Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Differences Within Ukrainian Coalition Escalate

KIEV, Ukraine -- A coalition consisting of President Viktor Yushchenko’s Our Ukraine-People’s Self-Defense bloc (NUNS) and the Yulia Tymoshenko Bloc (BYuT) is showing cracks long before the newly elected parliament even has its first meeting, which is expected in late November.

Yushchenko (L) and Tymoshenko may be all smiles for the media, but all is not well in their coalition.

There is no unity of opinion among the NUNS ranks on the coalition agreement, which was initialed on October 15. Yushchenko also has rejected several provisions in the accord, mostly those contributed by the BYuT.

This means that the chances that the majority in parliament will support Tymoshenko’s nomination for prime minister are dwindling by the day.

On October 17, NUNS and BYuT made the conditions of the October 15 accord public. It provides for passing a package of 12 bills after the new parliament convenes and before it approves Tymoshenko as prime minister. The proposed bills include:

- abolishing MP immunity from prosecution;
- canceling MP privileges;
- increasing the president’s control over the Cabinet;
- banning MPs from switching parliamentary caucuses;
- an early election for Kyiv mayor;
- boosting the authority of local governments;
- outlawing the use of the interior troops for political purposes;
- streamlining state procurement;
- approving the statute of GUAM, a regional alliance of Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, and Moldova; and
- clarifying the rights of the opposition.

If the laws are not passed, Yushchenko’s team does not guarantee that the prime minister’s chair will go to Tymoshenko. At this point, however, parliament seems unlikely to pass this package.

Volodymyr Lytvyn, who was parliament speaker before 2006, told Korrespondent magazine that passing those laws simultaneously would be tantamount to violating the constitution and parliamentary procedures.

Several of them provide for amending the constitution, which cannot be done by a simple majority. Also, the Party of Regions (PRU), which will control the biggest caucus in parliament, has made it clear that it would block the bills until parliament approves a new prime minister and the Cabinet.

Apart from procedural difficulties, there are serious differences among the factions inside NUNS. It has emerged that several of the smaller parties comprising NUNS did not give their consent to provisions of the October 15 accord.

Several of them hinted that they had not been even asked for consent. “A dictatorship is being established in our bloc,” Maksym Strykha, a deputy chairman of the Sobor party, complained to Kommersant. “Three people who conduct talks with Tymoshenko sign everything that she offers to them.”

Sobor issued a statement warning against attempts to push “a huge package of poorly drafted laws” through parliament. Sobor is unhappy, in particular, with the bill providing for increasing the powers of the regional authorities.

Yuriy Kostenko, the leader of the Popular Party, another member of NUNS, said that he would not vote for the ban on switching parliamentary caucuses. Vladyslav Kaskiv, the leader of the Pora party, shares Kostenko’s point of view.

Kaskiv also opposes several key points of the program Tymoshenko that she has pledged to implement if she becomes prime minister. These include extending the moratorium on agricultural land privatization beyond 2008, dropping the military draft next year, and paying back to the population within two years the value of the deposits lost in the defunct Soviet Union’s Savings Bank.

Kaskiv is not the only one to have reservations about the deal. President Yushchenko has made it clear that the transition of the Ukrainian army to a professional basis will be completed no earlier than 2010, so Ukrainian youths will definitely be called up to the army in 2008.

Yushchenko also opposes the land privatization moratorium, which was backed by Tymoshenko and the PRU.

As to the lost deposits, Yuriy Lutsenko, one of the leaders of NUNS, confessed to Channel 5 that he does not know how to return that money. He said that he wants to trust Tymoshenko that her calculations were correct.

Viktor Baloha, the chief of Yushchenko’s secretariat, was less diplomatic in his statement released on October 18. He said that it would be impossible to pay back the Savings Bank’s $23 billion debt without unleashing inflation. Baloha joked that Tymoshenko’s team may need “to recruit magician [David] Copperfield” for that.

On October 22 Yuriy Yekhanurov, a former prime minister, threatened to quit NUNS if the bloc and BYuT fail to discuss their differences over land privatization, state procurement, and changes to the law on the Cabinet before parliament convenes.

It is widely believed that Yekhanurov is not alone, and that he speaks on behalf of a large group of NUNS members who are unhappy with Tymoshenko’s leadership in the alliance.

Yekhanurov was a critic of Tymoshenko’s economic policies when she was prime minister, and he replaced her in that position in 2005; Viktor Yanukovych replaced him in 2006.

Source: Eurasian Daily Monitor

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