Monday, December 29, 2008

Happy New Year for all the readers of What's up, Ukraine! Enjoy these marvellous holidays, and see you in 2009!

The capital of Ukraine has already started "pre-celebrations" to meet a New Year 2009 on a proper level. I would like to present my best New Year wishes to all the respected auditory of this blog, and to join the crowd of happy people of Kyiv, who are not thinking about politics, President, Government, Parliament, early election of whoever it may be, or about budget-2009 (by the way, President signed it today, and the same time called the document "a tragedy of Ukrainian nation").

I'm planning to write my next post here on Monday 5 January. Happy New Year!

Friday, December 26, 2008

…And the unexpected gift. The Parliament of Ukraine approved the Budget 2009 today.

Ukrainian politics is really full of surprises during this Holiday season. The Members of Parliament decided to come back to the State Budget question today, and suddenly voted in favour of this document. The pro-Governmental forces have managed to find four MPs needed to have 226 votes for the project of budget – from the Our Ukraine – People’s Self Defence Block. Now the budget is approved, and nobody cares about the figures and macroeconomic data anymore – it’s time for holidays. As a result, Ukrainian MPs have two extra free days this year: as was decided, they will not work on 30 and 31 December (but the next parliamentary sitting is scheduled for 13 January 2009). Happy New Year, Verkhovna Rada!

But the political problems in the country are – of course – not resolved. Today the President of Ukraine Viktor Yushchenko will have an opportunity to comment a new budget during the live political show on Inter TV channel at 21.30 PM by Kyiv time.

Expected gift – II. The Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine didn’t approve the budget 2009 again.

The Parliament of Ukraine voted against a budget 2009 three times this morning. MPs failed to approve the document as a whole, and then in the first reading. Parliament considered also a proposition to come back to the budget discussion today, but the majority voted against that. The problem is that the Party of Regions, the Communist party and pro-president part of the Our Ukraine – People’s Self-Defence Block (MP’s Group “For Ukraine” founded by ex-Head of the faction Vyacheslav Kyrylenko) don’t support the budget project as it is today.

MP’s have decided to hold sittings on Tuesday, 30 December and Wednesday, 31 December. But a lot of people predict that Ukraine will start the New Year without a budget. Parliament will probably approve the document in January.

Expected Gift. The Parliament of Ukraine made a Christmas present to Yulia Tymoshenko, sending the project of budget back to her office.

Verkhovna Rada failed to pass the 2009 budget on Thursday, December 25. Most of the Members of Parliament decided that the project of budget is not realistic, in particular, because of its extra-optimistic economic forecasts. The budget, presented by the Prime Minister of Ukraine Yulia Tymoshenko on Tuesday, 23 December, supposes that the inflation will stay in frames of 9,5%, hryvnia rate to US dollar will be not more than 7-7,5, and the GDP will grow to 0,4%.

The result of the vote has demonstrated the absence of the real coalition of majority in Ukrainian Parliament. The budget was supported by all MPs of the Block of Yulia Tymoshenko and the Block of Lytvyn, and also by 44 MPs from the ex-president’s faction Our Ukraine – People’s Self-Defense. But the faction of the Communist party (who is not a Coalition member) was not in favor, and the vote failed.

Parliament will hold the sitting today, on Friday 26 December (starting at 10 AM), and will come back to the budget question – and will face problems again. Even non-economist may see that there are problems with a revenue side of the budget, and with the macroeconomic forecast (as was said). Also as Ukraine still hasn’t signed an agreement with Russia on gas supply, and nobody knows the price of gas for 2009, all the economic planning that was made is very approximate.

Some sources in Verkhovna Rada suppose that the budget 2009 will not be adopted before the New Year.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

New round of political fight. Yulia Tymoshenko accused Viktor Yushchenko in preparation to declare the state of national emergency.

Today’s press briefing of the Prime Minister of Ukraine Yulia Tymoshenko has brought some new colours to controversy between main authorities of Ukraine. She informed journalists that the current goal of the President of Ukraine Viktor Yushchenko is to lead the country to default in order to declare the state of emergency. “By declaring the state of national emergency, President will cancel presidential election (the presidential campaign is supposed to start in summer 2009. – T.V.)”, Mrs. Tymoshenko explained, mentioning that the Constitution prohibits holding election when the country is in a state of emergency.

Yulia Tymoshenko also said that if today or tomorrow Viktor Yushchenko not dismiss the Head of the National Bank of Ukraine, “he will be personally responsible for all that is happening in Ukrainian economy”.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

It’s a democracy. The question calling the President of Ukraine to leave the country has won the biggest Internet rating.

Today the President of Ukraine Viktor Yushchenko held his annual concluding press conference. In frames of this event he has answered a couple of questions of Ukrainian Internet users, which were submitted in advance. I was following the process of submission of questions with a big interest, as the most popular one appeared to be the following: Mr. President, how much money should the people of Ukraine pay to convince you and other top authorities to leave this country?

Actually, it is not a question but an attitude of Ukrainians toward President in particular, and all the ruling politicians in general. I voted for it, and a lot of my friends – almost all of the people I was talking with during last 2-3 weeks – did the same. I may say that Ukrainians of very different positions and ranges supported this question. For example, the link to this question I received by e-mail from my friend who is a housewife with a very active social position. Of course I didn’t believe that the question would be really asked. But it happened, and all the Ukraine has heard it during a live translation of the press conference on TV and radio. I have to mention that President was surely prepared for that. And tried to move the responsibility for this question outside the borders of Ukraine.

