Coalition revival – back to square one and another round of the carrousel

After months of political instability and division the on again off again coalition is back on. Bloc Yulia Tymoshenko has reunited with Our Ukraine People’s Self Defence and Bloc Lytvyn. KyivPost

In what can only be seen as a back down by Ukraine’s beleaguered President, Victor Yushchenko and his fledgling party Our Ukraine. Back in September 2008 The President’s faction withdraw from the governing coalition which sparked another round of cat and tail constitutional political crisis. Yushchenko tried to dismiss the parliament but was unable to get his way. Fresh elections were seen as a disaster for Our Ukraine who were languishing in the polls and if forced to face a new election ran the serious risk of being ousted from office. The President made a serious blunder and no one within his party and beyond supported his actions. Not the least members of Ukraine’s Parliament who continued to support confidence in the Tymoshenko govenment.

To add to Yushchenko’s troubles Ukraine faced a serious loss of confidence and an emerging economic crisis sparked by the US-world financial slowdown. Ukraine was hardest hit by the double whammy of political instability and slow done in the world economy. None of which served Ukraine well. Yushchenko, whose public support dropped to as low as 3.6%m was no longer in control.

Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko has managed to buy time by refusing to support the President’s ill fated call for fresh parliamentary elections. Having failed to previously patch up relations with Yushchenko and his Our Ukraine Party, Yulia started negotiations with Party of Regions over the possibility of forming a broad coalition with a 2/3rds constitutional majority. With it came the real possibility of constitutional change and the ousting of Ukraine’s President.

The bids were on the table and Yushchenko was left holding a losing hand. Fresh elections were not going to solve Ukraine’s problems and ran the risk of undermining his position even further. If fresh elections were held Party of Regions would merge victoriously regaining control over the government.

Yushchenko had to do something to find a way out of the mess he had created, he was outwitted and outmaneuvered. Pressure was brought to bear form all concerned, not the least Poland and the United States, that the coalition had to be reformed at all costs.

As recent as this week Victor Yushchenko was demanding that his nominee, Ivan Plyushch be elected Speaker of the Parliament. Plyushch was the main cause of division and the collapse of the governing coalition. He refused to support the nomination and election of Yulia Tymoshenko as Prime Minster preferring to sit on the side benched in isolation. With a majority of one this caused great angst in the government circles as it fueled division and instability. Further the election of Ivan Plyushch as speaker would have caused significant problems in expanding the governing coalition and increasing its parliamentary majority. Neither Bloc Yulia Timochenko, People’s Self Defence and Bloc Lytvyn wanted Plyushch as speaker.

There were only two real options. Our Ukraine supports the reformation of a new coalition with Bloc Lytvyn or Yulia negotiates a super coalition with Party of Regions.

Today the decision was made to reform the governing coalition, to wind back the clock and for the President to eat humble pie.

How long and how stable the new coalition will be is any one’s guess. Judging by past experiences we can expect little change in the outcome for the long term.

The appointment of Lytvyn as speaker has also raised the question as to why Yushchenko and his party did not support the formation of a Orange coalition back in 2006 when it had the chance to do so. In 2006 Yushchenko’s party Our Ukraine divided the Orange forces and refused to allow the then Orange coalition partner Olexandr Moroz,Socialist party of Ukraine, to assume the position of speaker of the parliament. A decision along with bitter division and political rivalry that was the last straw that caused the collapse of the Orange coalition. Had Yushchenko and his party agreed to share power back in 2006 Ukraine would not have undergone the extent of political instability it has had over the last two years.

Lytvyn’s appointment did not come easy and required the support of the Communist Party of Ukraine and three breakaway rebels from Party of Regions (Taras Chornovil, Vassyl Hrytsak, and Yukhym Zvyahilskiy). Not all of Our Ukraine People’s Self Defence voted to support Lytvn’s election causing doubt as to the extent of stability the reformed coalition will be able to deliver.

Presidential blues

In the short term Ukraine can breath a sigh of relief but the long term forecast is not so bright.

Come July next year Yushchenko loses the ability to hold the Parliament to ransom and the power to dismiss the Parliament. Ukraine will move into Presidential election mode in all seriousness. If fresh elections are to be held then they will have to entail election of the President. Yulia Tymoshenko is on record saying that she is prepared to support a single nominee from the “democratic” coalition but she fell short of indicating support for Viktor Yushchenko. It is difficult to see her supporting him for a second term let alone being able to secure his election.

The question is who can take on then role of president and win the next election?

Given Yushchenko’s standing in the polls and his lack of performance and trust Yushchenko is not in a position to win a second term of office even with Yulia’s support, should she decide to offer him another chance. Yushchenko’s term of office has come to an end.

Constitutional reform faces the abyss

The other main issue is constitutional reform and the completion of Ukraine’s transition to a parliamentary democracy.

Ukraine has been struggling to make the transition form Presidential rule and to adopt a European Parliamentary democracy since it declared itself an independent state in 1991. Other former Soviet states states such as Poland and Romania and the Baltic states all adopted a parliamentary system and all are now members of the EU.

The reformation of a coalition with the Presidential forces has brought into question the ability of the government to enacted necessary changes. Yushchenko and his party will not support a parliamentary system of governance. Yulia for the sake of the coalition stability will have to forsake this much needed reform.

By breaking free from the chains of the President’s Party Yulia was in a position to see Ukraine adopt a European model of governance putting an end to the policies of division and instability of Presidential rule by decree.

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