Thursday, August 03, 2006

Yu Finally Takes A Stand?

From my perspective, whether this is the beginning of the beginning or the beginning of the end of a budding Ukrainian democracy (I have no answer myself on this question), it need not have gone this way, and Ya need not have to have the chance to become PM again. Yu i joho ljubi druzi have been a colossal disappointment.

I talked with Oksana today in Pidhajtsi and she spoke of tremendous disappointment. Her brother had gone to Kyiv to picket the parliament and demonstrate for new elections.

Here is an article from Kuzio which I copy here because I liked his points about Yushchenko, but which I reproduce here with a bunch of omissions of statements regarding the West (Kuzio in this article is far too idealistic for me about Western democracy). Read the full article here if you haven't already.

The Non-Listening President

One of the most surprising aspects of the Viktor Yushchenko administration has been its unwillingness, or disinterest, in public relations and public opinion, whether in Ukraine or abroad. The Yushchenko administration and Our Ukraine ignored public opinion in Ukraine among Orange Revolution supporters, and that of the USA and the West in general, which called for a revived Orange coalition following the March elections. A coalition was only put together on the eve of the June deadline but it immediately collapsed and led to the current political crisis.

In ignoring domestic and foreign public opinion and advice, the Yushchenko administration has boxed itself into a corner. The two choices facing President Yushchenko are both unpalatable; proposing Viktor Yanukovych as Prime Minister or dissolving parliament and holding new elections. The first would be to make Yushchenko a lame duck president and the second would make Our Ukraine a lame duck political force.

The Orange Revolution did not have to develop this way if the president and Our Ukraine had upheld one of the central ideals of the Maidan. When Ukrainians went on to the streets in the Orange Revolution they sought to change their relationship with their rulers.

The post-Soviet relationship had continued the Soviet approach of the ‘new class’ living in a different world to its ‘subjects’. The Orange Revolution was a call for the ruling elites to treat its ‘subjects’ as citizens.


A central component was to be that the ruling elites would listen and act in line with public opinion. But Yushchenko has failed to become a listening president.

Orange Revolution supporters were never told why the ‘bandits’ (commonly understood as former President Leonid Kuchma and his senior officials) never met any justice and are in parliament today heading key committees? When the newly free media asked awkward questions, such as why Roman Zvarych could be Justice Minister without legal training and after falsifying his CV or questions regarding the president’s son, they were told to stop asking them or were condemned.

President Yushchenko never explained why he had to remove the Yulia Tymoshenko government, after saying three weeks earlier that it was the ‘best government in Europe’. Similarly, Prime Minister Yuriy Yekhanurov never explained why the bad oligarchs had suddenly become ‘good national bourgeoisie’?

Every poll that followed the March elections showed that an overwhelming majority of Orange Revolution voters in Our Ukraine, the Yulia Tymoshenko bloc and the Socialists wanted to see a revived Orange coalition. Yet, Our Ukraine and President Yushchenko took credit for holding Ukraine’s first free election while, on the other hand, ignored the fact that Our Ukraine had come third.

Ukrainians also flocked to the Orange Revolution because they believed that Yushchenko, and other Orange leaders, were different. The September 2005 crisis, drawn out coalition negotiations following the 2006 elections and the July crisis have proven to many Ukrainians that this Maidan assumption was wrong.

Our Ukraine and Socialist politicians have not proved they are different to those under Leonid Kuchma. Only the Tymoshenko bloc has stuck to its stance of refusing to talk with Yanukovych.

If Our Ukraine had come first in the Orange camp in the 2006 elections, as they expected, there would have been an Orange coalition established in April, with Yekhanurov as premier. The only reason for the drawn out talks, and ignoring of Orange opinion, was President Yushchenko’s and Our Ukraine’s dislike for Tymoshenko, who had a right to claim the post as her bloc had come first in the Orange camp.

Instead of listening to Orange voters, Our Ukraine (presumably with the president’s knowledge) negotiated simultaneously with its Orange partners and the Party of Regions. This dual-track duplicity, coupled with the drawn out talks, only served to reinforce the view that the Orange camp was hopelessly divided.

In the foreign arena, the Yushchenko administration has also ignored public opinion and public relations. This is surprising as during the 2004 elections the Yushchenko camp had by far the best public relations exercise in the West.

The ‘pro-Western’ President Yushchenko and Our Ukraine ignored US and NATO advice following the March elections, which linked a revived Orange coalition to a NATO Membership Action Plan and NATO membership (without supporting any particular candidate for Prime Minister).

The only conclusion one can make is that personal animosity towards Tymoshenko became a more important policy than listening. . . [What follows is more talk about how Yu should have listened to the West and hired Western PR firms, etc.--these comments seem unnecessary to me. It would have sufficed for Yu to have listened more to his own constituents--which I take to mean the people who stood in the streets for ideals he claimed to represent, the so-called Orange demonstrators and pro-democracy voters. But again, go here to read the whole article.]

The return of Yanukovych as prime minister would be proof of Yushchenko’s failure to implement the core values of the Orange Revolution in becoming a listening president. He should have implemented what he promised on the Maidan.


Anonymous said...

I'm an American living in Western Ukraine for the last few years. I really enjoy the people and the culture. ... My friends here seem to think that Yu has been a big let-down. Favor for Yu started going down-hill really fast when Yu signed a bill (when was it? last year?) which gives government officials in Kyiv and elsewhere freedom from prosecution (!!!). Most seem to favor Ty, despite the fact that she's also an oligarch. At least she seems to favor the people and not international business and oligarchs. I interviewed a few shop owners and, despite political promises, they claim that nothing has changed since the O. revolution. And, taxes are real problem to small businesses here in Ukraine.

Stefan said...

Thanks for the comment, and for also spending such time in Ukraine! I am curious to learn what you do in Western Ukraine, where you live and your impressions, etc. Please do write, here or to my email at

Anyway, this is true--Yu's star began to fall late summer 2005, first because of the fiasco with his son Andrij and his stupid remarks to the press, and then really as a result of his sacking of Ty and the subsequent (and ridiculous) Memorandum with Ya. This memorandum, which extended immunity from prosecution to local officials, shocked many OR supporters and smacked of betrayal.

I wrote the following last May about this matter:

"Corruption and and lack of transparency in the agricultural sector and especially in [gov. and business practices in] the Ukrainian countryside are truly large-scale problems. Many in Pidhajtsi [a small town in Ternopil state, 70 km from the city of Ternopil] have come to feel that Yushchenko has neither the intention nor the will to truly take on rural problems, and sometimes complain that like all previous administrations, his is focused all-too-exclusively on industry (which also means on Eastern Ukraine). One major sign to many locals that Yushchenko is not concerned with their plight in the countryside was his memorandum with Yanukovych in which Yushchenko agreed to extend immunity from prosecution to local government officials. Another symptom of this lack of will for many is his close relationship with Petro Poroshenko, Ukraine’s so-called Chocolate King. Poroshenko owns a large chocolates-and-sweets factory in addition to other businesses, and is definitely a New Eastern European worth an estimated $350 million, according to Warsaw-based Gazeta Wyborcza. He is widely perceived by many as profiting from the unfair barter practices in the countryside—a cheap supply of sugar for his factory contributing to is considerable wealth."

To see the full text and the video that accompanies it, go to

Thanks again,