Viktor Yushchenko declared that “it is a provocation”, and that “the respected authors of this question are situated not in Ukraine, and don’t represent Ukrainians” (having in mind Russians, of course). “We even can not pose a question without help”, President assumed. Also Mr. Yushchenko said, “The real authorities should be half step ahead to show the way to nation”. The leader of nation shall tell, “our choice is such-and-such, we have to go in such a direction”, no matter “you like it or not”.

And some extra quotations of President I liked the most:
“The version of early presidential election is written not in Ukrainian offices”.
“Parliament is the most destabilising institution”.
“It is good when Parliament works like an aquarium – clear and visible”.

Monday, December 22, 2008

What’s up, Ukraine? 15-21 December 2008.

Falling currency . On Thursday, 18 December the Ukrainian hryvnia dropped to its historical low against the US dollar – 10-10.5.
Less than a half of the year ago US dollar cost around 4.8 hryvnias. The Prime Minister of Ukraine Yulia Tymoshenko declared that the hryvnia’s value felt down due to “a special speculative operations planned at the currency market of Ukraine, and organized with the assistance of the National Bank (Central bank) and some other banks of Ukraine”, in particular, Nadra bank.
“The bank that was just bought for 600 million dollars, received from the National Bank financial resources of 7 billion 100 million hryvnias”, Yulia Tymoshenko said, adding that “the bribes made up from 3% to 7% of the total amount of financing”. Yulia Tymoshenko pointed out that Ukrainian businessman Dmytro Firtash (owner of the Group DF holding, which is famous also for a scandal around the financial support of the British Conservatives) and the Presidential Secretariat are standing behind the Nadra bank. “They need to tumble the hryvnia’s value to dollar”.

Getting closer. The U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Ukrainian Foreign Minister Volodymyr Ohryzko signed the U.S. – Ukraine Charter on Strategic Partnership.
The joint U.S. – Ukrainian declaration called a “Charter on Strategic Partnership”, signed in Washington on 19 December, appeals for the expanding of the economic and security ties between two countries, and strengthening of the cooperation in energy, trade and other areas.The document does not have a legally binding status.
The declaration states that the United States intends to open a diplomatic post in the Autonomy Republic of Crimea, a region that is highly influenced by Russia (there are many ethnic Russians and Russian-speaking people with Russian passports), and is hosting Russia's Black Sea fleet in Sevastopol (under a lease agreement until 2017). ”Ukraine welcomes the United States' intention to establish an American diplomatic presence (American presence post) in Simferopol, the capital of Crimea”, said the joint declaration.
State Department spokesman Sean McCormack has already said the Crimean diplomatic post would be a small one, dedicated to the organising of cultural events and doing political reporting. Mr. McCormack denied any intentions to provoke Russia by establishment of this post. ”This is about U.S.-Ukraine bilateral relations. If the Russian government chooses to be upset by ... my stating that we're considering opening up… a one-person or two-person American presence post, well, there's not much I can do about that,” he added. Russian officials haven’t made any statements on this point, but analysts are saying that this answer may be given in more sharp position of Moscow in gas-trade dialogue with Ukraine. Minister Ohryzko told reporters the post “probably will be done next year”.
Also Washington promised to help to strengthen the candidacy of Ukraine for NATO membership, which is another painful question for the official Russia. Nevertheless, U.S. would work within the NATO-Ukraine Commission to agree on a plan for training and equipping Ukrainian armed forces. “We plan to undertake a program of enhanced security cooperation intended to increase Ukrainian capabilities and to strengthen Ukraine's candidacy for NATO membership,” the document said.
Washington also promised to help Ukraine with “rehabilitating and modernizing the capacity of Ukraine's gas transit infrastructure”, cooling down Russian dreams to fort a consortium for the exploiting of Ukrainian gas lines.

Fitch Ratings: The credit outlook for the Ukrainian energy and utility sector during 2009 is negative.
The report issued on Thursday 18 December lists the main problems of the Ukrainian energy and utility sector: a funding crisis in the state-controlled power generation sector, downward pressure on regulated tariffs due to a severe recession, restricted access to bank lending and debt capital markets, and continued turmoil at NJSC Naftogaz of Ukraine (‘B’/Rating Watch Negative). Fitch expects an economic recession in Ukraine in 2009 to drive down power demand, providing only temporary respite to falling capacity reserve margins.
Fitch expects liquidity and refinancing risk to remain high for the Ukrainian energy and utility sector through most of 2009, as foreign banks and markets remain effectively closed to Ukrainian issuers. Naftogaz will continue to confront major challenges in 2009, including a lack of transparency, potentially insufficient state subsidisation for its loss-making residential business, higher import prices, accumulating gas payables and restricted access to external financing. However, Fitch continues to view Naftogaz as an important strategic asset for the Ukrainian government (Ukraine rated at ‘B+’/Outlook Negative) and factors state support into the company’s rating.
The 2009 credit outlook, entitled "Ukrainian Energy and Utilities – 2009 Outlook”, is available on the agency's public website

