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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 particularities of a national “coalition race”

Experts forecast that the parliamentary majority and the Cabinet will be formed quickly but live for a short time
10 November, 2014 - 18:29

It is almost two weeks since the snap parliamentary elections were held in Ukraine, but no coalition has so far been formed, even though there is a difficult economic and military situation in the state. The count of votes, the announcement of voting results, and the formation of the Cabinet is being delayed. According to the Central Electoral Commission (CEC), 99.93 percent of the votes have been counted and only one “problem-ridden” district election commission No.59 hinders finding the final results of the elections. Last Wednesday President Petro Poroshenko even held a meeting over the vote count situation and said it was inadmissible to delay announcing the results. CEC Chairman Mykhailo Okhendovsky has said it is impossible to find the results without help from law-enforcers. In a word, the process is still on. But, under the law, it can last until and including November 10.

The current stage of coalition formation comprises the work of seven groups that represent the three winning parties and experts who are in charge of specific fields in the future reforms. For example, the Poroshenko Bloc deals with reforms in the field of the constitution, the budget and finances, the public utilities and the infrastructure, as well as politics and law. The Popular Front deals with national security and defense, as well as with social and humanitarian matters. Samopomich cares about energy independence and reform of the agro-industrial complex. These task forces are to coordinate and unite the three political forces’ efforts into a joint concept.

One of the most important questions is, of course, portfolio distribution. Who will carry out reforms? Although the negotiators have dropped the quota principle, it is no secret that bargaining continues. In all probability, Arsenii Yatseniuk will retain the Cabinet’s chief office. Volodymyr Hroisman, Yurii Lutsenko, and Oleksandr Turchynov may be vying for the parliamentary speaker’s chair. The new Cabinet’s most important units deal with law enforcement and the economy. The media presume that law enforcement will be the domain of Poroshenko Bloc members, while the economy will be an object of coalition formation talks.

“As a reform executive committee, we have a lot of feedback about the text of the coalition agreement. There are some very interesting comments,” says Dmytro Shymkiv, Deputy Chairman of the Presidential Administration. In his words, the European Business Association suggests a 50-percent cut in budget expenditures, the American Chamber of Commerce advises to describe more in detail the question of deregulation, and international consulting companies recommend paying more attention to reforming the judicial system. New Country advises to refrain from establishing the National Anticorruption Agency, while the Reanimation Package of Reforms favors, on the contrary, the establishment of this body.

“All these projects have been submitted to the task force and experts who are working on the coalition agreement,” Shymkiv said and emphasized, a bit paraphrasing the Ukrainian president’s words: international experience shows that the more in detail the coalition agreement has been written, the longer the government will live. The expert community is not exactly unanimous in accepting this statement.

Andrii Zolotariov, chair of the Third Sector analytical center, emphasizes that this country is practically in a state of technical default. In his opinion, the next year’s draft budget is going to be extremely controversial, with 40 percent of expenditures aimed at paying and servicing foreign debts. Zolotariov calls it “the budget of the state’s social default.” He believes this can radically speed up the course of events in Ukraine. And what is absolutely obvious today may become absolutely unclear and raise endless questions tomorrow. Zolotariov points out that the draft coalition agreement prepared by the Poroshenko Bloc is rather a concrete and comprehensive 48-page document which “differs positively” from the draft agreement proposed by the Popular Front. Yet, on the same day, Yatseniuk made up – quite effectively and clearly in his speech – for the defects in his draft. The expert says that the president’s rating has dropped twofold since March and forecasts that, for this reason, Poroshenko will try to  see to it that the premier’s rating also drowns in the economic and social problems this country will come to grips with.

“My forecast is that, in all probability, Mr. Yatseniuk will assume the office of premier [as a result of    the coalition race. – Author], but    he will be gradually set up, have mud slung at him, and, as the Russians joke, ‘Chubaisized,’” Zolotariov says. “As the spring approaches, Mr. Yatseniuk will have a very hard time full of problems, when the president’s inner circle tries to lay all the blame at the premier’s door and hold him responsible for the problems that this country will encounter.” The expert cites the newly-elected Popular Front MPs who are saying there may be entirely different versions of the coalition without the Poroshenko Bloc. But the expert notes that the president added the “last touch” to coalition formation in his speech. In his view, this could be spelled out as follows: “I will be forming the government, while Mr. Yatseniuk will be responsible for its performance.”

Explaining the attitudes of the sides, Zolotariov points out that the Popular Front has laid claim to the Cabinet’s offices in charge of the uniformed services. And, as the economic and law-enforcement blocks are the most important in the current situation, control over the uniformed services will allow them, in case of an economic or political crisis, to let “Battalion Commander Zhelezniak” come to the fore. So, in the expert’s view, the president will in no way allow Yatseniuk to realize his ambitions about the uniformed services. Zolotariov predicts in this connection that “there will be no quick solution.”

“The Popular Front, which rightly considers itself the election winner, does not intend today to let Poroshenko have a decisive impact on the coalition’s performance,” says Denys Kyriukhin, an expert at the Kyiv Center of Political Studies and Conflictology. The political scientist also notes that, no matter what kind of government may be formed, it is    obvious today that those vying for    leadership in the coalition have no fundamental differences in the socioeconomic field. The argument is only about the coalition’s rules of work and governmental offices. But they are all unanimous in that the government should work in close contact with the International Monetary Fund and carry out its program for Ukraine. “There is a close consensus in the now ruling political class about the necessity of doing so – given rather a soft approach to big capital and rather intense pressure on small- and medium-scale business,” the expert adds.

“The coalition will be formed by three political forces (Petro Poroshenko Bloc, Popular Front, and Samopomich). A broad-based coalition will be announced, and, in all probability, both Tymoshenko and Liashko will say they support it, but it is the abovementioned three forces that will in fact distribute the offices,” forecasts Ruslan Bortnyk, director of the Ukrainian Institute for Political Analysis and Management. He is convinced that, in spite of protests, offices will be distributed on the quota basis. “The coalition will be formed quickly and easily, but it will not be stable,” the expert says. “Its configuration will be changing throughout the next year because the largest parties (Poroshenko Bloc and Popular Front) are capable of forming a coalition without their apparent rival.” Besides, he draws our attention to the conditions of coalition dissolution in the Poroshenko Bloc’s draft agreement. Details? But, as is known, anything can hide behind them.

The Day asked the expert about the extent to which the parliamentary group that may include volunteer battalion commanders will influence the coalition formation and the work of the newly-elected parliament. “Battalion commanders in parliament are like the proverbial rifle that hangs on the wall in the first act of a performance,” Bortnyk says. “It may fire some time. Standing behind the battalion commanders is quite a considerable military force. I am afraid that, owing to the volunteers’ political inexperience, unpreparedness, lack of basic skills and foresight, there may be many in parliament who may wish to manipulate this force. Experienced politicians may set this force against one side or another, which will represent a grave danger to this country.”


By Vitalii KNIAZHANSKY, The Day