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What are the chances?

March 30, 2014

Loathed as I am to write this entry, I do so in response to numerous emails and comments relating to what I think the political  future of Yulia Tymoshenko is.  Firstly it should be irrelevant to a large extent as the Ukrainian constituency seems to have finally turned away from populist personality politics and toward policy.  Hurrah!

Thus I am loathed to write about her as a political personality and wrongly be seen to give her more of my time than any other candidate – but I shall respond due to the sheer number of those who have asked the question.

As regular readers will know, when she was due to be released from prison I advocated for her graceful retirement from politics rather than what would be an undignified fall – acknowledging her ego would never allow such a graceful retirement.

In fact for many years I have advocated the retirement of both Ms Tymoshenko and Mr Yanukovych from Ukrainian politics.  Therefore my personal position is already known – though that does not answer the question asked.

So to answer the question.

Ms Tymoshenko is fighting for her political life – she just doesn’t know who she is fighting with and is therefore somewhat adrift.

She no longer has Viktor Yanukovych (or Viktor Yushenko) to argue with and fight against.  All those with any realistic chance of winning the presidency hold the same Europe friendly views as she does, and in the current circumstances resorting to the traditional Ukrainian politics of trashing, undermining or attempting to buy off (with money or promises of position) her political opponents would do her more harm than good.

Those she would have to influence are beating her in the opinion polls, and to be quite frank, would not welcome involvement with her should they come to power.

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Secondly, her political party Batkivshchyna, currently has an electoral support rating of 15% – almost double that of Ms Tymoshenko’s own personal rating in the presidential polls, which currently stands at 8.2%.

Stepping back in time we must recognise that Batkivshchyna was created as a political party not around an ideology, but specifically as a vehicle to propel Ms Tymoshenko into power.  It has never developed an ideology because Ms Tymoshenko has always controlled the party in a very authoritarian manner – but as the recent polls show, the party can now – and should make a point of – controlling Ms Tymoshenko.

Nothing good has ever come from a situation where the party personalities are bigger than the party itself – particularly when both personalities and party are devoid of recognisable  ideology to which their supporters expect them to remain loosely tethered.

Her recent speech when announcing her intention to run for the presidency clearly displayed a continued self-centered mantra to the point where she stated, “Ukrainians feel nothing has changed after the revolution” – which is a fairly damning statement to make when her Batkivshchyna Party currently hold the vast majority of the Ukrainian ministerial seats and have installed 10 loyal regional governors.  If nothing has changed then her party holds responsibility for that.

Thus it is implied only she can save Ukraine, not only from external threats, but internal threats also – and included in those threats are the inabilities of her own party it appears.

What she does not yet seem able to accept is that the misrule of Viktor Yanukovych and the subsequent Euromaidan has finally propelled the Ukrainian voting constituency away from “me, me , me, I, I , I” personality politics.  They look for policy (and its implementation), ideology they can recognise, democracy, transparency, inclusiveness and tolerance.  The empty rhetoric and zero sum politics personified by Ms Tymoshenko are no longer attractive.

In short, if the elections go ahead on 25th May as planned – and I suspect they will – in the absence of a serious accident happening to Petro Poroshenko, she will the thrashed to within an inch of her political life at the ballot box.  She may not even make it into the second round of voting unless she can overcome Vitaly Klitschko – something that I will get to shortly.  Oh Fortuna!

Looking past the presidential election – then we must look at that last remaining inch of her political life.

New RADA parliamentary elections with the current 15% support for Batkivshchyna may not be enough for it to keep its place as the largest political party in the RADA (since the implosion of Party Regions).

Party Regions is now of course something of a hollow political force – it has just lost 2 million voters with the annexation of Crimea and is naturally very much associated with looting the nation on an unprecedented scale under Viktor Yanukovych in the minds of the electorate.

