Ukraine: Timoshenko's Ambitions and Yushchenko's Dilemma

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukraine's Yulia Timoshenko led her political bloc out of the Ukrainian parliament July 24. The move constitutes a bid to thwart the formation of a new government that is leaving her out in the cold.

With pro-Russian forces threatening to reconsolidate a hold on Ukraine's political life, and perhaps threatening Timoshenko's political -- and even personal -- survival, the withdrawal means Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko must make an impossible choice between Moscow and chaos.

All but one of Bloc Yulia Timoshenko's 125 members of parliament resigned July 24, urging former Orange Coalition partner Our Ukraine, with 81 members in parliament, to follow suit.

One-third, or 150, of the parliament's 450 members must quit to force a new election. Several members of Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko's Our Ukraine party promptly refused to quit, criticizing the bloc's decision.

Timoshenko is acting increasingly desperate as fellow pro-Westerner Yushchenko possibly moves to allow a new pro-Russian coalition government to form under their mutual archrival, Viktor Yanukovich.

Yushchenko is expected to decide July 25 whether to approve Yanukovich's nomination for prime minister, which would put the latter at the head of Anti-Crisis Coalition consisting of Yanukovich's Party of Regions, the Communists and the Socialists. Yushchenko's other options are to try to merge Our Ukraine into the Anti-Crisis Coalition in an attempt to moderate Yanukovich's influence, or dissolve parliament and call new elections.

Timoshenko and Yushchenko came to power together in the 2004 Orange Revolution, but faced mounting political and interpersonal conflict thereafter, culminating in Timoshenko's termination as prime minister in September 2005. The collapse of the Orange Coalition has left a chaotic open space in which the smaller Socialists and Communists have been able to leverage their swing votes and cut a deal with the Party of Regions.

Ukraine has been without a functioning government since its March 26 elections, without a credible government for months and without a stable government for almost a year. Budget issues are languishing, natural gas and other fuel-supply issues need to be addressed and the Constitutional Court of Ukraine is not in session since it just lost its chief but cannot get parliament to approve new members.

Yushchenko, who already has had great difficulty inching Ukraine toward NATO and the West, will be under considerable pressure to accept a Yanukovich Party of Regions government, especially given the lackluster support garnered by Our Ukraine in the last elections.

A Yanukovich government could potentially end Timoshenko's political career and/or subject her to criminal prosecution (or worse), so she can be expected to battle ferociously for another chance at an electoral roll of the dice -- or if need be, to work to undermine the political system altogether.

Despite the bitter enemies she created during her ascent to the top, Timoshenko does have a strong core of popular support. Her task now will be to mobilize this base against a hostile government, whether one emerges immediately or after a new election.

But there has been little if any shift in popular or regional opinion portending a different electoral outcome than the one reached in March, and whether Timoshenko can create enough civil disobedience to disrupt any Yanukovich-led government is unclear.

Though her supporters are highly motivated and often young, they are concentrated in western Ukraine and Kiev. She enjoys almost no support in the heavily pro-Russia east. Should she find herself isolated entirely from government; however, she might have no other option but to attempt the large-scale undermining of Ukraine's political system through public demonstrations, blockades, work stoppages or extra-constitutional maneuvers.

Her decision to leave parliament and gamble on new elections indicates that she considers such isolation increasingly imminent.

Timoshenko depends on her place in the system to keep her influence, fortune, freedom and pride afloat. If she can no longer influence the system in place, she will not hesitate to summon whatever power she has to change or undermine it.

When the Socialists killed the Orange Coalition government by quitting the coalition July 7, Timoshenko reacted procedurally, calling for an increase in the number of votes parties need to win seats in parliament -- a move designed to remove the Socialists and Communists from the national stage.

Though this is unlikely to occur, the stance could foreshadow more radical moves to come. Timoshenko's personal persuasion and public speaking skills, along with her ability to elicit strong emotions, are unrivalled in Ukraine. She has used these abilities before to bring about historic turnout levels among middle-aged and older female voters.