Eternal problem. Russia blocks Ukrainian famine-genocide resolution at the United Nations.
Russia blocked Ukraine-initiated UN resolution claiming Holodomor in the Soviet Union in early 1930s was famine-genocide aimed against Ukrainians, rather than a common tragedy of many nations in the country. “We succeeded to bloc the inclusion of the item into the agenda of the current UN General Assembly,” Russian Ambassador to the United Nations Vitaly Churkin said on Thursday, 18 December, according to the Russian media.
The Ambassador also added the United States and Great Britain backed the Ukrainian motion, which “ended in nothing.” Mr. Churkin said Russian representatives were active in explaining the history of Holodomor to foreign partners. As a result, nine EU countries did not sign the Ukrainian declaration, although “EU members usually act in a consolidated manner”.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Total opposition. All the main political players and institutions in Ukraine are in opposition to each other.

Starting from the middle of last week, the Prime Minister of Ukraine Yulia Tymoshenko was moving step by step to the point of no return in her relationship with the President of Ukraine Viktor Yushchenko, making rougher and rougher statements. On Saturday, 20 December she reached this point. Mrs. Tymoshenko publicly declared she is in opposition to President and wishes him to resign immediately, called him a thief, accused him in the fall of a national currency rate, and said she is sorry for helping him to become President in 2004.

“I don’t want to be a member of such a governing team, and that’s why I’m clearly declaring that I am in opposition to such an authorities like the President of Ukraine, Head of the National Bank of Ukraine, and all the criminal group that surrounds them”, Prime Minister said during the press briefing. “I am very sorry that this person, I’m talking about President Yushchenko, in favour of whom I was standing on all the maydans (squares. – T.V.), agitating and convincing people for him as an honest and moral politician, and now he went down to such a level, when it is shameful even to say his name”.

Viktor Yushchenko will answer to Mrs. Tymoshenko today at 8 PM of Kyiv time, at the weekly news show on Inter TV channel. But the press service of President has already quoted his interview. Mr. Yushchenko says that the last statements of PM Yulia Tymoshenko put her “in the opposition to Ukrainian people and the country”.

“Today the problem is not in my relationship with this lady”, President says. “She declared the opposition to the nation, to the country”. Viktor Yushchenko is sure that Prime Minister just wants to escape from the responsibility for her actions as a Head of Government.

“The situation is obviously out of control of Prime Minister for a long time”, Mr. Yushchenko emphasized. “But today the moment of responsibility is coming close. Who will be responsible for the inflation of 22%? External crisis? Our crisis is sitting on Grushevskogo street, 7th floor, in the office of Prime Minister”.

The central bank attacked back the Government two days before, stating that “the government's inept policies in running the economy... led to a situation in December in which the country could find itself in the internal default”. “The Government now has no funds to pay salaries, pensions and social benefits or to cover its domestic and external obligations”, the National Bank of Ukraine informed.

So, today the Prime Minister of Ukraine is in opposition to the President of Ukraine and to the National Bank of Ukraine. The President of Ukraine is in opposition to Prime Minister. The National Bank is also acting like a political body, declaring its non-support of the Government and its policies. Official opposition – the Party of Regions – is declaring it is against all the powers mentioned above, and is waiting for spring to come to power after the fail of the “Orange leaders”. The new-elected Speaker of the Parliament Volodymyr Lytvyn is claiming for neutrality, but in fact is in opposition to everyone who is interested in the snap parliamentary election, which would take the high post in Parliament off from him.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

United Center. The Our Ukraine party of Viktor Yushchenko may unite with the party of Viktor Baloha.

After a split of the Our Ukraine – People Self-Defence (OU-PSD) parliamentary faction into pro-President and pro-Coalition parts, the President’s Office is thinking seriously about what to do next. The Our Ukraine party, which is officially headed by Viktor Yushchenko, seems to be split also, and its members are demoralised and bewildered. In its current state the party cannot serve as a real support for President neither in Parliament, nor during the elections – both parliamentary and presidential. There is a strong need for the Our Ukraine party to be reunited and reshuffled somehow. It seems that President Yushchenko, together with his Secretariat, has already worked out a decision – to unite the Our Ukraine with the United Center (UC) party of Viktor Baloha, the Head of Presidential Secretariat.

It is a fact that Viktor Yushchenko lost his influence on Parliament and its work. Even the part of OU-PSD that didn’t join the Coalition with the Block of Yulia Tymoshenko and the Block of Lytvyn is getting out of Presidential control. The previous Head of the OU-PSD faction, member of Our Ukraine Vyacheslav Kyrylenko resigned from this position. Another old strong supporter and friend of Viktor Yushchenko, New York born Roman Zvarych, declared that he may leave the Our Ukraine party at all. Situation with the regional offices of Our Ukraine is even worse. As member of Our Ukraine Puslan Knyazevych (who signed a Coalition treaty) informed journalists yesterday, the party local managers have lack of finances, and feel like “being thrown out” as the central party leaders hadn’t contacted them for months.

Kseniya Lyapina, member of the Our Ukraine who didn’t join the Coalition, worries about the future of her party. In particular, she shared with journalists the information that some people - on behalf of the United Center - are proposing money to the local representatives of the Our Ukraine party . “We are against unification with the UC”, Mrs. Lyapina emphasized.

