When is the beginning and when is the end?

April 29, 2009

KyivPost reports:

Ukraine’s Constitutional Court has commenced the oral consideration of the President Viktor Yuschenko’s appeal against the resolution of the Verkhovna Rada on scheduling the presidential elections for October 25.

The reporting judge is Ivan Dombrovskyi.

In compliance with the appeal, section 5 article 103 of the Constitution envisions that the presidential elections should be held last Sunday of the last month of the president’s fifth year in office, which means that the elections should take place on January 17, 2010.

The last Sunday of the last month of the last year?

January 17 is not the last Sunday of the month of January or did they cut out a few days to try and shorten Ukraine’s bitter cold winter?

The last thing Ukraine needs is a prolonged Presidential campaign and an election in the middle of Ukraine’s winter.

The Constitution of Ukraine [Article 85(7)] allows for the parliament to determine when Presidential elections are held. The Ukrainian Parliament, supported by a absolute majority of its members, has called the next Presidential elections for October 25. 2009. The last Sunday of the month five years from the date of the previous election held in 2004.

Ukraine has a ridiculous two round Presidential voting system which means that Ukraine will go into the second round of voting in November/December. The two round Presidential ballot is expected to cost Ukraine over 350 Million dollars ($100 Million in direct costs per round and a further $150 Million in campaign costs) Money that would be better spent elsewhere. If Ukraine adopted a preferential, “One Round” voting system the costs would be halved and Ukraine would know the results of the election in days as opposed to months.

Viktor Yuschenko, instead of clinging on to office for the sake of three months by appealing to Constitutional Court, should offer his resignation so that Ukraine can elect its next head of state in warmer weather.


Epidemic , Pandemic or Pandemonia?

April 29, 2009
UPDATE:

GENEVA, April 29 (Reuters) – The World Health Organisation is set to increase its pandemic flu alert level to 5 — its second-highest level — within hours, sources said on Wednesday.
– NOT YET CONFIRMED

“Things are moving fast,” said one well-informed source. Another said the WHO was likely to increase the alert by one step, from 4 to 5, in response to the spreading swine flu virus, saying: “I don’t think it will be 6.”

– END UPDATE

Ukraine has become embroiled in the worldwide panic over Swine Flue. Ukraine’s President keen to be seen as acting in the interest of public health has called for urgent action to be taken and for Yulia Tymoshenko to prevent the spread of Swine “Pig” Flue throughout Ukraine and the region.

Could this epidemic be fast becoming a pandemic?

Has the WHO (World Health Organisation) pressed the all out red alert panic button. There are reports of visitors to Ukraine being scanned at the airports, internal border patrols set up in Crimea and the President appealing to the Nation.

The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry has ordered the country’s embassies to monitor the situation with the spread of swine flu following outbreaks of the disease in a number of countries.

The ministry advised Ukrainians to take into account the current situation with the spread of swine flu while traveling to countries that have confirmed cases of the disease.

The Ukrainian Government has even appointed a Minister for Anti-Epidemics

The number of reports and government reactions are alarming to say the least and yes the Ukrainian government should be congratulated for putting in place steps that protect the heath of the nation, if that is what is required.

Problem is there is no reports of Swine flue in Ukraine. Thank god. How much of the government’s response is over reaction and what effect is that having on world trade and public panic?


Yuschenko’s Last Gasp Will.

April 29, 2009

The Den has an interesting article that follows on from our previous post.

In this article Yuschenko makes specious and telling statements

First, he said that there are no legitimate grounds for an early dissolution of the Verkhovna Rada because there is no decision by the Constitutional Court. (The same situation existed in 2007 yet Yuschenko put Ukraine’s stability at risk and plunged the country into seven months of political and social crisis)

The best was last: after the live broadcast was over the President announced his political “will”: he wants to have an effective democratic European Constitution.

This is a lie.Yushchenko has consistently undermined Ukraine’s democratic development and opposed Ukraine adopting a European Parliamentary democracy in line with European Standards and other European States.In fact his proposed amendments to Ukraine’s Constitution takes a backward step away from European democracy, most notably his desire to revert back to a Soviet Style Presidential system and adopt first past the post majority voting

Yuschenko has had just under five years to implement reform and democratic change. He has failed on all accounts. His proposed amendments to Ukraine’s constitution would see Ukraine transformed into a federation of regions.

