DPM Tyhypko Elevated To No. 2 Regions Party Post

KIEV, Ukraine -- Deputy Prime Minister Serhiy Tyhypko on Saturday was elected to the No. 2 position at the ruling Regions Party, a step that opens way for him to become the next prime minister later this year.

Deputy Prime Minister Serhiy Tyhypko.

Tyhypko, who finished third in the presidential election in January 2010, on Saturday also delivered on his earlier promise to merge his Strong Ukraine party with the Regions Party.

“Reforms can be better implemented together with the Regions Party,”Tyhypko said at a congress of the Regions Party on Saturday. “I have never been afraid of the merger.

“I told my colleagues that there must be an international competition at the party. Without it the party would lose,” Tyhypko said. “We join the Regions Party to add democracy and debate.”

Tyhypko, one of the most liberal and reform-minded figures in the government, is believed to have been steadily promoted by a group affiliated with billionaire Dmytro Firtash. The group also includes Serhiy Liovochkin, the chief of staff at the President Viktor Yanukovych’s administration.

The merger between the parties is designed to boost support for the Regions Party ahead of the upcoming parliamentary election in October. The popular support for the Regions Party has declined to about 22%, a drop from about 30% in early 2010, the latest opinion polls have indicated.

Tyhypko’s party currently enjoys support from between 4% and 5%, a decline from about 9% in early 2010, according to the polls.

Tyhypko’s election to the position of the deputy leader of the Regions Party is seen as the first step in Tyhypko’s further promotion that may end up with his nomination to the post of prime minister.

This decision will most likely be taken by Yanukovych based on the Regions Party’s performance at the October election.

But not everyone agrees that Tyhypko will benefit from the merger with the Regions Party, whose popularity will probably further sink along with the implementation of unpopular reforms.

“Tyhypko purchased a ticket on the Titanic,” Anatoliy Hrytsenko, the leader of the small opposition group Civic Position, has said. “If anybody had an illusion that Tyhypko is a modern politician with European face and a successful reformer, these illusions had been dashed today.”

Meanwhile, the merger with the Regions Party has already opened the door for a number of promotions of Tyhypko’s allies across Ukraine to senior positions in regions.

Yaroslav Dolhykh, the chief of Strong Ukraine’s Zhytomyr operation, was appointed to the post of deputy governor of the Zhytomyr region, the regional administration had announced on Sunday.

Andriy Mochenkov, the chief of Strong Ukraine’s Kharkiv organization, was appointed the deputy governor of the Kharkiv region.

Source: Ukrainian Journal