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Yulia Tymoshenko: an archetype of opposition


MOSCOW. (Vadim Dubnov for RIA Novosti) - Yulia Tymoshenko bloc seemed to have miscalculated the right time to raid the switchgear room in the Ukrainian Supreme Rada (parliament): the deputies only needed to wait a few days until an 18-day break was announced.

The success of that tactical move in no way brought Tymoshenko closer to her strategic objective, disbanding the Rada, which had been inactive for a month. Three days later, Tymoshenko turned the lights back on, promising to return to the switchgear room, or somewhere else, because there is not a single political crisis in Ukraine in which Tymoshenko would not have a hand. Nor is there a political issue which would not become a political crisis once she embraced it. Be it her own parliamentary election success, or an increase in utilities tariffs, which is what plunged parliament into darkness in the first place.

Tymoshenko has always opposed anything and everything. She opposed President Leonid Kuchma. She opposed her political godfather Pavel Lazarenko (prime minister in 1996-1997). She was in opposition even when she was in power, which was twice. And both times she opposed Viktor Yushchenko, who was first prime minister and then president and her Orange soul mate. One has a suspicion that should some miracle happen and Tymoshenko become president she would be in opposition all the same. And no matter to whom or what. In the context of Ukrainian realities, this makes no difference. The problem lies with realities, not Tymoshenko, who is an archetype of opposition.

She is tireless and her improvisations are prolific. But most important of all, she does not care a jot whom she attacks and from what flank once she has an opponent. Some might say she is unprincipled, and they would be right. Some may admire her sense of timing and versatility, and they would not be wrong either. Today, Tymoshenko is defending those who have been told to pay 500 to 700 hryvnias - more than a hundred dollars - for heat and garbage removal. She is the traditional mouthpiece of popular anger, not the Communists, who actually helped to pass the tariff hike as part of an anti-crisis coalition. Populism is the catchword. This left-wing slogan is also causing Our Ukraine, with the president at the head, to line up behind her columns - what else are they supposed to do knowing that they face early elections?

The archetypal opposition need not concern itself with in-depth logic and hard background facts. Its business is to generate crises that would have remained mere food for thought for political experts and economists if they had not been stirred up by the opposition.

Ukrainian experts think the Yanukovich government made two mistakes. One was a simple decision to raise utility fees without any hint, verbal or otherwise, of reform. The second was to heed widespread requests and start investing in the essential sectors: coal and farming. Everything is so familiar that it is time to speak of logic, rather than mistakes.

After winning the day, the Yanukovich cabinet needs to address two basically disparate problems. On the one hand, the Party of Regions is compelled, with an eye to the future, to go beyond its traditional regional borders and become an all-Ukrainian party, and to increase its approval rating. On the other, the cabinet must perform the functions that belong to it, i.e. run the economy. Which, given a short supply of ideas, is as difficult as raising its popularity rating in Lviv (western Ukraine). The policy Yanukovich came up with was logical and predictable: utility fees in excess of a hundred dollars were expected to fill holes in the budget made deeper by its senseless shakedown.

In response, lured by early elections, somebody would call a rally, while Tymoshenko simply switched off parliament's lights.

She is in opposition today, and in a war of all against all, everything is permissible. In effect, this is the dream of any real opposition - to turn a latent crisis into a lasting and permanent fix. They do the same thing in Italy, a country where a Tymoshenko-style opposition would feel right at home. In Ukraine, unlike in Italy, there are things worse than a crisis. Say, the ultimate victory of Tymoshenko herself. Because with her power, lacking in principles and merciless, no one else could become an opposition in Ukraine.

Vadim Dubnov is an independent journalist.

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti. 

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