Friday, February 26, 2010

Dearth of acceptable candidates for PM

NUNS, realising they are the new 'king-makers' in the Ukrainian parliament, have decided that any new prime minister has to be one of their guys whether or not they remain in coalition with BYuT, or dump Tymoshenko and sign-up with PoR .

President Yanukovych stated recently that he would like one of, Mykola Azarov, Serhiy Tihipko, or Arseniy Yatsenyuk to replace Yulia Tymoshenko as PM. Tihipko was not invited to today's inauguration and said he would watch it at home on television - not a good sign. Oddly, he was seen skulking around the VR during the inauguration ceremony.

NUNS will not go with Azarov. and both Tihipko and Yatsenyuk, having dropped out in the first round, pointedly refused to support either Tymoshenko or Yanukovych in the presidential run-off, so the new president has no obligations to either of them. Yanuovych is well aware of the dangers of selecting a prime minister brighter, younger and more energetic that he is.

Early elections would be a disaster for NUNS and PoR could lose out to Tihiko's and Yatseniuk's new political forces so fixing a stable coalition is priority number one for Yanukovych. As for the Lytvyn Bloc, the third member of any new coalition, they most probably would be wiped out in any early election. In any case the major political players' financial sponsors have little money left for new election campaigns.

Former NUNS prime minister and old Kuchma hand Yuriy Yehanurov's name has also been mentioned as potential new prime minister - but why go with the monkey when you can have the organ grinder himself - Viktor Yushchenko?

Last December a secret document, supposedly a Yushchenko-Yanukovych deal, was leaked by a highly-placed official in the president's secretariat. It was all quickly hushed up as I recall - television reports were abruptly terminated in a style reminiscent of Ceausescu's Romania. The deal was then immediately denounced by its alleged signatories as a low-grade canard.

Paragraph 4 of the document stated: "[Both] sides guarantee to propose V.A. Yushchenko for the post of prime minister and to vote for his candidature in a [newly formed?] parliamentary majority."

We won't have long to wait long to find out if this was all balony..

Monday, February 22, 2010

Tymoshenko throws down challenge

BYuT's bold attempt to force a quick parliamentary vote of support in her government before President-elect Viktor Yanukovych's inauguration this Thursday puts NUNS in a nasty 'make-your-mind-up' position.

NUNS, in particular, are being denied a long drawn-out period which would enable them to obtain the best-possible deal from PoR in arranging a new coalition with their potential future partners in parliament.

If Tymoshenko's government survives a vote of no confidence before Yanukovych's inauguration on Thursday their leader would again be in a commanding position after recent defeat in the presidential elections and subsequent court battle.

Today's move to force the issue of credibility in the current government may turn out to be a master-stroke.

Will her enemies be man enough to 'pick up the gauntlet'?

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Cynical deputies trample Constitution

Today in the VR deputies voted to cancel the planned countrywide May 30th local elections ostensibly because of lack of funds. Elections costs are normally covered by the treasury but this year's state budget has not yet been passed due to constant obstruction by PoR deputies and president Yushchenko.

In total, 250 deputies supported today's motion - 169 from PoR, 32 from NUNS, 27 Communists, 17 Lytvyn bloc, plus 3 others. [This could well be the shape of a new VR coalition.]

The motion is legally most dubious - the periods of office of Ukrainian oblast and city councils are clearly specified in the country's constitution [Article 141] and laws cannot be passed retroactively.

The Committee of Ukrainian Electors NGO are "outraged" by the decision calling it the "height of political cynicism".

Rising political star Serhiy Tihipko was quick to respond: "I think this is a very bad signal to us Ukrainians, and to the whole world. The argument of postponement in the absence of a budget is laughable. What if the deputies do no pass any budget? ..the country is reduced to a regime of manual control, freezing all political life." Tihipko considers the deputies decision to be a blow to Ukrainian democracy and was instigated by a fear of new politicians who received an unexpectedly large number of votes in the recent presidential elections.

Yanukovych and timid PoR deputies clearly have no confidence that they can build on their narrow victory in the presidential elections next May. Not a good start..

p.s President Yushchenko is supposed to be the guarantor of the constitution - wonder what he will say..

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Yanukovych jumps the gun

Viktor Yanukovych was interviewed by a Russian TV channel yesterday.

His blunt pronouncements, particularly on what he considered to be "the path of forced Ukrainianisation" of the Russian-speaking parts of the country, his glib assumption that a new PoR-led parliamentary coalition will soon be formed and on other matters, will make the construction of a new PoR-led coalition in the VR and the eviction of PM Tymoshenko from the cabinet of ministers more difficult.

