The visit of US Vice President Joe Biden to Ukraine has somewhat eased tension about the destiny of the Arsenii Yatseniuk-led Cabinet. Leaving Kyiv, the US high official even said to TV cameras: “I met with Speaker Hroisman of the Rada, President Poroshenko, and Prime Minister Yatseniuk. I’ve come to know these men, and I believe that, working together, they can create a truly free, united, democratic Ukraine.” During his sojourn in Ukraine, Biden repeatedly emphasized that the main thing is to work for the country, preserve unity, and fight against corruption.
The latter “malady” is noteworthy. According to a Global Financial Integrity survey, “Illicit Financial Flows from Developing Countries in 2004-2013,” Ukraine is 14th on the list. The survey says the annual illicit financial flow from Ukraine is 11.676 billion dollars, with 116.762 billion having flown out of the country in 10 years. Given the situation in this country, very little must have changed in 2014-15. Suffice it to recall public statements of the former SBU chief Valentyn Nalyvaichenko about millions of dollars being placed onto offshore accounts.
We will know in the near future whether Ukrainian politicians have heeded the American guest. December 11 is the first anniversary of the Cabinet appointment. After the government submits a report, parliament is to assess the performance of ministers and decide whether or not to dismiss the Cabinet. According to the latest information, although a question time was planned, as usual, for Friday, the Cabinet’s report had been postponed. “We must first pass the budget and only then hear the Cabinet,” Deputy Speaker Oksana Syroid said. Later, several MPs from various factions confirmed to The Day that the report had really been put off (tentatively, for Thursday, when the Rada holds an off-schedule session).
By all accounts, Biden’s messages will be heeded, but this will hardly ward off a confrontation between “pressure groups” in the government. The Yatseniuk dismissal campaign began as far back as November, about which Yurii Lutsenko, leader of the presidential BPP Solidarity faction; Mikheil Saakashvili, chairman of the Odesa Oblast Administration; and even Kyiv’s lightboxes reading “Run, Rabbit, Run,” have been saying openly. The current premier said in response that he would accept any of the MPs’ decisions. Yet he hinted that if somebody else headed the government, People’s Front would leave the coalition.
According to the off-faction MP Ihor Lutsenko, a bargain is going on about the Cabinet’s composition, with the president and the premier making a deal. Interestingly, the question of the premier’s dismissal sounds as follows: Arsenii Yatseniuk remains but some ministers will be “reshuffled.” According to The Day’s information, they are the agrarian minister (Ivan Miroshnychenko and Taras Kutovy as candidates), the minister of energy (Yurii Prodan and Oleksandr Dombrovsky as candidates), and the ministers of public health and environmental protection.
DECEMBER 10, 2015. THE VERKHOVNA RADA. ON THE EVE OF THE CABINET’S FIRST ANNIVERSARY
Why did they think better of changing the premier, for there are so many in various factions, who are not satisfied with his work? “Forty MPs from BPP and Fatherland have signed a petition on a full overhaul of the Cabinet,” says its author Oleh Barna, a BPP MP. The Opposition Bloc was also prepared in principle to vote “for,” which Vadym Rabinovych confirmed to The Day. Only the Radical Party remains uncertain, while Samopomich is very cautious in expressing itself.
To sum it up, firstly, Biden made it clear that the Presidential Administration and the Cabinet should be represented by different political parties. “Power must not be concentrated in the same hands, but it doesn’t matter to him who the candidates are,” a BPP source told The Day. In his words, this advice should be taken because Ukraine needs IMF loans and US aid. Secondly, to dismiss Yatseniuk means to reformat the coalition, while the new-format contenders are too odious. Thirdly, it is necessary to adopt changes to the Tax Code and, on this basis, the 2016 budget. The immediate dismissal of Yatseniuk may put the skids under this process.
In reality, the main cause of the current situation is that two 1990s-time problems are still parasitizing the governmental body. The two Maidans, especially the second, only shook, but not broke down, “the Kuchma system.” For this reason, even now that Ukraine is in dire straits due to Russian aggression and economic crisis, some businesspeople and politicians put their narrow corporate benefits above national interests. The question essentially is whether or not the state will survive. At this time, like never before, we need the best – be it a government of technocrats or what we call a “national team.” Instead, we can see a clash of clans, when the country has in fact fallen hostage to political infighting. Whether or not the Yatseniuk government remains behind is, of course, an important question, but the main thing is that what must be changed are approaches and attitudes to Ukraine rather than just individuals.
Maksym ROZUMNY, Doctor of Political Sciences; chief, political strategies department, National Institute for Strategic Studies:
“The situation on the eve of parliament’s Friday session was as follows: it was planned to discuss changes to the Tax Code and the budget and only then the question of the government’s responsibility. The explanation was that the governmental crisis might drag by, while failure to solve more important problems could foil cooperation with the IMF and sink the country into chaos. So, deciding on the government’s destiny is, by all accounts, not a matter of the next few days.
