Rising Political Star Shifts Into Opposition

KIEV, Ukraine -- Mykola Katerynchuk, an ambitious and increasingly popular politician, shook up Ukraine’s political arena on Nov. 13, announcing his departure from the pro-presidential Our Ukraine party.

Mykola Katerynchuk next to Our Ukraine banner

The center-right politician has also proposed forming a new opposition party that would include other leaders from the Orange Revolution.

A second opposition party could reshape the battle lines of the country’s parliament, but some analysts predict Katerynchuk and his supporters are more likely to be absorbed into the existing Orange opposition Yulia Tymoshenko Bloc.

Who is Katerynchuk?

Katerynchuk, who was one of the leaders of Our Ukraine, has in recent months protested against the party’s attempts to enter into a coalition led by Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych, labeling such a move as a sellout of Orange Revolution principles.

The departure of the outspoken Katerynchuk, a lawyer who played a role defending Viktor Yushchenko’s case in the Supreme Court during the disputed 2004 presidential vote, could split Our Ukraine.

At least a third of Our Ukraine’s members have in recent months threatened to break off if the party joined a coalition led by Yanukovych’s Regions party.

Katerynchuk’s announcement to quit Our Ukraine comes two days after the party adopted a decision to go into opposition to the government. Many, however, suspect the party’s leaders could still seek a coalition agreement with Yanukovych.

“This party [Our Ukraine] is over for me … I declare that I am leaving it,” he said, explaining that the party’s failure to elect new leadership at a Nov. 11 congress was the final straw for him.

A decision was adopted at the congress allowing for influential tycoons and politician – including Petro Poroshenko and Mykola Martynenko – to retain top posts in the party’s structure.

Katerynchuk has in recent months joined forces with many Our Ukraine ideologues calling for new leadership and resisting efforts to join a Yanukovych coalition.

High Ambitions

Katerynchuk’s exodus is viewed by many as an attempt to establish himself as a leading politician – possibly as a contender in the 2009 presidential elections.

Analysts said the young and handsome Katerynchuk has a chance in that he is viewed by voters as a fresh face, free of big business interests and corruption scandals.

It’s thought he will be able to attract disappointed voters and to split Our Ukraine by dragging many of its members toward his cause.

“Part of Our Ukraine is not satisfied and is seeking more serious changes,” said Dr. Oleksiy Haran, a political analyst at the Kyiv-Mohyla Academy.

“Katerynchuk reflects this position.”

Our Ukraine could find itself struggling in the near term to prevent Katerynchuk from splitting up the party, he added.

“There are two possible outcomes: one is that Our Ukraine reforms. The second is that Katerynchuk leads Our Ukraine to a split,” he added.

Katerynchuk has been accused of working in the interests of the Tymoshenko Byut Bloc, which is currently viewed as the only opposition faction in the five-faction parliament.

Katerynchuk has pledged to cooperate with Tymoshenko, recognizing her as the leader of the opposition, Yet Katerynchuk said he plans on setting up a separate party that would adhere to a right-center platform, different from what he described as Tymoshenko’s left-center position.

Our Ukraine leader Petro Poroshenko tried to play down Katerynchuk’s walkout, describing it as “emotional.”

Our Ukraine is not expected to lose its influential position in parliament in the short term, even if some of its members in parliament shift allegiance towards Katerynchuk.

While quitting the Our Ukraine party, Katerynchuk said he would remain within the Our Ukraine faction in parliament for now. Ukrainian legislation envisions deputies losing their mandates if they quit the faction with which they got elected.

Deputies within the faction who side with Katerynchuk would also need to stay in the faction to keep their parliamentary mandate.

Borys Bespaly, an Our Ukraine deputy sticking to the party’s current leadership, predicted that Katerynchuk’s move would not significantly “shake up” things within his party.

“This will have more importance for [Katerynchuk’s] future than for [our] party,” Bespaly said.

Under Tymoshenko’s wing?

Haran does not expect Tymoshenko’s Byut bloc to suffer from the appearance of a new opposition force led by Katerynchuk. Rather, the analyst suspects that Katerynchuk is likely to cooperate closely with Tymoshenko.

The fact that Katerynchuk conducted his first press conferences since splintering off at the offices of a website (www.obozrevatel.com) loyal to Tymoshenko is a sign of his favor, Haran added.

Dmytro Vydrin, a political analyst within Tymoshenko’s faction in parliament, hopes Katerynchuk and his followers will eventually join the Byut bloc.

“He [Katerynchuk] has always been noticeable and attractive, but this is too little to create a strong political project. He will most likely join Byut,” Vydrin said.
Haran said Katerynchuk is “ambitious but there are doubts whether he has enough potential as a leader” of a major political force.

Source: Kyiv Post


Anonymous said…
Sure, Katerynchuk is ambitious and handsome, but that is about all he has. He really lacks leadership and managerial skills, and he is not learning and improving. He was helpless during the Orange Revolution, being unable to properly organize and lead Yuschenko’s legal team. Actually, there was no team at all. It was a dozen of leading Ukrainian lawyers and their teams, who responded to the call of the time and volunteered their skills, time and energy working around the clock to successfully prepare the case and represent the would-be President in the Supreme Court. Katerynchuk even failed to gather evidences of election violations. Asked about thousands of material evidences reported in the media Katerynchuk just pointed to the crowd on the Maidan, saying that it was his compelling evidence, unfortunately, not for the court. One of my friends, former career diplomat, described him as “shining vacuity”. No clear vision, no real personal achievements, no track record of success, no professional and loyal team, no followers, nothing. Just fresh face. Is it enough for future leader of Ukraine?