Wednesday, December 14, 2005

PORA Getting Ready For 2006 Elections

KIEV, Ukraine -- The youth group Pora (Its Time), which played an important role in Ukraine's Orange Revolution in November-December 2004, is set to contest the March 2006 parliamentary elections in an alliance with the Reforms and Order (RiP) party. Both political parties held their congresses over the weekend.

Pora meeting in Kiev

The once united Orange coalition is therefore set to contest the elections in five blocs and parties. These include President Viktor Yushchenko's Peoples Union-Our Ukraine (NS-NU), the Yulia Tymoshenko bloc, Pora-RiP, the Yuriy Kostenko bloc and the Socialist Party (SPU). It remains to be seen whether contesting the elections through five political forces will bring additional votes or divide Orange voters.

The hard-line opposition are primarily united around defeated presidential candidate Viktor Yanukovych's Regions of Ukraine, which is leading in opinion polls. The only other hard-line opposition force set to enter parliament will be the Communist Party (KPU) which is, for the first time, set to have a similar number of seats as the SPU in the 2006 parliament.

The Orange coalition entering the 2006 election in five blocs and parties is undoubtedly a failure for President Yushchenko's attempts at maintaining Orange unity through a strong pro-presidential party. Only two small parties, Solidarity and the Youth Party, opted to merge with NS-NU. One wing of Rukh joined the NS-NU bloc while another created its own bloc.

Opinion polls consistently show that only six blocs will definitely enter the 2006 parliament: NS-NO, Tymoshenko, SPU, CUP, Regions and the Volodymyr Lytvyn bloc. Two potential outsiders that could make it over the low 3% threshold are the newly created Pora-Rip bloc and the Natalia Vitrenko bloc (composed of the extreme left Progressive Socialist Party and the Soyuz party).

Pora-Rip will target two groups of voters. First, Pora-Rip will compete with the Tymoshenko bloc for disgruntled Orange voters. Second, young people who were especially active and came of age during the 2004 elections and the Orange Revolution. Nevertheless, a word of caution is in order.

In the 1998 elections the Green Party successfully targeted young people and entered parliament with 5.43%, even though it was financed by oligarchs who are now backing the Tymoshenko bloc in the 2006 elections. In the 2002 elections the Winter Crop Generation party (KOP), modelled on Russia's Union of Right Forces, failed to enter parliament after obtaining only 2.02%.

Pora-Rip could obtain support in the same region as the Greens in 1998 or the Lytvyn bloc next year, that is 5-7%. Pora has a well established network based on its NGO during the 2004 elections.

Rip is a long established party that grew out of Rukh in the 1990s. Its leader, Viktor Pynzenyk, is the well known and respected Finance Minister. Pynzenyk refused to resign from the Yuriy Yekhanurov government in exchange for Rip being permitted to join the Tymoshenko bloc. By joining Pora in an election bloc, Rip has not followed the Republican Party 'Sobor' which is divided between NS-NO and the Tymoshenko bloc.

The Pora-Rip bloc has a number of well known and respected individuals in its top ten that should ensure its popularity.

Volodymyr Filenko and Taras Stetskiv were the intermediaries between Yushchenko's election headquarters and the organizers of the street protests and tent city on the Maidan. Popular Interior Minister Yuriy Lutsenko, another NS-NO-Maidan intermediary, was tempted to join the Pora-Rip bloc but has opted to remain on the SPU ticket.

Serhiy Tartan, head of the Reporters without Frontiers Kyiv office, Pora leaders Vladyslav Kaki and Yevhen Solitaries are other well known leaders. These Pora leaders belong to the wing of Pora commonly referred to as 'yellow' because of their symbols.

The 'black' Pora NGO condemned the creation of a Pora political party by the 'yellow' wing. They pointed to Serbia's Outpour (Resistance) which, after it established a party, failed to enter the Serbian parliament.

The head of the Pora-Rip list is the internationally known boxer Vitaliy Kleczka. Kleczka outlined his motives as assisting young people to enter parliament, 'who never figured in corruption scandals' (Ukrayinska Pravda, December 13). This was a clear reference to the September accusations against Yushchenko's entourage. 'It is pleasant to stand together with people who have clean hands', Kleczka said.

In the 2004 Ukrainian elections, as in earlier democratic revolutions, youth grouped in Outpour, Kara and Pora sought to pressure their elders to unite the opposition in order to successfully oppose the regime. The Pora-Rip bloc also seeks to be a force to re-unite the Orange coalition into a new pro-Yushchenko parliamentary majority in the 2006 parliament.

This arises out of two fears.

First, as Filenko warned, 'Our aim is also to slap on the wrists those who are thinking about blocking with Yanukovych, and these thoughts exist in the minds of some' (Ukrayinska Pravda, December 12). This threat arises from the September memorandum signed by Yushchenko with Yanukovych as well as opposition within the Yushchenko camp to Tymoshenko becoming again prime
minister.

Second, the threat posed by the 'revenge' of the Kuchma regime through a victory by Regions of Ukraine. The threat of 'revenge' was outlined in alarmist tones by Ihor Zhao, first deputy head of the central executive committee of NS-NO.

Zhao called for unity of the Orange camp to fight off the threat posed by Regions of Ukraine. What Zhao fails to admit is that the threat exists because Yushchenko has failed to honor his repeated pledge made during the 2004 elections and Orange Revolution that 'bandits would sit in prison'.

A Pora leaflet distributed at its weekend congress pointedly asked, 'Why are they not sitting (in prison)?' with portraits of Yanukovych and other senior Kuchma officials. The Tymoshenko bloc will therefore not have a monopoly on drawing support from the radical wing of the Orange camp.

All of the senior Leonid Kuchma era officials who participated in abuse of office and election fraud are included in the Regions of Ukraine 2006 list as none of them have been charged. This means they will obtain immunity after Regions of Ukraine enters next years parliament.

As Zhao pointed out, the 2006 elections should, in reality, be seen as the fourth round of the 2004 elections. The Orange Revolution will succeed or fail depending on its outcome. Pora is called upon again to play a central role.

Source: Jamestown Foundation

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