Economist: Yanukovych returned himself Kuchmas power

17 March'10

British weekly The Economist, in its Internet version, contained article about the new Ukrainian government.

THE best thing about Ukraine’s new government is that there is one. Five weeks after Viktor Yanukovich (on the right in our picture) narrowly won the presidential election, he has managed to form a coalition in parliament and install a loyal lieutenant as prime minister. Fears of more political gridlock in Ukraine have been averted. Moreover, after years of instability, democracy is still strongly alive. Yulia Tymoshenko, the charismatic former prime minister, has moved into opposition and will keep the new government on its toes. - wrote The Economist. "The process of forming this coalition was controversial, bordering on bending the constitution."

Furthermore, The Economist clames that under the constitution the prime minister is nominated by parliament and then forms a government. "But Mr Yanukovich has circumvented this “formality” and de facto appointed his own prime minister and cabinet."

The Economist said that the constitutional court is yet to rule on the legitimacy of the coalition, but expectations in Kiev are that the timing and outcome of its decision will lean towards Mr Yanukovich. Yet if Mr Yanukovich decides he wants new parliamentary elections after all, the court may find the coalition illegitimate.

Old fases and "caretaker prime minister"

The new cabinet consists mainly of old faces, many of them associated with the worst excesses of Mr Kuchma’s rule. It is also representative of various business interests.

Nikolai Azarov, the 62-year-old Russian-born prime minister, is one of the longest-serving bureaucrats in Ukraine. He has twice been finance minister. His reputation is mixed. He was the architect of the repressive tax administration. He has promised to stabilise the economy (at present Ukraine does not even have a budget) and to unlock funding from the International Monetary Fund that was suspended last year.

 Board of directors of Ukraine, Inc.

Optimists say this may not matter much, since the main decisions on reforms will be made in the presidential administration, which includes such reform-minded people as Sergei Levochkin, head of Mr Yanukovich’s office, and Irina Akimova, who is backed by Rinat Akhmetov.

"In effect, Mr Azarov may be more of a caretaker prime minister than a strategist. His main job will be restoring Ukraine’s dysfunctional system of governance so that it can carry out decisions made elsewhere." The new cabinet will be completely subservient to the presidential administration, says Yulia Mostovaya, editor of Zerkalo Nedeli, a weekly.

Mr Azarov’s deputy for the economy will be Serhiy Tyhypko, who came third in the first round of the presidential election. A few days ago Mr Tyhypko accused Mr Yanukovich of breaching the constitution and swore not to join his government—or at least not in a secondary role. But allegiances and animosities are a fluid currency in Ukraine. Mr Tyhypko, who once ran the central bank, was head of Mr Yanukovich’s election campaign in 2004.

The Economist said that He has been largely absent from Ukraine’s politics for the past five years which has boosted his popularity (along, perhaps, with his picture on the cover of Men’s Health magazine). As a rich businessmen in his own right, Mr Tyhypko is flesh and blood of Ukraine’s oligarchic political system. In Ms Mostovaya’s words, the new cabinet resembles a board of directors of Ukraine, Inc.

The strong link between business and bureaucracy is most conspicuous in two other appointments: Valery Khoroshkovsky, a media magnate and co-owner of Ukraine’s main television channel, Inter, as the new head of the security service; and Yuri Boiko, who was closely involved in RosUkrEnergo, a gas intermediary, as energy minister. RosUkrEnergo.

Mr Boiko’s first task will be to renegotiate the price that Ukraine pays for Russian gas. He may also offer Russia’s Gazprom a stake in Ukraine’s gas-transport consortium.

Perhaps the most encouraging cabinet appointment is Konstantin Grishchenko, a well-respected diplomat, who becomes foreign minister (for the second time). A fluent French- and English-speaker, Mr Grishchenko has served as Ukraine’s ambassador to Washington, Brussels and, most recently, Moscow.

He will no doubt improve relations with Russia, "But he also knows that Ukraine’s strategic interest lies in moving closer to the European Union. How fast it moves will depend more on Ukraine’s domestic affairs than on its foreign policy."


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