Rival Views Divide Top Leadership in Ukraine

YALTA, Ukraine -- Eight months after hundreds of thousands of demonstrators ousted a corrupt government, Ukraine's peaceful Orange Revolution is being undermined by personal rivalries, conflicting reform programs and lack of coordination between the two people who did most to lead the revolt, according to advisers and supporters in both camps.

Yushchenko-Timoshenko Team During Orange Revolution

They say the struggle between President Viktor Yushchenko, a former chief of Ukraine's National Bank, and Prime Minister Yulia Timoshenko, a former business tycoon, over shaping Ukraine's future is delaying much-needed reforms. It could even erode the popular support that put both leaders - who are very different - into power.

"Timoshenko is very left-wing, hugely populist, paternalistic and also very charismatic," said Boris Nemtsov, a former vice-prime minister of Russia, leading member of the liberal Union of Right Forces political party and now an adviser to Yushchenko. "Yushchenko is a liberal, democrat, European-oriented politician. Such ideological differences are very hard to overcome. There is jealousy and rivalry while reforms keep being delayed."

Yet, say their advisers and analysts, they depend on each other. Yushchenko needs Timoshenko's power, popularity and political guile to keep a fragile coalition of liberals, socialists and communists together before next March's parliamentary elections. Timoshenko likewise needs Yushchenko's support in order to retain the office of prime minister, who is appointed by the president.

Neither politician will admit publicly to clashing with the other. But the openness with which their advisers discussed the problem at a weekend conference in Yalta illustrates that the rivalry and clash of agendas are hampering change. This means that much-needed reforms proposed by the International Monetary Fund and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development - including introduction of clear property rights, the rule of law and privatization - have not gotten very far.

"There is a question hanging over the Yushchenko-Timoshenko team," said Grigoriy Nemyrya, adviser to the prime minister and director of the Center for European and International Studies in Kiev.

"There is a lack of coordination and coherence inside the government. If last December's revolution was a managed revolution, then a managed counterrevolution is possible over the next eight months," he said. "It would be damaging for Europe and Ukraine. It would be catastrophic for the region."

Nemtsov and Nemyrya were among several top advisers and business people at the weekend conference held in the Livadia Palace, a favorite summer residence of the Russian czars perched above the southernmost tip of Ukraine's Crimean coast. It was here, early in 1945, that the United States, Britain and the Soviet Union decided the postwar fate of Germany and Eastern Europe. After Nazi Germany capitulated four months later, Eastern Europe soon came under Soviet domination.

Sixty years on, with the Soviet Union gone, Germany reunited and former Communist countries in the EU and NATO, there is another agenda. "This is about bringing Ukraine back to Europe," said Marek Siwiec, a Polish legislator in the European Parliament and board member of the Yalta European Strategy, a nongovernmental organization that organized the conference.

The aim of Yalta Ukraine Strategy is to muster international support for Ukraine's eventual membership into the European Union. It is headed by Steven Byers, a former British trade and industry minister in Prime Minister Tony Blair's government. But the driving force behind it is the oligarch Viktor Pinchuk, who is chairman of the giant Interpipe corporation and son-in-law of the former Ukrainian president, Leonid Kuchma.

Kuchma stepped down last December after Yushchenko was elected his successor in elections that were rerun because of massive protests at electoral fraud in an earlier November vote.

At the Livadia conference, Ukraine's staunchest supporters from inside and outside could not hide their disappointment over the slow pace of reforms.

"There is mounting anger in Western business circles over the lack of radical liberal reforms and the failure to establish a functioning legal system," said Alexander Rahr, a Russian expert and program director at the German Council for Foreign Relations in Berlin.

With parliamentary elections scheduled for next March, Rahr and other analysts said Ukraine's legislators will balk at any reforms that could damage their election chances.

This was clear two weeks ago, when the government tried to win parliamentary approval for new laws required for joining the World Trade Organization.

The debates literally ended in fistfights as Socialist Party legislators backed by the Ministry of Agriculture fought hard to prevent any lifting of the high tariffs on sugar imports in order to protect domestic farmers.

"The point is that useful reforms have to be unpopular," said Dmitriy Vydrin, director of the European Integration and Development Institute in Kiev. "Yet when you look at what is taking place in the Parliament, you see too many factions which are still being influenced by the big businesses. The government has not pushed through enough changes or reforms to break those links."

Some attribute the slow pace of reforms to the chaotic organization of the government as well as the resistance to change from state and local officials.

"There is no clarity over how instructions are issued," said Timoshenko's adviser, Nemyrya. "There is one set of instructions issued by the prime minister, another by the secretariat, another by the Security Council and another by the parliamentary factions."

The tension between the two leaders means they do not intervene effectively to clear up the confusion, according to their respective advisers. This is damaging Ukraine's image abroad - European foreign investors, for example, are staying away until the government passes a law on property rights, privatization and intellectual property rights.

"The delay in setting out clear property rights affects how the government will proceed with privatization," said Igor Burakovsky, director of the independent Institute for Economic Research in Kiev. "Timoshenko is pursuing populist measures ahead of the March elections," he added. Pensions have been increased for the third time since last autumn. The receipts earned from privatization were meant to finance the increases. But during the first six months of this year, only $100 million had been earned from privatization sales - well short of the target of $1.2 billion for all of 2005.

"We are losing time and we are losing good will from abroad," Burakovsky said.

Source: International Herald Tribune


Bix said…
It would be really sad if this charismatic and heroic duo will fail on petty details. I hope they will retain the original vision and go down to history, and aren't they both Christians? Then reconcile and forgive each other, if for no other reason than for your country. Of course they won't hear, but it must be said. God bless Ukraine!