The irony is that to unite Our Ukraine with the United Center does not mean to strengthen the “presidential party”. Despite of bright financial opportunities, the UC is very weak, and doesn’t have a visible party structure. The Member of Parliament of Ukraine and member of the United Center party Lesya Orobets have recently said in a live interview at the Radio Liberty that total amount of UC members is about 100-200 people in every region. According to this info, the most optimistic estimation of a current size of the United Center is a bit more than 5000 (five thousand!) members. So, is it the Our Ukraine who is in need of support?

I would suggest that the union of the Our Ukraine and the United Center is an idea and a goal of Viktor Baloha, who is interested in re-gaining a status of the Member of Parliament before the presidential election, using the rests of the rating of Viktor Yushchenko in parliamentary campaign. Just as a leader of the United Center, unknown in regions, Mr. Baloga may not win 3% of votes to pass the electoral barrier, not using so called administrative resource.

The future of the Our Ukraine party may be decided next week, when the party Summit will have place.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Coalition of BYT, OU-PSD and BL factions in Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine does exist. But it is not constitutional.

The Coalition Treaty, uniting the parliamentary factions of the Block of Yulia Tymoshenko (BYT), the Our Ukraine – People’s Self-Defence (OU-PSD), and the Block of Lytvyn (BL), was triumphantly signed today in Verkhovna Rada. On behalf of the BYT faction the Coalition Treaty was signed by the Head of the faction Ivan Kyrylenko, on behalf of the OU-PSD – as it was promised earlier – by its Deputy Head Borys Tarasyuk, and on behalf of the BL faction – by the faction’s new Head Igor Sharov. The official name of the Coalition – National Development, Stability, and Order.

37 members of OU-PSD signed the document (total size of the Coalition – 213 MPs). The Head of the OU-PSD faction Vyacheslav Kyrylenko declared that he is going to resign from his position, as he doesn’t represent the faction’s majority anymore. “Any agreement with Tymoshenko worth less than the paper she’s putting her signature on, because it will not be realised, and this will be the main problem of the Coalition”, he said. Mr. Kyrylenko also called the new Coalition as “a serious threat for the state”, noticing the “dominating power” of the Communist Party in this Coalition.

But the Communist party role in the recent developments in Parliament (which is obvious) is not actually the biggest problem of a new parliamentary block of factions. The main paradox is that this newly formed Coalition does not correspond with provisions of the Constitution of Ukraine. We may say that there is a declared unity of factions in Parliament, but there is no new Coalition in its legal meaning.

According to the Part 6 of the Article 83 of the Constitution of Ukraine, “a Coalition of deputy factions, consisted of the majority of Members of Parliament of Ukraine of the constitutional membership of Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine, shall be formed”. (Here is the official translation of the Constitution, but I have to notice that in Ukrainian language the coalition-part sounds more clear, emphasizing that the coalition should comprise the majority of MPs). So, according to the Constitution, 226 or more Members of Parliament should form the Coalition.

There is also a decision of the Constitutional Court of Ukraine, adopted in September 2008 (a detailed info in Ukrainian may be read here), which states that “the requirement on the overall number of Members of Parliament of Ukraine, who on the strength of parliamentary factions are forming the Coalition of parliamentary factions, concerns the moment of formation of the Coalition, and all the period of its activity as well”.

Monday, December 15, 2008

34 to 38? The President's part of OU-PSD consists of 34 MPs

Additional info to my previous post: 34 Members of Parliament were present at the OU-PSD faction sitting in President's Secretariat this morning.

Cutting an Orange. Our Ukraine – People Self-Defence (OU-PSD) faction has been divided to pro-presidential and pro-coalitional parts.

While writing the headline of this post, I automatically added to the name of OU-PSD faction the word “presidential”. Then I deleted it as non-correct. The faction, consisting of 72 Members of Parliament, may not be called presidential anymore, despite of the fact of the recent election of Viktor Yushchenko as official Head of the Our Ukraine party. Only about a half of the faction may still be considered as supporters of Mr. Yushchenko as for today.

Not one, but two sittings of OU-PSD faction took place today at 10 AM. First sitting was held in the Secretariat of President (with his participation), and the second – in the building of Parliament. First sitting has agreed that the Parliament should work in the situational-majority-mode, and the second has approved a draft of the Coalition Treaty to unite officially with the Block of Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko and the Block of Volodymyr Lytvyn.

The OU-PSD is divided in almost 50%-50% proportion.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Parliamentary cheating – III. Is Yulia Tymoshenko trying to steal the President’s faction?

Just 30 minutes ago the press conference of Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko was finished. First of all, Mrs. Tymoshenko declared that the parliamentary coalition of three factions – the Block of Yulia Tymoshenko (BYT), the Our Ukraine – People’s Self-Defence (OU-PSD) faction, and the Block of Volodymyr Lytvyn – does exist.

Talking about the coalition PM was operating with the word combination “the majority of OU-PSD faction”. According to parliamentary rules, the majority – not consensus – is making the final decisions inside any faction, emphasizes Yulia Tymoshenko. That means that the BYT will try to save the coalition in any price, even if the strictly pro-presidential part of the OU-PSD faction will be against that. Actually, President may lose his parliamentary faction and his influence in Parliament at all. (The possible consequences are rather predictable – a snap election). Deputy Chief of OU-PSD faction Borys Tarasyuk has already mentioned that he may sign the coalition treaty again, if the Chief of the faction Vyacheslav Kyrylenko will refuse to do it.

