The good news is that, the best part of three months after general elections in Ukraine, and five months after the outgoing parliament approved a vote of ‘no confidence’ in the administration of technocratic centrist Yuriy Yekhanurov, it looks as though the country is close to having a new government appointed. (It’s true that the no confidence vote was effectively ignored and over-ruled, largely because of the constitutional state of flux then and still prevailing in the land, but this is still a long time for any country, let alone a large one undergoing a prolonged transition, not to have a government with full authority and legitimacy.)
The bad news is that it appears almost certain that the new Prime Minister- invested with additional powers previously held by the President, as a result of constitutional changes approved between the annulled, fraudulent, second round of presidential polling on 21 November 2004 and the final, legitimate election of Viktor Yushchenko the following month- is almost certain to be the defeated candidate in that latter election, who had been declared victorious in the earlier, rigged, vote, Viktor Yanukovych.
While there had been a fair amount of speculation, since the general election in March, which failed to produce a clear result, that something approaching a ‘government of national unity’ might be formed-to reflect Yanukovych’s Party of the Regions’ continuing, albeit diminished, compared with 2004, support in the industrial regions of Eastern Ukraine, and the similar degree of support, again somewhat diminished compared with 2004 of Yushchenko’s Our Ukraine in Western Ukraine, what looks like coming to pass is something rather different, and something that can only be described as a retrograde step, and even as, potentially, a betrayal of the hopes of the so-called Orange Revolution.
Instead of a new Orange administration, or a passibly tolerable east-west unity coalition, the new Government, presuming that an agreement made late last week endures, will be something of a post-Soviet throwback, uniting the Party of the Regions with the somewhat unreconstructed Socialist Party of Ukraine and the party of which they are an offshoot, the even less unreconstructed Communist Party of Ukraine (website only in Ukrainian, but their use of symbols is fairly overt). This is not what millions of Ukrainians, be their ethnic or linguistic allegiance Ukrainian or Russian, a mixture of the two, Crimean Tatar, or something else, camped out in sub-zero temperatures, allegedly coming close to facing military assault for.
So what went wrong? And is Ukraine likely to return to the gangsterish kleptocracy that it became for much of the Kuchma period, now that former allies of the old regime seem to back in power?
To be continued – once the appointment of a Prime Minister and the make-up of the Government has been confirmed. In the meantime, let’s get a well-informed discussion underway…