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Goncharenko candidacy for Minister of Health?

December 15, 2015

It has been quite some time since anything local to Odessa has been mentioned – simply due to the on-going entertainment provided by the national theatre of the absurd called the Verkhovna Rada.

However, it transpires that Odessa MP Alexie Goncharneko, a politician known to this blog for many years, has thrown his hat into the ring to become the next Minister of Health for Ukraine.

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His chances of success?

Well it appears there are thus far at least 50 Solidarity MPs that would back his appointment – and considering that ministerial appointments within the coalition agreement are on a party quota basis, with the Health Ministry being part of the Solidarity quota, his chances are perhaps not too dismal, although not necessarily especially good either.

(For any that once held hopes of a competent technocratic government – they were dashed when the ministerial party quota agreement formed part of the coalition agreement.)

Indeed that last Minister of Health resigned from the role many months ago – albeit his resignation has not yet been accepted by the Verkhovna Rada.  Indeed, over the past week several current ministers have also resigned from their ministerial positions – pending Verkhovna Rada acceptance.

The general grievance/reason given – lack of reform and/or speed of reform.

As far as your author is aware, and throughout the years of knowing Alexie Goncharenko, his only association with health and matters medical comes via a degree and specialisation in pediatrics if memory serves – not that it particularly matters when  so few national governments worldwide appoint ministers with relevant qualifications to the ministries they oversee.  It is, after all, arguably irrelevant to whether a minister for infrastructure is a construction/civil engineer, or whether a minister for defence ever served in the armed forces.

What is more important is their grasp on policy, policy implementation, problem solving, and political fleet of foot within the corridors of power in order to get the most for their ministry.

However, the Ministry of Health is often a poisoned chalice for many nations and can be a career maker if got right, or more often a career breaker when got wrong – and Alexie Goncharenko is most definitely a very ambitious politician.

Why therefore would he pick up a chalice that in Ukraine is certainly not without its possibly politically fatal dose of hemlock or strychnine?  It is perhaps because it is Ukraine, and thus when no political career ends because of small matters such as $ multi-million theft and/or corruption, failing to radically improve any particular retarded ministry whilst remaining reasonably clean of graft will certainly not end a political career.

He is, as an individual (and not as a politician) a man that is seemingly without much fear for his own physical wellbeing.  Discounting numerous historical assassination plots and death threats to which he has been subjected to/threatened with (as have many politicians from Odessa historically – he is not unique on that score), he is not one to shy away from taking “holiday sports” to the extreme of the extreme – to the point where control is replaced by good fortune when it comes to remaining in one piece.

Secondly, politically, he is not one to shy away from a challenge – even if the challenges presented are not necessarily those that he would choose to have to face.  Thus far, by hook or by crook, by skill or good fortune, he remains politically secure.

There is of course the question of whether he could make the existing Health Ministry function any worse than it already does – and the answer is probably not, for that would take a degree of ineptitude far beyond any shortcomings Mr Goncharenko has.  Could he make it function any better (and would the budget allow it)?

This brings about perhaps the most important question of whether Alexie Goncharneko actually wants to be Minister of Health, or whether his hat is in the ring as somebody else wants him to be Minister of Health?  No doubt he would accept it if offered the role, as he wants to progress his career rather than refuse to be a candidate for the position and perhaps hurt his career through any such refusal.

There will be other candidates for Minister of Health, and hopefully some of those candidates will be of high quality and ability.  As already stated he is not a “sure thing” for the position – far from it.

Thus all of the above considered, perhaps Alexie Goncharenko is simply happy for clear support of his 50+ colleagues behind his candidature and the PR that being a candidate brings.  It will do no harm to be seen to be prepared to sup from a poisoned chalice, even if ultimately it turns out he won’t have to do so, graciously accepting the appointment of another (whilst perhaps secretly breathing something of a sigh of relief).

However, Alexie Goncharenko is also not one to waste PR when it is dumped in his lap.  Ergo, whether he officially “wants” or truly “wants” the Minister of Health position will probably dictate just what he will try to do with the PR his candidacy brings.

Will it be used as a platform to begin a slow-burning campaign in case of early Verkhovna Rada elections?  Would he need to use it for that when he sits high enough on the Solidarity Party list to be almost guaranteed return to the Verkhovna Rada?  Could it become the foundation of a slow-burning campaign that should early elections come (to the angst of the EU and US), and which would see Governor Saakashvili quickly form or join a “reformist party” to propel himself into the higher echelons of national legislature, thus leaving an opening for an Odessa Governor.  Could this PR be used to convince President Poroshenko that Alexie Goncharenko is Mr Saakashvili’s rightful replacement in Odessa?

Is there another ministerial/deputy ministerial position that has caught Alexie Goncharenko’s eye and which this PR can be used to project himself toward that (perhaps preferred) role?

It has to be said, of the ministerial positions your author expected Alexie Goncharneko to one future day fill, the Ministry of Health was not one of them.

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