One more remark concerns the Blackstone company, hired by the Government for millions of dollars to consult Ukraine on how to spend $16,4 billion credit of the International Monetary Fund. Yulia Tymoshenko mentioned that the company was chosen “according the current legislation” (though nobody heard about such a tender), and that it is “highly estimated by the IMF management”. Also Mrs. Tymoshenko admitted that she did meet the billionaire George Soros in Kiev one month ago, and that he gave her “advices on how to fight the world financial and economic crisis’ consequences”.

And here we are. President of Ukraine is against the coalition of his party with Yulia Tymoshenko and Volodymyr Lytvyn factions.

Member of Parliament from pro-Presidential Our Ukraine – People’s Self-Defence (OU-PSD) faction Roman Zvarych unveiled the details of the yesterday’s meeting of OU-PSD faction with President Viktor Yushchenko. The faction was discussing the prospects of the coalition with the Block of Yulia Tymoshenko and the Block of Volodymyr Lytvyn that is said to be formed in the Parliament of Ukraine. In particular, Mr. Zvarych told, “Viktor Yushchenko expressed a deep concern that Our Ukraine party shouldn’t be responsible for this unskilful policy (of the Government. – T.V.) as a part of coalition”. “President gave us to understand that he is against the entry of our faction into this coalition”, Mr. Zvarych added.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Parliamentary Cheating II. OK, the Speaker is elected, but is there any coalition in Ukrainian Parliament?

On Tuesday, 9 December at 17.46 PM by Kiev time Volodymyr Lytvyn was elected as a Head of the Verkhovna Rada. His candidacy was supported by 154 MPs from the Block of Yulia Tymoshenko (total size of faction – 156 MPs), 40 MP’s from the Our Ukraine – People’s Self-Defence Block (total size of faction – 72), 20 MP’s from the Block of Volodymyr Lytvyn (total size – 20), and also 27 MP’s from the Communist party faction (total size – 27) and 3 MPs from the Party of Regions (total size – 175).

It was really hard to believe that the Presidential faction of the Our Ukraine - People’s Self-Defence Block (OU-PSD) will –support Volodymyr Lytvyn, together with the Block of Yulia Tymoshenko (BYT) and even with communists, despite the will of President Viktor Yushchenko, who was against the candidacy of Mr. Lytvyn and publicly in favour Ivan Plyushch, member of his party. But the things went even further: a new-elected Head of Parliament declared the formation of the coalition of OU-PSD, BYT, and the Block of Volodymyr Lytvyn.

The Tuesday events are still the object of discussion not only for political analysts, but also for politicians themselves. I would quote the main statements of historical Tuesday and the following day.

Tuesday, 9 December 2008:

Petro Symonenko, leader of the Communist Party of Ukraine stated his party supported the candidacy of Volodymyr Lytvyn to unblock the work of Parliament to fight the world economy crisis consequences. “We voted for the work of Verkhovna Rada”, he said, adding that the communists would never vote for Ivan Plyushch or any other candidacy from national-democratic forces.

Head of the Verkhovna Rada Volodymyr Lytvyn doesn’t see any preconditions to re-elect Prime Minister or to make cardinal changes of Government. But “it’s obvious that there will be some proposals from the coalition concerning the structure of the Government”, Mr. Lytvyn thinks.

Our Ukraine - People’s Self-Defence faction did not approve a text of the Treaty, forming the coalition of OU-PSD, BYT, and the Block of Volodymyr Lytvyn, the press-service of OU-PSD faction informed. Deputy Head of the faction Borys Tarasiuk signed the text of Coalition Treaty without the faction’s agreement. The project of Coalition Treaty will be in the agenda of a faction sitting on 10 December.

The Party of Regions has doubts on the liveliness of a new-formed coalition, if it will not have a permanent support of the Communist party, one of the PR faction leaders Oleksandr Efremov said. “It’s hard to imagine, how communists could work together with the nationalists”, he mentioned. “Without the Communist Party faction, the new-formed coalition doesn’t have 226 votes to approve decisions in Parliament”.

Member of Parliament of the OU-PSD faction (leader of the PSD) Vladyslav Kaskiv declared that there is no coalition in parliament as there is no decision of the OU-PSD faction on participation in this coalition; and there is also no Coalition Treaty as nobody in the OU-PSD is familiar with such a document. “De facto we can say that Volodymyr Lytvyn, obviously moved by positive emotions, made a political statement. But there are no legal fact of forming the coalition”, Mr. Kaskiv said. “We can not do good things with not honest methods… The misrepresenting of facts took place today”.

Wednesday, 10 December 2008:

The President of Ukraine Viktor Yushchenko greets Volodymyr Lytvyn for his election as a Head of Verkhovna Rada. “I hope that the election to this responsible position of so experienced and well-balanced politician will permit to unblock a work of the highest lawmaking institution of a country”, he noticed. Parliament has to approve anti-crisis laws and the project of a State Budget for 2009 as an urgent matter, and the needed condition for that is “parliamentary coalition, efficient and capable de jure and de facto”.

