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Where there is no law, but every man does what is right in his own eyes, there is the least of real liberty
Henry M. Robert

“The February Revolution”

8 February, 2005 - 00:00

Viktor Yushchenko’s government is a politically expedient (if not revolutionary) administration, rather than a professional one. This is the impression created by the fifty decrees on cabinet and regional administration appointments that the head of state signed last Friday right in the Verkhovna Rada. (Inci dentally, the tradition of signing particularly significant documents in the VR session hall, of all places, which was established, intentionally or unintentionally, by Leonid Kuchma and Volodymyr Lytvyn during last December’s package voting, seems to have caught on). The second impression is that it is the Socialists who won the elections. Otherwise, why on earth did President Yushchenko hold such protracted portfolio-distribution consultations with them (which caused several postponements of the vote to approve the new cabinet) and end up giving them strategically important offices? As a result, the Socialists obtained the coveted chair of interior minister and much more. The third impression is that the quota-based political principle of forming a government was also applied to the army, police, and security agencies. Who is chairing them now — the president, the prime minister, or the party leaders who nominated their men for these offices? For example, is the Socialist Party now responsible for traffic police bribes, the rate of house burglaries, and money laundering? Fourthly, the people who are now going to control financial flows in the transport, telecommunications, and emergency sectors so far have failed to convince anyone that the president and the premier will abide by the much- vaunted principle of separating business from politics.

An extended prelude to the current prime ministerial race was offset by its flamboyant culmination. After obtaining 373 votes, Yuliya Tymoshenko was confirmed by the Verkhovna Rada as head of the Ukrainian government, with only the Communist faction voting against her. Incidentally, the voting results call into question the existence of an adequate opposition in this country, unless this term can be applied to the Communist Party, Natalia Vitrenko, and all kinds of “Russian blocs.”

Mrs. Tymoshenko became the thirteenth prime minister of independent Ukraine and the first woman to hold this office. Introducing Mrs. Tymoshenko to parliamentarians last Friday, President Yushchenko called her his political partner and a professional. The president gave high marks to Mrs. Tymoshenko’s performance as vice-premier in the cabinet that he once headed. “I trust her and believe that she will properly organize the work of the national government; I trust her as do millions of people. I also think that Mrs. Tymoshenko is aware of the responsibility she bears to the millions of people who were watching her and us on Independence Square. People expect the government to be honest and be able to solve the problems that have been besetting them for the last 14 years,” the head of state emphasized.

Incidentally, President Yushchenko’s speech was marked by clarity and realism. Instead of talking about morality and the European choice, he immediately made it clear that he knew he was addressing the owners of the Ukrainian economy. The decisive point of the president’s speech was his promise to pursue “a fair and sound public policy.” “I would like to say what my government will not be doing,” President Yushchenko said to the deputies. “My government will never stoop even to bribery, let alone downright embezzlement.” In addition, the government “will never bring money to parliament” in order to solve one problem or another. The state plans to abolish corporate privileges, revise the status of free economic zones, and repossess “stolen” facilities, such as the Kryvorizhstal steel mill. President Yushchenko stressed that the government is offering a hand to business, is prepared to legalize capital, modify taxes, etc., and wants business to do the same in response, i.e., to step out of the shadow economy and stop evading taxes.

As a result, the government plans to earn 25 to 30 billion hryvnias as budget revenues within a year. A third of these funds will be channeled to the state reserve and two-thirds will be “given to the poor” under a law to be passed by parliament. Whereas President Yushchenko was addressing parliament as the focal point of big business interests, Prime Minister Tymoshenko, who was presenting her cabinet’s program (which she intends to manage for “all the five years of Yushchenko’s presidency”), was battling with the emotions of people’s deputies. Refuting the main argument of her critics, who call the program inadequate and full of empty-sounding phrases, Mrs. Tymoshenko tried to persuade the lawmakers that “figures are of little value; people don’t understand what lies behind them; the point is the philosophy of our future life.” “Morality comes before professionalism,” the prime minister stressed, referring to civil servants. Morality is a delicate issue, but her declaration that new cabinet members have no links with business was obviously laying it on thick because such links are clearly visible. Moreover, some of those whose links have been noted were given very capital- intensive posts.

Naturally, there are various reasons why the parliamentary factions gave such active support to Tymoshenko’s candidature. Her main opponents in Our Ukraine may be satisfied for the time being with the portfolios and promises that they managed to obtain (e.g., Roman Bezsmertny became vice-premier in charge of administrative reform). As for, say, the Regions of Ukraine Party, its members officially explained their support by their desire “to give the new president and his team an opportunity to show themselves” and, unofficially, as one of the “regionals” put it, “to let Yuliya pull off a stunning victory, otherwise she will first splinter Our Ukraine and then us.”

The new Cabinet of Ministers is also distinguished by the absence (at least now) of first-rank politicians, except for two or three individuals. As of February 4, the leading posts of some socially oriented governmental bodies and national joint-stock companies still remain vacant.

By Maryana OLIYNYK, Kseniya VASYLENKO, The Day