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Winners & losers in Ukraine’s latest power shuffle

The life expectancy of Ukraine`s almost inevitably unwieldy new government is anyone`s guess. But already, as four months of constitutional chaos come to an end, winners and losers have clearly emerged in the former Soviet republic`s often frantic politics.

The life expectancy of Ukraine`s almost inevitably unwieldy new government is anyone`s guess.

But already, as four months of constitutional chaos come to an end, winners and losers have clearly emerged in the former Soviet republic`s often frantic politics.

Pro-Russia politician Viktor Yanukovich is a definite winner, having travelled from the political wilderness to leadership of parliament`s biggest party, and a lock on the prime minister job.

Once hooted down nationwide as a ex-con who talked like one, Yanukovich  is set to become the single most powerful politician in the country.

With an ability to call shots in parliament, and to influence the executive branch like no one else, the now smooth-talking Yanukovich is well-positioned to push his favourite agendas.

These include government support for heavy industry and the tycoons who  run it, the slow pace in Ukrainian accession to NATO, friendship with  Russia, and a halt to the promotion of the Ukrainian language in the east, Yanukovich`s Russian-speaking home turf.

More importantly for his future political career, Yanukovich will be Ukraine`s first prime minister appointed by parliament not the president, and so the first answerable only to his party and voters.

The job is an ideal opportunity for Yanukovich to establish himself permanently as his own political force, rather than a yes-man financed by tycoons from the smokestack Donbass region.

President Viktor Yushchenko is a less obvious but nevertheless clear winner. His victory lies in the weakness of the new coalition, which unites widely differing parties via a coalition agreement so hazy in its wording that each member of the new government will be able to interpret the blueprint pretty much any way he chooses.

With Yanukovich running the government and therefore overtly responsible for every mistake, and the coalition facing almost inevitable internal wrangling  and stagnation, Yushchenko`s is neatly shielded from fall-out from voters angry over government errors.

Ukrainian political observers are already predicting gridlock between Yushchenko and the Yanukovich-led parliament.

The stagnation if it comes would be another Yushchenko victory, as current Ukrainian law currently skews Ukraine in a pro-reform, pro- Europe direction.

Yanukovich`s majority lacks the votes to override a presidential veto to new laws aiming to change those policies. Yushchenko already has warned (without being specific) that he would veto any legislation from the new government which he felt violated `the principles of the coalition agreement.`

Charismatic Julia Timoshenko, a populist anti-corruption campaigner, has brilliantly washed her hands of the ruling coalition outright, placing herself and her party in the opposition.

Until the present government falls - and even the optimists are giving it a life span of two years maximum - it will be Timoshenko and her often brilliant oratory ripping into the Yanukovich government for every possible error.

The basic problem of the Ukrainian economy is deep-seated corruption, and that the present government appears unwilling even to discuss the matter (the coalition agreement simply ignores it).

So Timoshenko seems set to sweep back into power in the role that suits her public image best: a woman come to Ukraine`s government to clean house, because the men are too corrupt and incompetent to manage.

Timoshenko`s position as the only government opponent, and the country`s  top campaigner for reform, is what is a more deadly blow to the future of Yushchenko`s own Our Ukraine party.

Stunned by its second place to Timoshenko in the last parliamentary elections, Our Ukraine desperately needs to recapture its mantle as the banner-bearer for the Orange Revolution, economic and political reform, and Ukrainian accession to Europe.

But now, the supposedly pro-reform Our Ukraine has lost out, as the party is a voluntary member of a government led by Yanukovich - a man openly advocating government support for the tycoon class and better Ukrainian relations with Russia.

Ukraine`s once-dominant Communist party is, if possible, in a worse situation, having willingly entered a coalition government containing free marketeers (Our Ukraine) and friends of the big Capitalists (Yanukovich`s Regions Ukraine) - both anathema to the Communists` Marxist doctrine.

The Communists are moreover by far the junior party in the present coalition, which could if necessary do without the few parliament seats the Communists hold, still assemble a majority.

The first policies and possibly even allies to be jettisoned as impractical in the new government are, according to media reports, the Communists.

The news was monitored by The Action Ukraine Report (AUR) Monitoring Service, Morgan Williams, Editor.

 

Stefan Korshak, Deutsche Presse-Agentur,

Kiev, Ukraine, Fri, Aug 4, 2006

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