Nevertheless, no self-respecting Regions voter would ever consider voting for Yulia Tymoshenko or Batkivshchyna.  Some will remain loyal to Regions under a new leader, whomever that turns out to be.  Others will vote for Poroshenko in the presidential elections, but will be faced with no Poroshenko candidate for the RADA elections as his small band of merry men and women have very little regional infrastructure to produce regional candidates.

At this point, as I have written before, we should be expecting Poroshenko and Vitaly Klitschko’s UDAR to merge or join forces prior to the RADA elections.  This will provide Poroshenko with a recongised party that has a very active regional infrastructure capable of producing local candidates.  For UDAR it provides finance for the RADA elections.

I do not discount the possibility of Klitschko withdrawing from the presidential race with both he and thus UDAR backing Poroshenko in return for a Solidarity-UDAR coalition guarantee in the RADA.  It seems logical for all concerned and may result in a first round victory for Petro Poroshenko large enough to dismiss the need for a second round – a result that would underline in no uncertain terms the legitimacy of the candidate within the Ukrainian voting constituency.

If that be the case, Klitshcko may run (again) for Mayor of Kyiv in order to try and mitigate the candidacy of Yuri Lutsenko whom Ms Tymoshenko has encouraged to run for that position – thus beheading her attempt to control the capital.

Failing that a Solidarity/UDAR merger or coalition immediately after RADA elections seems likely to mitigate the “Tymoshenko factor/fatigue/frustrations” that would certainly follow otherwise with coalitions with Batkivshchyna.

Mr Poroshenko’s Solidarity party currently has 14.9% support according to the same poll that gave Batkivshchyna 15% – in short, parity with Batkivshchyna – but Solidarity lacks the regional penetration of UDAR and I expect UDAR to eclipse Batkivshchyna given sufficient funding for an effective RADA campaign.

For Ms Tymoshenko it presents a problem – and a problem that may see the terminal breath to her political career.

Should a deal be done between Poroshenko and UDAR – and one may have already been quietly agreed – then it may be that the popularity of Poroshenko/Klitschko will result in UDAR being returned as the largest RADA party – or any UDAR-Solidarity coalition forming a majority – relegating Batkivshchyna to the position of minor coalition partner at best, unnecessary outsider at worst.

No doubt many within Batkivshchyna will in no small part put any such dismal result down to being anchored to an unpopular Yulia Tymoshenko who refuses to leave the stage.  Thereafter, just how long before the party necessarily shows her the political exist must be the question?

Perhaps after a disastrous presidential result they may try to convince her to go/stand down as party leader before the RADA elections – if they do, I would expect the party popularity to rise amongst the electorate.

However, Ms Tymoshenko is a ferociously ambitious woman with an ego that simply won’t allow reality to be recognised.  Her immediate plan must therefore be to attack and undermine Vitaly Klitshcko and UDAR, attempting to force a wedge between Poroshenko and Klitshcko, UDAR and Solidarity.  Time to accomplish this is not on her side with elections so near – so her maneuvering will soon become obvious as time does not provide for subtlety.

Her final political breath will probably come only after being crushed at the presidential elections combined with being hit by the falling masonry of a collapsing Batkivshchyna Party RADA result.  Even that may not be enough to convince her that her time is up.  It may prove that it will be necessary to vote to remove her as party leader before she final accepts the message that the party has moved on without her and that she is an anchor holding it back.

It will leave her nothing more than just another MP – or forcibly retired.  I would wish neither upon her.  Quitting politics with dignity between now and the RADA elections  is a far better path to take.

Whether any of this would change significantly if the elections were not to occur on 25th May as planned is very much dependent upon how far into the future they would be pushed and any “incidents” that may occur in that time.

In that regard, Russian and Ms Tymoshenko’s personal interests converge somewhat – the later the elections the better – and with regard to Russia, an economic/trade blockade (in full or in part) with Ukraine must now be a very real possibility in lieu of further direct military action.

