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11 April, 2016  ▪  Roman Malko

In anticipation of a temporary lull

A crisis of relations in the victorious team blows up into a real fratricidal war and ends with some of them fraternizing with the one-time enemy. Just over 10 years ago, the country lived through a similar story

Life moves in a spiral and Ukrainian politics are clear proof of this dialectic rule. Just over 10 years ago, the country lived through a similar story. A crisis of relations in the victorious team blows up into a real fratricidal war and ends with some of them fraternizing with the one-time enemy. Then a comeback and the return to power of the man the Maidan had removed so humiliatingly, Viktor Yanukovych. Today, it’s déjà-vu all over again. The winning team is stepping into the same pitfalls. A comeback is still far off, but if everything continues in the familiar manner, in a year or two, we could see that repeat itself, too.

At the peak of the Cabinet crisis, the Verkhovna Rada’s five-faction coalition,—Poroshenko Bloc, Narodniy Front, Samopomich, Batkivshchyna and the Radical Party—finally fell apart. Efforts to come to an understanding went nowhere because there were just too many differing interests, desires, ambitions, and future plans among the one-time partners.

Batkivshchyna, Samopomich and the Radicals went over to the “democratic opposition,” as they call it. The three parties have not hidden their desire to have a snap election called immediately, because the polls suggest that they would all significantly increase the number of seats they hold in a new legislature. They’re also reluctant to “dirty” themselves by continuing to cooperate with the president’s and premier’s factions, all the more so that most of the conditions they had originally set were not taken into consideration.

RELATED ARTICLE: What makes Poroshenko's Bloc a weak party

On the other hand, even if they were satisfied, it’s not clear that it would be possible to return to cooperation. As far as they are concerned, constructive opposition is a much better option for them than risking their images by continuing to associate with obviously losing propositions. Cooperating can only continue on a situational basis, according to specific projects, which has long been the case in this Rada with its numerous independents and the Opposition Bloc.

Meanwhile, the crisis seems to be slowly dying down and close to a resolution. The main candidate for the premiership, current Speaker Volodymyr Groisman, is almost done putting together his coalition and some politicians even predict that by mid-April everything will be in place. Who the new ministers will be is not entirely clear, however. So far Groisman has only named three names (possibly); Ivan Miklos, a former Slovak finance minister, who has apparently turned down the offer; Yulia Kovaliv, the current Deputy Minister of Economy, and Maksym Nefiodov, Deputy Minister for Economic Development under Aivaras Abromavicius. The name of current Chief-of-Staff Borys Lozhkin has also come up, as well as that of Social Policy Minister Pavlo Rozenko, Deputy Infrastructure Minister Volodymyr Omelian, Deputy Chief-of-Staff Oleksandr Danyliuk, previous Minister of Culture Yevhen Nishchuk, and one or two others. It’s almost guaranteed that top cop Arsen Avakov will remain in that position, as will Justice Minister Pavlo Petrenko, as this is the Narodniy Front camp. Information Minister Yuriy Stets, FM Pavlo Klimkin and Defense Minister Stepan Poltorak are also certain to remain.

Most likely a new coalition will be formed as anticipated, based on the two other factions: Poroshenko Bloc and Narodniy Front. Between them, they have just about enough seats to do this and they have already figured out where to find those remaining seats. To the rescue, the familiar old practice of “tushkuvannia,” that is, they will persuade independents or deputies from other factions to switch over to their team for a small “reward.” The “reward” is, of course, unofficial and no one talks about it, but VR legend says that usually this involves some specific promises or fat sums. This method was particularly popular when Yanukovych’s associates went around buying up members of the Orange team with huge packets.

RELATED ARTICLE: Media & acquisitions: How current Chief of Staff Borys Lozhkin sold his media holding to Serhiy Kurchenko, the "young oligarch" from the Yanukovych circle

It’s quite possible that a few “tushky” will fill the Narodniy Front’s bench as well. Inspired by these tiny victories, some spokespersons from the Poroshenko Bloc are already confidently announcing that the coalition is almost ready, they are close to having the necessary 226 votes, and soon everything will be just great.Whatever the case, the Poroshenko Bloc has already filled its ranks with three such deputies who were elected for Samopomich and then dismissed from the party and a whole bunch of other independents are being tirelessly negotiated with by specialists from the Presidential Administration. Whether they are being paid off or they simply agree to join the presidential team for ideological reasons, the country will never know. But the very fact that these old and not-quite-clean methods have returned says enough. It gained two more deputies from its party list in exchange for two deputies who were removed in a not-entirely-legal procedure: Mykola Tomenko and Yehor Frisov. This also caused a ruckus and raised many questions about the fairness of the game. But that’s done.

Yet this is no more than the tip of the iceberg. Even if circumstances unfold in the most optimistic fashion, neither the formation of a coalition nor the appointment of a new Cabinet will really bring some kind of overall resolution. It’s only delaying the inevitable. A snap election is the critical point that everyone is circling around, some of whom want to bring it closer, and others to keep it as far away as possible. The two largest factions, BPP and NF, of course, have no appetite for it. They will only consider this as an extreme step if they fail to resolve the political crisis no matter what.

After all the negativity accumulated over the last two years of governing and largely unsuccessful reforms, both have little support among voters and to go to the polls again with a minus rating would be extremely unwise. And where the presidential party, BPP, can still count on some support, the chances of the PM’s NF gaining seats is pretty much zero. However, in resorting to fairly suspect methods, the new Cabinet is unlikely to turn out much better than the previous one and so its fate is unlikely to be envied any more than the fate of the current one. At least, many pundits and deputies themselves say that it won’t last past the fall.

RELATED ARTICLE: Petro Poroshenko at the beginning of his presidential term

One other remaining option, then, is to roll out the broad coalition that some are already working hard at, which would include deputy groups that teem with former Regionals.

 

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