If Ukraine is to get out of its political and economic mess, the three major political leaders in the country – President Viktor Yushchenko, former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko and Donetsk-based business leader Renat Akhmetov, need to think “outside the boxes” of their selfish associates and form the new Parliament and Cabinet via a Grand Coalition.
The Orange Coalition parties will not have enough votes to form a majority in Parliament and elect a Cabinet without taking in Oleksandr Moroz’ Socialists and Speaker Volodymyr Lytvyn’s list. If they take in these political camps, the majority will not be stable and homogeneous in strategic policies. Their presence in a coalition will prevent economic and governmental reforms needed in agriculture, health, education, taxes, etc. The Socialists would block speedy privatization of most state enterprises that desperately need foreign capital and know-how required to create jobs and survive in this new era of global competition, and would muddle foreign and national security policies.
A dual alliance between the Akhmetov-controlled Regions of Ukraine and Yushchenko’s Our Ukraine or Tymoshenko’s party would be fatal for either of the Orange parties. Orange voters would be aghast and outraged if either party joined Regions alone and left the other Orange branch outside. Moreover, support for Ukraine from the United States and Europe would rapidly cool.
While Regions members operate closely with Our Ukraine’s financial clan members, Our Ukraine’s democratic reform plurality would rebel before the end of 2006 if they were trapped in a coalition of majority Regions members. Such an uprising would collapse Parliament’s majority and Cabinet.
Moreover, leaving the talented Yulia Tymoshenko in opposition would be suicide.
An embittered, rejected woman with brains and clever one-liners would chop them all to pieces. A consideration of these and other factors leads to several conclusions:
A. Ukraine needs Parliament and Cabinet stability for 4-5 years in order to rapidly grow its economy, create millions of new jobs, raise living standards, and secure the independence of Ukraine from preying neighbors. Ukraine can not survive if it has further turnover in Cabinets and continued mismanagement, inefficiency, and large-scale corruption in leading government circles.
B. Akhmetov needs Euro-Atlantic capital, markets, and respectability if he wishes to emerge as an admired and elected national leader. He is using Euro-U.S. business experts to create models of efficiency and transparency. He is clearly interested in separating his businesses and himself from a controversial past, hoping to take Systems Capital Management, his primary business holding, and other companies, public on the London and New York Stock Exchanges.
C. Yushchenko needs a stable Parliament and Cabinet that will sustain and protect him for the rest of his term, lest the Presidency become quite ineffective or impeached.
D. Tymoshenko, the best communicator in national politics, needs a position where she has a chance to prove herself fairly, free of back-stabbing allies.
A woman in a “safe marriage” can be most cooperative, stable and very helpful.
Critics justly say the Regions Party includes some unsavory persons, but Our Ukraine and Tymoshenko’s Byut bloc lists don’t have many virgins either.
Akhmetov would become the new “Renaissance Man” to lead Ukraine out of chaos and into a progressive future by forming a center-right “Grand Patriotic Coalition” of some 330 members from Regions, Our Ukraine, Tymoshenko’s Fatherland party, and Pora/Reforms & Order, assuming the latter passes the three percent barrier.
Such a teaming would, of course, include policy and personnel concessions, including an end to any further East-West tensions, separatism and language issues. A gentlemen’s agreement forgiving financial transgressions and improper privatizations would be necessary. This de-facto amnesty would not serve true justice as Tymoshenko has called for, but it would serve peaceful reconciliation, if accompanied by the following: Repealing the October 2005 law granting immunity from criminal prosecution to some 200,000 local officials; and repealing the two Constitutional sections which give criminal immunity to all Parliament members and Judges.
Putting the past behind us, but making every citizen obey the laws and pay their full taxes from hereon forward, would gain public and international admiration and unite a stable super-majority in Parliament that can implement needed reforms. Reforming the corruption-ridden Judiciary, by implementing testing for judges and replacing incompetent judges must be included in the package.
Such an agreement should also include ending the moratorium on sale and purchase of agricultural lands, and selling off almost all state businesses and factories. The cash raised needs to be used to build infrastructure, communal utilities and housing throughout Ukraine, creating tens of thousands of new jobs. Privatization would not only weed out corruption in state-owned enterprises, it would also bring in billions to revamp these businesses and boost tax revenues.
The coalition agreement would have to state that while Ukraine will always have significant trade and cultural relations with countries to the east, the country’s future lies in revamping its systems to Euro-Atlantic standards. The agreement would obviate a referendum on Constitutional change implemented in December 2004, while advancing other needed constitutional amendments and laws.
If Akhmetov can get the Regions of Ukraine bloc to back such a package deal, Yushchenko and Tymoshenko would have to agree and all their reputations would soar. A Grand National Coalition would then look like this:
President: Yushchenko, supported by stable Parliament and Cabinet for 4 more years.
Premier: Tymoshenko or a Regions of Ukraine choice, with either surrounded by coalition Ministers.
Parliament Speaker: a Regions of Ukraine choice or Tymoshenko, with Our Ukraine leader Mykola Katerynchuk as her 1st deputy.
By Hon. Dr. John B. Conlan, former U.S. Congressman, a long-time investment advisor living in Kyiv
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