Hope And Despair In Ukraine

KIEV, Ukraine -- The success of the Orange Revolution in Ukraine two years ago was a historic shift in the power equations in the central Asian region — a region dominated for long by the Communists.

President Viktor Yushchenko

But, that success appears to be short-lived. The nation is in disarray now, thanks to the lack of unity among the principal actors in the revolution drama.

Almost three months have passed since the parliamentary elections were held there, and yet there is no government. President Viktor Yushchenko, who led the Orange Revolution, has not been able to cobble an administration, post the March polls, for the reason that the elections have thrown up a mixed verdict.

His coalition failed to gain a majority, necessitating a wider alliance, or allowing the rival side — the pro-Moscow opposition — to team up and form the new dispensation. In the latter eventuality, Ukraine’s politics would be back to square one. In other words, Moscow would again call the shots directly, which is tantamount to the unmaking of the Organge Revolution — which is what Moscow is looking for.

Clearly, Yushchenko has not been able to rise to the expectations of the people, as is reflected from the lukewarm response his alliance has received in the March elections. The euphoria that followed the Orange Revolution had given him the right atmosphere to shake the system and ably lead the country to better times.

Instead, what the nation witnessed was a wrangling between himself and the co-leader of the revolution, (then) Yulia Tymoshenko. Then the estrangement and her exit from the post of prime minister. If the March elections saw her emerging on her own as a leader with a powerful mass base, it was a lesson to President Yushchenko.

If anything, his failure to handle the situation with tact, in the months after his assumption of power, has led to the current impasse. Chances are that Yushchenko might now cobble a new alliance with Viktor Yanukovych, his rival in the 2004 presidential polls, if only to outwit his present bete noire, Tymoshenko.

People’s expectations were high in the two years past the Orange Revolution. But, has the president been able to do a job? Feelings are that his hands are tied by his own bureaucracy, that maintains its old, yet surreptitious links with Moscow through covert operations. Add to this the problem of corruption, that goes uncontrolled. If Yushchenko fails, who wins? Who, other than the regional overlord, Moscow? If so, what was the 2004 revolution all about?

The massive public support for the revolution, as was witnessed on the streets of capital Kiev two years ago, leading to the installation of what many saw as a West-leaning government there, showed how the people wanted a change.

The people thought the revolution leaders will live up to their image and effect a turnaround their lives, and change the destiny of the nation for the better. That the nation is left without a government for thee months now is clearly the anti-climax to their expectations.

All what has happened there, for the common eye, is a constitutional change that, if anything, trimmed presidential powers and made the parliament more powerful — so much so, the president no longer has the authority to name the prime minister and much of the cabinet.

The president’s authority is now restricted to set the nation’s foreign policy and appoint foreign and defence ministers. In other words, in domestic matters, he will no more have any say.

The lack of a parliament and government is leading to other problems as well, as is evident from the way the US Marine reservists had to leave the country the other day without carrying out their scheduled multi-national military exercise.

A parliamentary approval was what was required for the exercise, but in the confused political scenario, how could the parliament meet? Pro-Moscow parties could not hide their glee at the way the exercise stands suspended, as they remained critical of the West having a foothold in the central Asian territory.

Without doubt, the public sentiment continues to remain more in favour of Ukraine’s alliance with the West. The March polls showed the pro-West parties combined polling more votes than the pro-Moscow groups. The writing on the wall is clear. Yushchenko would do well to keep up the spirit of the Orange Revolution.

It means that he should be working in a way as to form the next government on the lines of the revolution spirit. It also means he must make every effort to have a patch up with his estranged revolution partners. Yulia Tymoshenko must share the same sentiments as well.

Time is running out for Yushchenko and the revolution allies. He has time until June 27 to form a government; or dismiss parliament and call for fresh elections. People expect not only a government but also a government that performs. In the least, Yushchenko and his team should not let down the people. They have a historic task to perform and this is the time for right action.

Source: Khaleej Times