Ukraine has a new prime minister and Cabinet. On February 27 the new Cabinet members, introduced on the Maidan the day before, were walking down Verkhovna Rada corridors from the very morning. Pavlo Sheremeta, Olha Bohomolets, and Yevhen Nyshchuk were giving journalists commentaries, while the MPs were waiting for “the H-hour” to vote. After an hours-long discussion, the people’s deputies had a break.
Then Parliament Speaker Oleksandr Turchynov announced the formation of a parliamentary coalition, European Choice, consisting of 260 MPs (Batkivshchyna, UDAR, Svoboda, and some independent deputies). The newly-formed coalition immediately put to the vote the candidature of Arsenii Yatseniuk, the Batkivshchyna faction leader, as head of the government. He gained 371 “yes” votes. “This is ‘love,’” the MPs joked.
WITH OR AGAINST PEOPLE
The Maidan was not slow to react. Back on Wednesday, when the proposed government was being introduced on the Maidan, those present turned thumbs down to most of the announced candidates and never heard any detailed project of reforms from the likely ministers and lost again an opportunity to vote for a Cabinet of people’s trust. Many people did not hide their disappointment at what they had heard. The protesters loudly approved only some of the candidates – Oleh Musii (public health minister) and Serhii Kvit (minister of education and science).
Conversely, the majority of the Maidan refused to confirm Arsen Avakov as minister of the interior. “Vitalii Yarema!” the protesters shouted in front of the Rada before it went into session. The MPs took into account the people’s wish and Yarema obtained the office of not interior minister but first vice-premier. “It is above all Poroshenko who wanted to see Yarema in the interior ministry. He lobbied the MP’s interests,” a Batkivshchyna MP, who chose to remain anonymous, told The Day. “Poroshenko was offered the office of vice-premier in the new government or of parliament speaker. He refused. In all probability, he will run for the presidency as “unblemished.” But he still managed to “squeeze” two people into the new government – Yarema and Groisman [former mayor of Vinnytsia in one of the constituencies of which the billionaire MP ran for a parliamentary seat. – Ed.] as vice-premier for regional development and the public utilities.”
According to the interviewee, the UDAR leader Vitalii Klitschko took a similar position. “Klitschko was offered the office of prime minister instead of Arsenii Yatsenuk or of parliament speaker,” the MP says. “In exchange, Klitschko demanded that Yulia Tymoshenko should not take part in the presidential elections. We answered that he should not be running either. This put an end to the “idyll” and UDAR refused to participate in the Cabinet formation.”
WHO IS “IN CLOVER”?
The new premier Arsenii Yatseniuk pointed out that his was “a kamikaze government.” At the same time, it is said off record in parliament’s sidelines that there was a queue for ministerial offices in the new Cabinet. “This means they are not so much kamikazes and there is not so little money in the state coffers,” an ex-Regionnaire, who entered the coalition, says to The Day.
“We suggested forming a government of technocrats out of the people who had shown themselves well on the Maidan,” says UDAR MP Serhii Kaplin. “If party politicians want so much to work in the Cabinet, let them assume the offices of deputy ministers and help the Maidan protesters. One must roll up sleeves and work. But we will vote for a new Cabinet of Ministers and give it a chance.”
Asked why the Maidan responded to the list of new ministers not as approvingly as the politicians would like it to, the protesters say that most of the announced names were totally unknown to them and the names they knew belonged to the ones they did not want to see in power. “Nobody sought our advice either,” a Batkivshchyna MP told The Day privately. “It is ‘Turchynov’s people’ who hold sway today, and the right of veto and the last word was awarded to Yulia Tymoshenko who plans to take part in the elections and compete with Klitschko.”
“They should have given all the ministerial posts to the Maidan people,” Serhii Kaplin says. “The point is not in professionalism now. It can be acquired. The problem is different – it is necessary that people give a mandate to the new government for unpopular reforms without which we cannot ride out the crisis. Today, the trust in politicians has dropped to the minimum. In these conditions, who will they believe more – Yatseniuk or Bulatov? But nobody forbids politicians to help those whom the Maidan will choose.”
The Verkhovna Rada has essentially grown in the past year, the MP says, but “remnants of a morbid love for power still dominate in the MPs from various political parties.” “People were dying for changing the system, not the names of people in power,” Kaplin says. “We must go in this direction.” If the new government fails to understand this, it will end in a fiasco.
THE ECONOMY AS A HOSTAGE
Meanwhile, people’s deputies explained to The Day in the sidelines the background of voting for a new “Cabinet’s set.” An MP from Kinakh’s newly-formed group, who chose to remain anonymous, said they had “supported the decision because the country needs to be rescued from an economic abyss, but nobody expects any economic miracles or breakthroughs.” “On the contrary, it will be easier to establish a normal business environment and increase pre-election ratings after their ‘self-sacrifice,’” the MP said.
