshenko's resignation.

According to information received by 'Segodnya', PoR's relations with VR speaker Arseniy Yatsenyuk, have become difficult because he does not want to make any declaration on the end of the ruling coalition. "Therefore our leadership has 2 points of view about what to do with Arseniy - some propose to remove his in the near future, while others, on the contrary, want to give a signal, that in the case of reformation of the coalition he would remain speaker," reported a source in PoR.

LEvko considers that Lytyvn, as a unifying, 'technical', non aligned politician, could do rather well in any Autumn elections. Voters are becoming disillusioned with the current main players.

p.s. apologies for not posting much recently - have been busy on other matters.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Looking into the crystal ball

Some speculation from a recent 'Segodnya' article:

Opposition reflecting over dismissing Tymoshenko

'Regionaly' are convincing NUNS and BYuT deputies to vote against Tymoshenko

The disintegration of the ruling coalition caused by last week's departure of 2 deputies, reducing it to a maximum of 225 deputies in a 450 seat house, has given rise to speculation on how parliament will now function and what the future holds for the current KabMin.

Party of Regions deputy Mykola Azarov recently claimed in a TV interview that there is now a sufficient number of deputies willing to support a non-confidence vote against the current KabMin, forcing it into resignation.

The ruling coalition has already called this statement a bluff, but 'Segodnya's' sources claim that Party of Regions is now preparing a two-pronged attack on the government.

Firstly they will be turning to the Constitutional Court to make a ruling on the legitimacy of the ruling coalition, which can now muster less than half of deputies in parliament.

Secondly they are conducting consultations with those NUNS and BYuT deputies who are dissatisfied with Tymoshenko's premiership, in the hope they can be persuaded to participate in a no-confidence vote against the government.

Negotiations are also taking place with the 'Litvinites' and Communists even though the Communists do not officially support the idea of Tymoshenko's resignation. They do not want to play into the hands of Baloha and Yushchenko; furthermore the sponsors of the Communist party currently have reasonably good relations with Tymoshenko.

'Segodnya's' sources consider that after Tymoshenko's resignation, she would remain acting premier but would will lose much influence in parliament, accelerating the formation of a broad NUNS-PoR coalition. And if the broad coalition is not successfully created, early elections could be declared after two months if a new government is not formed by then.

The 'Regionals' current activity in this matter is being spurred by paralysis amongst their allies in the president's secretariat. "Bank Street [the president's secretariat] seem to be in a blind alley right now," says a 'Segodnya' source close to the President. - "Formation of the 'Shirka' [broad coalition] is not working out - the "nasheukraintsi" can't all be persuaded, and they're afraid to make Yanukovych PM again. They're also frightened of early elections, since not they don't have anyone else to go to with them."

In such situation, in order to overcome the impasse and nudge the President into action, "Regionaly" are preparing to force the KabMin into resignation, and then see what happens. Moreover early elections could be advantageous for PoR - the party's ratings are growing, while those of the 'oranges' are falling.

But BYuT do hold a couple of trump cards in their hand. As mentioned, they are becoming more friendly not only with the Communists, but also with Litvin's bloc. There is talk in the lobbies of active negotiations between BYuT people and entry of the 'Litvinites' into the democratic coalition. But their result is far from clear.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Semenyuk at sea

Last Thursday a vote was to take place in parliament to relieve head of the Ukrainian State Property Fund, Valentyna Semenyuk, of her duties. Voting did not occur because she was out of the country. Parliamentary speaker Arseniy Yatsenyuk informed deputies that she was undergoing urgent medical tests abroad.
Now "seriously ill' Semenyuk [see photo] has been spotted in a swanky Turkish seaside resort living it up with her hubby of six months, Vitaliy Samsonenko.

LEvko thinks she should be quite safe swimming in the sea because there is a whaling ban in the Mediterranean.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Ruling elite above the law

An article in 'Obozrevatel' informs readers that in response to questions concerning her Ukrainian citizenship, 'first?' lady Kateryna Yushchenko published a response on 3rd June in which she claims she had revoked her US citizenship at the end of August 2007.

Curiously, the official presidential site informs readers that she received her Ukrainian citizenship in 2005, so for two years she benefited from being a citizen of both the USA and of Ukraine. According to Ukrainian law this is illegal.