“As for the current difficult situation in the Ukrainian Cabinet and parliament, it is necessary to discuss the real ways out of it. We can see no preconditions for replacing the political elite in the key sectors. Governmental politics is today in the hands of the people who – by force of many factors, such as personal interests, previous practices, mentality, and competence – are unable to respond to the challenges Ukraine is facing. For this reason, a new change will be useful if it does not essentially undermine the country’s viability. The rotation of elites is necessary, but only a quality alternative can help pick up the country and take it out of a probable financial and socioeconomic nosedive.
“There is no ‘coalition of vested interests’ to trigger a large-scale parliamentary and governmental crisis which would lead to a new election – neither the West nor the leading political forces in Ukraine are interested in this because the wave of criticism against them is only on the rise. Therefore, this crisis will be resolved by means of local changes. But it is difficult to forecast the impact of this on the destiny of Premier Yatseniuk, for this is not so important. Meanwhile, the principle of government body formation and the political elite’s quality will remain the same during the nearest election cycle. So, this problem will be tackled gradually in a semi-emergency mode. In all probability, Ukraine’s top leaders negotiated with foreign partners in this very context and reached a compromise so that this ‘reset’ was carried out stage by stage and with many precautionary measures.
“Naturally, there are people in Ukraine – in the national government and civil society – who could take on responsibility for this country. Some of them have been artificially dropped out or ‘lustrated,’ for they do not make an organized group, while the political rat race in the country hinders self-organization of people with fundamentally different views, approaches, and levels of competence. The point is that resources of power have always been a ‘coveted prize,’ and this prompts the formation of teams that lay claim to these resources. Unfortunately, this country’s political elites do not consolidate on a different basis, such as common good, professionalism, and a coordinated, albeit disputable, vision of Ukraine’s future. Periodic crises in this country in fact cause these professionals to scatter and join unviable marauder-type structures for the purpose of publicity.
NINE OUT OF ELEVEN MEMBERS OF THE COMMISSION OF INQUIRY CALLED FOR A NEW ELECTION TO BE HELD IN KRYVY RIH ON MARCH 27, 2016. FURTHERMORE, A BILL TO THAT EFFECT WAS TABLED IN THE VERKHOVNA RADA ON DECEMBER 10, CO-SPONSORED BY LEADERS OF THE COALITION FACTIONS. HOWEVER, NO MEMBER OF THE PETRO POROSHENKO BLOC JOINED THEM. THE POSTER READS: “KRYVY RIH IS A CITY OF HONEST PEOPLE!”
“On its part, society is a hostage of this situation, for it can influence the process by the only institutional means it has – elections. Establishing democracy is a longtime installation of certain rules, institutions, and culture. It is important that this should go steadily, without steps back in the shape of ‘counterrevolutions.’ To do so, one must know the process and its stages. The political class and experts should gradually take this sober view on the establishment of democracy as a social innovation, a new lifestyle of the societal body. For revanche and counterrevolution mean a deliberate renunciation of democratic values, the slogans and guidelines of the Revolution of Dignity.”
Viktoria PODHORNA, political scientist:
“I would like to remind you that half the Cabinet ministers are the president’s people, so he is responsible for the Cabinet’s actions. Today’s Cabinet is the result of a compromise between various political parties, and it is joint responsibility, not only that of Yatseniuk.
“As for Mr. Yatseniuk himself, he is an educated person but not a very good premier, for he lacks a strategic vision indispensable for a politician of this level. And this is the main cause of what is going on in this country. Besides, he is a person shaped in the old frame of references – he began his career in the Kuchma era and is partly linked to his clan, which leaves an imprint on his policies and the rules he obeys. Unfortunately, it is not the rules civil society would like to see. This is a major problem because he is not interested in or capable of essentially changing the system, which both civil society and the West wish. So, he remains a hard-times caretaker premier and shoulders a great responsibility which he cannot cope with. But it will be also wrong to replace him, for this will help the president monopolize power.
“The West’s rationale is that the Yatseniuk government does not need to be replaced because this would cause the parliamentary majority to turn into a very unstable coalition with hard-to-grasp views and lead to the factual disintegration of People’s Front and, as a result, will increase the president’s control of the Cabinet. This will lead to nothing but a ‘third Maidan’ because Petro Poroshenko is also an old-system man who is inclined to usurp power. Of course, Western countries cannot allow this, and Joe Biden emphasized during his visit that it is necessary to keep the status quo intact. He in fact appealed to the president’s and premier’s conscience so that they started reforms. I am not sure they can heed this because they have a totally different life philosophy. As a matter of fact, they are not democratic leaders because they were formed as post-Soviet politicians, and no calls or maidans will change this mentality.
