War and lack of money may help the coalition avoid its breakup

War and lack of money may help the coalition avoid its breakup
The future of the coalition is in the hands of the president and the premier
Photo: Konstantin Melnitskiy

Local elections and deterioration of the social and economic situation in the country will be the main risk for preservation of the parliamentary coalition in its current composition in 2015. All this is worsening as a result of the already existing disagreements between the parties of the premier and the president, as well as attempts of junior partners to save face. The complex situation in the eastern part of the country and western money: these are the main elements cementing the coalition.

Sworn friends

Two weeks before the snap elections to the Verkhovna Rada a meeting was held at the election headquarters of the Petro Poroshenko Bloc (PPB) during which the latest data of nationwide opinion polls were examined and analyzed. Capital’s source in the PPB said the report was made by then Deputy Chief-of-Staff Ihor Hryniv, who was responsible for the campaign strategy and sociology. It can be said that the campaign was dear to Hryniv’s heart as he is credited for control of the polling research company Socis. The figures of the opinion polls showed that more than 40% of voters supported the PPB and that inspired the presidential team with hope for independent formation of the majority in the new parliament. But these hopes did not prove true. According to the final results of the CEC, with a difference of less than 1% the first place belonged to the People’s Front (PF), which ran for the VR under the slogan “Yatsenyuk for Premier”. And even though with the help of first-past-the-post candidates the PPB faction became the largest in the parliament (149 versus 82 seats for the PF), the president and the prime minister had to negotiate and agree on the division of offices in the Cabinet and the Rada.

“I hope that the ten days that the law assigns for the final announcement of the results of the parliamentary elections is more than enough to finish all talks regarding the positions of the premier and the VR speaker, the forming of the new government and formation of governing bodies of the parliament,” said President Poroshenko on the night of the elections. However, the talks ran over time.

“At first, the president’s people wanted us to agree to their terms, calling themselves the winners of the election. But we are the winners. Naturally, this led to various incidents. For example, at one meeting Yatsenyuk and Borys Lozhkin were quite emotional in their exchange of proposals. Now it is all in the past,” said an MP of the PF faction. There were two controversial points – the coalition agreement and composite of the government.

As a result, a decision was made to involve Samopomіch, which had its own version of the regulations for the coalition council and amendments to the Constitution. “At the beginning of the talks the stance of Samopomich often coincided with the position of the PF. Therefore, a decision was made to invite Oleh Lyashko and Yulia Tymoshenko to join the coalition,” said an MP from the PPB.

As a result, the creation of a European Ukraine coalition was announced only in a month after the elections. “For the first time the pro-democratic coalition has 304 votes. Such potential should not be squandered or wasted. We need to make every effort possible to productively exploit it,” said Viktor Chumak (PPB).

In his opinion, this number of MPs in the coalition ensures its immunity from a breakup and internal contradictions.

However, the first voting showed that the coalition has certain troubles. While officials tried to conceal the debate inside the parliamentary majority from the public, it was quite a difficult task. “The coalition is falling apart at the seams because there is no trust in it. How can it work when there are always some plots and its members are constantly trying to frame one another?” said Volodymyr Parasyuk (independent).

The coalition assures that the difficulties can be overcome. “Teamwork is the key to the coalition’s success. There is no future if politicians move stereotypically towards a schism. And if we all work openly on each project and each idea, then there will be no premises for a conflict,” said leader of the Samopomіch faction Oleh Berezyuk. By the way, after protracted haggling his faction was given the office of vice speaker, which was previously claimed by a representative of the parliamentary minority. This time MPs that are not members of the coalition have not even been offered any offices as committee heads. After all, the coalition itself lacked management portfolios.

