Ukraine: eastern revenge

MOSCOW. (Tatyana Stanovaya for RIA Novosti) - After hours of consultations, Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko made a decision last night to submit the candidacy of Viktor Yanukovych for the post of prime minister.

In effect, two men have decided the destiny of Ukraine: the president and the leader of the Party of Regions, or the winner and the loser of the Orange Revolution. To all intents and purposes, the crisis in Ukraine has been resolved. But it is equally obvious that the Ukrainian government is in for another crisis, which will last for at least a month.

Yushchenko and Yanukovych were doomed to land in the same boat. All talk about impeachment of the president, independent approval of Yanukovych as prime minister by the Supreme Rada, and dissolution of parliament were merely bargaining chips for the two leaders, who have been discussing the parameters of a political deal for the last few days. This political deal has its own characteristics and scenarios, which Ukraine will have to go through.

But Yushchenko made a half-hearted decision last night. Apparently, he tried to avoid the dissolution of the Rada for fear of further aggravating his position. The approval rating of Our Ukraine is rapidly going down, and Yulia Tymoshenko is promising to compile a single list that would not allow the Orange Coalition to receive a majority in any event.

At the same time, the agreement on a coalition of Our Ukraine and the Party of Regions is only tentative. It is known that the two political forces are supposed to join the ruling coalition but its format will continue to be a subject of bargaining and a source of tension between Yushchenko and Yanukovych. Now they have signed a memo on the formation of a new coalition. Roman Zvarych, a leader of Our Ukraine, said that it would be called the Coalition of National Unity. Its formation will put an end to the anti-crisis coalition made up of the Party of Regions, the socialists and the communists. Rada Speaker Olexandr Moroz said, however, that Our Ukraine would have to join the anti-crisis coalition. It therefore seems that Yushchenko has failed to achieve one of his main goals: the guaranteed withdrawal of the communists from the union with the Party of Regions.

This is one of the major issues. If the communists stay in the coalition, they will hedge the Party of Regions against a conflict with the president. In case of serious discord, Yanukovych will always be able to rely on the already existing majority of socialists and communists, and to pursue a much more independent political line than Yushchenko might wish him to.

If Yushchenko escapes an alliance with the communists, he will score a big victory. He would thus make the Party of Regions dependent on relations with Our Ukraine, considerably raising his party's status. Our Ukraine would find it much easier to form a cabinet of ministers. It would be seen as a party representing half the nation, rather than a party which joined the majority. In effect, communist participation in the coalition will determine the role and possibilities of Our Ukraine, as well as its place on the country's political map. Yushchenko has so far managed to achieve one goal: the communists did not take part either in the drafting of the Universal of National Unity, or in its approval. The Universal unites three forces, which are compatible with Yushchenko: Our Ukraine, the Party of Regions, and the Socialist Party. However, so far the Party of Regions is not going to sever relations with the communists, and the question of their participation in the would-be coalition remains open.

In any event, the president's decision last night will create a division of power between him and Yanukovych. It cannot be ruled out that a number of meaningful posts in the government will go to Yushchenko's closest allies. Pyotr Poroshenko, for one, may become second in command in the future cabinet. The socialists, who insisted on the speaker's position, will most likely settle for this.

The political consequences of the Yushchenko-Yanukovych deal are much more interesting.

Firstly, the Yulia Tymoshenko Bloc (YTB) will now be the only bearer of Orange identity. It will go into radical opposition. In other words, having won the 2004 election, the Orange have again found themselves in opposition, having failed to confirm through parliamentary elections their popularity in the entire country, rather than just its western part. Another bearer of Orange identity - Our Ukraine - is now undergoing a deep crisis. Ongoing loss of popular support has put it on the brink of a split. Some deputies may choose not to back Yanukovych as prime minister. Those who do back him will lose face in the eyes of their Orange Revolution supporters.

Secondly, Yanukovych's candidacy means that Eastern revenge has taken place. This was primarily made possible by the political inadequacy of the Orange forces, which proved unable to keep their gains even when they have everything going for them. The complete collapse of the Orange Coalition a month ago bears this out.

Thirdly, outside bodies of government authority, the main political struggle will unfold between the YTB and the Party of Regions, that is, between the West and the East of the country. Moreover, along with Our Ukraine, Viktor Yushchenko will not find himself the president of the whole country; he will become an alien in the West, and will not feel at home in the East, either. His political weight will decrease further.

Finally, a split between East and West will now affect the executive branch of government. No doubt, Yushchenko will try to get back his Orange identity, especially by keeping the new prime minister at a tangible distance. But Viktor Yanukovych will try to multiply his victory by not allowing Yushchenko to fully control the cabinet.

As for the policy of the future government, it is bound to be more pragmatic concerning both Russia and the West. The Euro-Atlantic direction will lose its luster, but Russia will not become much closer, either.

Tatyana Stanovaya, head of the analytical department at the Center for Political Technologies.

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