The Problems Of Yanukovych And Prospects For Ukraine

By Vasil Shparluk

The rise of Yanukovych to power will become another challenge for Ukrainian democracy. It's obvious, he won't promote it, as democratic values are strange for him by nature and during his activity within opposition, he has hardly changed his views on policy and democracy. History is full of examples, when democrats became autocrats and there are only few of them, when it happened vice versa. Right after the elections Yanukovych allowed himself to say that he would rule the country for the following 10 years. To accomplish these wishes the new President demands almost total control over all power levers. Probably, Ukraine won't follow the scenario of Belarus and Russia, and there will be no rigid authoritarian system, as Yanukovych is not that strong for that, although he is autocratic, but not that smart and long-sighted. Also he has no important strategic and human resources, which for example Putin had when he came to power, that contributed into rapid consolidation of power. Except for that, Yanukovych will face a serious rival Yulia Timoshenko.

Nevertheless, we shouldn't underestimate his "will to power". In due time, the same shallow was the perception of Lukashenko and Putin, as weak and controllable people but the result is evident. That is why, there is a great probability that Ukrainian political system will get back to the "pre-orange" period of Kuchma's rule. Naturally, Yanukovych lacks of flexibility and the instinct of power, which cede to the will to power, and this will become for him a problem with the establishment of sole governance (if the kind of decision is adopted), he can overestimate his forces and lose support quickly. During this year it will be obvious how serious the intensions of Viktor Yanukovych and the "blue" are to establish autocratic regime. Naturally, Yanukovych himself doesn't strive to set autocracy. Ukrainian regime will still be called democratic, but the power will be concentrated in the arms of President and his environment. To achieve this objective, Yanukovych should act fast and efficiently, as in terms of economic crisis time plays against him. If the well-being of electorate doesn't improve, then Viktor Fedorovich will rapidly lose his popularity and won't be able to enhance his power and moreover to count on long-term stay on Presidential post. To preserve the support of electorate, Yanukovych should make a number of populistic steps: to raise salaries or launch anti-corruption campaign.

> Ukraine Map
Thus to accomplish his plans, Yanukovych needs the following: serious team, great health (as he is already 60) and time. Nevertheless, the interest in the long and serious rule of Yanukovych is expressed not only by President himself, but also by his environment.

The upholders of Yanukovych, and these are first of all big businessmen and oligarchs, will use the fruits of their placeman to extend their own influence within business and a new redistribution of property. But to secure the results of redistribution within business, the new ruling elite is extremely in need of guarantee and protection from political power. And the longer their power stands, the fewer threats will challenge their "property". The change of power will result into another "expropriation" not in their favor. That is why one of the drives of "authoritarization" and the establishment of new political system with reduced democratic mechanisms will be exactly the environment of Yanukovych. In other words, the main task of the political and economic elite will be the establishment of conditions in which in the prospect the change of power will be possible, and later its succession will be guaranteed, and this is only possible by the control over electoral process.

From the other hand, the political environment itself, today, is a great problem for Yanukovych.

Rinat-AkhmetovFor a long time Viktor Yanukovych has been under the influence and control of an oligarch Rinat Akhmetov, Ukrainian oligarch the Head of Donetsk clan, to which Yanukovych also acceded. After the elections of 2004 and the defeat of Yanukovych, the later made an attempt to get out of the control and the influence of Akhmetov, which called tension inside the "Party of Regions". In his intentions to become independent, Yanukovych decided to rely on another oligarch, the rival of Akhmetov and the enemy of Yulia Timoshenko Dmitry Firtash, the son of Western Ukraine. Thus, today, in the Party of Regions (PR) there is a serious struggle going on for the strategic posts within the environment of the President Yanukovych and the further policy of Yanukovych will greatly depend on those who will be appointed to the most significant posts. The most important question is the appointment of the Prime Minister candidate. The solution of this problem is connected not only with the influence of individual groups inside the team of Yanukovych, but also with the determination of the new coalition members. To perform his policy successfully Yanukovych needs to gain the qualified majority in the Parliament (Verkhovna Rada) and better for this majority not to be the result of a new coalition, but to include the deputies of the "Party of Regions". It's impossible in current Parliament. The "Party of Regions" has only 172 mandates. Reminding, that Prime Minister is appointed with the Parliamentary majority of 226 votes. The recently acting coalition, which appointed Yulia Timoshenko as a Prime Minister in 2007, included the "Block of Yulia Timoshenko" (BYT) (153 mandates) and "Nasha Ukraina – Narodnaya Samooborona" ("Our Ukraine - People's Self-Defense") (71 mandates).

Yanukovych managed to create a new coalition in Parliament. However, the Constitutional Court of Ukraine will evaluate the compliance with the main law of the establishment of a new Parliamentary coalition with the attempts of individual deputies till April 11th - the date of possible trip of Ukrainian President to the USA.

The case will be considered by the Constitutional Court in writing. By this the Court will work summarily.

The kind of measures are provoked by the close attention, which is revealed by the US Government to the fate of arguable law, which has become the ground for the establishment of a new Parliamentary Coalition.

In particular, the deputy assistant of the US State Secretary on Europe and Eurasia Daniel Russel reported that, America satisfactorily noted that the "Party of Regions" took the initiative and addressed to the Constitutional Court on the issue of arguable law and also promised to approve and perform any decision of this authority.

But if the Constitutional Court will be against of the new procedure, as D.Russel stated, Washington expects that the "Party of Regions" will try to establish a new coalition in compliance with the rule of court or it will organize early Parliamentary elections.

