Archive for December 15th, 2011

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Setting up the fall guy – Ukraine

December 15, 2011

Regardless of who pulls the strings in Ukraine, who is in charge of the government?

The answer, technically, is the Prime Minister and not the President.  Prime Minister Azarov is the man in charge of the day to day running of the country and the cabinet.  The President is supposed to float about serenely looking after the constitution and signing into law, or vetoing, proposed laws from the parliament.

Of course that has never been the case since Ukrainian independence.  Presidents have routinely sacked Prime Ministers and dismissed both government and parliament.  In fact it became something of a bore under Yushenko it happened so frequently.

The Prime Minister of Ukraine is ultimately held responsible for the actions or inactions of the government on paper (and occasionally by the public) and as such often been the fall guy (or girl) for Ukrainian Presidents when things are going either wrong or are stagnating.

With Ukraine and the EU at a low in relations, promised reforms hampering IMF negotiations and a new gas deal with Russia likely to produce a result that is less than optimum for Ukraine (but then such deals always do) you have to consider the real possibility that with parliamentary elections on the horizon next year, Prime Minister Azarov will be sacrificed on at the alter of  public and political relations.

Now, to be quite honest, the unofficial plan as related to me by somebody within the PoR when they assumed power in 2010, was that Azarov would remain Prime Minister for a year to sort out the economics as he is a very capable administrator.  In 2011 he was due to be replaced according to the initial plan.  Subsequent changes to election timing have enabled him to stay longer.

Whilst growth in Ukraine is expected to be around 5% this year and indeed again in 2012, a figure to make EU leaders more than a little envious, there are high profile issues as mentioned above that require a fall guy.

We can be quite certain that even if the current President was the driving force behind chasing down Ms Tymoshenko and other past governmental figures, it is certainly not his signature on the instigating documents.  We can be equally as sure that if 50% of the Ukrainian GTS gets signed over to Gazprom in return for cheaper gas, it will not be the President’s signature on the documents.  These are matters for the government and Prime Minister and not the Presidential Administration or the President technically speaking.  (As we saw from Yushenko washing his hands of Tymoshenko and the current very poor gas deal when she alone brokered it.)

Therefore, between any eventual gas deal with Russia (both the proposals in the link are not particularly good for Ukraine) and October 2012, we can expect the current Prime Minister to either announce he will not run for reelection, to fall on his sword somehow, or to be dismissed whilst taking the blame directly or inferred, for the state of relations with the EU, Russia and the IMF.

Enter then, the new Prime Minister (probably Sergey Tigipko), to force through whatever needs doing to put matters right whether that relates to Russian gas (if at all possible looking at the above proposals), Ms Tymoshenko’s situation, the IMF reforms and more, if they are not resolved in the very near future.

Quite simply a fall guy seems to be required and as is tradition in Ukraine, that fall guy would seem to be the Prime Minister.

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