Yuschenko in the interview states that he will be running for President

All the serious political commentators know that Yuschenko has no chance of being re-elected to office. Yuschenko’s stated “Will” has had Arsenii Yatseniuk very much worried.

Arsenii Yatseniuk responded to the president’s message. He said that now he has three main competitors. “The competition will be very tough, and it will be even tougher after the president’s announcement made yesterday

Volodymyr FESENKO, director of the Penta Center for Applied Political Research:

“I believe that the President has not made up his mind yet about his political future. He wants to put a brave face on a sorry business. He says that he’ll participate in the presidential race, and at the same time he tellingly uses the word ‘will’ in a sort of a Freudian slip. A person would speak about a ‘will’ when he is about to leave, in this case, the political life. If Yushchenko is already thinking about his will, it implies that he has no delusions about his chances to win the presidential elections.

“What concerns political reforms suggested by the president, I think that most of them stand no chance of being realized, because Yushchenko has too little time in office. “Perhaps this was his last attempt to win people’s trust. But I think that he has already lost all his chances. It started these kinds of activities too late. I think it is too late to promise to reconstruct the country when you have less than a year in office.”

Ihor LOSIEV, Associate Professor, Department of Cultural Studies at Kyiv Mohyla Academy:

“The press conference made a two-fold impression. On the one hand, the president said many correct words. He spoke about the need to resolutely combat corruption (although everyone is speaking but not doing anything about it now), reform the judicial system, and abolish total parliamentary immunity. He also made a very important statement that the key to the Ukraine–Russia relations are not in Kyiv but in Moscow. Not much is being said about it in Ukraine. It is believed that Ukraine is quite powerful and can resolve problems that concern the two countries on its own. “This is all very correct, clever, and logical. However, only one thought lingers: who is going to put it all into life and why, after nearly five years, nothing has been done? Everybody knows and understands everything, but nobody is able to do anything.

“Generally, there is no secret about what needs to be done. All the people who have at least some understanding know what needs to be done but nobody is doing anything and that is the problem.

“It is, of course, Yushchenko’s right to take part in the elections. However, he needs to consider whether this will help the political forces that will be realizing his wishes or cause major problems for them.”



Will He or won’t He? Yuschenko the spoiler candidate

April 24, 2009
There has been a lot of speculation around about Victor Yuschenko contesting the next Presidential election scheduled for October 25.

Yuschenko according to public opinion polls has less then 3% support and all of the serious analysts are in agreement that if he stood he would lose in the first round and not be re-elected to a second term of office. So it was rather surprising to read in a recent article that Yuschenko intends to nominate for the next presidential election, an election that he is sure to lose along with what little credibility he may have left.

The “Western media”(read US Interests) are trying to talk up Arseniy Yatesniuk, the 35 year old pro-Yuschenko banker and Ukraine’s former Speaker of the Parliament before Yuschenko had him removed as part of his failed attempt to disband the governing coalition late last year.

Yatseniuk, it is claimed, is within 1.5% points of toping Yulia Tymoshenko as the second preferred candidate for the Presidency. Under Ukraine’s two round Presidential system the two highest polling candidates will face off in a second round of voting. Yuschenko’s opponent, Victor Yanukovych remains in first place, so the battle is on between Yatseniuk and Tymoshenko to see who will be left standing and who will contest the second round.

One of the big down sides of Yatseniuk’s campaign is that he is seen to be too close to Yuschenko who is no longer a draw card and seen more as a liability then an asset. Most of Yatseniuk’s support has come from Yuschenko and the reminates of “Our Ukriane“. If a party loses support it’s support has to go somewhere. One candidate’s gain is another candidate’s loss.

The polls are showing little change in the support of Party of Regions (29 to 38%) who are retaining their overall support base. So Yatseniuk’s support (20%) is not weakening his main rival. (52% to 45% two candidate preferred)

For Yatseniuk (20%) to survive the first round and beat Yulia Tmoshenko (21.5%) he needs every vote he can muster to stay in the race.

