Think back to March 26 2006. Belarussians were on the street protesting against Lukashenka, an Afghan Christian convert risked the death penalty, London Mayor Ken Livingstone had just called the U.S Ambassador a ‘chiseling little crook’, and the Commonwealth games had just concluded. Whilst some sort of closure has been brought to all of those events, one news story from the week wrangles on. Ukraine went to the ballot box 4 months ago – a government has still yet to be formed.
For those of you who have not been following the story, it will not take long to explain the events of March, April, May and June. The results yielded a Parliament, as expected, with ex-Kuchma ally Viktor Yanukovych’s Party of Regions the biggest seat holder (186 MP’s). In Second, Third and Fourth place came Bloc Yulia Tymoshenko, Our Ukraine (President Yushchenko’s party) and the Socialists. The three parties held 129, 81 and 33 seats respectively – enough for a majority to set about governing.
After a brief period of relief in Western Ukraine that the Pro-Russian parties would not form the new cabinet, the blocs began talking. And talk they did. The first sticking point appeared to be Tymoshenko’s demand to be Prime Minister. Apparently, as Yushchenko had fired her only months before from the same position, this was unacceptable. I mean, why should the party with the most MP’s in parliament have the most powerful post? For months, the bickering went on, with whisperings of alternative candidates, and the occasional claim that Our Ukraine was talking to the enemy (Party of Regions). Only last week did Yushchenko finally agree that Tymoshenko should be PM.
But now a further thorn in the side of a reunited Orange Coalition has emerged. Yes, Our Ukraine is opposed to the Socialist Party gaining control of the Parliamentary Speaker’s post. So much so that all talks have been broken off.
So why is Our Ukraine causing such a fuss? Why are they using such definite terms as ‘impossible’ and ‘dead end’?
Personally I feel that Yushchenko is angling for the strongest possible position he can – one where he regains the powers he lost at the start of the year.
When Kuchma agreed to a new election in 2005, it was done so on the premise that the President would have far fewer powers. Yushchenko naturally agreed and all was well. Fast forward a year and the new Head of State began to call for a referendum to see if the Ukrainian people agreed with the constitutional reforms. Backsliding in the face of poor opinion poll ratings, Yushchenko seemed determined to reverse the laws which placed most important decisions in the hands of the Prime Minister.
Realising that a referendum would likely fail without support from Party of Regions and Yulia Tymoshenko, the Liberal Head of State adopted a new tactic. If he could pack the Constitutional Court with his own supporters the reforms would be overturned. Parliament would not play ball.
So now Ukraine faces crisis. An Orange coalition is off the table (allegedly) and Yushchenko appears to be cosying up to Party of Regions through small steps. Im sure after a brief chat, Our Ukraine will further denounce it’s former allies and agree on some kind of ‘Government of National Unity’ with Yanukovych. All the time, Yushchenko probably hoping to strike some sort of deal that gives his party the chance to swear in those all important judges. If this is the game, and the reasoning behind it, that the President is playing it is extremely foolish.
The Party of Regions have little interest in Democracy, are associated with crime, and tainted with the alleged poisoning of Yushchenko himself. I fear that in his desire to regain his power the President is risking handing everything to the party of big, murky business. Whatever the result, Our Ukraine’s opinion poll ratings must be sliding further into the abyss – 2010 is unlikely to see them returned to power and Ukraine most likely just as far away from NATO and the EU as ever before.