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14 June, 2013  ▪  Andriy Skumin

Off With His Head!

Regardless of its motivations, the war of Batkivshchyna’s old guard against Arseniy Yatseniuk is playing into the hands of the Yanukovych regime

As Batkivshchyna’s “unifying congress” to fully integrate its United Opposition allies – first and foremost Arseniy Yatseniuk and Mykola Martynenko, who will ostensibly take influential leading positions shortly thereafter – nears, a conflict has escalated within the party. The congress is scheduled to take place on June 15. However, after “Tymoshenko’s address”, to which opposition leaders barely reacted, and many doubt that it she wrote it, another open address surfaced - this time from Batkivshchyna members reluctant to see Yatseniuk as their leader. Their desperate moves probably signal their weakness in the confrontation with Yatseniuk’s group within the United Opposition, therefore they are using every effort to involve the Tymoshenko factor to disrupt the party’s takeover by Yatseniuk and his grey cardinal, Mykola Martynenko.

BAD COMPANY

Yatseniuk is accused of bringing crossovers to parliament under his quota and suspected of cooperation with those in power during the election campaign. The first accusation is not groundless. It is the result of “cooperation” with Mykola Martynenko, whose political nature was known long before the campaign actually kicked off. Yatseniuk’s further prospects in politics will also depend on his ability to draw conclusions about Martynenko. But why did the “old guard” not lament about these threats before the election? It was then that the members of Yatseniuk’s Front of Change quota raised many questions among journalists and public activists, while The Ukrainian Week drew up a specific list of potential crossovers. The answer is simple: it was the money of these crossovers, used by the United Opposition to finance its election campaign.

Accusations regarding Yatseniuk’s cooperation with those in power look strange, given the fact that the group of crossovers is forming right before the Batkivshchyna congress, made up exclusively from Yatseniuk’s quota. This confirms the regime’s targeted attack to disrupt Yatseniuk’s entry into Batkivshchyna and provoke a split within it. Obviously, there are many more potential crossovers in all opposition parties and their groups. According to The Ukrainian Week’s sources, about ten more opposition MPs are waiting to exit opposition parties or vote in line with the Party of Regions (PR). But those in power are pulling out only those MPs who came to parliament under Yatseniuk’s quota at a time when they don’t really need extra votes for anything, and shortly before the Batkivshchyna congress.

In addition, a number of Batkivshchyna MPs linked to the anti-Yatseniuk rebellion have recently faced the regime’s repressive machine. A case was initiated to strip Yuriy Odarchenko, the leader of Batkivshchyna’s Kyiv branch, of his MP mandate, and closed several months later despite the fact that the Prosecutor’s Office and courts can fake anything against anyone if necessary. Also unclear is the price of suspended proceedings against a family member of Andriy Kozhemiakin, one of Batkivshchyna’s leaders. Serhiy Mishchenko, another ex-BYuT member also joined the anti-Yatseniuk group and the internal conflict within Batkivshchyna. He promotes the idea of preventing the takeover of Batkivshchyna by Yatseniuk and hints at the possible creation of an alternative party under the Yulia Tymoshenko brand.  

…THE ONE-EYED MAN IS KING

As a would-be leader of the opposition, Yatseniuk has many shortcomings. He does not stick to any firm values, has no ideology of the country’s transformation, nor is he ready or willing to change it profoundly (obviously, a profound transformation takes more than just the replacement of Yanukovych with Yatseniuk). But who has it all in Batkivshchyna? Indeed, Yatseniuk makes too many mistakes as an opposition politician with an eye on the presidency, while obviously being anything but an independent decision-maker. He often disparages his political allies and ignores his faction. The latest example was when Yatseniuk announced the VR blocking which came as a surprise not only to Svoboda or UDAR, but Batkivshchyna as well. For the old guard that built Batkivshchyna, he poses the threat of their removal from running a number of party organizations. Given the letter to Tymoshenko, this is already taking place.

However, confrontation with Yatseniuk under current conditions is just the first step to making Batkivshchyna a complete outsider and the success of the Presidential Administration’s scenario to prevent Yatseniuk from running for office as the opposition candidate with ratings that could bring him to the second round. Klitschko could well become the next target in the campaign to squeeze rivals out of the political arena.

The number of Batkivshchyna’s regional branches that rebelled against Yatseniuk’s and Martynenko’s membership in the party as its leaders is as yet unknown, but sources say that they are a minority. Thus, this rebellion is likely to result in their spin-off from Batkivshchyna and Yatseniuk as its leader. As a result, they will most likely end up on the political sidelines or turn into a spoiler political force using the Tymoshenko brand, unless she publicly rejects this, to dilute the votes of the protest-oriented electorate. The real consequences of the spin-off will resemble the cloning of several of Batkivshchyna’s local branches in the 2010 election when it lost badly in some regions.

Batkivshchyna has no other leader who is equal to Yatseniuk, nor does it have time to choose and promote a new one. Yulia Tymoshenko may pop up in the political process before 2015, but only if the Presidential Administration decides that this will ultimately destabilize and dilute the opposition before the election. Otherwise, nobody is going to release her. Therefore, the internal struggle in the current Batkivshchyna faction and party will lead to the emergence of an uncontrolled pool of MPs that will join the pro-government majority and the teams of other potential opposition presidential candidates.

Unless it has a real candidate to run in the presidential election, Batkivshchyna will transform into at least three opponent groups that will focus all their efforts on an internecine war rather than on the struggle against Yanukovych. The party itself may well face powerful raider attacks on both a regional and national scale. The government already has relevant experience. Just look at political raider attacks against Batkivshchyna’s regional branches supported and controlled by its former sponsor, Bohdan Hubskyi, in 2010. Moreover, the Justice Ministry headed by Justice Minister Lavrynovych, is the key player in political raids; and the courts do whatever the government instructs them to do. Thus, the groups controlled by the president’s puppeteers will be given the green light to change party leaders at their own congresses and amend party charters as the party in power sees fit, to further marginalize Batkivshchyna.

On June 15, Batkivshchyna will have to pass the capacity test or step onto the path of an outsider. This should encourage both conflicting parties to think about what they are doing, unless they are deliberately playing into the hands of the Presidential Administration. They have to create a common platform through mutual concessions, stop criticizing one another in public, and punish those responsible for lapses in HR and informational policy and open flirting with the government, including the exclusion of political opportunist Mykola Martynenko; reinforce faction and party discipline. Yatseniuk should not allow people who will obviously jump ship to take over Batkivshchyna’s local branches, even if they can support them financially, because he will then be held liable for their actions. Finally, Batkivshchyna has to draw up and promote a clear agenda of transformations with which it intends to claim power in the country, and its new leader intends to run for the office of president.


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