Friday, April 07, 2006

Coalition Negotiations

Power game play as President's men play power politics

Viktor Yushchenko Files His Papers// For entry in the Orange coalition

by Vladimir Solovyev, Maxim Zagorestky All the Article in Russian as of Apr. 07, 2006

The pro-presidential party Our Ukraine People's Union disclosed a protocol of intention declaring its readiness to enter into an Orange coalition. That does not mean, however, that the disagreements over the new government are over. The protocol has only angered the potential Our Ukraine allies – Yulia Timoshenko and the socialists – and caused even more doubts about the possibility of reuniting the Orange forces.
Two Memoranda

The Our Ukraine political council met Wednesday night, and Thursday morning a new document was announced, around which the Orange forces are supposed to unite at last. It is officially being called a protocol of intention, and it has already been sent to Timoshenko and socialist leader Alexander Moroz. The document states at length that the allies are required to follow the political course of the president and no mention is made of the division of ministries among the coalition members. “The question of positions in the future government must be raised after the development of a program for the coalition and rules for its actions, and members of the coalition cannot issue each other ultimatums, not even over the assignment of posts in the government and parliament,” Our Ukraine council chairman Roman Bessmertny explained.

The document was harshly criticized by Timoshenko and Moroz as soon as they saw it. “We absolutely cannot understand why today, ten days after voting ended, not one real step toward a coalition has been taken,” Timoshenko said.

Moreover, Timoshenko and Moroz wrote a joint letter to the president in which they expressed their dismay at the difficulties in forming a coalition. “We see the protocol drafted and approved by the political council of Our Ukraine as one more confirmation of conscious stalling and as a pretext for not signing the memorandum agreed on earlier,” Moroz stated, referring to the memorandum that Our Ukraine agreed to and is now trying to forget.

The difference between the two documents in question is drastic. The memorandum describes the principle for the formation of the coalition and the rights and duties of its members in detail. One of its main points is the obligation not to engage in separate negotiations with other political forces. Another principle point is that, after the formation of a trilateral coalition, the parties in it will see to the full implementation of constitutional reforms. And the main condition is that the cabinet of ministers will be formed based on the proportional representation of the coalition members in the Supreme Rada. That means that the prime minister would come from the Yulia Timoshenko Bloc, which took 129 places in the parliament.

Not surprisingly, the Our Ukraine most annoyed Timoshenko, whose ambitions for the prime ministership are no secret. “The contents of the protocol can be paraphrased as the sun is warm, the grass is green, spring has come,'” she commented acidly, threatening that she and Moroz were prepared to join the opposition.

Two Our Ukraines

The protocol of intention is more likely to hinder the formation of an Orange coalition than help it. They are saying openly in the Yulia Timoshenko Bloc that the new document was pushed through by those who are not interested in a coalition with the bloc, much less a prime minister from her bloc. “The impression arises that the document on a coalition agreement with Our Ukraine comes from the business part of that bloc, which is doing everything it can to prevent the formation of an Orange coalition and to make the Yulia Timoshenko Bloc reject it,” deputy head of the Timoshenko Bloc Nikolay Tomenko said yesterday.

In spite of its declarations of unity, Our Ukraine is a highly mixed association. It was formed from six parties – the pro-presidential Our Ukraine People's Union, The People's Movement (Narodny Rukh), the Congress Party (Sobor), the Party of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs, the Congress of Ukrainian Nationalists and the Christian-Democratic Union. When the political haggling began after the election, the bloc practically dissolved into political groups with different goals.

One wing of Our Ukraine, the president's inner circle, has long been in conflict with Timoshenko. It has the support of influential businessmen. Our Ukraine People's Union s at the center of that group and Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko is its honorary chairman. In addition, Anatoly Kinakh's Party of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs and the Congress of Ukrainian Nationalists, led by Naftogaz Ukrainy head Alexey Ivchenko, are also Timoshenko opponents. Together, they are a powerful influence on the president and they are categorically opposed to an alliance with the Timoshenko Bloc.

That group is thought to take its inspiration from Petr Poroshenko and Roman Bessmertny. They were already the main opponents of then-prime minister Timoshenko when the government crisis broke out last year, when their conflict resulted in all three leaving the government. During the election campaign, Poroshenko and Bessmerthy had pointed words to say about her professionalism in the post of prime minister. She responded in a similar vein. Even before the elections, she said that she would agree to a coalition with Our Ukraine only if the president banished his inner circle. When her bloc came in second in the elections, Timoshenko said that she would “get rid of the corrupt business layer” of Our Ukraine if she become prime minister.

A coalition with the Yulia Timoshenko bloc thus promises to be unpleasant for the business wing of Our Ukraine. Therefore, it would find a coalition with Viktor Yanukovich's Party of the regions more acceptable. The protocol of intentions presented to the Timoshenko Bloc and the socialist party could be considered a tactical victory by Timoshenko's opponents in Our Ukraine. In pursuit of their own aims, the president's has been saying more often that the president should unite the country, a hint at a coalition with the Party of the Regions.

The coaxing seems t be having some effect on the president. In any case, Yushchenko spoke of the unacceptability of a schism in the country last night after a meeting with Para-Olympic athletes. He said that the Orange coalition threatens to “divide Ukraine” in East and West. “We have to pay attention to the fact that a third of the voters showed a preference for another political force,” he said, and spoke of an alliance with the Timoshenko Bloc and socialist party skeptically. “We have to be open and honest. Eight months ago, there was such a coalition. It fell apart. Have we learned our lesson? Have the problems that tore apart the last coalition been solved? How long could that coalition last?” he said.

It is not likely that many in the president's staff will support an alliance with the Party of the Regions. At the overnight Our Ukraine political council meeting, the question was raised of leaving the protocol of intention open to signature by the Party of the regions and the communists. That option was rejected by a majority vote, however.

There is a fairly powerful counterweight in the so-called national-democratic wing of Our Ukraine. It is centered around the People's Movement and Interior Minister Boris Tarasyuk. Tarasyuk is supported by pro-Western politicians, and they are not willing to form an alliance with the opposing Blue forces. They are lobbying for a union with the Timoshenko Bloc and are demanding that the president restore Orange unity. Their position comes from the fact that their political base is in Western Ukraine, and their voters will not understand an alliance with Yanukovich. They will most likely leave the bloc if such an alliance is made.

Viktor Yushchenko is in a sensitive position. He will lose support no matter what side he takes. That's why he is stalling.