For the second time since the Orange Revolution of late 2004, a coalition cabinet consisting of the parties of President Viktor Yushchenko and Yulia Tymoshenko, who led these coalitions as Prime Minister, has been formally dissolved.
While US media coverage has focused on divisions with respect to the recent Russia-Georgia conflict as underlying the split, the real cause is deeper still: the parties remain suspicious of one another and those suspicions, there all along, would only get worse as the 2009 presidential elections approach.
The one manner in which the Russia-Georgia conflict probably has realigned internal Ukrainian politics is that it is now harder to imagine the sort of coalition that initially followed the 2006 parliamentary elections: one between defeated 2004 presidential candidate Viktor Yanukovych’s Party of Regions and Yushchenko’s Our Ukraine.
Given that a government coalition must be proposed by a majority in parliament–there is no provision for the President to appoint a government or for the largest party to form a minority government tolerated if not actively supported by other parties–what options are left? A Tymoshenko-Yanukovych coalition? It is the only formula not yet tried.
Such a coalition does not seem to me as odd as it might at first appear. Tymoshenko has positioned herself–and often been perceived in the West–as the more radical firebrand relative to the more technocratic Yushchenko (who, as a former Central Bank president, is hardly the sort of politician one would ever have imagined having his name chanted by thousands of protesters!). Nonetheless, her electoral coalition spans east and west Ukraine to a greater degree than either of the other two, and the Russia-Georgia conflict revealed her to be somewhat more accommodating towards the government of the Russian Federation than Yushchenko would like to be.
A coalition between Tymoshenko and Yanukovych would be an odd one institutionally, however, in that it would exclude the party of a presidency that remains quite powerful, the legislative initiative in government-formation notwithstanding. One of the greatest powers of the presidency, however, would be neutralized by the Yulia-Regions coalition: a veto that required a two-thirds vote to override. The parties of Tymoshenko and Yanukovych together have over 70% of the seats.
And then, there is always the possibility of constitutional changes that would make the presidency weaker, and the first-linked news item notes that such a possibility actually was one of the triggers of the coalition collapse:
Our Ukraine quit after denouncing a vote to cut presidential powers in which Tymoshenko joined Yanukovich and his party.
Provisions of the constitution make calling an early parliamentary election difficult (though the president managed to find a way a year ago). Besides, new elections would be unlikely to do anything but reconfirm the tripartite division among these three major parties.
In other words, somehow the three titans of post-Orange Revolution Ukraine are going to have to muddle through. Or at least that is how it looks from here. While I follow Ukraine in the sense that I have visited and care a lot about the country, and use it as a case in some of my research and teaching, I do not claim to be an expert. Maybe someone who follows the country more closely can offer some other scenarios, but muddling through is about all I see. (Unless, of course, the Yulia-Regions coalition moves up the presidential election. Is that possible? Just a thought.)