Member of Parliament of OU-PSD faction Ksenia Lyapina informed, “During 4 days we have to sign a Treaty (coalition treaty. – TV); if not, the Head of the Verkhovna Rada has to disown his statement about the formation of a coalition”. During the OU-PSD faction sitting on 10 December, MPs “came to a conclusion that the Coalition Treaty doesn’t exist, nobody of us signed it or authorised anybody to sign it”, Mrs. Lyapina noticed.

Taras Stetskiv, Member of Parliament (OU-PSD, PSD branch) emphasized that the coalition “legally does not exist as it is not signed”.

Oleksandr Efremov, the Party of Regions faction noticed that during the Coordination Council sitting Wednesday, 10 December “one of the Deputy Heads of OU-PSD block Roman Zvarych declared that his faction didn’t make a decision on formation of a coalition with the BYT and the Block of Lytvyn, and Borys Tarasiuk was not authorised to sign the Coalition agreement. So, in reality there is no parliamentary coalition”.

Statement of the Presidium of the Political Council of the party of Regions: “So-called formation of a coalition in Parliament is the another adventure and fraud of people. We don’t believe in capacity of this so-called coalition not only because it doesn’t have the quantity of voices needed. We don’t believe in this coalition as it is based on the politicians who had twice proved their incapacity to work together, to work effectively”… “Ukraine will have to watch again the scandal show of Orange chiefs, who are eager to sink each other in a spoon of water. The Party of Regions is out of this campaign. We also would like to hear a clear position of communists – which was their motivation, when they supported Oranges?”

First Deputy Head of the BYT faction Andriy Kozhemyakin hopes that “a progressive part” of the Party of Regions faction will take part in a constructive work of the Parliament. “It is obvious that the highest management of the Party of Regions is leaded by its own ambitions, not understanding that the crisis is a threat for independence of Ukraine”, he added.

Deputy Head of the OU-PSD faction Borys Tarasiuk issued a statement where he noticed that “due to the absence of a Head of the OU-PSD faction Ivan Kyrylenko during the negotiations, I took responsibility to sign the document on founding of a coalition of three factions – OU-PSD, BYT, and the Block of Lytvyn. Of course, I understood that it would be better if the Head of the faction signed this document. But I don’t know whether Ukrainians would understand us, if, delaying action until the next day, we lost this unique chance to start to work in Parliament normally”.

The Prime Minister of Ukraine Yulia Tymoshenko in her TV appeal to the citizens: “Parliamentary political crisis is over. A normal and consistent work will start in Verkhovna Rada tomorrow. Our hands are free from the irons… All these positive steps were done not with the help of President, but in spite of his active countermeasures to the formation of the Coalition”.

So, is there any coalition in Parliament? Nobody knows. The answer to this question depends on the results of current negotiations of parliamentary factions.

P.S. There is still a possibility of formation of a coalition in Verkhovna Rada with participation of the Party of Regions.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Chasing the shadow. What kind of Ukraine the President dreams of?

During these latter days I was thinking a lot, trying to find an answer to one question: what is the current political strategy of the President of Ukraine Viktor Yushchenko? It emerged that it’s not an easy thing to understand. Since the early autumn President is literally pushing Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko to form a coalition with the Party of Regions (PR) of Viktor Yanukovych, one of the main “enemies” of Orange Revolution. But the same time Viktor Yushchenko doesn’t want this alliance to be formed.

In September 2008 Mr. Yushchenko accused Mrs. Tymoshenko in high treason (after the vote for cutting presidential powers, which she performed together with the PR on 2nd of September). Then members of President’s Our Ukraine party stepped out of so-called Democratic coalition with the Block of Yulia Tymoshenko (BYT), de facto blocking the work of Parliament. In October President issued a decree that dismissed Verkhovna Rada and scheduled early parliamentary election. In November Viktor Yushchenko decided to cast aside the idea of snap election, publicly encouraging parliamentary factions to unite for adoption of anti-crisis legislation in the name of state interests. The same time Our Ukraine party officially declared that it would not form a coalition with the BYT and/or the PR faction. No logic?

Mr. Yushchenko seems to be in favour of a kind of “technical coalition”, when parliamentary factions vote concordantly, but do not sign any coalition papers. Theoretically, it gives an opportunity for President to call early election any time he wants (it would be legitimate as the coalition doesn’t exist), and also to question the legitimacy of Government any day he’s in a mood for. Nevertheless, the BYT and the PR were close to accept the idea of "technical coalition", but… Viktor Yushchenko ruined it himself. He declared that only Our Ukraine faction should propose the candidacy for Speaker, which was unacceptable for the biggest parliamentary parties. As a result, the BYT and the PR announced their possible alliance, but President answered to that by calling the probable coalition “a danger for Ukrainian democracy”.

What is the President’s logic today, and what does he want to achieve in a long run? Igor Kril, member of the United Centre party founded by Head of the President’s Secretariat Viktor Baloha, gave a little hint on Friday, 5 December. Talking about a candidacy of Prime Minister, acceptable for his party, Mr. Kril said, the PM “should not run for President”. Which means that he/she will not be a competitor for Viktor Yushchenko in 2009. That gives us a tip, why President choose as his Speaker candidate Ivan Plushch, Soviet-times’ Communist Party activist, and now member of Our Ukraine – Mr. Plusch doesn’t have noticeable political ambitions.

