PM Gets Poor Grades After First 100 Days

KIEV, Ukraine -- A report issued by a Kyiv-based think tank has given Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych low marks for his first 100 days in office, suggesting that the premier may be too caught up in a power struggle with President Viktor Yushchenko to steer the country properly.

Think tank gives low marks to Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych

The report by the International Centre for Policy Studies (ICPS) highlights the failings of Yanukovych’s government since coming to power on Aug. 4, coinciding with similar criticism of the premier by Yushchenko and recent polls that suggest Yanukovych’s popularity is waning.

“Over its first 100 days, many of the government’s actions appear to have been motivated more by an ongoing struggle for power between [President Viktor Yushchenko] and the premier than by long-term strategic plans for the country’s development,” the report says.

Yanukovych, head of the so-called Anti-crisis Coalition comprised of his Regions Party, the Socialists and Communists, marked his 100th day in office on Nov. 12.

President Viktor Yushchenko agreed to accept Yanukovych as premier through a compromise agreement this August. Yanukovych returned to the premiership following a humiliating defeat to Yushchenko in the contested 2004 presidential elections.

Despite inheriting more authority than previous governments thanks to constitutional reforms that shifted powers from the presidency to a governing coalition set up by parliament, Yanukovych’s team has failed to make concrete progress, the reports says.

This could doom his cabinet to the fate of previous governments, dubbed by the report as “ineffective and unpopular.”

In particular, ICPS faults Yanukovych’s team for not outlining its plans for the future, not consulting with interest groups when developing policy and for a lack of transparency in its decision-making process.

The report also criticized the government’s closed-door negotiations with Russia on natural gas prices, which are to increase 40 percent to $130 per 1,000 cubic meters in 2007 after having nearly doubled earlier this year.

“The government has done little to prepare the public for continued increases in the price of gas. The murky deal has thus created a situation where the price of natural gas will continue to be a politically divisive issue in Ukraine,” the report states.

On Nov. 8, Yushchenko’s Our Ukraine party faulted Yanukovych’s government for not securing an increase in the price for the transit of gas through Ukrainian territory while negotiating an agreement on supplies from Russia and Central Asia.

The ICPS report also expresses concern over the lack of consensus on Ukraine’s relations with Russia.

“The lack of a clear government position on just how far economic and political cooperation with Russia will go and which forms it will take arouses suspicions that the cabinet is ready to sell out national interests on strategic issues,” it states.

In a televised Nov. 21 interview, President Yushchenko reiterated many of the concerns laid out in the ICPS report. He expressed his dissatisfaction with the first 100 days of Yanukovych’s premiership, citing the gas issue and usage of non-market methods, such as export quotas for keeping prices on grain low as deep concerns.

“We don’t understand the formula used in setting the price [for natural gas]. To this day, I have not viewed the protocol which sets this price. I’m still waiting for it,” Yushchenko said.

“Without a formula for this price we have no logical formula for prices in the future. If $130 is a political price, then this situation will repeat itself each year ahead of December,” Yushchenko added.

Meanwhile, recent polls indicate that public support for Yanukovych, whose party mustered the highest voter support (about one-third) in last March’s parliamentary elections, could be on the decline.

A survey conducted in late October by Kyiv’s Razumkov Ukrainian Center for Economic and Policy Studies suggests that only 11 percent of Ukrainians feel improvements under Yanukovych’s government.

A total of 34 percent of respondents taking part in the study feel the situation has not improved under Yanukovych’s government, while 46 percent feel the situation in the country has remained unchanged.

Source: Kyiv Post