Stalling Is Dangerous For Ukraine

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukrainians should be proud of what they accomplished during the parliamentary elections on March 26.

President Viktor Yushchenko

They chose, once again, the values they had stood by during the 2004 Orange Revolution: a pro-Western president, an end to corruption and greater economic well-being through the re-privatization of questionably acquired state property. Around 42 percent gave the Orange parties the go-ahead to form a government to implement this platform.

The pro-Russian forces, comprising the Donetsk-based Party of Regions and the Communists, received 36 percent. The majority of voters rewarded politically those who wish to take them forward. They punished those who prefer ties with the past.

However, President Viktor Yushchenko does not appear to be listening. Weeks after the elections, there is little progress in the formation of a government, even though Ukraine badly needs to get on with national reforms in the judicial process, tax structure, health, education, social safety nets and much, much more.

There is little clarity why the Orange – former Prime Minister Yulia Tymosheno’s bloc with 22 percent, Our Ukraine with 13.9 percent and the Socialist Party with 5.6 percent – are not being asked to govern Ukraine.

In an April 4 Wall Street Journal Europe article, President Yushchenko listed his achievements of yesterday and lectures on the need for unity among all three winners. Unity in a democracy may not be the best option.

Without a strong opposition to serve as a people’s watchdog, it may tempt insiders to cut a favorable deal for themselves. It could even be dangerous. Ukraine has a long history of the ultimate in political unity – communist dictatorship.

Ukrainians should be very mindful of the danger this carries. The president’s stalling is undermining the will of the people. It is dangerous for Ukraine.

By stalling, President Yushchenko is not redeeming himself in the eyes of the people. Many blame him for splitting the Orange vote during the elections.

Despite that, and thanks to the former prime minister whom he fired, Yulia Tymoshenko’s commanding support gives the three Orange parties enough to lead in the Rada for the next four years.

For this, she seeks and rightfully deserves the position of prime minister. Asking her to put her political interests aside at this juncture seems inappropriate and begs the question: where do the President’s interests lie?

Ukrainians may recall that after the 2002 Rada elections Mr. Yushchenko allowed over 20 Our Ukraine members to join parties loyal to then-President Leonid Kuchma, thereby losing Our Ukraine’s rightfully won majority. Before that, there was his prominent absence from the anti-Kuchma riots.

Even then, Yushchenko would not join in with others to oust the corrupt pro-Russian government of President Kuchma. Many believe that he was instrumental in firing Yulia Tymoshenko twice: last summer, and when she served under President Kuchma in the late 90s.

The last election campaign of Our Ukraine was a bad judgment call, too. It was anemic and confusing, as if the president’s heart wasn’t in it. Sometimes the president’s interventions were simply not helpful. For instance, he undermined his credibility and that of the Orange parties by talking of punishing those who violate the electoral process.

Good. However, this was being said while the key violator of the 2004 elections, now former Central Election Commission chairman Serhiy Kivalov, was enjoying his sinecure. Ironically, Kivalov has become head of the justice department at Odessa’s National Academy of Law.

The ineffective Our Ukraine campaign was but a top-up to a year of ineffective politics under President Yushchenko. The year culminated in the dismissal of the Cabinet and the gas fiasco with Russia.

The situation in Ukraine could have been dire if the European Union, fearful that its gas may be cut off, had not cried foul. But why did the president of Ukraine not lead the charge and cry foul when his own people were in danger of freezing to death? Why the hush-hush RosUkrEnergo deal? Why the continuing lack of transparency on this matter?

If he is the pro-Western democratic Ukrainian patriot of the Orange Revolution, Yushchenko needs to ask Yulia Tymoshenko to form a government now. That is what the people have called for in their vote. They have given her a mandate. A true democrat would honor that. A good president of Ukraine would honor that.

However, if Yushchenko is being lured into another game, one that might favor Russia’s interests over Ukraine’s, one that is pro-oligarch rather than pro-Ukrainian people, or is in some other way kept from responding clearly and transparently to the voters’ choice, he will vacillate.

He will do this by calling for conferences, rationalizing the election results, catching paralyses by analyses and faltering until some powerful hand forces an option favorable to its self-interests rather than those of Ukraine. This is the danger for Ukraine.

That force might be Viktor Yanukovych of the Party of Regions. However, Yanukovych lost nearly half of the support he had during the presidential elections of 2004. This does not make him a winner in the eyes of Russia or the oligarchs. It makes him yesterday’s man.

More than likely, the next force will be the Party of Regions’ real money and power man, Rinat Akhmetov. Considered one of the richest men in the world by Forbes magazine, Akhmetov made it rich in Ukraine on questionably acquired state properties.

Obtaining such a lofty position as prime minister of the second largest country in Europe would be good for Akhmetov. He aspires to be an international entrepreneur with a seat on international stock exchanges.

This requires not only money, which he has, but respectability and gentrification, both of which come with a prime minister’s title. But is this good for Ukraine?

The people did not think so. They did not choose this. Against all odds, they rallied around Yulia Tymoshenko. They elected her at the expense of the Party of Regions and the likes of Mr. Akhmetov. And despite the abysmal showing of the president’s own Our Ukraine.

The president can respond to the will of the people or respond to other interests. His reputation in history and the future of Ukraine lie in the balance.

Source: Kyiv Post


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