Former Ukrainian speaker viewed as credible challenger to premier
Interview with experts from the Kiev Centre for Political Research and Conflict Studies Anton Finko and Oleksiy Tolpyho and Political Marketing Centre director Vasyl Stoyakin by Oleg Gorbunov; date and place not given: «Who are you, Mr. Yatsenyuk?»
The phenomenon of Arseniy Yatsenyuk, former speaker of the Supreme Council [parliament] and today one of the favourites in the not yet started presidential race, is today captivating the lion’s share of both Ukrainian and foreign experts’ and journalists’ attention. What are his personal and professional qualities? Who are his sponsors? How great are the prospects of him soon becoming president of Ukraine? Will he resolve the most difficult problems facing the country? How does he intend to form relations with Russia? What can he come to agreement on with the [Prime Minister] Yuliya Tymoshenko team? Will he get along at all on one electoral field with her? About this in an interview with experts from the Kiev Centre for Political Research and Conflict Studies Anton Finko and Oleksiy Tolpyho and Political Marketing Centre director Vasyl Stoyakin.
[Oleg Gorbunov] Do you consider Arseniy Yatsenyuk to be a «nonentity» on the professional level, as some experts declare?
[Finko] No. I consider him to be an expert and educated financier, a liberal «technocrat» with great political career potential, and one of the most intellectual in his circle. The expectations of quite a large number of people are undoubtedly linked to him. As sociological studies show, very many people associate an emergence from the crisis with the arrival of new faces in politics. Yatsenyuk is increasing his popularity on this.
However, he is hardly ready today to fulfil the role which his advocates, including representatives of large capital, are trying to impose on him.
The Ukrainian constitution endows the president with quite wide powers. However, they do not concern implementing socioeconomic policy. The government is responsible for the economy. It is formed by representatives of parliamentary parties and blocs. The question arises: In the name of what is a person who is not so much a public politician as a professional economist, who was previously part of the management of the National Bank, seeking the position of head of state - the more so since he does not rely on the support of any powerful political force?
[Gorbunov] Does Yatsenyuk have a strong «support group» among the authorities?
[Finko] It is possible to talk only tentatively about a group of officials and businessmen that has rallied around Arseniy Petrovych, in which Ukrainian political consultant Taras Berezovets has included Dmytro Firtash ([gas trader] RosUkrEnergo), Valeriy Khoroshkovskiy (Ukraine’s main TV channel Inter, formerly the Yevraz group), Vitaliy Hayduk (Industrial Union of the Donbass), Serhiy Taruta (Industrial Union of the Donbass), National Security and Defence Council Deputy Secretary Andriy Pyshnyy, Security Service of Ukraine Deputy Chairwoman Svitlana Nezhnaya, and administration head at the president\'s secretariat Yan Bernazyuk. These are influential people but this is in no way a political party.
If, let us suppose, such a political leader wins presidential elections, then he will be forced to follow one of three paths. Each of them leads in its own way to a blind alley.
Firstly, he can start seeking early parliamentary elections, hastily sweeping up a political party or bloc which deserters from losing forces will join. However, there are no guarantees that such a bloc will be able to receive a majority of seats in a new parliament, particularly since in the conditions of the economic crisis the popularity of the new president will start to drop considerably just a few months after his «ascent to the throne.» Then it will be necessary to agree on setting up a coalition government, and it will be very difficult for its prime minister to get along with an ambitious president who has his own views on forming socioeconomic policy. All this will lead to new conflicts.
Secondly, he can seek a review of the constitution through extra-parliamentary means with the assistance of a referendum. Naturally, that is fraught with even more serious confrontation.
Thirdly, he can seek agreement with existing forces or leave everything completely as it is, but then it remains totally unclear why that candidate needed to stand.
[Gorbunov] How will relations between Tymoshenko and Yatsenyuk develop as the presidential elections approach? They are playing on one electoral field. Will there be acute conflict between them, or is their unification more likely?
