Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Ukraine Politics - What Next?

The unfolding story of the potential alliance between Yulia Timoshenko’s party BYuT and Victor Yanukovych’s Party of the Regions may be ending this week as Victor Medvedchuk brokers the deal. If anyone recalls, Medvedchuk was the head of the Presidential Administration under former President Kuchma (who is appearing in the news as well). He is also Chairman of the Social Democratic Party – which supported Yanukovych in 2004 and is ideologically opposed to the West and personally hates Yuschenko. His involvement is barely reported, but in talking to local business executives, they are worried about his role. Whether the two parties will actually form a coalition or simply come to some sort of voting arrangement in the Rada (Parliament), is an open question. For continuous reports go here.

The primary purpose of joining together is to change the Constitution and preventing the direct popular election of the president. Rather, the president would be chosen by the Rada. This would be very convenient for both Tymoshenko and Yanukovych because it would eliminate virtually all other political parties and thus prevent any new faces, such as Arseniy Yatseniuk, the leader of the Front of Changes party, from challenging either. This would install an un-challengeable two party system – and might stabilize the political scene while at the same time enormously pleasing Moscow.

Unlike Russia, with a coalition and change in the constitution it is unlikely that, in the beginning at least, debate and a free press would be suppressed completely. However, given the temperament of both Yulia and Victor, and the fact that people like Medvedchuk are supporting them, makes the future of a Western style democracy in Ukraine highly unlikely.

This alliance may yet be derailed because of several factors. The first is that neither Tymoshenko nor Yanukovych like each other very much. BYuT members of the Rada will also likely all not feel particularly comfortable with such an arrangement. According to a source in Party of the Regions anything less than a coalition is unacceptable because they do not trust all the members of the BYuT to keep promises – a coalition is more or less binding while a unified voting block is not. BYuT are are, after all, the ones who tossed out Kuchma, Medvedchuk and Yanukovych. Working with them in a coalition would strain their patience.

Additionally, there is a rumor that Yuschenko is thinking of resigning. This would force an election in 90 days – precisely what both Tymoshenko and Yanukovych do not want. Finally, the leader of BYuT in the Rada, Ivan Kyrylenko, said that he knew nothing at all about a coalition since he would be the one who would need to sign the agreement – and he has not even seen the draft.

What will happen next is anyone’s guess.

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