The ideal system of top state authorities in Ukraine, Viktor Yushchenko is dreaming of, should be built of modest “technical” people, and crowned by President. Any strong political player holding a key rating-forming position in Government or Parliament is a priory a threat for stability of the mentioned system. It is without doubt that Mr. Yushchenko will keep fighting these threats, using his favourite methods – false situational alliances, presidential veto, and a shadow of snap parliamentary poll. The endless circle may be broken only by presidential election (or Constitutional reform), which will mark a starting point for a new political game. Hopefully, it will be performed according to rules of democracy.

Friday, December 5, 2008

The Bogus Marriage. A coalition of the Block of Yulia Tymoshenko and the Party of Regions is likely to be formed in December 2008.

The Thursday’s sitting of Verkhovna Rada lasted only 8 minutes. Members of Parliament decided to take a time-out for extra negotiations, and to renew their work on Tuesday, 9 December. MPs invited the President of Ukraine and Prime Minister to be present on the sitting that day to witness how Parliament will get out of crisis. Viktor Yushchenko will not come to Verkhovna Rada on Tuesday, he’s going to pay a working visit to Lithuania. Maybe that’s right decision: it will be surely not “his day”. In contrary, Yulia Tymoshenko may appear in Parliament – to celebrate another political victory of her party.

As it was predicted earlier, a coalition of the Party of Regions (PR) and the Block of Yulia Tymoshenko (BYT) looks like just a matter of time. At least, leaders and members of both factions are not denying the fact of negotiations on this issue anymore. On 2 December, MP from the BYT faction Valeriy Pysarenko said “the BYT is ready to form a coalition with the Party of Regions”. The same statements were made by some other BYT and PR MPs during this week. In the Party of Regions’ official rhetoric the future coalition is called as “anti-crisis” and “built on pure economic reasons”, not on ideological ground.

According to insider’s information, the text of a new coalition treaty has already been initialized. But it doesn’t mean that the document will be signed on Tuesday. At first, the PR and BYT have to elect a new Speaker. It still may be a leader of the People's Party Volodymyr Lytvyn or member of the Party of Regions and current First Vice-Speaker Oleksandr Lavrynovych. The BYT and PR have enough MPs – 331 (the constitutional majority is 300 MPs out of 450) – to amend the Constitution in first reading. The main goal of the reform will be to elect President of Ukraine not by popular vote, but in Parliament, which is more convenient for big parliamentary parties. After a joint vote on the constitutional amendment the BYT-PR coalition may be officially formed. New allies will go on with the constitutional reform process after the New Year holidays, in early February. As a result, Ukraine may have President Viktor Yanukovych, Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, and Viktor Yushchenko in opposition, like in “old good times”.

President Yushchenko – of course – doesn't like the BYT-PR reformation ideas. “If this kind of consolidation will not be restrained by the ideological positions, national interests, democratic interests, it may lead to serious challenges for Ukrainian democracy”, he declared on 4 December. President highlighted that the main danger of the BYT-PR coalition is “a deep revision of the Constitution of Ukraine”, which includes the idea of election of President in Parliament. “These are things which are ruining Ukrainian democracy and don’t correspond with our aspirations. This will throw Ukraine back from the sphere of stability for many years”, President argued. He emphasised he “will not allow” that.

Ukrainian media have already informed with reference to the reliable source at the Presidential Secretariat that “there is a new decree on snap election on the President’s working table”, and it is with open date.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Boring and sad: the best words to explain a current state of Ukrainian politics.

The President of Ukraine Viktor Yushchenko was on TV yesterday. He appeared in a live political evening show “Svoboda slova” (Freedom of Speech) at ICTV channel. A lot of my friends were looking forward to that event as it might give some keys to predict future developments in Ukrainian politics. It didn’t give any hints. I was sitting in my kitchen, drinking tea and watching TV prepared to make notes, when I suddenly realised that I’m terribly bored. Bored of lack of constructivism and predictability in what our politicians are doing or saying. It was really sad to think that way.

Here are some points I've noticed. First of all, President wanted to separate himself from all the problems the country is suffering of. “Government lost control over inflation”, “the Government’s politic was not a politic of Maydan”, claimed Viktor Yushchenko. He accused in political and economy crisis a “state power” as something to which he doesn’t have any relation at all.

The second main point is about the estimation of future of Parliament. Verkhovna Rada should work; otherwise there will be early election – that was the President’s message. Viktor Yushchenko still hopes that it is possible to elect a technical Speaker and to build a so-called situational coalition in Parliament. (Some ideas on “technical coalition” – in one of my previous posts here). A candidacy for Speaker’s chair “should be proposed by Our Ukraine party”, President thinks. But at the same time he mentions, “Our Ukraine is half-bought by BYT”.

Third point is that the very idea of early election is still alive, despite of President’s Secretariat arguments. After a snap parliamentary poll, all the parties elected may start “from a white peace of paper”, hopes Mr. Yushchenko, “it will be possible to do the manoeuvres, impossible now”.