TigipkoAlso D.Russel declared that the US will maintain its long-standing relations with Yulia Timoshenko in her new role as one of the opposition leaders, and also plans tight cooperation with other leaders of Ukrainian political arena, particularly, with Yatseniuk and Tigipko. The training of new democratic leaders is important for all parties in Ukraine, underlined the representative of the Department of State.

Opposition will be the deterrent for the authoritarian deviation of Yanukovych's regime.

Yulia Timoshenko lost with a minimal breakdown and in the near prospect will be a serious threat for the "PR" and the policy of Yanukovych. Naturally there are no guarantees that her block after the defeat within Presidential elections will preserve its integrity and won't collapse. Moreover the new power will do its utmost to break and weaken the positions of "BYT" within the Parliament. The "Party of Regions" already took the kind of steps in 2007, attracting to its side the deputies from "BYT", and this was the reason of snap elections to the Verkhovna Rada. It's possible that the regime of Yanukovych will undertake the criminal-administrative measures against Yulia Timoshenko.

"BYT" is the only political force that is able to stand against the plans of the "blue" within usurpation of power. It's worth mentioning that within the game with Yanukovych the internal conflict of "PR" can become a significant aid for Timoshenko. The dissatisfaction of Rinat Akhmetov with the growing influence of Firtash's group within the "PR" is able to provoke the dialogue between Timoshenko and Akhmetov which will not only weaken the positions of the "PR" and Yanukovych, but also will become a serious stroke for the "PR". And during the election campaign to Verkhovna Rada, this may result into the defeat of the "PR".

Nevertheless, if the camp of Yanukovych starts systematic attacks on democratic freedoms, the opposition will be able to mobilize the society for their defense. Yanukovych has favorable social conditions for the strengthening of its power due to the deep disappointment of Ukrainian people with the government of the "orange".

Another great challenge for the policy of Yanukovych will be Western Ukraine, where despite the disappointment with the policy of the "orange" national self-identification still remains very strong, and Yanukovych is not popular and is not supported there. Too evident steps on rapprochement with Russia and on enhancement of his own power can incite serious conflicts within Ukrainian society.

Strategic Directions Within Foreign Policy.

The same important is the way of relations development between Ukraine and Russia, and in general a new geopolitical strategy of President Yanukovych.

Viktor Yanukovych has been always observed as a politician supported by Moscow. And within his electoral campaign Yanukovych concentrated on the rapprochement of the relations between Russia and Ukraine. The primary trip of Yanukovych to Brussels wasn't the result of his personal views, but of the agreement between the "PR" and "NY". Although Yanukovych states that Ukraine should become a bridge between West and East, the rapprochement of Kiev and Moscow will be one of the priorities of the policy of the new government of the country.

FirtashThe main upholder of the rapprochement will be the same group of Firtash. Dmitry Firtash has very close ties with Russian business in the sphere of supplies and transit of energy through the territory of Ukraine. He is one of the co-founders and the owner of the RosUkrEnergo corporation (RUE), (he possesses 45% of shares, "Gazprom" possesses 50%) that dealt with energy issues and was an intermediate within gas supplies to Ukraine. Also Firtash together with "Gazprom" is a founder of another intermediate gas supplies company "Centragas Holding". Firtash owns Ukrainian cable channels К1, К2 and MegaSport. A few years ago an international holding company Group DF was founded. In general, energy corporation of Firtash controls 75% of Russian gas supplies to Ukrainian market.

Naturally, that in these conditions, Firtash is extremely interested in the development of close relations with Russia.

As mentioned earlier, Firtash influences greatly on the internal policy of the "PR" as well as on Yanukovych's actions and his people has managed to take some key posts within the state.

The meeting of Yanukovych with Dmitry Medvedev is another proof of his Moscow-course. Today for Russia the issues on the Black Sea Fleet and the rent of Navy of Sevastopol are especially delicate. In the result of Ukrainian-Russian conflicts, the former political powers of Ukraine headed by Viktor Yushchenko declared that after the end of the rent term of the port in 2017, the rent treaty with Russia won't be prolonged. By new circumstances and by powerful Russian lobby within the environment of Yanukovych, it's possible that the Black Sea Fleet issue will be positively solved in favor of Moscow. During the meeting in Moscow on March 5th Yanukovych claimed that this problem will be solved with the consideration of bilateral interests of the two states. Maybe, that in exchange for the positive solution of the Black Sea Fleet issue, Russia will make concessions within the issues of gas supplies to Ukraine, and granting additional credits to Ukrainian economy.

As for other aspects of Russian-Ukrainian rapprochement then the joining of Ukraine to the Customs Union and other geostrategic projects, controlled by Russia are seem to be improbable. This or that way, we can talk about a new period within the development of Ukrainian-Russian relations. For sure Ukraine will step out of anti-Russia camp in which it used to be during the rule of the "orange". In addition if Yanukovych decides to enhance his power and starts suppressing democratic processes in the country, he will need Russia's support. That is why the process of rapprochement with Russia and authoritarization of Ukraine will flow simultaneously.

Political Threats For the Regime of Yanukovych.

Main political threats for the rule of Yanukovych include the split inside the ruling grouping and the collapse of Parliamentarian coalition. The first, as well as the second one threats Yanukovych with a political crisis and the loss of power in the context of the following Presidential elections. Internal conflict in the environment of Yanukovych will result in instability and inefficiency of his power, as it happened in 2005 in the camp of the "orange", which pushed Ukraine into a permanent political crisis.

The collapse of Parliamentary coalition in case of forcing of the process of rapprochement with Russia, as well as in case of contradicting decisions towards internal policy is possible. It's hard to predict how long this weak balance will be able to exist.

Thus, despite the efforts made by Yanukovych to gain the power, political situation in Ukraine is far from being stable and predictable.