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Back to the chess match

November 2, 2014

In an entry last month, before the RADA elections took place, the following was written:

“Will a coalition of Block Poroshenko and one other party be enough to secure a robust majority – or will it require a trilateral coalition?  If it takes 3 parties for a sturdy majority, which 3 can work together effectively?

What of the shadow power building spanning party lines? How much of a consideration will the generous – but not evenly applied – sprinkling of Sergei Liovochkin’s people throughout most parties effect which party is approached first by Block Poroshenko? Will “shadow influence” be a factor in any decision making when it comes to accepting or mitigating Ukraine’s grey cardinal? What of the chess games behind the political facade between Liovochkin, Poroshenko and Kolomoyski?”

Time perhaps to have a look at the first moves in this tripartite chess match between Poroshenko, Kolomoyski and Liovochkin once more post elections – and in light of the fact that the EU Association Agreement and DCFTA theoretically come into force today.

Firstly, a quick recap on who sponsored what by way of parties that passed the 5% entry threshold:

Block Poroshenko – Self funded and also backed by Igor Kolmoyski.  (It should be noted however, that President Poroshenko’s campaign for the presidency was also backed by Dmitry Firtash/Sergei Liovochkin who simply could not and would not back the presidential campaign of Yulia Tymoshenko).

National Front (Yatseniuk) – Though more than a little opaque in its funding, Igor Kolomoyski is the chess player of the 3 here.

Samopomich – Appears entirely free of the tripartite chess players, funded mostly by party members and SMEs, with a good deal of help by the party leader, Andriy Sadovyi, Mayor of Lviv.

Radical Party (Lyashko) – Bought and paid for by the gas lobby.  A Sergie Liovochkin/Firtash chess piece.

Opposition Block – A Rinat Akhmetov production and has Liovochkin as an MP amongst its ranks.

Batkivshchyna – Self funded, due to Ms Tymoshenko having fallen out with Messrs Firtash/Liovochkin and Kolomoyski so many times over the years, none would touch anything to do with her with the proverbial barge pole.  Clearly Poroshenko would not be sponsoring Batkivshchyna at the expense of his own Block.

There is no point in going into those parties and sponsors that fell below the 5% threshold and failed to make it to the game.

Thus, prima facie, we have a Poroshenko chess piece, a Kolomoyski chess piece and a Liovochkin chess piece of note – with the somewhat wild card of Samopomich that will dictate the game.

The pieces of Akhmetov (despite Liovochkin being a part of the Opposition Block), and Tymoshenko will have little effect on the game unless there are some serious and very basic schoolboy errors made by the other players as the game commences.

Whilst Liovochkin’s (Radical Party) chess piece may not be in any majority coalition, it is the populist and rabble-rousing party.  In the currently combustible environment that Ukraine remains within, “pro-European” coalition partner or not, it will have to be occasionally controlled, occasionally appeased,  but consistently watched.

It is also noteworthy that not all key chess pieces are not nearly that well defined as is initially thought.  A look at the chess pieces of these players shows that, particularly within Block Poroshenko, there are clearly both Liovochkin and Kolomoyski elements, as the Poroshenko leadership are no doubt aware – and have obviously sanctioned.  Thus, for example, Liovochkin sits within the Opposition Block as an MP, funded the Radical Party, and has his people within the Poroshenko camp.

Though this is very unlikely to change the intended trajectory of Ukraine toward European integration,  nor the desire to generally be guided by the EU Association Agreement as plan of action – Poroshenko, Kolomoyski and Liovochkin are are western leaning in various degrees – there seems to be a basis for concern that whilst the road to be traveled may be clearly visible, the interaction of the key chess masters will yet manage to frustrate progress as vested interests argue over the minutiae, or trade-offs between them force serious deviations from the path the be traveled.

Perhaps amongst the key reform to test the skill of these players will be butchering of Naftogaz, and wider energy reforms.  Two from three of these chess players have vested interests in energy – whilst President Poroshenko is determined to meet the requirements of the EU’s 3rd Energy Package.

How deftly these three players manage to accommodate each others core interests, without either overly stretching any Samopomich ethical boundaries, or the sensibilities of the Ukrainian constituency that now has a significantly lower threshold for the level of cronyism and corruption it will accept, may well prove to be a defining factor in whether the new RADA sees out a full term.

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