Oboz compares this to the situation in which Davyd Zhvanya now finds himself. He was one of Yushchenko's and Orange Revolution's main financial sponsors, but is now being hounded for allegedly obtaining Ukrainian citizenship improperly. Perhaps not coincidentally, he has been most critical of the president and his close associates' recent behaviour.

Oboz concludes: "Speaking totally bluntly, Ukrainian civil servants (both in power and in opposition - makes no difference) have become so detached from their fellow citizen-voters, living in their own devised, comfortable world, that in a few years we will not be discussing the format of authority, rather the raising of black banner of anarchy."


NUNS say they will support Andriy Kozhemyakin's appointment to head Ukraine's State Property Fund. This is excellent news - to discover more about this man's previous activites, key in his surname into 'foreignnotes' "search blog" box.. Yushchenko and Rinat Akmetov will not be happy about this..

p.s. LEvko is busy moving house, so is not keeping up with events as much as usual..apologies for this.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Political repression returning?

Minister of Internal Affairs Yuriy Lutsenko has not yet returned from his hastily-arranged visit to Moldova. On 29th May he was summoned to the Prosecutor-General's office, but, fearing arrest, is reluctant to return.

Lutsenko lawyers are even considering him claiming asylum in a neighbouring country on account of alleged political persecution by President's Secretariat, and its head Viktor Baloha.

Lutsenko, of course, was one of the top field generals during the Orange Revolution. Also in the firing line is one of Yushchenko's main financial sponsors prior to the O.R., Davyd Zhvanya, whose Ukrainian citizenship is now being queried. Other Tymoshenko associates are also being 'stepped on'. But how real is the threat of persecution of cabinet ministers by the President and his Secretariat?

Some observers and journalists are claiming with increasing frequency that political repression, akin to that which took place during Kuchma's period in office, may indeed be returning.

Serhiy Rakhmanin [who recently interviewed the PM on television] in an excellent piece in the current 'Dzerkalo Tyzhnya' says, "Several days ago the head of the cabinet publicly announced that repressions in the country have already started. Many dispute this, but there is logic in the premier's words. Furthermore, there is a feeling that this time Yulia Volodymyrivna is being completely sincere. People who have known her for a long time have noticed fear in Tymoshenko's eyes - a fear that was not there even in the days of the 'Ukraine without Kuchma' campaign. The same fear can also be felt in the words of Yuriy Lutsenko, whose natural fearlessness is currently in conflict with his instinct of self-preservation... Are there grounds to talk about repression, rather than a determination to establish legal order? Certainly there are."

Volodymyr Ariev, a former Channel 5 journalist and now a NS-nominated NUNS deputy, in a local TV broadcast in Lutsk, expressed similar thoughts: "Political ordered persecution and use of criminal cases at a particular moment is an indication of repression. Not in order to find the truth and determine fairness, as should be the case by law enforcement agencies, but rather at the required political moment. He also claimed that, "Many in the mass media do not want to interfere in the political fight, particularly at the central level, or they are prepared to take the money." He said that this is a problem even greater that the stories deliberately 'planted' in the mass media during Kuchma's period in office.

p.s. 'Segodnya' reports: "Bank Street [Pres's administration] loses hope for a 'broad coalition' but are considering dissolution of parliament"

It quotes a source from the secretariat: “Yes, earlier we calculated, that by June in NUNS more than half of the parliamentary fraction - 37 people, would agree to leave the coalition with BYuT and create 'broad' coalition with Party of Regions. However now there is practically no hope of this. We can't get the 37. At a maximum, even with large reservations, we can gather is 20-25. And it's unlikely this will change in the next months."

Therefore on Bank Street the opinion is strengthening that by Autumn is will be necessary to call for early elections. Tymoshenko will win, but the broad coalition will be able to be created. A reason to break up parliament can easily be orchestrated. For example its work can be blocked for a month, or the government can be dismissed. It won't be possible to create a new one in two months".

One of the leaders of Party of Regions told 'Segodnya' that he had heard talk of new early elections, but nevertheless considered: "Yushchenko will adhere to his promise, and sooner or later a minimum 50 NUNS deputies will be with us. But if the matter goes to elections, then we will not be against this".