The matter of who will lead the government is quite topical today. It is discussed a lot, forecasts are made, approaches are calculated. The already dismissed Azarov’s Cabinet of Ministers, which continues to perform its functions until the new one is appointed, has become the most long-lasting government in independent Ukraine. Mykola Azarov worked as the prime minister for two and a half years. Rumors about his dismissal followed him during the whole period in office, but they never came true until now. The main reason for Azarov’s longevity as the head of the government is said to be his expedience for the president: he used to balance out different influence groups of the government team. Some even said that Yanukovych does not have another figure of that kind that would more or less satisfy everyone. Will such figure appear now? We discussed this with Ihor KOHUT, board chairperson at the NGO Laboratory for Legislative Initiatives.
What will the new government be like? Who might lead the Cabinet of Ministers?
“The approximate list of candidates is known. First of all, it is Azarov, who might be reassigned to the post, also Arbuzov, whose candidacy is extensively discussed. It is possible that Tihipko or Khoroshkovsky might be appointed. However, Azarov and Arbuzov are considered to be the favorites. The Cabinet itself will not change significantly, perhaps, only about 30 percent of it. For example, we will not see Lavrynovych or Tabachnyk there. The changes will affect several fundamental positions: the ministry of justice, finance, economic development (it is the most likely that Poroshenko will not be a member of the new Cabinet either). It can be said with certainty that the bidding is still in process, and the debate is in progress within the Party of Regions itself. The result of this debate will determine the head of the new Cabinet.”
What will the president rely on? What approaches and criteria will dominate during the debate?
“Today Yanukovych is worried about one main things: the election of 2015. But he still has almost nothing to boast of during the pre-election campaign. What has he achieved? Where are the results of his rule? This unsatisfactory state of reforms and the general image of the country will set the style of changes in the country. Perhaps, they will be radical if the government manages to comprehend the need for them. On the one hand, the ruling ‘elite’ consists of various influence groups. It is known that the president’s entourage is diverse. A group of the so-called young reformers is close to the president and his son; they supposedly see the prospects of changes in the country, but often use old methods to achieve their goals. On the other hands, these are the traditional influence groups: those of Kliuiev, Akhmetov, Liovochkin, and Firtash. They all compete with each other.”
The society tends to think now that no matter who competes for the Cabinet, it is their internal matters, it will not influence the development of the country in any way. What is your opinion on this?
“If the president wants to be re-elected for the next term, he needs to change not only his approach to staffing his administration, but the overall criteria in politics. Although in such a corrupt country, where interests of one person can dominate over the interests of the entire society, it will be incredibly hard to implement such changes. But a president has to have at least some history of success. So far, during almost three years of Yanukovych’s rule, we do not see any other achievements except for the infrastructure development accomplished during the preparation for Euro-2012 (construction of stadiums, airports, etc.). Instead, we are witnessing more and more corruption scandals, laws, and the kind of political behavior which drag Ukraine further away from the European Union. The format of cooperation with the EU could be very beneficial and important for the president, but the interests of government members and people who influence politics differ from the interests of the country in the perspective of European integration.”
Is the society interested in changes within the government at all?
“There are two extremes. There is a society with established rules of order. It is a liberal option. In this case, the society will only interfere in the affairs of the government if human rights are violated. The other situation involves a total apathy of the public. They see that whatever figures come to government, no matter how young, professional, ambitious, their participation in this mechanism changes nothing. In this case, people change their attitude towards the change of figures in the politics. Especially, when the economic aspect of basic survival is present.”
“ARBUZOV CANNOT BE VIEWED AS AZAROV’S OPPONENT”
Yevhen KOPATKO, head of the Research and Branding Group:
“Mykola Azarov is not completely dismissed yet. Some experts say that he might be re-appointed prime minister. There are a lot of candidates, but everything will depend on political and economic suitability, which will have to solve complicated problems in the difficult social and economic situation. That is why it is not only the prime minister that matters, but the entire team as well. Most likely, some rotations will take place in the government, but they will be aimed at strengthening: people who can act as crisis managers, that is, solve difficult matters quickly and professionally, will be appointed to the Cabinet.
“I do not think that Arbuzov can be viewed as Azarov’s opponent, since both of them are representing the current government. Besides, Arbuzov has not yet made any statements concerning his prime ministerial ambitions. The appropriateness of either candidate’s appointment will be decided by the president and the Verkhovna Rada (the latter will approve the candidate). But I think that the matter of the prime minister’s resignation is purely technical, and will be settled in a way that would take into account interests and possibilities of all political players.
“We can talk about this the way journalists do: about which of the candidates represents the Family, business, government, opposition, or any other groups. But the matter of the prime minister’s appointment will be solved, given the ‘power vertical’ and a possibility of offering a number of candidates for this post instead of just one. Only the president himself will choose the motives he will be guided by. During his political career, Yanukovych showed that he was able to make quite unexpected and solid decisions. Of course, people involved in the decision-making process will have their own motives of offering this or another candidate for the prime minister’s post, or for the vice premier and ministers. However, this government showed that it can involve people from both the majority and the opposition.”
“MY THEORY IS THE ARBUZOV – AZAROV – KLIUIEV TRIANGLE”
Kostiantyn MATVIIENKO, expert at the Gardarica Corporation of Strategic Consulting:
“Actually, the figure of the head of the Cabinet is of no fundamental importance. Note that during the president’s visit to the Middle East, when asked who would lead the government he said that it would depend on the configuration of the majority in the new parliament. Though we all know perfectly well that the Constitution does not provide such method of appointing the Cabinet and the prime minister. It only provides that the president nominates a candidate for the Verkhovna Rada’s consideration. If the president did not have such candidate in mind at the moment, it means that his administration does not have a vision of policies and steps that will be carried out by the hypothetical new Cabinet. We can also clearly see that the choice is not based on the criteria of competence; it is rather a matter of choosing a person that would satisfy the majority within the ‘elite.’
“Who can be this ‘satisfactory person’? The candidacy of Arbuzov seems to be right at the top. But there is a number of circumstances. Arbuzov is an official of the new generation, considering his age, biography, and experience. At the prime minister’s post, he will obviously require certain tools and mechanisms of the government policy implementation. And we can see that by his initiative this only leads to a crackdown: let us get into people’s pocket and take 15 percent of their foreign currency savings, or let us cancel guarantees on foreign currency deposits of citizens in commercial banks. These initiatives show that Arbuzov cannot be an adequate candidate in the current situation. That is why the probability that the president will not seek better and leave Azarov in this office is quite high. However, there may be one more candidate, Kliuiev. And again, only if all the interests of the presidential family and system businesses that are present in the country are taken into account.
“As far as Khoroshkovsky and Tihipko go: the strangeness of situation is that the president dismissed the prime minister, but he left him acting as prime minster still. Meanwhile, if the prime minister and five ministers are transferred to the Verkhovna Rada, they should not be occupying their previous offices at the same time. These people should withdraw to the Verkhovna Rada completely, and the first vice premier Khoroshkovsky should be acting prime minister. That is why I think that Valerii Khoroshkovsky’s candidacy is not considered for this post. Otherwise, he could already be appointed as an acting prime minister, given the opportunity to show his skills, and then his candidacy could be submitted to the parliament. Concerning Tihipko... Firstly, he is in the Verkhovna Rada now, and secondly, he played the role of a ‘young reformer,’ but has not proven himself in the eyes of the society as the right leader under the circumstances. That is why I do not think it would be Tihipko. So, my theory is the Arbuzov – Azarov – Kliuiev triangle.”