Ukraine: a government without a coalition


MOSCOW. (Tatyana Stanovaya for RIA Novosti) - A new government has been formed in Ukraine, with Viktor Yanukovych, leader of the allegedly pro-Russian Party of Regions, as prime minister. Observers have hurried to say that the crisis is over and the new body is sufficiently stable.

But this is not so. Although the union of President Viktor Yushchenko and Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych is the most viable of all the possible scenarios, it is fraught with big risks of a chronic political crisis. The new government does not yet have a ruling coalition, which should take shape in September in a far-from-formal ceremony. Moreover, the would-be coalition may be either a ruling or an opposition one.

Officially, there is a crisis coalition consisting of the Party of Regions, the Socialist Party and the Communist Party, which nominated Yanukovych as prime minister. But there is also a memorandum on the establishment of a "broader coalition," signed by the leaders of the Party of Regions and pro-presidential Our Ukraine. It is not a coalition agreement but rather a declaration of intentions.

Our Ukraine does not want to join a coalition that nominated the main adversary of the "orange revolution" as prime minister and includes the Communist Party. The pro-presidential party is ready for compromise provided the Communist Party leaves the coalition and Our Ukraine has more say in government and personnel policy.

It appears that Our Ukraine will have to accept Yanukovych, but will continue fighting for the above condition. Meanwhile, it has split into two factions: pragmatists, who may come to terms with the adversary, and idealists, who may decide to join the opposition.

Only 30 of the 80 deputies from Our Ukraine voted for Yanukovych. Besides, the Christian Democratic Union, which is part of the pro-presidential bloc, announced on August 8 that its deputies would not join the broader coalition with Communists and Socialists (the latter are said to be traitors who have destroyed the "orange coalition").

People's Party leader Yury Kostenko said his party would join the opposition and promised a new revolt by September as a protest against having representatives of the "former regime" in the new government.

The pragmatists say the current developments have shifted the balance in favor of the Party of Regions, referring to Our Ukraine's representation in the cabinet, where the posts of the deputy prime ministers and ministers of the economic block have been given to members of the Party of Regions.

The pro-presidential party has been left with cultural and social posts. This is the price Yushchenko has paid for keeping his "hawks," Foreign Minister Borys Tarasyuk and Defense Minister Anatoliy Hrytsenko.

According to the Party of Regions, the above two posts should have been given to deputies from Our Ukraine anyway, but the pro-presidential party claims that they are in the competence of the president and should not have been distributed within the coalition.

Yushchenko also missed a chance to ensure the appointment of Petro Poroshenko as deputy prime minister. Poroshenko was viewed as a counterbalance to the Party of Regions in the upper echelons of the government.

Our Ukraine will attempt to push back the Party of Regions in the cabinet before the establishment of a new coalition. Yushchenko will try to regain the loyalty of his allies, which means that he will have to pressure Yanukovych. This is important, because the president as head of state is losing the support of parliament by becoming a hostage to Yanukovych.

The disappointment of the "orange" part of parliament will soon become a source of political instability in Ukraine, increasing the risk of tensions in the divided government. Justice Minister Roman Zvarych has said that a cell of Our Ukraine would be established in the government. This amounts to an attempt to institutionalize the influence of the pro-presidential party in the Yanukovych-led government, which contradicts the interests of the prime minister.

On the one hand, the cabinet may split into an "orange" and a "regional" block. On the other hand, it will have to rely on the "volatile" parliamentary coalition. The difficulty is that there may be two forms of parliamentary majority, one with Our Ukraine (the broader coalition), and the other without it (the crisis coalition of the Party of Regions, the Socialist Party and the Communist Party). The broader coalition will become the ruling one, while the other will form an opposition, but the line between them is very fine.

Yanukovych, who was nominated by the opposition (crisis) coalition but approved by the broader coalition, might blackmail Yushchenko with the existence of an opposition (crisis) majority in parliament.

This situation will persist for as long as the Communists, who ensure a majority for the Party of Regions without Our Ukraine, support Yanukovych. This will strengthen Yanukovych's stance in subsequent political bargaining with the president.

Our Ukraine will do its best to squeeze the Communists from the coalition. But the Communists may be willing to leave of their own free will, in protest against the anti-popular policies of the government (a relevant example is a clause prohibiting the sale of land, which has been removed from the coalition agreement). In this case, the search for a balance between Our Ukraine and the Party of Regions will begin anew.

So the crisis in Ukraine has not been resolved, but has acquired new characteristics and become quiet and chronic, and its core has shifted from parliament to the executive branch.

Tatyana Stanovaya is chief analyst at the Center for Political Technologies.

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and may not necessarily represent the opinions of the editorial board.

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