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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

Test of Strength

8 February, 2005 - 00:00

Forming the cabinet and appointing heads of central and regional executive bodies was the first serious test of strength for Viktor Yushchenko’s team and the entire political coalition that won the presidential elections. There is even talk of the new government’s first crisis. I think it is more a case of a dramatic and painful process of forming a new and more democratic type of coalition in Ukraine. The present coalition is being formed by coordinating the interests of diverse political forces rather than according to a pattern set by one administrative source. This has turned out to be rather difficult. This task needs to be learned on the go. President Yushchenko could have denied the Socialists the offices they coveted. Even in that case parliament would have confirmed Yuliya Tymoshenko in office by a majority vote. Yet Mr. Yushchenko opted for a compromise with the SPU, which shows that the government was formed in a democratic way. As for the alleged lack of transparency in this process, you have to consider one simple thing: politics cannot and will never be absolutely transparent. There should be reasonable limits. A political process must not be turned into a ‘nudist beach’ and individuals into political exhibitionists. In the case of forming a government, the public should have first-hand access to information on who was nominated for a certain office by a certain political force, not learn this from journalists, while the very process of making a deal should take place behind closed doors until a draft resolution is put to the judgment of parliamentarians and the public.

“Another cardinal point is approval of the government’s program. The question is not about the ‘philosophy’ of the premier and the cabinet but about their action program in the literal meaning of the word. The ‘philosophy’ was supported in the elections, while deputies and experts must now evaluate a concrete program. It would be logical to submit a cabinet program together with a revised 2005 budget and a concept for the 2006 budget. Then it would be clear whether the budget has enough funds to meet the targets set by the president and the new premier. The hasty approval of the government’s program also looks like an attempt to avoid thorough independent scrutiny and a wide public debate on this program. Incidentally, the Yanukovych government was criticized precisely for this very thing. Mrs. Tymoshenko is necessarily repeating the former government’s mistakes. The goal of this haste is clear: to win a year-long immunity from a parliamentary vote of non-confidence. But can this attitude to the new cabinet radically change in a few weeks? Actually, Mrs. Tymoshenko is trying to apply the very ‘package principle’ that she recently criticized.

Meanwhile, it is premature to comment on the new cabinet’s composition. One thing is clear: by its political essence, the new Cabinet of Ministers is a coalition government. It is a Yushchenko-Tymoshenko government. Whether it will manage to work as a closely-knit and efficient team will soon become clear. I do not think that all the ministers and regional administration heads will stand the test of professionalism, morality, and performance. There will be a political and professional selection. It is quite possible that as early as the fall (or even earlier) we will see the first shuffles in the government and among regional leaders.

By Volodymyr FESENKO, Penta Center for Applied Political Studies
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