Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Yushchenko Game play

Ukraine's President holds out and rejects 'Majority rules' whilst concern expressed about his constitutional standing

Ukraine's President, Victor Yushenko holds out, indicating his refusal to sign an agreement with his former orange coalition partners.

Viktor Yuschenko who was elected President of Ukraine following public protests and the decision of the court to hold fresh elections in December 2004.

His election, which cost Ukraine over 300 Million dollars, was only made possible with the support of Yulia Tymoshenko and Ukraine's Socialist Party. In recognition of her support Viktor Yushchenko appointed Yulia Tymoshenko Prime Minster.

Nine months later Viktor Yushchenko, amidst allegations of corruption within the Presidents Our Ukraine Party, sacked Yulia Tymoshenko as Prime minister and appointed a representative from the President's own Our Ukraine block.

Yulia Tymoshenko fought back and put her faith in the people of Ukraine and successfully campaigned winning 22%of the vote in the March 26 Parliamentary elections, coming second behind Party of Regions (32%) headed by Viktor Yushchenko's rival Viktor Yanakovic.

Yulia Tymoshenko won the hearts and minds of Ukraine and out polled the President's Party who only received 14% of the vote and in doing so has seriously undermined the President standing and credibility.

Viktor Yushchenko was portrayed as a traitor to the Orange cause in that under his administration mistakes and injustices of the past were not brought to account. The President's reforms came to a virtual stand still as Ukraine's economy stalled and inflation took off.

The problem now facing the President is that changes to Ukraine's constitution, agreed to by the President prior to his election, has seen Ukraine move away from a system of Presidential decree to a system of Parliamentary Democracy.

No longer is Ukraine's Prime Minister and Government the sole prerogative and choice of the President. Parliament now rules and it is Parliament that selects who will become Prime Minister and forms the Government .

The President and his men find themselves in a compromising position. Having only obtained only 14% of the vote in the March Parliamentary elections his party Our Ukraine is in a significant but minority position. The public and his supporters expect the President to reform alliances and fulfil his original agreement with his former Orange coalition members which also include Ukraine's Socialist Party.

Since the election representatives of the Orange Coalition have been meeting to reach agreement on the platform and basis of a coalition agreement that will govern a Orange coalition government. The Socialist Party and Yulia Tymoshenko bloc have both signed off on the agreement which includes the previous understanding that the party with the most support would select and appoint the Prime-minister who in turn will lead the coalition. But the President's party Our Ukraine have refused, to date, to sign.

Viktor Yuschenko is faced with a difficult decision. He can honour the commitments he made prior to the election or he can hold out and betray yet again the hopes and dreams of the the Orange supporters. At risk is the reform, as little as there have been, that were made following the 2004 Presidential election. If the President fails to re-establish the Orange alliance he seriously runs the risk of further undermining public and international confidence in Ukraine's political democratic reforms.

The main sticking point at this stage is the reappointment of Yulia Tymoshenko as Prime-minister .

If an agreement can not be reach and a working coalition representing over 50% of the newly elected Parliamentary representatives can not be formed then the President has the right to sack the new Parliament and call for a fresh election. Such a move would only further undermine Ukraine's political stability and would have serious implications on Ukraine's already fragile economy.

Further it is unlikely that fresh elections would break the stalemate within the Orange camp with the possibility of the President's Our Ukraine Party loosing further ground and public support

The other option that has is being talked about is that there will be a break in ranks within the Our Ukraine bloc and Our Ukraine would team up and form a coalition with the Russian backed Party of Regions. How much of this is reality as opposed to game play is difficult to determine, each party is using its options to try and win point and better position themselves in the negotiations.

The longer it take for The President and Our Ukraine to decide the more difficult and problematic it becomes.

To date the delays in announcement and the forming of a workable coalition has had no real impact on Ukraine's economic stability but this could change if it negotiations drag on.

The President and various players have been given more time to finalize negotiations.

Challenges to Ukraine's Parliamentry election results are before the court with one party "Natalia Vitrenko Block" having received over 3% of the formal ballot fell short ( 2.97%) of the Central Electoral Commissions 3% threshold which includes informal ballot papers in its calculation. A request for a recount to verify the results was refused by the electoral authority which has claimed that it can only undertake a recount if instructed to do so by the courts. The Courts are not expected to rule on the challenge until later this week and could be held back until next week. As a result the outcome of the election can not be confirmed until the court decides what to do. It is possible that the Court might order a recount in which case the Official results of the election would delayed another week.

This buys time for the President who rightly claims that it is inappropriate to conclude any coalition agreement until the results of the election are finalized.

The outcome of negotiations are finely tuned.

Whilst the President holds the trump card it is one that can not readily be played and all parties are aware of this. The calling of fresh elections would be a disaster and would only create insecurity and disability within Ukraine.

An alliance between Our Ukraine and Party of Regions would also create difficulty as it would require significant concessions to the Presidents's desired reform programme, setting back development of closer ties with Western Europe including plans for Ukraine to join NATO. Although such an alliance has been advocated by Ukraine's business community and industrialists and could possibly provide the nessassary political stability Ukraine so much needs the costs would be considerable in that it would severely undermine public confidence in Ukraine's political reform and would see Yushchenko join the many others recorded in Ukraine's history for their acts of betrayal.

The signing of the Orange coalition is the most likely outcome, if only to buy time and distance between the election and any future fresh elections.

The main unknown aspect to the formation of an Orange coalition is the current court challenge. If the Court rules that there should be a recount and the recount changes the result of the preliminary count with Natali Ventrenko exceeding the 3% imposed threshold she will gain 15 Parliamentary seats which will effect the balance of the power within the elected Parliament. In theory the Orange coalition would still hold a majority but with a significantly reduced margin.

The most likely out come will be the signing of an Orange coaltion. This would buy time and distance which in turn would allow further constitutional reforms, which the President hopes will hand him back the power that was taken from him, and in the President's thinking path the way for more favourable circumstances and possible justification in the holding of fresh elections.

Eitherway the future is not that bright or at least in the short term.

Prices are expected to rise with inflation continuing to outstrip income. Ukrainians will effectively be worst off as the President and Orange partnership pushes though various and necessary reforms that will in the short term create more hardship before it begins to produce fruit.

12 months from now Ukraine can expect fresh elections and the President will begin to question the decison to call his election a revolution when in reality what Ukraine needs most is evolution and the creation of a stable democratic government.

BBC- Yushchehnko's Our Ukraine to team up with Party of Regions

Focus News - Our Ukraine will not form alliance with Party of Regions

Ukraine Radio - Our Ukraine postpons desicion on signing Orange Coalition agreement

UNIAN - Our Ukraine hopes to team up with Orange Coalition