Ukraine Marked By Crisis

KIEV, Ukraine -- As Ukraine's president and prime minister struggle for power, bringing the country close to violent clashes between opposing security forces, new elections tentatively scheduled for September are unlikely to change much.

Lately, Ukraine's two Viktors only smile for the cameras.

Ukraine has been wracked by political crises since the Orange Revolution of 2004-2005. The political deals made to solve these crises have been short-term bandages on gaping wounds.

The power struggle between President Viktor Yushchenko and Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych continues to simmer and could easily lead to violence, with new parliamentary elections, tentatively scheduled for 30 September, unlikely to bring about a resolution.

In 2004, Yushchenko, by most accounts a pro-Western leader bent on leading the country towards Euro-Atlantic integration, beat out Yanukovych, a pro-Russian politician with close ties to Moscow.

But only two years later the Orange Revolution came nearly full circle as parliament voted to nominate Yanukovych to be the country's next prime minister. The two leaders' effort to share power would provoke the latest crisis.

Shortly before Yanukovych's nomination, the two rivals signed a declaration that would lay the foundation for a coalition government uniting Yushchenko's Our Ukraine party and Yanukovych's Party of Regions.

Many observers at the time said the deal was essentially superficial and that, below the surface, powerful oligarchs were calling the shots, making every effort to ensure that former Yushchenko ally and Orange Revolutionary Yulia Tymoshenko – who had pledged to crack down on their activities – would not become prime minister.

Crisis enters a new phase

As the crisis enters a new phase, one that nearly turned violent in late May, both Yushchenko and Yanukovych are accusing each other of having exceeded their assigned powers.

In April, Yushchenko accused Yanukovych of illegally attempting to amass a majority in parliament through "bribery" and "pressure." His response was to order the parliament dissolved. Yanukovych responded that such a move was beyond the president's powers.

The crisis reached a dangerous climax in the last week of May when Yushchenko fired the prosecutor-general, in order to gain control over the security services, and deployed several thousands troops to protect the parliament, while Yanukovych directed the police to restore order.

On the brink of violent clashes, Yushchenko and Yanukovych agreed to set a date for new elections on 30 September, but the parliament, though dissolved, is still operating, as lawmakers loyal to Yanukovych refuse to leave.

Observers say the crisis is far from over and that both sides have showed in May how far they are willing to take the issue

Parliamentary speaker Oleksandr Moroz has refused to formally dissolve the parliament, citing technical reasons. The parliament must be dissolved 60 days before a new vote can be held.

In the meantime, the EU is urging Ukraine to resolve its political differences if there is to be any hope for future cooperation agreements.

During a high-level meeting between Ukrainian and EU officials on 18 June, EU Council President Frank-Walter Steinmeier urged Ukrainian officials to uphold an earlier agreement to hold new parliamentary elections to resolve the political crisis.

Steinmeier stressed the importance of maintaining the pace of political and economic reform in Ukraine, saying that special attention should be given to ensuring justice and the fight against corruption.

He called for an independent judicial system and speedy reforms that would prepare the country for a future with the EU.

Still, there were some concrete steps taken. Two agreements on visa facilitation and readmission were signed in accordance with the official start of negotiations on a new Enhanced Agreement between the EU and Ukraine.

Crisis set to continue

According to Dr Ustina Markus, a Ukraine expert and associate professor at the KIMEP-Department of Political Science in Almaty, enough deputies have resigned to allow the parliament to dissolve itself.

However, Moroz maintains that it must be confirmed that there are no more candidates from the 2006 election lists of Yushchenko’s Our Ukraine and Tymoshenko’s bloc that can replace those who have resigned.

If that is confirmed then parliament is indeed dissolved.

"There are clearly some deputies who are unhappy with the situation, most likely because they are concerned about being re-elected themselves, but there are also some concerns about the new composition of the parliament after new elections are held," Markus told ISA.

"Last year, when Yushchenko was unable to form a government and there was talk of having new elections, it did not look as if they would change much since the previous elections had just taken place. This time there is a larger likelihood that the composition would change, but it looks as if Yushchenko’s Our Ukraine party would get fewer votes because people are disappointed in him. Many people voted for him less because of his own platform, than as a rejection of Kuchma’s old regime, and seeing Yanukovych as his prime minister was a betrayal in a way," she said.

Furthermore, Markus says, "the continual problems with parliament, forming a government, etc. have made him look weak and unable to govern. In that sense, elections may not change much at all, since Yanukovych’s Party of Regions is still likely to command the largest vote, since his support base is regionally located in the country’s most populous area.

If Moroz loses some votes - surveys show he has lost some support - and Yushchenko loses some votes, then the balance may well stay the same and elections will not resolve anything."

Still, since the heady days of the Orange Revolution, both Yushchenko and the public have lost much. Yushchenko's power base continues to dwindle as the public becomes increasingly disillusioned and disappointed.

While this is not likely to lead to any windfall victory for Yanukovych, it is very likely to spell defeat for Ukraine's EU ambitions, at least in the short term.

If new elections fail to change anything, violent clashes between opposing security forces could be the chosen catalyst for change, with dangerous and unpredictable results.

Source: ISA Portal


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