Yanukovich passes law to solidify control for his party Ukraine’s new President eliminates last vestiges of Orange Revolution
From Friday's Globe and Mail Published on Thursday, Mar. 11, 2010 9:40PM EST Last updated on Thursday, Mar. 11, 2010 9:55PM EST
The last vestiges of Ukraine's Orange Revolution are fading into blackness after newly elected President Viktor Yanukovich used a new law to give his Party of Regions control of the government.
A month after defeating Yulia Tymoshenko in the presidential election, the Moscow-friendly leader gathered enough votes to oust her from the prime ministership last week. In swift succession yesterday, Mr. Yanukovich passed a law overriding the constitution and appointed Mykola Azarov, a member of his party, as head of government.
Mr. Azarov, a grey and officious man of 62 who was finance minister in the Yanukovich government ousted in the 2004 Orange Revolution, immediately pledged to pass an austerity budget in an effort to placate the International Monetary Fund, which has been attempting to bail out Ukraine's bankrupt economy. Both men say they will restore close ties with Russia.
More comfortable speaking Russian than Ukrainian, Mr. Azaraov, like Mr. Yanukovich, is closely allied with Ukraine's Russian-speaking minority, which felt excluded from the country's affairs and saw its language barred from official use during the Orange Revolution years.
Mr. Yanukovich's government appears to be illegal under the Ukrainian constitution introduced by Ms. Tymoshenko and her Orange Revolution allies. It stipulates that coalition governments must be made up of entire parties; under those rules, Mr. Yanukovich, whose party controls only 175 of the legislature's 450 seats, was not able to form one.
However, Mr. Yanukovich used his presidential powers yesterday to pass a law providing for coalitions to be made up of individual members of parliament. By drawing disgruntled MPs from the parties of Ms. Tymoshenko, former president Viktor Yushchenko and others, he managed to pull together the support of 235 lawmakers and form a government free of Orange Revolution veterans.
While its legality would likely not survive a Supreme Court challenge, most observers feel the government will survive until the next parliamentary elections next year.
Despite the questionable legality of the government, there was a sense of relief among Ukrainians and even some foreign officials, who have watched power struggles between feuding presidential and prime ministerial factions paralyze Ukraine and destroy its economy over the past five years.
Mr. Yanukovich is certain to bring Ukraine back into Russia's orbit and move it further away from Europe, having pledged to cancel initiatives to join NATO.
He is also likely to oversee a government that will merge the country's gas-pipeline billionaires with the instruments of the state. The opposition accused Mr. Yanukovich of stacking his government with officials with ties to the Russian-Ukrainian gas-pipeline company RosUkrEnergo. “This government is completely made up of Ukrainian oligarchs,” Ms. Tymoshenko declared in an angry statement yesterday, a week after being driven out of parliament. She also is an extremely wealthy businesswoman in the gas-pipeline business.
Still, there is a widespread sense that the new government will give Ukraine the stability it needs to recover from its economic collapse and begin dealing with the crippling poverty and lack of services that have turned the once-wealthy country into one whose health and income standards are more typical of the developing world.
After debt-heavy financial ventures secured by foreign banks drove Ukraine into insolvency last year, Kiev negotiated a $16.4-billion (U.S.) bailout from the International Monetary Fund. But it was suspended after the first payments because the political feud between Ms. Tymoshenko and Mr. Yanukovich made economic reforms impossible.
Both candidates made lavish promises to increase government wages in a country where the majority of the full-time work force is employed by state enterprises. This was the opposite of the pay freezes, cuts and privatizations that the IMF has demanded in exchange for its credits.
Mr. Yanukovich said yesterday that he will impose an austerity budget within 10 days that will slash government spending and raise tax revenues to the level the IMF feels is necessary to begin a recovery. But he said he will not reverse a promise to increase the wages of government employees.
In Moscow, the new government was welcomed as a return to close ties between Russia and its former colony.
"There is no doubt that Mykola Azarov feels positive about Russia, as he always delivers his speeches in Russian,” said Sergei Markov, head of Moscow's Political Studies Institute.
SOURCE: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/wor ... le1498092/