All of that said, only a fool would write her off completely – and perhaps I have just been foolish, though being careful not to write her off entirely – but I have answered the question asked as I see it today – mindful that 24 hours is a long time in politics and things can change quickly and drastically.

Perhaps it is too optimistic to believe that she will soon leave the Ukrainian political arena and allow the nation and Batkivshchyna to move on.

 

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6 comments

  1. Well withdrawal was not only logical but long overdue for the simple common sense reason that under both the 1996 and 2004 constitutions he would have been ineligible to run having had residence in Germany recently (until 7 or 8 years ago I believe) If I’m not mistaken under either constitution he would not be eligible to run until 2017 at the earliest and it would have been highly embarrassing if he ended up getting disqualified without the ability to squarely blame Yanukovych (in that instances a very convenient scapegoat) for his troubles. In that case he would have looked extremely foolish indeed. The only realistic option other than possibly allowing Tymoshenko to challenge his legitimacy to run and score a super-easy victory while making him look like he’s been punched once too often in the ring for his own mental health) was to pull out and throw his support behind someone else.


    • I wrote about all that in detail several times already – I have no need to go there again.


  2. Very convincing analysis – but still maybe one or two questions. The first is that support seems pretty fluid in Ukraine politics. Not soon long ago Klitchko was ahead and Poroshonko quite low. it all changes quite quickly. how solid is his new support? Secondly how does anyone know to whom Klitchos’s voters will transfer their support? (That might not do as instructed) Thirdly Poroshonko’s carrying quite a lot of baggage – an oligarch whose colour has changed back and forth. . Fourthly, there’s now only two serious candidates – and one of them is Tymoschenko. Fifth out of sight – out of mind. Now she’s back in sight and sixth what you said -‘Russian and Ms Tymoshenko’s personal interests converge somewhat ‘


    • Klitschko signed his own presidential death warrant when signing the EU brokered deal with Yanukovych (as did Yatseniuk and Tyahnybok) whilst blood was still wet on the streets of Kyiv. I will admit the circumstances dictated that or more lives lost, but nevertheless, all 3 signatories with Yanukovych effectively ruled themselves out of being president. Poroshenko, as a non-signatory then immediately became presidential favourite even before polls put him there. As for Klitshcko’s voters – what alternatives do they have? Regions candidate Dobkin we should recall cheered on the Berkyt publicly so he is out. Svoboda is ideologically out and Klitschko has always distanced UDAR from their party ideology. Ms Tymoshenko has made a point of diminishing Klitshcko personally since her release as is noted by several Ukrainian journalists. I could go on, but I suspect that support will be quite solid, even if not 100%. Out of sight and out of mind works two ways – since her release she has reminded everybody of her empty rhetoric and zero sum politics – to the point even German politicians have publicly stated she is unfit to be president. Tymoshenko’s greatest support will come from “useful idiots” in the western press inflating her chances, rather than the Ukrainian press who seem quite prepared to dismember her rhetoric for fun. As for Poroshenko, his baggage is far less than that of Tymoshenko in the public perception. The fact he has served in governments of many colours may yet be interpreted as he is simply a capable man prepared to serve his country. It is an easy spin to make. The last point is perhaps the most difficult to mitigate (and perhaps where external pressures on Russia of most benefit). I am not sure that Ms Tymoshenko would want her interests to be seen as converging with those of Russia – even though they obviously do regarding time.


      • The last point – I was thinking more all the lines of ‘somehow’, if Tymoshenko is not going to win, the elections not happening at all or becoming a sideshow.


      • With the number of FSB agents acting as and recruiting agent provocateurs it is more than possible to destabilise to the point where elections are suspended or deemed to not be free and fair both by observers, but more importantly the Ukrainian people. There are then legal challenges to face regarding the legitimacy of the elections themselves, be they deemed free and fair or not – possibly. There are many ways to turn it into a side show and s few to prevent it happening.

        I suspect it will happen and be deemed reasonably free and fair both internally and externally – at least that is what I think in the current circumstances – everything can change very quickly.



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