Ukraine: Tymoshenko's Rocky Road Ahead

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko on Dec. 6 nominated Yulia Tymoshenko as prime minister once again -- and once again, it is unclear how long she will fill the post, if at all.

The Party of Regions does not want to have Yulia Tymoshenko as prime minister despite efforts of new Parliament speaker Arseny Yatsenyuk (R).

First, it must be said that Ukraine's current constitutional, governmental and political party structure is inherently flawed in such a way that not only is it easy to change laws on a whim, but chaos and instability are inevitable.

Tymoshenko's eponymous party, in a coalition with her former Orange Revolution partner Yushchenko's party, took back control of the government in elections Sept. 30. Though the win looked like a triumph for the pro-Western Orangists, the political jostling has led to more than two months without a government.

The main point of contention -- among so many -- has been Yushchenko and his camp's wariness to have Tymoshenko reinstated as premier.

Yushchenko does have many reasons to fear what will come. His popularity is nearly nonexistent, and presidential elections are just a year away. Though it is no secret that Yushchenko does not have the support that brought him to power in the Orange Revolution in 2004, he is still set on running for re-election.

It is also not a secret that Tymoshenko is hungry for as much power as she can get, meaning her eye is also on the presidency. Yushchenko held out on her nomination as premier until the two reached a deal in which Tymoshenko agreed not to run for his post. Though such a deal has been reached, Tymoshenko will not necessarily abide by it once the presidential election rolls around.

But first, Tymoshenko must survive a vote in parliament on her prime ministerial nomination. The Orange Coalition had a two-person majority in parliament until late Dec. 5, when one defected and sided with the pro-Russian Party of Regions -- the party of outgoing Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovich.

Of course, rumors are flying that the Party of Regions paid off the parliamentarian and is attempting to purchase another. A fistfight even erupted during the opening of the Dec. 6 parliamentary session. Deputies from both the Party of Regions and Bloc Yulia Tymoshenko brawled at the foot of the speaker's podium before the Party of Regions deputies left the session. But the fact remains that Tymoshenko's election as premier hinges on just one vote.

It is also possible that one parliamentarian could defect after Tymoshenko becomes premier, Yanukovich's party could call for a vote of no confidence, and Tymoshenko would be expelled. And there is always the possibility that the Orange Coalition could collapse, as it did in 2005.

In short, instability is inevitable.

But the continued chaos comes as a very dark crisis looms: energy negotiations with Russia. The interim government, made up mainly of the outgoing Party of Regions ministers, recently struck a deal with Russia's Gazprom concerning a hike in natural gas prices.

However, Tymoshenko has already stated that she will nullify the deal once she takes office and restart negotiations. Tymoshenko was prime minister in the lead-up to the last energy crisis, which ended with Russia cutting supplies to Ukraine, creating shortages in a large portion of Europe. She has proven to be more of a hindrance than help in negotiations; many Russian energy officials and Gazprom executives refused to even meet with her during the last crisis.

Yushchenko is trying to head off the crisis by tweaking the laws to pull energy decisions into the president's realm of control. But this does not mean he will succeed -- or that he will even be president in a year.

Moreover, Tymoshenko taking back her premiership and eyeing the presidency could be just what Russia wants right now: She might create a crisis in Ukraine without Russia having to do much prodding.

Source: Stratfor