Yushchenko Promises More, But Ukrainians Sceptical

KIEV, Ukraine -- President Viktor Yushchenko promised on Wednesday to build on achievements clinched since Ukraine's "Orange Revolution" last year helped propel him to power, but scepticism is clearly rising in the ex-Soviet state.

Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko (L), President Viktor Yushchenko (C) and parliamentary speaker Volodymyr Litvin watch a concert in central Kiev during celebrations for Independence Day August 24, 2005

Yushchenko, marking the 14th anniversary of independence from communist rule, vowed there would be no let-up in the fight against corruption and a campaign to eliminate poverty.

He praised his liberal government, often riven by policy rows, and said he hoped next year's general election would produce a parliament committed to his reform agenda.

Analysts say the administration has a mixed record, citing lack of clarity on key issues and weakening economic growth.

Yushchenko, who campaigned last year on pledges to break with the "criminal" administration of his predecessor Leonid Kuchma, made clear ousting bribe-takers remained his priority.

"People still encounter officials turning a deaf ear, but I am not reconciled to that," Yushchenko told a crowd of 10,000 in Kiev's Independence Square, the hub of last year's protests.

"Anyone who thinks he has been passed over in the first wave and can carry on as before is mistaken."

Yushchenko says he has sacked 18,000 officials and has vowed to clean up the customs service and make the wealthy pay taxes.

However, ordinary Ukrainians appear unconvinced.

"I'm a small man. I don't talk to the president," said Mikhail Kondratenko, 25. "But at my level, I see the same corruption, petty bureaucrats and rotten policemen."

SETBACKS

Commentators say Yushchenko faces a mammoth task to meet the expectations of the crowd that backed after a rigged presidential election, forcing a re-run which he won.

They point to economic setbacks -- a plunge in annual economic growth to 3.7 percent, the lowest in five years, and inflation running at about 15 percent.

Investor confidence has been jolted by a dispute over proposals to review privatisations conducted under Kuchma.

And Yushchenko slapped down Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko after her bid to cap petrol prices caused shortages. The central bank has faced criticism over attempts to control currency markets.

"Progress has certainly been a little more modest than had been the promise of December and January," said Jeff Gable, senior strategist at Barclays Capital in London.

"There is definitely room for a lot more clarity. In fact, we expect things to get rather worse than better in the run-up to the 2006 parliamentary election when you will have a lot of voices vying for attention."

In his speech, Yushchenko urged a change in election rules to raise the minimum share of the popular vote needed to win seats to help create a built-in pro-government majority.

"We will then get real representative body and not a club made up of political party bosses," he told the crowd.

The president also made his trademark reference to plans to bring Ukraine into Europe's mainstream. But that has been toned down as the European Union, struggling to win approval for its constitution, has made it plain membership was not on the cards.

He has failed to achieve the first goals in the campaign -- winning market economy status and admission to the World Trade Organisation -- while trying to patch up ties with Russia, hurt by Moscow's backing for his election rival.

"I think the expectation was that this would be an orthodox reforming administration. So far it hasn't been," said Tim Ash, emerging market analyst at Bear Stearns in London.

"Ukraine has got little positive return from its European orientation. At the same time its core relationship with Russia has deteriorated and that has been felt in the economy."

Source: Reuters

Comments

milano11 said…
Does the politic of now is promises? or it's kind of capital system?the politic become like a business!!