When we last looked in, Viktor Yushchenko had been inaugurated, Viktor Yanukovych had grudgingly conceded, and orange was the color for all would-be world-changers.
Unfortunately, while we weren’t looking, Ukraine’s cabinet was collapsing into in-fighting and neglecting to do the things that people put them in office for. On the positive side, an investigation into the Gongadze affair was making, you’ll pardon the word, headway.
On the negative side, wrangling and partisan positioning on most every issue. Key laws not being passed. Tensions between President and PM, among cabinet ministers, on down the line. (Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty seems the best English-language source, but their links behave strangely. Go to the home page and select Ukraine from the “news by country” menu for a month-by-month archive. Unless otherwise noted RFE/RL is my main source for the notes here.)
At the beginning of this month, things started to break. A minister and a member of the national security council resigned, citing their unwillingness to be responsible for corruption. This capped a summer of escalating accusations and declining government effectiveness. On September 8, Yushchenko dismissed the entire cabinet, including PM Yulia Tymoshenko, his strikingly charismatic (saw her on TV from Odessa this summer–yowza, whatever people have that make them stars of the screen, Tymoshenko has got it in spades) partner from the revolutionary days on the Maidan.
As of today, Yushchenko’s candidate for stand-in Prime Minister has been approved by Parliament, after failing to secure a majority on Tuesday. The government is promised to be technocratic, so many of the issues of international concern may get addressed, while contentious domestic questions will get kicked down the road.
Now it’s a race for parliamentary elections scheduled for March 2006. The new team will try to push through consensus reforms. Tymoshenko and her allies will press for a more radical approach. Yanukovych & Co. will press their agenda. Murky elements of Ukrainian business (bizness?) and politics will stay that way while trying to find favor with those in power.
In part, this is a positive development. A revolutionary moment has passed; something like normal politics have arrived. Splits like this are par for the course in Central Europe. Once upon a time, Vaclav Havel and Vaclav Klaus worked well together. The Poles in post-Solidarity parties are every bit as fractious as their szlachta forbears. (Liberum veto how are ya.) Serbia’s anti-Milosevic coalition did not last long.
Still, it’s too bad that apparently so little was accomplished while the fervor lasted and regular rules seemed suspended.
The coming election is also likely to be divisive, with fundamental issues still open. Ukraine still seems to be searching for the boundaries of its regular politics. I hope they will be clearer after March, and that European normality will keep spreading. But it’s a long hard slog.
*Polska tak, ale jakie?