Masthead graphic based on a painting by Gudrun Thriemer.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Stephen Mulvey, "Ukraine's future looks less orange," BBC News, 26 July 2006.

The "Cedar Revolution" isn't the only one in jeopardy, but the Orange Revolution is going bad from the inside.

Everything was meant to change in Ukraine as a result of the Orange Revolution in the last three months of 2004. Corruption and cronyism were supposed to give way to transparency and democracy. "Bandits" were meant to be jailed, dubious privatisations were meant to be reversed. EU and Nato membership appeared to be within reach.

It has not quite worked out like that - though some important goals were achieved.

"The main achievement of the Orange Revolution was freedom of speech," says Taras Berezovets, chief editor of the Ukrainian political website,

"Another benefit has been freedom of business. Politicians stopped interfering, and we now have an economic boom, which has continued despite recent political crises."

A parliamentary election in March, unlike many previous elections, was free and fair - so much so, that the winner was the man who "lost" the Orange Revolution, the pro-Russian former prime minister Viktor Yanukovych.

He has now been nominated again for the premiership, which, under constitutional amendments brought in after the Orange Revolution, would make him the most powerful man in the country.


But many of the Revolution's promised changes did not occur.

Corruption allegations still dog some government ministers. Political parties resemble business clans, bankrolled by tycoons who often double as members of parliament. Reports of vote-buying are rife.

Things started to go wrong from the very start.

Any political goals the leaders of the Orange Revolution may have shared were forgotten during the coalition government headed by Yulia Tymoshenko, which took office in February 2005, and quickly descended into in-fighting.

Ms Tymoshenko accused Mr Yushchenko's inner circle of corruption. He sacked her, and accused her of abusing her position to repay debts.

Mr Yushchenko then outraged many of his own supporters by turning to his rival, Mr Yanukovych, for help in a parliamentary vote to confirm his new prime ministerial nominee.

During the Revolution it had been Yushchenko and Tymoshenko against Yanukovych. Suddenly it was Yushchenko and Yanukovych against Tymoshenko, who voted against Mr Yushchenko's nominee.

Catch 22

In the months since the March election - in which his party came a poor third - Mr Yushchenko has been faced with a choice of which enemy to form a coalition with: Ms Tymoshenko or Mr Yanukovych.

Love-hate triangle: Yanukovych, Tymoshenko and Yushchenko
Ukrainian commentators say he negotiated with both simultaneously, dragging the talks out for months in an attempt to extract maximum concessions.

Finally, he struck a deal with Ms Tymoshenko, with the Socialist Party as a junior partner, just as in 2005. But within days the Socialists had second thoughts and opted instead to join a coalition with Mr Yanukovych.

Now Mr Yanukovych has the upper hand, and is inviting Mr Yushchenko's party to join his coalition.

Mr Yushchenko now has to decide whether to agree, or whether it would be better for his Our Ukraine party to go into opposition.

A third option, favoured by Ms Tymoshenko, would be for him to dissolve parliament and call new elections.

"It is a Catch 22 situation," says Taras Kuzio, a senior fellow of the US body, the German Marshall Fund.

"Yanukovych as prime minister would overshadow Yushchenko. Yushchenko would be sidelined. And his supporters would desert him in droves, going over to Tymoshenko. Politically, he would be finished.

"But if he calls fresh elections it could be even worse."

'Anti-crisis' coalition

Taras Berezovets of agrees that new elections held now would simply reduce Our Ukraine's share of the vote from 14% in March to 9% or 10%.

What a new Yanukovych government would mean for Ukraine and for the legacy of the Orange Revolution is an open question.

For example, the "anti-crisis coalition" formed by his Party of Regions, the Socialist Party and the Communist Party, pledges to continue moving towards Mr Yushchenko's goal of EU membership and to abide by any result of a referendum on Nato membership.

"Yanukovych claims he is a new man, and is not going back to the bad old ways," says Taras Kuzio. "We simply do not know whether he will have to work within the parameters of the post-Orange system or not."

How long a Yanukovych government would last is also unclear.

The Party of Regions' big business backers do not have much in common with the Communists, and neither group has much in common with the more "Orange" members of the Socialist Party, some of whom have already begun splitting away.

So whatever happens next, Ukraine seems far from a return to political stability.
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