Ukraine: end of romanticism

MOSCOW. (Alexei Makarkin, Deputy Director General of the Center for
Political Technologies, for RIA Novosti).
Romanticism is over in Ukraine. The time of the Orange Revolution, with its
protesting emotions and the black-and-white confrontation between the
forces of good and evil, has been replaced by the time of pragmatic
political deals.
In late 2004, everything was clear to Europeans. Viktor Yushchenko was an
honest politician prevented from becoming president by the "dark forces"
associated with the Leonid Kuchma regime and the then Prime Minister Viktor
Yanukovich. In their turn, the "dark forces" were known for corruption and
did their best to falsify the election results. Now, a little more than a
year later, the cliches have been discarded. Quite different issues are
being debated now, for example, the composition of the future government
coalition, which may comprise in varying combinations the country's three
leading political forces: the Party of Regions (Viktor Yanukovich), Our
Ukraine (Viktor Yushchenko) and Yulia Tymoshenko's bloc.
True, the Orange coalition of Yushchenko and Tymoshenko broke up last year
and the former associates transformed into opponents. That is not
surprising, considering that Tymoshenko's political career mostly rests on
populism. As a prime minister, she was known for her ambition to carry out
a large-scale revision of privatization results, which could scare foreign
investors whose money was badly needed by Ukraine and revolution activists.
In his turn, Yushchenko preferred pin-point campaigns, like the revision of
Krivorozhstal privatization tender results, to keep with his election
promises and replenish government coffers.
Upon closer examination, Yanukovich's supporters are striving to protect
political and economic interests of the eastern Ukrainian elite, rather
than the notorious authoritarianism. That's why they are ready to make
significant compromises that do not run counter to the crucial priorities
of businessmen from the east of the country. Actually, the overwhelming
majority of the Ukrainian elite see themselves living in united Europe, but
only a few of them are ready to make economic sacrifices for that.
Naturally, Ukraine's political forces differ considerably in their
pro-Western attitudes. It is doubtful that a government comprising the
Party of Regions would have opted for economic sanctions against
Transdnestr, the unrecognized republic which clearly irritates united
Europe, the way the Yushchenko government did in the wake of the election
campaign. However, if Yanukovich's supporters become government members,
these measures will not necessarily be cancelled, on the same grounds of
What about Yanukovich's idea of a referendum on NATO membership? While
Yushchenko would like to see Ukraine a member of NATO as soon as possible
and at any cost, Yanukovich comes against "speedy integration" and favors
comprehensive cooperation with the Alliance. Actually, the choice is to be
made between a speedy and cautious, well-considered integration into NATO.
Interestingly, in the 1982 election campaign in Spain the local Socialists
also opposed membership of NATO, while the right-centrist government
advocated speedy integration into it. Having won, they switched to other
goals, prepared public opinion and held a successful referendum after which
the country safely became a NATO member. By the way, the then little known
Spanish Socialist politician Javier Solana was quite critical of the North
Atlantic Alliance.
How will the West reconcile itself to the possible coalition of the
"honest" Yushchenko and "dishonest" Yanukovich? Quite easy: the West did
not want Yanukovich as president - who, it believed, was pushing his way to
power through falsifications. Yet, the West has nothing against Yanukovich
as a minister or prime minister, provided European observers acknowledge
that the Party of Regions got as many votes as was reflected in Central
Election Commission protocols.
The post-election time is likely to spell a long and tough bargaining over
government coalition. Evidently, a "broad coalition" of all the three
leaders would be impossible, while two parties will not necessarily be
supported by the overwhelming majority. In this case, the role of second
flank political forces who are ready to act as junior partners in any
coalition - the Socialists led by Alexander Moroz and the People's Party of
incumbent parliament Speaker Vladimir Litvin - may increase. Neither the
former nor the latter have anything against European integration.
Does that mean that after the elections Ukraine's road to united Europe
looks idyllic? Such a conclusion would be completely wrong. Economy matters
more than politics to the majority of the Ukrainian elite. That means that
any government coalition will be dependent on business lobbyists and will
find it hard to adopt unpopular decisions. For example, European
integration is highly likely to provoke large-scale restructuring of the
Ukrainian economy which will primarily affect the east of the country with
its highly developed industry dating back to the Soviet times. Similarly,
any coalition government with populist members - both Tymoshenko's
supporters and the Socialists - will have hard time adopting tough economic
measures that will hit the socially vulnerable strata of society in order
to attain financial stability which is a must for European integration.
Any post-election government coalition will not be stable enough, so its
chances for conducting a sensible socio-economic course will be low. It is
possible that Ukraine is in for "government leapfrog", with one coalition
replacing another. So, regardless of what the Ukrainian elite may wish, the
country's prospects for European integration remain quite vague. -0-