Even though she is not prepared to recognise Yanukovych as fairly-elected president, she could remain PM for some time to come. Some parts of the NUNS group have already expressed annoyance at Yanukovych's statements.

PoR are a bit 'flat' just one week after the presidential elections. Problem is they don't have a partner in parliament to dump Tymoshenko - they can't do it on their own. NUNS do not have one unchallenged leader with whom they can talk to, and each constituent NUNS party sub-group either wants a 'cut of the action' in order to jump ship, or is not interested in any new coalition. For a new PoR-led coalition to be formed a majority of NUNS deputies have to support any leader willing to 'cross the floor' in parliament. Tymoshenko's stalling maneouvre, challenging the result of last week's voting in the courts, gives time for both PoR and BYuT to gather forces and plan tactics for future battles in the VR.

It would perhaps have been better for Yanukovych to keep his mouth closed a bit least until he had his feet under the presidential desk..

p.s. Tymoshenko is not a parliamentary deputy - if she was evicted from the cabinet of ministers she would not have the valuable platform of parliament to rally her bloc members. [Although Yanukovych is a deputy, he has seldom attended proceedings.]

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Tihipko, were he runner-up in round 1, would now be president

Serhiy Tihipko, who came from nowhere to third in the first round of this year's presidential elections, would have comfortably beaten both Yanukovych or Tymoshenko in the final round had he come second, according to an exit poll in which over 20 thousand voters were questioned - he would be the new president. [It could well be that president Yushchenko's appeal to his supporters to vote 'against all' and perhaps his granting of Hero of Ukraine status to Stepan Bandera may have cost Tymoshenko the top job.]

While Tihipko remains popular Party of Regions will definitely not want any early parliamentary elections for fear of losing seats to his political project- a situation that gives the NUNS bloc in the current VR huge leverage. NUNS themselves could be wiped out in any early elections also. Party of Regions cannot form a majority coalition and evict the current Tymoshenko-led cabinet with any other party's participation [except of course BYuT, but this is hardly likely]. The support of the remaining two parliamentary VR parties is insufficient.

Some observers consider that Tymoshenko, by challenging the results of Sunday's poll through the courts, is merely playing for time in order to come to an arrangement with Yanukovych whereby he obtains his favoured selections for head of the SBU and Prosecutor General [via parliament] while she remains head of government, perhaps even with some PoR members filling empty chairs in the cabinet, until after this summer's recesss. To throw in the towel right away would be perceived as weakness by her supporters and opponents alike and would reduce the possibility that she remains PM. But, as in 2004, everyone knows who the next president of Ukraine will be...

p.s. If Tihipko had endorsed Tymoshenko after the first round in exchange for her firm offer to appoint him PM in the event of her victory, more than likely they both would be sitting in the top two posts in the country. Tihipko may be regretting not taking up Tymoshenko's offer - he would have been in control of the country's government now... as it is: "He goes away with nothing.."

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Challenges for the new president

I liked this article written the day after the final round of the presidential elections by Viktoria Syurmar in 'U.P.' I've roughly translated portions below:

"On the first day after the presidential elections there are several challenges for Ukraine which have to be addressed otherwise the country will not develop, at least within its existing borders.

Challenge 1. Acceptance of the results

This will indicate whether Ukraine is a stable and democratic country. After the last five years national politicians have to understand that exchange of seats of power is the norm after elections and defeat is not the end of the world.

Fear of losing power should not mean a fear of punishment of loss of assets, but while this fear exists every change of power will carry a serious risk of physical confrontation. However, the more examples of peaceful transfer of power take place without a redistribution of property the faster these fears, which are are exaggerated in current times, will diminish.

Challenge 2. Political co-operation and arrangements for improved economic performance

The biggest problem faced by any new government will be in tackling the economic crisis. Effective prescriptions to overcome it are known and are common to both leading political camps.

The main branches of traditional industry will not pull the country out of crisis - the structure of the economy has to be reformed to encourage small and medium business, and the domestic market has to be reformed and redirected for increased consumption of domestic products. This will require a number of major economic decisions and the support of parliament. The ruling authorities must learn to share and not seek to introduce a monopoly of power by one political force, as this will automatically result in growth of opposition and further instability, making any reform impossible.
Taking power must not be a means of obtaining access to resources and tools merely for benefitting individuals' own business interests. This is a serious test for 'Regionaly' - if they did not pass it the next wave of the economic crisis will be their downfall.

If the government and parliament, instead of working for coherent economic reforms, engages in division and distribution of powers, as traditionally happens, neither this government nor this parliament will remain in being for long. As a result, in the current situation, being in power will be significantly less comfortable than in opposition.