“It was the last ‘attempt of persuasion’ on the part of the US. The current state of affairs is transient and will not last long. Then the West may simply begin to ignore Ukraine unless our elites begin to do something. Therefore, in all likelihood, there will be some face-lifting, which can only be done under pressure.
“Early parliamentary elections, if any, will only result in a partial rotation of the elites. The Rada will see UKROP-type parties that are now on the rise. But this is not enough because we would like to see a totally new generation which lacks a political basis so far.
“I think the only alternative is a very intensive formation of the new political elite. This will only be possible if a sociopolitical movement is established or a true constitutional process begins, which will form various societal pressure groups, which will in turn produce new political leaders. Only real projects and actions make true leaders out of people – they will learn to do something useful for Ukraine at various levels.
“Of course, decentralization is being hindered because present-day elites do not want to share power and have rivals. But it is badly needed and must go at a rapid pace, for it is also a way to form new political leaders.
“Unfortunately, the local elections showed that, although there was a trend towards the shaping of new politicians, nothing was done in southern and eastern Ukraine to help them win. The only exception is Dnipropetrovsk and Mykolaiv. The current leadership has in fact opted for a compromise with former Regionnaires, missing a chance to change the regional elites.
“But if no reforms are carried out in the country, this will increase radical sentiments. The radicalization of society plus the comeback of former Regionnaires will deepen the split of Ukraine – it is Putin’s dream to destroy Ukraine with the help of Ukrainians themselves. And responsibility for this lies with the president, the premier, and the Cabinet, which must be aware of these risks.”
Oleksandr SAVCHENKO, economist:
“Ukraine needs a government of technocrats, which should be given two years to carry out and consolidate reforms. Then this Cabinet can be dismissed.
“I would go further and forbid all members of this government to go in for politics (to be elected to parliament, local councils of various levels, etc.) for 3-5 years after resignation.
“If Arsenii Yatseniuk does not want to go on the grounds that this will ruin the coalition, it’s possible to appoint a vice premier who will wield all the necessary powers.
“The country will endure one more party-crony-type government, but at what cost? We are already Europe’s poorest country. The living standards of our citizens are on the level of an average African country. We are a mono-national state and, by contrast with Russia, we have nothing to break up into, but we can well sink to still more abysmal depths – young people will be going abroad and pensioners dying at a rapider pace.
“If we want a better future, we should look for experienced technocrats, who have no chances to slide to populism, and ask them to come and raise the economy of Ukraine. My colleagues and I have found out that we have 6 or 7 macroeconomists of this kind. I will not give out their names so far. But these people are here in our country, and they have proved their efficiency in the topmost governmental offices. To see this, one must look at the positive changes that have occurred in this country over the 24 years of our independence, find the people who did it, and make them the core of a new government.”
Oleh BEREZIUK, leader, Samopomich faction:
“The Cabinet dismissal is not exactly on the agenda, but we know that this government must be changed. In what form? This needs to be debated. The government comprises some successful technocrat ministers, such as Oleksii Pavlenko and Andrii Pyvovarsky, but the latter is said to have handed in his resignation. The premier is an intellectual well-versed in many macroeconomic matters, but, unfortunately, there is no public managerial process in this Cabinet. If we work well with the coalition on the appointment of new key ministers who would, first of all, set a goal to ensure transparency, then any government will have a future.
“We are now considering the replacement of Premier Yatseniuk as one of the possible options.”
Oleksandr BAKUMENKO, Member of Parliament, Petro Poroshenko Bloc:
“This is not a government of technocrats. There are a lot of ‘casual’ people in it. A technocrat is a professional who knows how to work, has certain experience, knows how the grassroots live, will map out a right strategy, and is managerially capable of applying it and mustering a team of like-minded people. Can such a team come up? It can. There is no other way. The No.1 task is to carry out a proper economic reform, which would let business work normally. A technocratic government like this is impossible with Yatseniuk at the head. There should be a publicly-trusted person who has an easy-to-grasp program that describes all the stages of the reform. This person should be searched for both inside and outside Ukraine – for example, it can be the former Polish premier Balcerowicz.”
Viktor CHUMAK, Member of Parliament (independent); deputy head, Parliamentary Committee for the Prevention of and Fighting Corruption:
“At first, parliament should hear the government’s report, then work on the Tax Code and the budget for at least two weeks, and only after this give its verdict on the Cabinet. The government’s performance is contradictory. There’s a complete collapse of the economy, but some governmental policies were quite satisfactory.
“I will vote for the dismissal of this government. But nobody is saying that Yatseniuk will not be able to come back after the dismissal. If the government is replaced and the current ministers understand why they ‘came unstuck,’ anything may happen. If not, then not. There’s no communication between the interested parties. ‘Technocrat’ is a vague term, for they in any case come under somebody’s influence. Do you think bureaucracy does not exert influence? If there emerges a person who will make allies out of the bureaucrats in his or her ministry, he or she will win.”