Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Orange Coalition Crumbles Ahead of Polls

KIEV, Ukraine -- The Orange Revolution team that swept Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko into power a year ago enters the 2006 parliamentary election campaign -- officially underway since November 26 -- divided into several small teams. Most of them will be competing for the same pro-reform, pro-Western electorate.

Ex-PM Yulia Tymoshenko - Iron Lady of the Orange Revolution

This may make the March 26 parliamentary polls an easy ride for the main opposition force -- the Party of Regions of presidential election loser Viktor Yanukovych, the undisputed leader of recent public opinion polls.

As there is no longer a strong common enemy, which a year ago was the corrupt regime of then-President Leonid Kuchma, ideological differences have come to the fore, preventing Orange reunification for next year's polls. The far left wing of the government team -- the Socialists -- have never concealed that they would run in the polls alone. It has proved impossible to reintegrate populist former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko back into Yushchenko's team.

Yushchenko has managed to gather under his wing the largest bloc of parties so far, but two key right-of-center parties -- the Popular Party and Reforms and Order -- refused to join his bloc. The radical youth party Pora, one of the symbols of the Orange Revolution, has not joined either Yushchenko or Tymoshenko.

On November 25, six pro-government parties signed an agreement reviving Yushchenko's motley "Our Ukraine" bloc. Our Ukraine won the 2002 parliamentary elections, but its character was different – it was bigger and in the opposition. The present-day Our Ukraine unites Yushchenko's People's Union-Our Ukraine party, Foreign Minister Borys Tarasyuk's People's Movement, National Security and Defense Council Secretary Anatoly Kinakh's Industrialists and Entrepreneurs Party, Naftohaz state-controlled oil and gas company chief Oleksiy Ivchenko's Congress of Ukrainian Nationalists, the Christian Democratic Union, and the Sobor Ukrainian Republican Party.

Sobor is a good example of how painful the rift between the supporters of Yushchenko and Tymoshenko may be. Sobor, an ethnocentric conservative party, has been part of Tymoshenko's team since 2001. But this past September, when Yushchenko fired Tymoshenko as prime minister, Sobor leader Anatoly Matvienko -- and probably the majority of the party's grassroots -- started to drift toward Yushchenko's camp.

The party's representatives in parliament, however, have stayed with Tymoshenko, and they elected veteran radical nationalist and Soviet-era dissident Levko Lukyanenko as their leader. Matvienko has accused Tymoshenko of splitting his party.

Lukyanenko's team will most probably join the Yulia Tymoshenko bloc. But the bloc itself has not yet been formed. This was expected to happen on November 26, when Tymoshenko's Fatherland party and the liberal Reforms and Order (RiP) group held their congresses. But RiP refused to join Tymoshenko's bloc on her terms, which included having RiP leader Viktor Pynzenyk resign from the post of finance minister and putting Fatherland members at the top of the joint lists for national and regional elections.

Tymoshenko also refused to back a RiP candidate for the post of Lviv city mayor. RiP decided not to burn bridges and continued talks with Tymoshenko. But Kommersant-Ukrayina reported that RiP is seriously studying other options, including separate participation in the campaign or forming a bloc with Pora.

Unlike Yushchenko, Tymoshenko apparently does not strive to gather as many parties as possible under her umbrella. Her main currency is her own popular name. Only one party, apart from her own Fatherland, has so far joined Tymoshenko's bloc. This is the obscure Social Democratic Party (not to be confused with the United Social Democrats of Viktor Medvedchuk).

United Ukraine, a party without a clearly defined ideology led by Bohdan Hubsky, a former ally and business partner of Medvedchuk, decided at its congress on November 26 to join Tymoshenko's bloc. But it is not yet clear whether it will be admitted, and on what conditions.

Only one thing is clear about Tymoshenko -- there will be no grand coalition between her and Yushchenko for the polls. This possibility exists only in theory, as the law gives parties and blocs until the end of December to compile lists for the election. But, speaking to the Russian Ekho Moskvy radio, Tymoshenko said she did not see any sense in unification with Yushchenko.

She did not rule out cooperation with Our Ukraine after the election, when she said her bloc would compete with Yanukovych to form the majority in parliament.

The far-right wing of the Orange team -- the nationalist Popular Party of Yuriy Kostenko -- is going to compete in the polls against both Yushchenko and Tymoshenko. Differences with the former partners are of an ideological nature, as none of them are really center-right parties, Kostenko told his party congress on November 27.

"Our mission is to give Ukrainian patriots a political force that stands on national positions," he said. Among his allies, Kostenko named the radical nationalist Prosvita and the Congress of Ukrainian Intelligentsia, as well as Cossack and veterans organizations.

Source: Eurasia Daily Monitor

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