Theater of Cruelty

The long haul started in Ukraine

The orange revolution is over. Now it's time for drama.


has happened, many feared and even more waited in Ukraine. Cooperation between the Orange Revolution battlefields, President Viktor Yushchenko and Prime Minister Julija Tymoshenko is over. The broad alliance, which included both socialists and market liberalists, came to an end when the president disbanded Tymoshenko's government on September 8.

Symptomally enough for Ukraine, there were charges of corruption that split the government and gave President Yushchenko a reason to give it a go. In the days before, several key ministers had resigned in protest against the leader of the National Security Council, Petro Poroshenko. The corruption-accused employee of the president departed just hours before Yushchenko decided that all the cards should be collected and redistributed. The aftermath has become bitter. Yushchenko accuses Tymoshenko of having used the Prime Minister's post to nurture its own business interests. Tymoshenko dismisses the charges, claiming that the reason for the departure was Yushchenko's fear of her growing popularity.

Fighting against corruption and fair play was the main reason why people took to the streets of the capital Kyiv in December last year. They reversed the result of the government's massive electoral fraud and paved the way for a new political team that promised change. Now it is very important that the regime change in people's consciousness does not shrink to a pure change of crew. What most people want is to get rid of a corrupt political culture. For years, Ukrainian politics has in many ways been the continuation of business, only by other means. The path to personal wealth has gone through a seat in the Verhovna Rada National Assembly or in the president's central powerhouse. Business clans and powerful oligarchs have often had the decisive word when political decisions have been made.

The corruption in Ukraine has long and deep roots. In order to be guaranteed a medically justifiable treatment at a hospital, it is often expected that gifts are given to the doctor that go far beyond what is referred to in the Norwegian state regulations as "symbolic". The same applies to admission to higher education. It is also common for students to buy better grades. According to the ranking of the international anti-corruption organization Transparency International, Ukraine ends up in 122nd place out of 146 countries. According to a survey conducted in Ukraine by the World Bank, 87 percent answered that they have had to pay bribes to solve a problem. Over 2 percent of the profits of Ukrainian companies are supposed to be for similar purposes. Corruption is like sand in the social machinery. When so many decisions in a society are not made on a rational basis, it may not surprise anyone that the whole becomes rather dysfunctional. Corruption stands in the way of both economic development and mutual trust. It creates and maintains a system where it is the one who can pay, who will get his will.

Therefore, the expectations of Viktor Yushchenko and Yulia Tymoshenko have been sky high. They both clashed with former President Leonid Kuchma's regime. It cost Tymoshenko a stay in prison, and this autumn Yushchenko was known to have a few milligrams of dioxin from death. They were seen as the leaders of a solid team that would pave the way for a new Ukraine. But relatively early on, the first signs came that unity was about to crack. This was particularly evident in the process of looking more closely at the privatization of large state-owned enterprises, where, among others, Kuchma's son-in-law Viktor Pintsjuk has secured large values ​​for cheap money. Prime Minister Tymoshenko went hard and first demanded a review of around 3.000 companies. Yushchenko would hold back. Politically, he is more of a market liberal than Yulia Tymoshenko is. But a desire not to make even more enemies in the eastern part of the country was probably also an important reason for the president's restraint. It was apparently during a heated discussion on this topic that Yushchenko allegedly snapped at his prime minister: "Never dare to reprimand me again!".

The political divorce between the two can easily be interpreted as a defeat for the Orange Revolution. But at the same time it can also be seen as a normalization. The dissolution of the government was the very start of the long election campaign leading up to the presidential election in March. Now a new party system can emerge, which will hopefully be based more on political platforms than personal loyalty ties. Yulia Tymoshenko has announced that she is now in opposition to her motherland party, which emphasizes social policy to a greater extent than Viktor Yushchenko does. The Socialist Party is also likely to leave the government, and is thus even freer to be able to run an election campaign based on basic values ​​such as more state control and less social differences. It will also be interesting to see how much is left of Yushchenko's election coalition "Our Ukraine", which Tymoshenko's party has now left. It is conceivable that several of the moderate nationalist and economically liberal parties in the coalition now choose to invest on their own. In any case, it is the election campaign that will dominate Ukrainian politics for the next six months. Amendments to the constitution will give parliament much more power next year, not least over the government.

The government of the newly appointed Prime Minister Yuri Yekhanurov will probably take office in mid-October. Yekhanurov has worked closely with Yushchenko for several years. In the 1990s, he marked himself as a strong supporter of privatization, but he is said to be more technocratic than a politician. Observers believe Yushchenko is now targeting a crew without the big ideologues, but who can smoothly and smoothly implement his own policies.

The tasks are in line, and Yushchenko knows he must give the people concrete results. Economic growth, which has been around 12 per cent in recent years, is about to end up in the quadruple for 2005. The average salary is around NOK 1.200 a month, and higher prices are eating up people's purchasing power. In rural areas, most people have to work as hobby farmers alongside full-time jobs in order to achieve a decent standard of living. The difference between rich and poor is gigantic. Yushchenko's hope is that a better relationship with the West will attract investment. But at the same time, he must appease Russia enough so that Moscow does not turn off the gas taps.

The fight against corruption is probably Viktor Yushchenko's strongest card among most people. His six-month term as prime minister under Leonid Kuchma ended in the spring of 2001 after his tendencies toward corruption became too troublesome for the president's inner circle. So far, Yushchenko has, among other things, concentrated on corruption in the police. This summer, he disbanded the traffic police DAI (which in Ukrainian can also be interpreted as: "Give me!"), An agency that is notorious for conducting highway robbery in uniform through improvised and creative controls by motorists. In several police districts, corrupt police officers have been suspended and placed under investigation.

On the sidelines of Ukrainian politics, former presidential candidate Viktor Yanukovych and other Kuchma's former allies are licking their wounds. Progress in the economy and in the fight against corruption is very important to prevent the old regime from re-establishing its grip on Ukrainian politics. The desire for revenge is still absolutely present. It has not diminished by the fact that the new rulers in many municipalities replaced large parts of the administration, and in some places they also took the local newspaper editor in the same sling. Those who had supported Yanukovych went out, and more or less newly saved "orangists" came in. It is easy to understand the desire to clean up after a regime that was largely based on lies and deception. But if the goal is to build a bridge between a divided people, such a radical replacement of people is hardly particularly wise. The Ukrainians have certainly experienced this before, and nothing good has ever come of it.

This is a fateful time for one of Europe's largest countries, located at the intersection of East and West. Ukraine's democratic traditions are still short and weak. There is an urgent need to convince the population that it is possible to combine a just democracy with economic progress and social equalization. Otherwise, the last six months' hopes of more democracy can quickly be replaced by nostalgia for ex-president Kuchma or predecessors who were even less democratic than him.

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