Mr. Yushchenko: Are You Up To The Job?

KIEV, Ukraine -- It is now clear that Viktor Yanukovych wasn’t sincere last August when he pledged to preserve President Viktor Yushchennko’s speedy Western integration agenda through a compromise agreement that allowed him to return as prime minister.

Viktor Yushchenko appears lost

As predicted by Orange Revolution heroine Yulia Tymoshenko, Yanukovych’s governing coalition seems to have been playing a double game, gradually consolidating full power while deceiving a gullible and increasingly marginalized president.

Yushchenko’s Our Ukraine party seems to have finally caught on, realizing that the ever more popular Tymoshenko, whom they feared more than Yushchenko’s arch rival Yanukovych, was right.

Good, but it’s a shame it took so long for them to see what everyone else saw all along.

Tymoshenko’s inconsistent allies from the Orange Revolution finally raised the political stakes this week, joining her calls for a return to stronger presidential rule.

A resolution adopted last weekend by Our Ukraine calls for the reversal of constitutional reforms that came into effect this year.

Those reforms were clearly shoved down Yushchenko’s throat during the tense days of the Orange Revolution to prevent him from holding enough presidential powers to put bad guys in jail and keep them out of power.

The reforms shifted key presidential powers, namely a major role in forming the government, from the president to a parliamentary governing coalition.

The plan, now supported by Our Ukraine and long called for by Tymoshenko, is to file an appeal to the constitutional court asking for the reforms to be cancelled.

The reforms are widely believed to have been passed illegally. Tymoshenko claims that if the constitutional court rules fairly, the reforms will be cancelled, returning Ukraine to a presidential-parliamentary system of government.

This will allow Yushchenko to once again steer Ukraine in a direction of Western integration and liberal reforms. It will also give Yushchenko the power to fire Yanukovych in case of need.

Our Ukraine’s awakening is good news: better late than never. It is now important to move swiftly and effectively. This could be the last chance to prevent Yanukovych’s circle from seizing full power.

The power standoff between Yushchenko and Yanukovych could trigger months of political instability. The constitutional reforms were intended to bring stability to the government and to prevent a repeat of the authoritarian rule experienced under Leonid Kuchma. But this hasn’t happened.

The theory that instability could be avoided by compromising with Yanukovych to avoid a divisive repeat election has also proved largely untrue. Ukraine has been caught up in a state of instability since Yushchenko inked his notorious compromise deal with Yanukovych in August.

Yushchenko has refrained from pleading for more powers, calling instead for the political reforms to be refined and clarified. It is possible that Yushchenko is deceiving Yanukovych with this tactic while supporting efforts to return powers he had earlier.

But given Yushchenko’s tendency of caving in to compromise at times of pressure (even when victory was just a day or two away, such as during the Orange Revolution) it would be no surprise if he simply relinquished all powers to Yanukovych.

Yushchenko has repeatedly defended his propensity for compromise as a positive trait. During the nail-biting coalition talks this summer, he gave Yanukovych a chance to change and prevented divisive elections that could set off instability and hurt economic growth. Finding a plausible explanation this time seems impossible.

Getting Yushchenko to fight for power is like asking Yanukovych to surrender authority. Deciding whether now is the time for such a drastic measure as canceling political reforms is, indeed, a tough call.

But with so much at stake and so few political cards left at Yushchenko’s disposal, it is too risky not too.

It is time for Yushchenko to get back into the driver’s seat, take responsibility and reclaim more presidential powers for the sake of keeping Ukraine on track and preventing the unthinkable.

The traits of a strong leader are more than that of a peacemaker who sticks to democratic ways. At tough times, great leaders recognize the need to take control (democratically and legally in this case) for the sake of their people.

A country as divided as Ukraine needs one self-assured Viktor, not two opposing ones splitting the country apart.

Mr. President – are you up to the job?

Source: Kyiv Post


Anonymous said…
Yushchenko has certainly made a mess. All his promises have been nothing but empty words.

Maybe it's time for him to consider stepping down.
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