Challenge 3. Politics of balance for improvement of the country's unity

Analysis of the 2010 election voting results show, once again, the country split - any abrupt steps may just break the country in half. The unexpectedly small gap between Yanukovych and Tymoshenko may be the result of rash statements on the introduction of Russian as a second state language by the former in the interval between the first and final voting round. Any attempts to introduce such measured during his period of leadership could even cost him his chair.

A complication for Yanukovich is that as president he will have to manage Ukraine not from Donetsk, but from Kyiv, a city he never really understood. [In the capital he received 25% of votes cast, compared to Tymoshenko's 65%. An astonishing 8% took the trouble of going to the polling station on a freezing cold February day and voting 'against all' - LEvko]

In the capital he cannot rule as he did in Donetsk. Any attempt to apply pressure or acts of repression, or to redistribute property will cause social unrest. At the same time it is also clear that Yanukovych will have to pay attention to his own voters too, otherwise he risks losing them as did Viktor Yushchenko and Oleksandr Moroz over the last few years. They were not forgiven for making agreements with Yanukovych.

Politics requires a balance of wisdom and political maturity. Success will only be achieved if and when both parts of society will understand any new government's policies.

Learning how to talk to the community is one of the first tasks to be mastered by the new president. He has to learn to explain the need to compromise to preserve unity, the need to "tighten belts" for the sake of stimulating the economy, the need to negotiate with various political forces, and to share power for the benefit of the country.

Whether he understands this will be revealed by his decision to attend or not attend an open forum initiated by dozens of NGOs in the near future. This will be the first test of openness and willingness to communicate with his people. Otherwise, the newly elected president will soon realise what a crisis of confidence is, and what threats it poses in times of economic crisis.

Challenge 4. Reforms to the political system

The large number who voted "against all" [in large cities up to 7-8%] exposed a serious crisis of confidence in all political forces and the current political system in general.

Many Ukrainian politicians are cut off from the Ukrainian society - they live their separate lives according to their own rules while the rest of society live their lives governed by different rules. Ukrainians have learned that they can solve many problems on their own, such as problems associated with their own homes and streets, either individually, or collectively in civic housing associations etc.

Despite the highly centralized budget system, local government today is more efficient than central government.

Similarly, Ukrainian businesses are alive and developing not because of, but rather despite the actions of the state. These businesses have learned to maintain social, civic and educational projects to the benefit of the country's development.

Ukrainians have learned to associate in professional associations and lobby effectively for their own interests. Despite the fact that Ukraine has outdated and ineffective laws on public associations, such associations are growing in number and are becoming more effective in protecting the interests of their members and society.

Non-governmental organizations, primarily competing for grants, have now learned to associate and work together for changes in the country. Active citizens from different social backgrounds together in various clubs and platforms and are looking for answers to questions on the development of society. These changes occuring in society are more progressive than what's going on in politics, which stuck at the level of banal populism and circus-like political television shows.

At the same time the Ukrainian politicum is an extraordinary closed shop. For new independent thinking people with radically new ideas to enter is impossible under the current electoral system

Any closed system without refreshment is doomed so either politicians realize this, reform themselves and introduce new appoaches to the process of governance, or they will be carried away by the energy that is now maturing in the depths of society.

p.s. At time of writing, with only just over 0.5% of votes to be counted and trailing by just over 3% Tymoshenko has refused to concede and will be challenging the election result in the courts.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

A repeat of 2004 awaits?

The recently passed amendments to Ukrainian election laws allow individual election commissions to start their work without having a minimum quorum (which earlier was 2/3 of the commission members), and allow the commissions to dismiss their members for "not participating" in the commission’s meeting on the election day. [What about participating only a little bit or later in the day?]

Eminent lawyer Alexiy Reznikov, in an interview in 'Glavred' claims the amendments have significantly increased the chances of the results of Sunday's election being rigged or challenged in the courts.

He claims that about 10 days ago legally-minded VR deputies responded to calls from Yulia Tymoshenko to make changes to the election laws between the first and final rounds by telling her that this cannot be done. And yet, these deputies hastily voted in last-minute changes that suited their favoured candidate, ostensibly to prevent cheating by his opponent.

There is a possibility, because a quorum is no longer required, that on the day of polling the head of any election commission could gather one commission, and the secretary another commission formed from the supporters of the other presidential candidate. They will deliver two protocols to the regional commissions - which will be legitimate? And what if stamps go missing, as recently occured in the Supreme Administrative Court?