Yuschenko the spoiler candidate

If Yuschenko does run, he will be taking what little votes he has away from Yasteniuk making it that much harder for Yatseniuk to topple Tymoshenko and stay in the race. Yuschenko would be what is referred to as a spoiler candidate. His nomination for a seat he can not win will in fact assist Yulia Tymoshenko and Victor Yanukovych by reducing the opportunity and level of support for Yatseniuk.

This is a major problem with the two round simple voting system.minor candidates play a reverse, negative, role working against candidates that have a similar platform or policies.

Preferential voting provides voters with a alternative say in who they wish to support

Had Ukraine adopted a preferential voting system, where candidates are ranked according to the voters choice, the spoiler candidates would not cause an unintended upset or reduce the chances of like minded candidates securing support. Yuschenko supporters will be secure knowing that their votes would not be wasted and should Yuschenko not perform overall then their vote could be transferred onto their preferred alternative candidate.

But Ukraine does not have a preferential voting system so Yuschenko’s supporters will have to way up the odds and consider their options. Will they waste their votes and vote for Yuschenko knowing that he can not win or will they be better off abandoning him and supporting Yatseniuk who needs every vote he can get to beat Yulia Tymoshenko?

The voter drift

Even if Yatseniuk can win over all the Yuschenko supporters and he pushed Yulia out of second position there is no certainty that Tymoshenko supporters will embrace Yatseniuk’s candidature. The odds are that a significant percentage of Tymoshenko supports will not.

Yatseniuk is accutly aware that Yushenko’s canditure will be his down fall and Yatseniuk is desperatly trying to distance himself from Yuschenko.

In a country where the divisions and political alliances are so evenly divided it is unlikely that either Yulia or Yatseniuk can take votes away from Party of Regions candidate Victor Yanukoych.

But what is clear is that if Yuschenko does run he will be making it that much more harder and out right impossible for Yatseniuk to win.


Yuschenko’s actions in 2007 declared illegal

April 24, 2009

Kyiv Post in an article that has barely been covered by the English media has reported that

“The Kyiv Okrug Court of Appeals on April 24 passed a ruling saying President Viktor Yushchenko’s decree dated May 24, 2007, dismissing Sviatoslav Piskun from the post of the prosecutor general was unlawful”

This is the second time the Ukrainian Courts have reviewed and ruled against the President on the question of legality of the president’s actions.

In May 2007 Victor Yuschenko also illegally dismissed three Constitutional Court Judges in order to prevent the Constitutional Court from ruling against his decrees.

Ukraine’s constitution provides for the independence of the Courts and prohibits political interference.

The Constitutional Court, following Yuschenko’s interference in the judicial process, has never ruled on the legality of the President’s decrees of April, 2007.

As a result of Yushenko’s actions, Ukraine suffered seven months of political unrest and instability. Yuschenko has never been held to account for his actions.

The crimes and unconstitutional acts of Viktor Yuschenko were made worst in that he was and is Ukraine’s head of state.

Had Victor Yuschenko been in a Western society he would have been subjected to review and impeachment.

Equally of concern is that the Executive of the European Council stood by, knowing that Yuschenko’s actions were unconstitutional and illegal, remained silent and complacent in this serious breach of constitutional law. The European Council failed the people of Ukraine by denying them their constitutional rights. In the process they have also undermined confidence in Ukraine’s democratic development.

Ukraine must now undertake a full and comprehensive review and if need be call on the European Council’s Venice Commission to submit an independent report and assessment of the events and the President’s actions.


Ukraine Above the Rest in Crisis Management

April 24, 2009

22 April 2009 By Anders Aslund
Published in the Moscow Times

A month ago, I wrote a column about Russia’s return to sane economic policy, but Ukraine has undertaken an even more impressive turnaround. Few countries have been more misunderstood than Ukraine, which has been particularly hurt by the global financial crisis.

In the wake of the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy, international finance froze throughout the world. Ukraine suffered from an underlying problem — its high dependence on steel exports, whose prices and demand collapsed in fall 2008. In the first half of 2008, steel accounted for no less than 42 percent of Ukraine’s exports. This year all of Ukraine’s exports are likely to drop by almost 50 percent, but imports even more, so the current account deficit will become insignificant.