Junior partners

Former lawmaker Borys Bespaliy believes that today the main rivalry inside the coalition is not based on a substantive or purposeful principle, rather on personal alliances: the forces are fighting amongst themselves for power and influence. The main conflict arises along the president – premier line. This was confirmed by the vote on December 11 in favor of the government’s action program, which has been criticized by representatives of the majority and the PPB threatened to not support the Cabinet. “The government wanted to show who the boss is and turn the parliament topsy turvy. There is only one reason for this – namely, to put pressure on the parliament in the context of the power struggle. The Cabinet was trying to bend the parliament and got the response,” said Bespaliy. He expects that next year the confrontation between the president and the premier in the VR will continue and will be reflected in the confrontation between their teams in the parliament. “The struggle for influence never ends. Either one side has the upper hand, as in the days of Leonid Kuchma and Viktor Yanukovych, or the struggle is ongoing. The main thing is that this conflict is not taking place at the highest level, as was the case between Tymoshenko and Yushchenko,” the source said.

MP Mykola Tomenko (PPB) believes that further work with the coalition partners will depend on their will to take responsibility and cast aside personal ambitions. “For now all members of the coalition have their own features and their own logic. For example, some work with the presidential elections in mind. Others are more engaged with self-promotion. But, essentially, there are no real preconditions for aggravation of the situation inside the coalition. The main thing is that each faction share responsibility for the situation in the country,” he said.

Debates between senior and junior partners in the coalition may also be a problem. For example, because of disagreements over positions in parliamentary committees and the Radical Party’s refusal to vote the coalition was forced to use the votes of the People’s Will parliamentary group headed by Ihor Yeremeyev. “This is not a coalition, but a situational association. Initially, they started voting with 326 votes, but now they have only 240 votes. It is clear in the coalition that MPs vote in favor of the interests of those officials thanks to whom they were elected to the VR. Everybody wants a position as a minister or a governor. Hence, there is a lot of resentment within the coalition,” lawmaker Tetyana Bakhteyeva (Opposition Bloc) shares his views and observations.

The future local elections will only worsen relations between large and small political forces in the coalition. “The minority parties will have a problem in the coalition for the next year – they have to preserve their identity. They need to come up with something special, some unique steps that would justify their identity,” said Bespaliy. According to him, Batkivshchyna and the Radical Party will play the role of constructive opposition inside the coalition that will make Samopomіch look for its own pattern of action.

“Each of these factions has its own features and they will stick to them. For example, NATO is Tymoshenko’s perk. This will help them save face and their identity,” says political analyst Denys Bohush. Political analyst Vitaliy Bala believes that for now Yulia Tymoshenko is taking a wait-and-see approach and the outcome of the work of the government will have an impact on its change.

Protection from war

Members of Batkіvshchyna acknowledge that the real tests for the coalition will be directly connected with the first performance results of the new Cabinet. “Everything will depend on implementation of the government program. We will see the first results next spring. The first conclusions – professional and political – will be drawn at the same time,” said member of the political council of the Batkivshchyna Andriy Pavlovskiy. The publication’s source in the Opposition Bloc also believes that the first reformatting of the coalition may happen in the spring. But Bakhteyeva assures that the party does not intend to become part of the existing majority. “If someone wants to join us – we are all for it. In future we do not rule out the expansion of our faction in the parliament, but we will remain the opposition bloc,” she says.

Bohush agrees that the very first new payments for utilities, as well as cuts in social programs will lead to tensions inside the coalition. “Entrepreneurs and the middle class are almost kicking the bucket. All reforms are conducted only to obtain grants and subsidies from the IMF. Both the premier and the president are interested in obtaining these funds. This means they will have no choice but to work together. Otherwise, the west will not understand,” said Bohush. He believes the rise in the degree of tension inside the coalition will be directly related to the date of the local elections.

Bala says the military actions in the east of the country are the main fuse to the collapse of the majority. “If someone tries to break up the coalition and provoke a conflict within, the public would not understand and this will limit their ability to drown one another,” said the expert. However, he did not rule out that the personal ambitions of politicians could be stronger than the power of self-preservation.

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