For Yushchenko, permitting or joining a pro-Russian government is appealing because it would allow him to avoid the continuous turmoil threatening Ukraine's economic and political foundations -- and his presidency. Timoshenko's move toward disruption from the outside is designed to remove this option.

She hopes Yushchenko will now see the uncertainties of new elections as preferable to dealing simultaneously with both a hostile Yanukovich government and a screeching Bloc Yulia. Yushchenko has been quite reluctant to choose a short-term political course but, as time passes, his options are becoming hemmed in from all points on the political spectrum.

Just hours after Bloc Yulia Timoshenko quit Ukraine's parliament, the remaining parliamentarians voted to continue legislating even if Yushchenko tries to dissolve the body.

For Timoshenko, this posturing is not about resetting Ukraine on a course toward Europe, nor about gaining concessions on energy or economic policy. It is a matter of personal ambition. Having lost the office of prime minister, she will not rest (or allow her followers to rest) until she is back at the top.

Source: Stratfor


Anonymous said…
The fact that the individual who wrote this article spells TYMoshenko's name with the Russian "i," or TIMoshenko demonstrates the bias with which he or she writes. Evidence to back up claims? No.

To make such a broad suggestion -- that TYmoshenko does not care at all about the country, its people or political system, with no evidence provided, is irresponsible. Clearly, TYmoshenko is not perfect. She has numerous detractors. But, this article appears like those so often contracted in 2004 by Russian "politologists" to undermine both Yushchenko and TYmoshenko. How unfortunate, but representative of what is happening today in the country. -- Tammy Lynch, Institute for the Study of Conflict, Ideology & Policy, Boston University (resident in Kyiv)
Anonymous said…
I think the post describes both sides of Yushenko's dilemma well.

I would agree that Tymeshanko's ambitions for Ukarine and herself are not necessarily mutually exclusive.

However I don't think the spelling is evidence of bias - and besides a blog is one person's opinion. A list of facts doesn't tell a story - and this is a great story.

Anonymous said…
Not only is this article biased, but it is clear that the Temnyky boys are working overtime in the Kremlin.

The news is full of anti Ukraine spin.

Look at the map - Tymo and Yush represent most of Ukraine and all the money in Donetsk can not change that.

Who says Yanukovych is the "winner" - he and his ilk lost 30% of the support they had in the Pres election and had the voters known that Moroz would go Russian, they would have voted for Tymo or Yush.
Anonymous said…
all of urkrainian media is biased.
Western publications such as the NY Times, La Times, Washington Post are the only unbiased sources of information about ukraine. And do you want to know why all the ukranian news outlets are biased towards one side or the other? I'll tell you why. Because in Ukraine everyone's out for themselves, especially Timoshenko.
But you also have to addmit that all this nonesense makes for some great news reading. Capitol Hill cant compete with these guys.
Anonymous said…
I simply find the suggestion that Tymoshenko will begin armed struggle to "undermine the political system" to be irresponsible. The facts, that are so well avoided, show that Tymoshenko has asked her followers NOT to protest. She and her allies have stated categorically that they will NOT begin any type of street struggle. The BYUT camps set up by regional organizations in Kyiv were asked to be removed by BYUT central HQ. "We can't keep asking people to go to the streets. There comes a time when we have to do our job." That's what Tymoshenko said. It's a fact, and it changes the story -- even if as written it might be interesting. It's not based entirely in fact. -- Tammy Lynch
Anonymous said…
Why wait, lets divide Ukrain in two blocks, East with Yanukovitch and West with Poland and EU.
After all Western Ukrain was part of Poland before WWII , right?
So lets them go back to their Polish roots and leave Eastern Ukrain, the Crimea and the Odessa Region alone.
Practical post ! Just to add my thoughts , if others is wanting to merge PDF files , my friend came across a service here