Rezinkov claims the authors of the bill and the deputies from Party of Regions, Lytvyn Bloc, the Communists and part of "Our Ukraine", supported and rushed it through on the spur of the moment without much thought because they truly feared the elections could be sabotaged; but now they may have 'opened up an new can of worms'. A repeat second round, as in 2004, is a distinctly possible scenario, he says.

Ironically, the main beneficiary of any possible disorder would be president Yushchenko who will not hand over the keys to the pressa's office until everything is settled.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Recent changes to election law spell trouble

It seems to me any attempts to change the rules half way through any competition, even sporting, should be treated with the greatest of suspicion. [See details of recent changes to Ukraine's election laws, signed off and approved with indecent haste by president Yushchenko today, here and here ]

In any competition with two participants, in Ukraine's case Viktor Yanukovych and Yulia Tymoshenko in Sunday's presidential run-off, rules and responsible and mutally agreeable oversight have to be agreed beforehand by both parties, otherwise both parties will, without doubt, cheat.

Today the former long-time chair of the Ukrainian Central Electoral Commission condemned the recently implemented changes, saying they contravene internationally recognised standards.

Oleksandr Chernenko, head of the Committee of Ukrainian Voters, a non-profit organization which has monitored most of Ukraine’s national elections since 1991, called the changes "absurd."

And the European parliament is "worried" about last minute changes in Ukraine's electoral law. "The decision to change the electoral rules in between presidential election rounds now raises serious concerns about the vulnerability of these elections to violations and fraud which could undermine the final result," say some MEP's.

Using in-depth statistical analysis of voting data, some Ukrainian mathematicians are claiming serious manipulation of votes had already taken place in the first round of presidential elections.

They conclude: "An extraordinarily high level of mathematical anomalies in the official protocols of winners of round one in macro-regions A and B [regions where Yanukovych and Tymoshenko had greatest support], leads us tp presuppose that falsification was one of the factors for the electoral gains of Viktor Yanukovych and Yulia Tymoshenko.

Large anomalies together with specific forms of plotted number scatter could indicate that S. Tihipko, V. Yatsenyuk, Viktor Yushchenko, P. Symonenko, V. Lytvyn and A. Hrytsenko, in the A and B macro-regions, were the donors of votes to the two winners of the first round.

Statements by independent observers of the democratic nature of our elections are founded only on external observations in the polling stations and, unfortunately, do not take account what was going on in the shadows.

Remaining outside of politics, having carried out our investigations, we cannot consider morally legitimate the future president of Ukraine, whatever their name."

p.s. For outgoing president Yushchenko to encourage his supporters to vote 'against all' in the presidential election run-off is truly pathetic - unworthy of anyone elected to high office in a democracy. But it is completely in keeping with his five miserable years in office..

Update: President Wilfried Martens of the European People's Party, the largest political group in the European Parliament, is "very concerned about the last minute changes made to the electoral law of Ukraine. They increase opportunities of falsifications during the second round of the Presidential election.

It is surprising that President Yushchenko signed these changes, introduced by the same political party that tried to falsify the Presidential election of 2004..."

Rumours abound that president Yushchenko only agreed to fast-track the signing off of the new election laws because Viktor Yanukovych, if he becomes president, in exchange, promised not to annul the controversial elevation of Stepan Bandera to the the rank of Hero of Ukraine by the current president. Dear oh dear...

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

By skipping debate Yanik 'disses' floating voters

By not taking part in Monday's TV debate with his presidential rival, Viktor Yanukovych showed great disrespect, particularly to those voters who are as yet undecided but who had hoped to watch the debate to help make up their mind about who to vote for next Sunday.

The battle between the two remaining candidates between the first and second round of the presidential elections is precisely for the support of these floating voters.

Yanukovych constantly accuses his rival of being a masterful liar. Why did he not take advantage of a debate to expose this? The parameters of the debate have to be agreed beforehand by both party's camps, so a level playing field is assured.

Anyway, Tymoshenko's 90 minute monologue can be seen here

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Chornovil on Yanukovych's psychological flaws

Taras Chornovil, until recently, through bad times and good, one of Viktor Yanukovych's closest aides, [but let it be said, serial switcher of political affilations] has written a damning analysis of his former boss in an article in 'U.P.' tonight.

He highlights major psychological flaws in the presidential favourite's character and describes a man of limitless greed, riven with phobia's about his past, terrified of assassination; a man out of his depth as president, who has regressed since 2004 to a state where he is now controlled by a coterie of advisers and is almost incapable of freely expressing a political opinion without the use of cribs. The tone of the article is not vindictive, but is rather chilling, written almost out of pity for the man.

Essential reading..There will, no doubt be much more on this...