A Slippery Slope

KIEV, Ukraine -- Viktor Yushchenko couldn’t have hoped for better election results in September. His Our Ukraine-People’s Self-Defense Bloc maintained its presence in parliament, while the Yulia Tymoshenko Bloc surged to 30 percent.

Viktor Yushchenko

Few expected both pro-Western parties to perform so well, achieving the ability to form the next government without help from any third party, which wasn’t the case last year when they needed the Socialists. With such positive results, one would think President Yushchenko would take extra care to ensure things didn’t unravel this time around.

Not only does his 2010 presidential run depend on the emergence of an Orange coalition, but so does the future of Our Ukraine-People’s Self-Defense – a bloc growing increasingly marginal as Tymoshenko’s popularity surges. But apparently the president hasn’t learned his lesson.

His latest blunder was abandoning Vyacheslav Kyrylenko’s candidacy as parliamentary chair to back Ivan Pliushch, proposed by his Secretariat Chair Viktor Baloha, as a candidate that would appeal to the Party of Regions.

When the bloc’s political council rejected Pliushch’s candidacy, Yushchenko switched his support back to Kyrylenko, as yet another example of his utter lack of vision and leadership.

Yushchenko’s indecisive waffling only exacerbated tensions between the Baloha and Kyrylenko camps within his bloc, which burst into the media on Nov. 27 when a council called by Kyrylenko was boycotted by Baloha and his circle as revenge.

Given that Yushchenko’s political future – and more importantly, Ukraine’s future – depends on the following days’ events, one would imagine the president would take a lesson from Tymoshenko and spend a few late nights at the Secretariat to make sure everything falls into place.

Instead, the president couldn’t resist testing the Carpathian slopes on Nov. 26, the day before his party could not gather a quorum. According to Baloha, the president cannot attend such meetings because they conflict with his daytime schedule.

Another defense offered is that the president is only the honorary chair of Our Ukraine-People’s Self-Defense – the bloc that depends on Yushchenko for its survival. This is an excuse employed every time Yushchenko should be leading his bloc and making critical decisions, instead of creating a leadership vacuum in which factions form and conflicts erupt.

Ukrainians have long hoped the president would use the authority he has. Repeatedly and consistently, Yushchenko has squandered his opportunities.

It is not excluded that Yushchenko is a keen player in the current machinations, rather than a passive victim. One of his closest allies, Yuriy Yekhanurov, has been a vocal opponent of uniting with Tymoshenko.

Late on Nov. 28, Yushchenko’s administration declared they had mustered full support for their coalition with Tymoshenko. Time will tell, but more needless damage had already been done. Strong leadership and less backroom dealings could have avoided this week’s fiasco.

Source: Kyiv Post