Coalition building to test politicians Analysis and review –

Extract from Kyiv Post

Coalition building to test politicians
by Evgenia Mussuri, Kyiv Post Staff Writer
Feb 15 2006, 23:46

With just over five weeks before parliamentary elections are scheduled to take place, political blocs are trying to figure out how they are going to create a majority in the new legislature.

According to recent polls, 2004 presidential candidate Viktor Yanukovych’s Party of Regions is ahead, followed by President Viktor Yushchenko’s People’s Union Our Ukraine and the bloc of former Premier Yulia Tymoshenko.

Even though analysts say it is hard to tell exactly which factions will form a majority after the March 26 election, one thing is clear: if a coalition is to be established, it will have to be a configuration which includes at least two of the above three blocs.

According to Ukrainian legislation, the new parliament will have to form a majority of at least 226 seats within a month after the elections. Otherwise, the president is entitled to dismiss the legislature. Analysts say, however, that deputies will likely try to create a majority closer to 300, or a constitutional majority.

“None of the parties are going to get 226 seats in the parliament,” said Ilko Kucheriv, the head of the Democratic Initiatives Foundation.

“It is difficult to say at this point who will form a majority and how they will do it.”

Possible configurations

Based on the results of recent polls, several configurations of the future parliament are possible.

The first one is “Orange”, represented by Our Ukraine, the Yulia Tymoshenko Bloc, the Socialist Party and the pro-presidential PORA-PRP. It remains unclear whether the latter has a chance of making it over the three-percent barrier.

The “Blue” variant is a coalition of the Party of Regions, the Communist Party, the fiercely anti-Yushchenko Ne Tak bloc and the bloc of radical leftist Natalia Vitrenko. Again, the last two are not likely to get enough votes.

While speculation abounds, analysts say it’s unlikely that any kind of ideology based coalition – be it Orange or Blue – will be created.

“The Orange coalition looks very unstable,” said Andriy Yermolaev, the director of the Sofiya Center for Social Studies, “because there are too many internal disputes and variant readings [of the parties’ platforms].”

Kost Bondarenko, director of the Institute for National Strategy, agrees, adding that former Orange allies still have a lot of axes to grind.

“Tymoshenko will try to ‘privatize’ Yushchenko, and his current allies will not like that,” Bondarenko said.

Tymoshenko served as Yushchenko’s Prime Minister until being fired last September.

“This is hardly going to be a pro-presidential coalition,” Bondarenko said.

But a blue coalition is equally improbable, according to analysts. The Party of Regions would have to negotiate conditions with the Communists and the bloc of parliamentary speaker Volodymyr Lytvyn. Smoothing out conflicting ideologies between these three groups would be difficult.

Likely coalitions

Analysts claim that the most probable alliances are between the Party of Regions and Our Ukraine, or the Party of Regions and the Tymoshenko bloc. Smaller players like the SPU or the Lytvyn block may figure in.

Evidence of coordination between the Tymoshenko and Yanukovych camps surfaced earlier this year, when factions in parliament loyal to the two popular political leaders voted to oust the government of Yuriy Yekhanurov over a controversial gas deal inked with Russia during the New Years holidays.

While it remains unclear if the vote was legal, political analysts claim it is proof that a bond is possible between Yanukovych and Tymsohenko.

“Yanukovych and Tymoshenko are alike,” Bondarenko said. “They are both people with oligarchic mentalities and both have populist inclinations.”

According to Bondarenko, the basis of such a coalition will be the desire of both political forces to revise the privatization process.

“In such a scenario, parliament will be in opposition to the president.”

Yermolaev agrees. If Yanukovych and Tymoshenko become allies, it would be an “arrangement of business elites.”

A coalition between Our Ukraine and the Party of Regions is probable too. Analysts say this type of union will heal the split between the east and west of the country and bring balance back to politics.

“It is important to understand that right after his [2005] victory Yushchenko’s mass support was sufficient, Yermolaev said. “Now the president needs a new format for dealing with the opposition.”

Whatever its composition, some kind of majority will be formed before the 30-day deadline, analysts say. To do otherwise would risk dismissal and a greater role played by the president.

The Socialist card

Socialist leader Oleksander Moroz says that whoever forms a coalition, they will likely have to negotiate with him. And he may be right, according to Bondarenko, who said that Moroz holds the “golden share” with an expected eight-percent of all votes.

Moroz will be very cautious about joining up with any other political parties for now.

Yermolaev recalled that the Socialist leader’s political rating dropped after he supported Orange politicians during the 2004 presidential election.

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