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LOOKING AHEAD
15.04.2009

April 10, 2009 (the date of publication in Russian)

Alexander Sobko

UKRAINIAN SOLITAIRE

Tymoshenko needs preterm presidential elections, Yushchenko – preterm parliamentary elections, Yanukovych needs both

The last month has again clearly demonstrated both exorbitant situational essence of Ukrainian political coalitions and parties' exclusive interest in fighting for power against the backdrop of coming collapse of national economy.

We'll remind that the possibility of the Party of Regions and the Yulia Tymoshenko Block coalition aimed to the realization of constitutional reforms, which would make the president become a decorative figure selected by parliament, has been actively discussed already in the beginning of March. The real reason of the discussed reform was Arseniy Yatsenyuk's, a former speaker of the Verkhovna Rada (parliament), active PR. At present the ex-speaker is the third most popular politician after Yanukovych and Tymoshenko, which means that Arseniy P. Yatsenyuk will have all the chances to have at least the second place in the elections (leaving Yulia Tymoshenko behind) if his rating goes on growing the way it does now. This definitely didn't please the YTB, plus Yanukovych wasn't really excited by the perspective of withstanding talkative Yatsenyuk during the second round of the elections.

But the situation began to change in the end of the month. Economic crisis led to considerable growth of the oppositional Party of Regions. It became clear that the party can win both parliamentary and presidential elections. Unexpected success on regional Ternopol elections (the Party of Regions could get 10% of votes, which is 5 times more than the previous result) has become an important sign for Yanukovych. The success in the region, where the party always used to get 2% of votes, has encouraged the party members Ц what could potentially be expected from other regions of the country? The Party of Regions faced a temptation to "break the bank" Ц to get both leading positions in the parliament and the president's chair.

As the result, Viktor Yanukovych has made two principal statements on March 29. Firstly, he supported straight presidential elections (and that way he denied the possibility of coalition with the YTB for the sake of realizing changes in the Constitution described above). Secondly, Yanukovych supported preterm parliamentary and presidential elections, so he has finally chosen a position opposite to the Yulia Tymoshenko Block.

In contrast to "regionals", Tymoshenko supporters are extremely interested in saving the present parliament. Prime Minister's rating in going down steadily because of hard economic situation in the country. Plus Tymoshenko has recently lost another "trump card" from her pack Ц she spoiled relations with the Russian Federation by singing gas contract (joint declaration) with the EU. As the result negotiations about Russian credit to Ukraine were "frozen" plus to definite lessening in the number of electorate. At the same time the destiny of the second IMF stabilization tranche is neither clear. It all gives reasons to suppose that during the climax of election period Tymoshenko's rating will reach record lows. Therewith messages about inner-party discords began to appear, and Mykola Tomenko, the Yulia Tymoshenko's deputy prime minister, has demonstratively chosen the position opposite to Yulia V. Tymoshenko and supported holding simultaneous preterm elections.

Against this backdrop, Viktor Yushchenko got interested in Yanukovych's proposals. So soon the situational PR-YTB coalition may turn into the same unstable cooperation of two Viktors' policies.

Let us remind that in spite of Victor A. Yushchenko's desire to hold presidential elections on January, 2010, Verkhovna Rada has appointed it on October 25. The President's attempts to dispute the decision will hardly have any success, so he will have to agree to the variant, but only in case presidential elections will be held simultaneously with parliamentary ones. The reasons which made Yushchenko accept the variant are quite obvious.

Firstly, parliamentary elections held during Yushchenko ruling the administrative resource of the country will make getting political power loyal to him into Verkhovna Rada easier (the United Centre party, the creation of Victor Baloga, the head of President's secretariat, can play the part of this loyal power).

Secondly, in that case Yushchenko will square accounts with Tymoshenko, who has got to an indescribable level of personal aversion from the President. Moreover, in that case Victor Andreevych hopes people will remember him as a leader who was ready to give up of his powers a few months before he is to for the sake of the "restart" of government.

What's essential, Arseniy Yatsenyuk and his foreign curators are left aside the described configuration in that case. So even though "Ukrainian Obama" can have good results during presidential elections, preterm elections can turn to be a false start for his protoparty, the Front of Changes public initiative. And, on the other hand, delay may mean death for the United Centre party Ц the party, which won't be taken as a partner by Yatsenyuk. In the situation, "the third Victor", Baloga, who is now trying to find the salvation to the question of his political survival and is actually ready to use any radical means, may become another "motor" for preterm parliamentary elections.

Will the interested powers be able to realize preterm elections? Verkhovna Rada members (MPs) are actively discussing formal reasons Yushchenko might find to dissolve Rada. Having been observers of the development of Ukrainian political situation for a few years, we can say for sure: the reason will be found Ц the only problem lies in the political will of participants of the process.


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