[Stoyakin] Tymoshenko and Yatsenyuk are now unequivocally heading for an acute conflict. The increase in Arseniy Yatsenyuk’s popularity rating is making Yuliya Volodymyrivna [Tymoshenko] extremely rattled. The main task for the Yuliya Tymoshenko Bloc headquarters is now to confront Yatsenyuk.
[Gorbunov] Does Yatsenyuk have great chances of winning a presidential race? Can he be acknowledged as a serious rival to Tymoshenko and [opposition Party of Regions leader Viktor] Yanukovych, or is he still simply taking votes away from Tymoshenko?
[Stoyakin] He is fulfilling a specific function - replacing [President] Viktor Andriyovych [Yushchenko] on the electoral field. This is a full-fledged functioning model of Yushchenko in his 2002-2003 form, but without some peculiarities. He is not, for example, absorbed in bee-keeping or Trypilya culture.
[Finko] The main similarities between Yushchenko and Yatsenyuk are that both are liberal monetarists and Atlantists. I do not think either is taking account of global tendencies - the formation of a multipolar world order and the crisis of the neoliberal economic model. However, Arseniy Petrovych is still aspiring to position himself as a possible intermediary between the «oranges» and the «white and blues.» Furthermore, he is relying on some southeastern capital. Viktor Pinchuk, the founder of the EastOne group (the reorganized Interpipe group) is among those being named as his possible sponsors.
It can in any case be said that if after the presidential elections the «Yushchenko policy without Yushchenko» is going to be conducted this will be a tragedy for the country. Many critics suspect Arseniy Petrovych of precisely an aspiration to conduct this sort of policy, taking into account the extremely close political relations between the latter and Viktor Andriyovych.
[Tolpyho] Yatsenyuk, like Yushchenko before the 2004 elections, will declare close relations with Russia, since you will not take power in Ukraine with anti-Russian slogans. There is a maximum of 15 per cent of die-hard nationalists in our country, while no less than 50 per cent are for friendship with Russia. Whether they are right or not, all anti-Russian politicians in our country «disappear» somewhere before elections. Then an «evolution of views» could happen to Yatsenyuk, as it did to Yushchenko.
[Gorbunov] Can Yatsenyuk count on a high level of support among the southeastern electorate?
[Finko] Hardly, although he is making efforts here. He has tried to somehow distance himself from the [nationalist World War II] Ukrainian Insurgent Army. But Yatsenyuk is a candidate of the centre and west of the country.
[Gorbunov] Could Yatsenyuk become prime minister under a Tymoshenko president?
[Finko] We are dealing with a very flexible figure, who is seeking to occupy all the most influential positions in turn. The only question is what Yuliya Tymoshenko’s motive for such an appointment would be. An exchange for supporting her candidacy after the vote in the first round?
[Gorbunov] Will Yatsenyuk «drag» the team of the current president and the president himself out of the «political wilderness» to which they could withdraw after presidential elections?
[Finko] Let us have a look at who forms Yatsenyuk’s structures in western Ukraine and how they are formed. In Lviv his interests are represented by Stepan Kubiv, the former head of Kredobank, the «daughter company» of the Polish RKO bank, and a Lviv Region council deputy elected from Our Ukraine (an abundance of banking figures is as a whole typical for Yatsenyuk’s entourage). In Ivano-Frankivsk Region his interests are represented by Volodymyr Shkvarilyuk (deputy governor, and previously head of the local branch of the Finansy i Kredyt bank. Anton Sosnovskyy, a figure from the «orange» youth organization Pora, can be seen among the leaders of the Volyn organization. Structures created under Yatsenyuk will thus become a new «umbrella» for functionaries from the Yushchenko government in the localities. As regards the central level, I think the most capable of them will also be absorbed in new projects.
Source: Politkom.ru website, Moscow, in Russian 4 May 09
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