P.S. On 2 December Parliament was working only for a little bit more than a half of an hour. Next meeting is scheduled for Thursday. Two alternatives have been discussed in couloirs: total paralysis of Parliament followed with snap election or the coalition of the Block of Yulia Tymoshenko and the Party of Regions (the details – in this post). Volodymyr Lytvyn has already called this possible coalition as “coup d’etat”.

Monday, December 1, 2008

What’s up, Ukraine? 23-30 November 2008.

Just in case. Viktor Yushchenko was elected as official leader of his party.
On November 29 Viktor Yushchenko was formally elected as a leader of the People's Union “Our Ukraine" party. From now he may appear as “number one” in the party list for early parliamentary elections, and will have a possibility to run for a position of Prime Minister. Previously President Yushchenko had been the party's honorary chairman.
Some experts think that there are possible problems with constitutional law, since article 103 of the Constitution of Ukraine states that “the president of Ukraine cannot have any other representative mandate, or occupy a position in institutions of executive power or associations of citizens.” The law “On Associations of Citizens” defines political parties as associations of citizens.

Last warning. Yulia Tymoshenko scheduled a deadline for formation of parliamentary coalition with "Our Ukraine" - 1st of December.
”If the democratic coalition is not formed until the end of this week, we will be looking for other options and opportunities,” Prime Minister said. She also made an offer to Volodymyr Lytvyn, leader of the faction of his name, to join the probable coalition of BYT-NU-NS “to form a strengthened variant of the democratic coalition.” The BYT faction was ready to support the candidature of Mr. Lytvyn for Speaker of the Verkhovna Rada.
Both Viktor Yushchenko and Volodymyr Lytvyn refused to join the proposed “democratic coalition”. Head of Presidential Secretariat Viktor Baloha noticed on Sunday’s news evening show that “today’s ultimatums of Yulia Tymoshenko is an evidence of one thing: inconsistency. Who may sit at the table for negotiations with BYT and say that the coalition is possible after that? It is not ethical to raise a question about the return, when it was she who did everything for this coalition not to exist”.

Another space. The Ukrainian Foreign Affairs Ministry accused Viktor Yanukovych in putting his leg on the President’s ground.
On 25 November Ukraine's Foreign Ministry issued a statement on the proposal of the leader of the Party of Regions Viktor Yanukovych to establish the single economic space with Russia. Viktor Yanukovych put forward this idea at a congress of United Russia party in Moscow last week. “Since the start of talks on a comprehensive and enhanced free trade zone with the European Union, the issue of establishing a single economic space has lost its relevance," the Foreign Ministry said in a statement. The ministry emphasized that only President Viktor Yushchenko and Parliament, not party leaders, decide foreign policy priorities.

In contrary to national interests. Ukrainian hryvnia reached a new historic low on Friday.
Ukraine's currency sank to a new historic low on Friday, 28 November, at 7.5-7.6 to the dollar on the interbank market, against a low hit the previous day of 7.25-7.5. One of the conditions of the IMF 16.5 billion loan was greater currency flexibility. The National bank of Ukraine linked its official rate of hryvnia with the interbank rate.
Meanwhile, the Head of the National Bank’s Council Petro Poroshenko has accused Ukrainian authorities of the inefficient use of an IMF loan. “I may officially state that IMF resources are used very inefficiently,” he declared at a Russian-Ukrainian forum in Kiev on Friday. He also criticized authorities that agreed with the policy worked out by the IMF experts. In the opinion of Mr. Poroshenko, this policy “does not take into the account national interests of Ukraine.”

Black hole? Blackstone will consult Ukraine for 1 million euro monthly plus another 3,5 million, and all-inclusive working conditions for its experts.
Blackstone has been appointed as a financial adviser to Ukraine, highlighting the US private equity group's ambition to become the consultant of choice for countries faced with financial crisis, informs Reuters. According to a Ukraine cabinet document seen by the Financial Times, Blackstone will be paid a monthly fee of €1m ($1.26m) and a further €3.5m on completion of the contract. It will be paid all expenses, including bodyguards for staff. The contract, dated November 17, says Blackstone will co-ordinate Ukraine's $16.4bn standby loan from the International Monetary Fund, mediate between the government, the IMF and the World Bank and work on the country's stabilisation plan. It is also responsible for handling talks with Ukraine's creditors and developing a communication strategy for the stabilisation plan. The contract says Blackstone is not responsible for implementing the stabilisation plan or for its success. Blackstone's team of advisers to Ukraine is being led by Martin Gudgeon.

Charity first. Kateryna Yushchenko is on the visit to United States.
The first lady of Ukraine was visiting Pittsburgh hospitals at the end of last week – to gather some ideas that she can take back to her home country. Mrs. Yushchenko heads the supervisory board of the Ukraine 3000 International Charitable Foundation, which works with hospitals around the world to improve pediatric care in Ukraine. “She is coming basically to do work for her foundation, to see what can be done to help the hospitals in Ukraine,” said Luba Hlutkowsky, chairwoman of the board of directors of Pittsburgh Ukrainians, according to the local press.
More than 3,000 people in Pittsburgh – about 1 percent of the city's population – claim Ukrainian heritage. Kateryna Yushchenko, 47, was born in Chicago to Ukrainian immigrants. She moved to Kiev in 1991 and became a Ukrainian citizen in 2005, the year that her husband was elected president.