Ukraine’s Central Bank made one serious policy mistake. It insisted on maintaining a fixed peg of the hryvna to the U.S. dollar. Because of the apparent safety and obvious profitability, foreign banks transferred short-term, speculative funds to Ukraine, which expanded the domestic money supply as the exchange rate was fixed and boosted inflation similar to what happened in Russia but worse.

In 2007, Ukraine’s money supply surged by 51 percent and inflation peaked at 31 percent in May 2008. The speculative currency inflow widened the current account deficit to 7 percent of gross domestic product in 2008. This was not tenable, although Ukraine’s budget deficit was minimal and its public foreign debt was only 12 percent of GDP in 2007.

What ultimately scared foreign investors was Ukraine’s open political feuding. International investors are a strange anti-democratic lot who get worried by open arguments between politicians. They prefer strict authoritarian regimes like in China, Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan.

By Oct. 1, the Ukrainian economy suddenly halted. Steel production, mining and construction plummeted by about 50 percent in no time. The largest harvest ever could not salvage the economy. Astoundingly, industrial production contracted by more than 30 percent in the first quarter of 2009 over the same time one year earlier, and GDP probably plunged by 20 percent in this period. In addition, the stock market dropped by 90 percent from its peak last year.

Fortunately, the Ukrainian government acknowledged its crisis in early October and asked for help from the International Monetary Fund. Within four weeks, Ukraine concluded a deal with the IMF — a large, strong two-year standby agreement with $16.4 billion of credits.

The IMF program was standard with three key demands: a nearly balanced budget, a floating exchange rate and bank restructuring. Ukraine has delivered. After some hesitation, the country’s Central Bank let the exchange rate float. Although it depreciated by about 50 percent, it has since stabilized, giving Ukraine a new cost competitiveness.

Together with the international financial institutions, the Central Bank has examined all of Ukraine’s banks and quantified their bad debt. Compared to the West, Ukraine’s share of toxic debt is small.

Seventeen Western banks have committed themselves to recapitalizing their subsidiaries in Ukraine with $2 billion this year. In addition, it is estimated that two-thirds of the country’s refinancing needs this year will be met. Most of this is done by European banks. So far, not a single foreign bank has withdrawn from Ukraine. Their prospects are just too attractive. Similarly, the three big Russian banks –VEB, VTB and Sberbank — have increased their activity in Ukraine despite the crisis.

The Ukrainian authorities have taken seven private Ukrainian-owned banks under administration, and they have mobilized $2.6 billion for their recapitalization from the World Bank, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the European Investment Bank. All of them understand Ukraine’s financial dilemma. The IMF assesses the total need for recapitalization of no more than $5 billion.

Yet the Ukrainian government had problems receiving its second tranche of the IMF loan because GDP declined much more than expected, and thus state revenues. The IMF assessed the budget deficit would be untenable at 6 percent of GDP, even leaving a possible public bank recapitalization of 4.5 percent of GDP aside.

The Ukrainian parliament agreed to increase excise taxes on alcohol, tobacco and diesel, and the prime minister decreed further revenue measures to reduce the budget deficit by 2 percent of GDP. With substantial financing from various international financial institutions, the IMF mission considered that the shortfall was almost covered and recommended a second enlarged tranche.

At the same time, the Ukrainian government has made a break with nontransparent gas-trading arrangements through the gas agreement with Russia on Jan. 19 and the agreement on the gas transit system with the European Union on March 23. These two decisions might belong to Ukraine’s most fortuitous reforms. Fortunately, it joined the World Trade Organization in May last year, securing reasonable market access.

On April 1, the Ukrainian parliament voted by an overwhelming majority to hold the next presidential election on Oct. 25, which will help the country to clarify the political situation. The fundamental political problem, however, lies in the confusing constitutional compromise of December 2004, which was one of the most significant results of the Orange Revolution. Now all major parties demand a transition to a purely parliamentary system that would make it impossible for a president to block all decisions. They also call for open-party lists to make it impossible for wealthy businesspeople to purchase seats in parliament.

Ukraine has not faced the level of social unrest that other countries have experienced, despite the serious blows to its economy. During television talk shows, both the government and opposition speak their minds freely, and the people hear their arguments until they are satisfied — or bored.

