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Ukraine: New Cabinet Includes Some Surprises

Ukrainian Prime Minister Yuliya Tymoshenko (file photo) After painstaking negotiations, Ukraine has a new government, headed by Prime Minister Yuliya Tymoshenko. Although the cabinet is seen as strongly reformist, it contains some surprising choices -- including ministers previously untested in their field and openly antagonistic rivals.

Prague, 7 February 2005 (RFE/RL) -- There is an old political joke that goes, “A camel is a horse put together by a committee.”

Likewise, some might say the new Ukrainian cabinet started out as a horse and ended up as a bit of a camel. The need to balance different political interests, reward loyalists, and keep enemies in check means the new government is a hybrid that offers cause for optimism for reformists, as well as some unexpected appointments that analysts are having a hard time rationalizing.

Well-known businessmen will share a table with neophyte revolutionaries, while veteran politicians who owe their allegiances to different factions will all have to learn to work together in the new government.

In the "surprise" category is Interior Minister Yuriy Lutsenko who, aside from a brief stint as deputy science minister, has little government experience and none -- at any level -- in the Interior Ministry. The appointment appears to be a reward for Lutsenko's role as a key organizer of the street rallies during the Orange Revolution.
"This is a very important signal that Yushchenko has made because all the so-called 'power ministries' are now led by civilians. And this is a new quality in Ukrainian politics." -- RFE/RL Regional Analyst Jan Maksymiuk

Defense Minister Anatoliy Hrytsenko brings equally little experience to his post, although as RFE/RL regional analyst Jan Maksymiuk explains, the fact that all "power ministry" jobs will now be held by civilians is a first for a CIS country and sends an important signal.

"[Hrytsenko] was the head of a well-known think tank in Ukraine, so I don't think he has a lot of experience in running the army," Maksymiuk says. "But this is a very important signal that Yushchenko has made because all the so-called 'power ministries' are now led by civilians. And this is a new quality in Ukrainian politics."

Prime Minister Yuliya Tymoshenko and President Viktor Yushchenko have made economic reforms one of the main themes of their political program.

The appointment of veteran economists with government experience, such as Serhiy Teryokhin as economics minister and Anatoliy Kinakh as first deputy prime minister, bodes well for reforms, according to analysts. Here too, however, Maksymiuk points to some contradictions, including the appointment of an "old guard" agriculture minister.

"I think the team of ministers connected with the economy and the country's finances are well-known professionals," Maksymiuk says. "One troubling appointment is the appointment to the post of agriculture minister. Oleksandr Baranivsky is from the Socialist Party, and the Socialist Party program is leftist and it doesn't go well with the general direction of Yushchenko's program, which is seen by everybody as liberal and pro-reform."

Ukraine's new foreign-policy team strongly reflects Yushchenko's and Tymoshenko's pro-Western orientation. Tymoshenko, at her confirmation by parliament on 4 February, reaffirmed the country's new direction while trying to assuage neighboring Russia.

"Russia is Ukraine's first and most important partner," she said. "But our path lies in moving toward Europe. That's why we must draw up and approve a national strategy of European integration."

Oleh Rybachuk has been named deputy prime minister for European integration. The foreign minister is veteran diplomat Borys Tarasyuk. Both are expected to lobby strongly for Ukraine's integration into European structures, as well as NATO, in line with the government's new mandate.

Volodymyr Polohalo, editor in chief of the Kyiv-based journal "Political Thought," sees the future of the new cabinet optimistically. Despite some of the known rivalries among ministers and diverging political views, he believes they all have a stake in ensuring the government implements the reforms Ukraine so clearly needs.

"The main thing is not to lose the voters' trust, keeping in mind that parliamentary elections are due in 2006, which will be the decisive conclusion of this political cycle," Polohalo says. "So I think this vision will unite those people in the new government who otherwise might be rivals or might not be suitable for the job, if they were judged by this or another parameter."

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