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Analysis: The Faces Of Ukraine's New Cabinet

(RFE/RL) Ukraine's new cabinet was formed last week by four parties that often pursue different political, economic, and ideological agendas. RFE/RL profiles the new ministers in Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych's government, and examines their chances of finding common ground.

PRAGUE, August 8, 2006 (RFE/RL) -- Ukraine's tortuous, four-month-long process of forming a new government ended on August 4 with the confirmation of Party of Regions leader Yanukovych as new prime minister.

The Ukrainian parliament also endorsed a new Cabinet of Ministers, in which the Party of Regions will control some major portfolios concerning the country's economy.

Yanukovych will have four deputies, as he had in the cabinet he oversaw during his previous stint as premier in 2002-04. Mykola Azarov will serve as both first deputy prime minister and finance minister, as he did during Yanukovych's first term. The three deputy prime ministers will also take on additional roles. Andriy Klyuyev will be in charge of the fuel and energy sector, Dmytro Tabachnyk will oversee humanitarian and social issues, and Volodymyr Rybak will head the Construction Ministry.

Prominent Party Members

Azarov and Klyuyev are among Yanukovych's oldest and staunchest allies.

Azarov is generally seen as a technocrat. As head of the State Tax Administration in 1996-2002 he was repeatedly accused by the opposition of applying fiscal and tax pressure on businesses linked to political opponents of former President Leonid Kuchma.

Klyuyev is a wealthy businessman with interests in the machine-building sector who led Yanukovych's campaign team in the 2004 presidential election. He was rumored to be the main player behind the falsification of election results in favor of Yanukovych, although those rumors have never been confirmed by investigators.

The Party of Regions' quota of ministerial posts also includes Minister for Liason with the Verkhovna Rada Ivan Tkalenko, Labor Minister Mykhaylo Papiyev, Environment Minister Vasyl Dzharty, Coal Industry Minister Serhiy Tulub, Fuel and Energy Minister Yuriy Boyko, Economy Minister Volodymyr Makukha, and Minister of the Cabinet of Ministers Anatoliy Tolstoukhov.

Virtually all of the Party of Regions' ministers have considerable experience in serving in senior government posts. This favorably distinguishes Yanukovych's cabinet in comparison to that led by Yuliya Tymoshenko in 2005. Her cabinet to a large extent consisted of Orange Revolution personalities with little or no experience in government.

It can be expected that the new Ukrainian cabinet should easily be able to agree on a basic set of economic reforms, which will be needed to continue the current positive trends in the economy. After all, it was under Yanukovych's premiership in 2004 that Ukraine posted impressive economic growth of 12 percent.

However, a disturbing feature of Yanukovych's cabinet is that -- as in virtually all former Ukrainian cabinets -- there is no clear separation between politics and business. Many cabinet members have vested interests in different business spheres. This could become a seed of future conflicts in the uneasy "coalition of national unity," which includes not only ministers from the largely oligarchic Our Ukraine, but also from the Marxist-Leninist Socialist Party.

Close To The President

In accordance with the constitution amended in 2004, President Viktor Yushchenko nominated the foreign minister and the defense minister, Borys Tarasyuk and Anatoliy Hrytsenko, respectively. Both politicians are strongly supportive of Ukraine's integration with Euro-Atlantic structures and were delegated by Yushchenko to assure the public both at home and abroad that Ukraine's pro-Western course will not undergo any significant changes under Yanukovych's premiership.

Interior Minister Yuriy Lutsenko, a former Socialist Party member who is now independent, is also seen as a Yushchenko man in the government. Lutsenko, an iconic leader of the Orange Revolution, is widely seen as an uncompromising custodian of the "Augean Stables," to which Ukraine's notoriously corrupt police force is sometimes compared.

In accepting his post, Lutsenko asserted that he sees the possibility of implementing the president's policy in Yanukovych's cabinet. However, most Ukrainians have apparently not yet forgotten that he completely failed to implement a major tenet of the Orange Revolution -- "bandits will go to jail" -- in the preceding cabinets of Yuliya Tymoshenko and Yuriy Yekhanurov. No major investigation by the Interior Ministry into corruption or election falsification has resulted in jail terms. It is hard to imagine that Lutsenko will be more successful now that some of the "bandits" have returned to the government.

Foreign Minister Borys Tarasyuk is a presidential appointee (epa)

Our Ukraine, which has yet to sign a formal coalition accord with the three other parties in the cabinet, is represented by Justice Minister Roman Zvarych, Family and Sports Minister Yuriy Pavlenko, Emergency Situations Minister Viktor Baloha, Culture Minister Ihor Likhovyy, and Health Minister Yuriy Polyachenko.

Taking into account that the Verkhovna Rada is headed by Oleksandr Moroz of the Socialist Party and all deputy-premier positions are filled by people from the Party of Regions, one must admit that the pro-presidential Our Ukraine has no major post in the government. This is the price Our Ukraine had to pay for its clumsy coalition negotiations following the March 26 parliamentary elections and its protracted hesitancy over whom it likes more -- Yuliya Tymoshenko or Viktor Yanukovych.

Our Ukraine supported Yanukovych for prime minister on August 4 only half-heartedly: just 30 of the party's 80 lawmakers voted in Yanukovych's favor. It appears that the cohabitation of Our Ukraine with the Party of Regions in the ruling coalition -- irrespective of whether it will be formalized or not -- will not be easy. There seems to be a pervading mood of frustration and political failure among a majority of Our Ukraine leaders and rank-and-file activists.

The Socialist Party is represented in the new cabinet by Education Minister Stanislav Nikolayenko and Transport Minister Mykola Rudkovskyy. While Nikolayenko is seen as a specialist in education and his reappointment was to be expected, Rudkovskyy's main contribution to Ukraine's transportation system seems to lie in his fondness for driving expensive cars and wearing smart suits.

The political affiliation of Agroindustrial Complex Minister Yuriy Melnyk and Industrial Policy Minister Anatoliy Holovko is not clear. Theoretically, they should belong to the quota of the Communist Party, which brings 21 votes to the coalition. But Melnyk is known for his anticommunist views and pronouncements. Some Ukrainian media suggest that the Communists exchanged their cabinet portfolios for an undisclosed sum, which was paid by some unidentified sponsors.

Unfinished Bridge

On the whole, Yanukovych's cabinet seems to be more carefully assorted in terms of professionalism than those of Yekhanurov and Tymoshenko. But it is too early to predict that the new government will become an immediate success or can contribute something substantial to bridging the east-west divide in the country, as some commentators expect.

In actual fact, neither the 2004 Orange Revolution nor the 2006 parliamentary elections have brought any significant changing of the guard in Ukrainian politics. Instead, it is the country's voters who seem to have undergone an important transformation. They are now more politically active and more inclined to judge their political leaders by deeds rather than pledges. And if the trend of Ukrainian voters keeping a watchful eye on their government continues, their chances of seeing a change in their political elite might improve.

Viktor Yanukovych

Viktor Yanukovych
Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych addresses Ukraine's Verkhovna Rada on August 6, 2006 (TASS)

UP FROM THE ASHES. On August 4, 2006, the Ukrainian legislature ended four months of political standoff by confirming Viktor Yanukovych as prime minister. Yanukovych's pro-Russian Party of Regions won the largest block of seats in the country's inconclusive March legislative elections. His confirmation capped a remarkable political comeback for Yanukovych after his defeat by Viktor Yushchenko in Ukraine's Orange Revolution....(more)


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