Thanks to early and resolute anti-crisis actions, international reserves remain reassuring at $25 billion, or eight months of imports. Industrial production increased in both February and March over the preceding month, suggesting that Ukraine might already have turned the corner (although GDP will probably still decrease by 8 percent to 10 percent this year). Even the bond and stock markets have soared in the last month.

Ukraine has shown exemplary crisis management thanks to a few Ukrainian top officials –notably Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko — and a good job by the international financial institutions.

Anders Aslund, economic adviser to the Ukrainian government from 1994 to 1997, is a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics and author of “How Ukraine Became a Market Economy and Democracy.”


Yushchenko voted worst President in Ukraine’s history

April 19, 2009
It is worth highlighting this article which reflects accurately the state of support and lack of leadership provided by Victor Yushchenko, Ukraine’s President, who was elected in 2004 following the so called “Orange Revolution”.

The “Orange Revolution” has tuned sour with Yushchenko betraying the democratic values of those who supported his election to office.

The rate of decline in his support has been as dramatic as the conflict and division within Ukraine he has caused, most notably was his dismissal of Ukraine’s parliament in 2007 which saw Ukraine paralysed by political conflict and division for seven months. His attempts to fuel the conflict between Russia and Georgia in August 2008. His final act of betrayal when he attacked Yulia Tymoshenko accusing her position in relation to the Russian Georgian copnflict as an act of State Treason. Yushchenko then sought to remove Yulia Tymoshchenko from the office of Prime minister by again seeking to dismiss Ukraine’s parliament in October 2008.

Yushchenko first betrayed the “Revolution” when he refused to share power and attacked the Socialist Party forcing them to withdraw from negotiations on the formation of a “Orange” governing coalition and the formation of a government lead by Viktor Yanukovych in 2006.

Yushchenko and his party Our Ukraine contined undermining their coalition partner Yulia Tymoshenko, by pursuing policies of division and opposing democratic reforms whilst pushing Ukraine towards joining NATO against the overwhelming majority of public opinion.

Yushchenko’s consistent acts of betrayal and division has seen his support slump to such an extent that he now holds the world’s record as the least supported head of state.

Recent polls have placed him below 3% and his if Parliamentary elections where held today his party Our Ukraine would obtain less then 2% support and would be denied representation.

The Polls are showing that most of Yushchenko’s support has been transferred to young Yatseniuk but Ukraine remains bitterly divided as ever, another legacy of Yushchenko’s betrayal and failed policies.

As a result Party of Region’s leader, Victor Yanukovych – Yushchenko’s opponent in the 2004 Presidential elections, is now in poll position to win both a Parliamentary and Presidential ballot.

Victor Yushchenko, who opposed holding simultaneous Parliamentary and early Presidential elections back in 2007 when he first unconstitutionally dismissed Ukraine’s democratically elected Parliament, is now seeking revenge by advocting a fresh round of Parliamentary elections to held simultaneously with the next Presidential elections scheduled for October 25.

The polls show little change in the outcome other then handing controlling power to Party of Regions who would be the only main party able to form a coalition government with the support of either Bloc Yulia Tymoshenko, Yatseniuk’s Party or the Communist Party. Lytyvn’s Bloc (head by Ukraine’s parliamentary speaker) will play a minor to non existent role in the formation of a new government

Our Ukraine and Victor Yushchenko will have no influence, such is the outcome of his betrayal to Ukraine which has taken its toll on Ukraine’s economy and political stability.

Kyiv, April 13 (RIA Novosti) – Ukrainians say the country’s third president, Viktor Yushchenko, whose term of office is to end late this or early next year, is the worst head of state since Ukraine gained independence in 1991.

According to a poll conducted by TNS Ukraine, just 7% of Ukrainians rate Yushchenko the best president of the three, the others being Leonid Kuchma, who held the post from 1994 until 2005, and Leonid Kravchuk (1991-1994).

A total of 21% said Kravchuk was the best, while 39% put Kuchma on top. Twenty-seven percent of respondents found difficulty answering the question and 6% refused to answer.

The poll was conducted March 6-14, its results were published on the pollster’s website. A total of 1,200 people aged 16-75 were polled, with the statistical margin of error not exceeding 3%