“We will not hinder the work of the new team,” Borys Kolesnikov, Party of Regions deputy faction leader, told The Day. But, in his view, the brand-new team will hardly build a fundamentally new economic model of development which business would like to see.
Asked by The Day which of the Yatseniuk Cabinet’s legislative initiatives he and his faction colleagues are ready to support, Kolesnikov said it is liberalization of business processes, disbandment of the Revenues Ministry and transfer of its functions to the Ministry of Finance, and introduction of the electronic system of taxation. “Maybe, as part of the introduction of changes to the Constitution, we should think over the transfer of the right of MPs to write laws to the relevant ministries,” he summed up.
Independent MP Anzhelika Labunska also voted for the Cabinet but she told The Day that she was skeptical about the new team’s ability to change the monopoly-oligarchic economic system. “The government of professionals has not come. You may pronounce good slogans, but people will feel it is false,’ Labunska explains. “The Maidan’s demand not to include businesspeople into the government was the reason why some candidates, including Arsen Avakov, were turned down.”
But the MPs confess that, although officially there are no businesspeople in the top Cabinet offices, they are covered by the “shadow figures” that have strong business connections. According to people’s deputies, there are no official complaints about the “Maidan quota” candidates, but will these perhaps appear when we see their deputies? Who knows, who knows…
How is this country going to be saved from a default? It is clear from Yatseniuk’s words that there is no money and radical actions are needed. The Day asked Economics Minister Pavlo Sheremeta about the urgent steps to stabilize the situation. “European integration, cheaper economic credits at the expense of the hryvnia’s floating rate, deregulation, demonopolization of the petrochemical [read: “Hello Firtash!” – Author] and media sectors, development of small and medium business – this will all provide grounds for Ukraine to receive foreign financial aid,” he says. “An IMF loan is a question of the nearest weeks,” Sheremeta stressed. “On the whole,” the brand-new minister (one of those whom the Maidan approved) continues, “the government will go by the following annual macroeconomic indicators: a 3-5-percent inflation and a 2-3-percent GDP growth.”
Kostiantyn MATVIIENKO, political scientist, public figure:
“This is not a government of people’s trust or of technocrats, nor is it a coalition government. This is something in between, which is usually a very ineffective instrument. It is good, of course, that it was formed, for there is very much work to do. We can only welcome this fact and hope that there will be some result. This government has too little time to introduce major innovations. It is in fact a ‘fire-extinguishing’ Cabinet.”
Mykhailo BASARAB, political scientist:
“I am somewhat skeptical about the current government. A government formed in a political and economic crisis, when the state is without the top leadership, when it was necessary to take into account the wishes of various political and civic entities, is objectively doomed. We will see no effective reforms from a government formed in such conditions and on the basis of such principles. Besides, the presence of many past-time politicians in the government allows us to presume that we will see no radical changes in the approaches to economic management.
“Vitali Klitschko, the leader of UDAR, one of the largest political forces, behaved in the most mature way in this situation – his party voted for the new government but will not take part in it.
“On the whole, I think the most successful appointment in this Cabinet is that of Pavlo Sheremeta. The more specialists and experts there were in this government, the more effective it would be. Politicians should have refrained from forming the government and formed a Cabinet of technocrats.
“Naturally, we are bowing our heads to all the activists on the front line of revolutionary events, but the appointments of civic sector representatives were not always adequate. Activists could have assumed the offices of civic council chiefs at the ministries or it was possible to form some other supervisory bodies in the Cabinet and in every ministry, which would monitor their performance.
“I take a very dim view of appointing civic sector representatives as heads of executive institutions, such as the appointment of Tetiana Chornovol as Anticorruption Bureau chief. I doubt that she has enough knowledge and skills to carry out the necessary reforms. Civic actions play, of course a specific public role but this has nothing to do with working at executive bodies. Heads of governmental institutions should be, first of all, good specialists and disciplined functionaries.
“A good civic activist will not necessarily make a good minister or head of a structure on which major hopes are being pinned. Fighting corruption and lustration – these areas should be of top priority. These institutions should lay the groundwork for fast reforms. Corruption is Ukraine’s crucial problem. The solution of 80 percent of all the problems depends on the settlement of this one. This is the linchpin that keeps this entire defective system running. Therefore, the institutions that deal with corruption and lustration should be run by specialists who can not only spot the facts of corruption, but also know the corruption system from inside. One must know at the expense of what the corruption system functions and how it can be ruined. We need specialists with a systemic vision.”
Interviewed by Anna CHEREVKO, Alla DUBROVYK, The Day