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A gathering storm (or a storm in a tea cup?) Ukraine

November 20, 2016

Having received a question from a reader regarding the impact (or not) of Misha Saakashvili’s new political party, a few lines are dedicated to answering (guessing) the immediate outcomes considering his calls for early elections.

Firstly the arrival of his new political vehicle is no surprise – as entries from June make clear.  Indeed it was apparent in May that the then Governor was searching for a political vehicle upon which to enter the national political stage and escape the provincial powerlessness of his appointed role.

Initially created under the banner of Khvylya, as stated and despite any public distancing at the time, it clearly had “Georgian”/Saakashvili fingerprints all over it.

The new party now officially launched under the leadership of Mr Saakashvili will be called “Rukh New Forces”.

During its birth, no differently from Khvylya, it seems realistic to expect Georgian politician Koba Davitashvili to play a significant role in its financing.  (Mr Davitashvili was hardly shy when it came to financially supporting the efforts/projects of Misha Saakashvili as Governor of Odessa as anybody that went near the Bristol Hotel upon Mr Saakashvili’s arrival could not fail to notice/overhear.)

The party’ inaugural congress will be held on the second anniversary of the beginning of 8th/current parliament commencing  – in order not to waste a symbolic date for launching a “reformist” party against the backdrop of what is considered by many a stalling Verkhovna Rada (to be charitable).

For those within the Saakashvili camp, there is much to be done.

Broad brushstrokes have already been painted – no party electoral positions for any candidate that has served more than a single term in the Verkhovna Rada.  Thus nobody too polluted from the corrupt atmosphere within the Verkhovna Rada, and nobody with historical politically damaging baggage from the pre-revolution epoch, and no ties to big business or the oligarchy etc.

In short, insulation from those entities and personalities historically associated with fecklessness, nefariousness and odiousness for any party candidate.

Regional structures need to be built – and swiftly if there are to be early elections in Spring 2017 (as predicted back in 2015).

In Odessa there is clearly a party organisation awaiting formal activation.  Teimuraz Nishianidze (head of fund/charity “For Odessa”) and Ivan Liptuga (current head of the Department of Tourism) seem likely to be part of the regional party set-up.  From civil society/activist roots come Vadim Labas (Oberig), Harvard Grad Vladimir Shemaev, Grigory Kozma, and Alexie Prokopenko (New Generation).  Historical local governance experience arrives via Andrei Karpenko, and of local SME’s, CEO of TIS Alexander Stavinster’s name is being circulated.  Certainly a team capable of building a reasonable regional political party administration – particularly as the acting Governor Ms Bobrovskaya will lead it.  At least a dozen, perhaps more, District Administration heads from Odessa are also going to join.

How well they will fare against the “old school” and the “old rules” when it comes to election campaigning remains to be seen.

Kyiv is also fairly organised with the party having been conceived and partially constructed there since June.

It is the other regions that will require swift and energetic structures forming – and financing.  Dnipro, Lviv, Kharkiv et al.

Undoubtedly, if Mr Saakashvili is given any media time, he can do PR, emotion, passion and political energising far better than any political rival – despite exaggeration of facts and figures or tenuous evidence for his claims.  Outright lies however are few and far between.

Another benefit of starting anew is that those joining provide the party with an energy and will transferable into a social momentum that is clearly lacking for all parties currently in the Verkhovna Rada.

(As a Solidarity/BPP (Poroshenko) parliamentarian recently told this blog, people are tired of the likes of Tymoshenko – and clearly looking at ever declining opinion polls, they are rapidly tiring of the President too.)

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So is the launch of Misha’s party the signal that electioneering begins in preparation for an early Spring vote?

Hardly.

Ms Tymoshenko has been pre-election electioneering since the summer with her usual policy-less empty populist nonsense.  Vadim Rabinovych’s “Centre Party” rebranded as “Zhittya” in July in anticipation and is currently paying protesters to demonstrate outside the National Bank to raise its profile.

(A reader may be wise to keep an eye upon Nadia Savchenko and a possible move from Ms Tymoshenko and Batkivshchyna to Zhittya when elections are called.)

Samopomich now seem a little less keen upon early elections as they once were – perhaps fearing some of its constituency leaving its electoral fold, or perhaps realising that under the current electoral laws any new elections are not likely to provide the critical mass of reformers thus far absent within the Verkhovna Rada.

This brings a reader to Oleh Lyashko and The Radicals and a very public and venomous fall out with Yulia Tymoshenko and Batkivshchyna within the (not so) democratic opposition parties.

Ms Tymoshenko has grossly miscalculated a tactical political stunt and is now the target of the sharpened populist tongue of Oleh Lyashko – consistently.

She “inexplicably” gave her oratory time in the Verkhovna Rada to Radical Party MP Yuri Shukhevych (and son of a Ukrainian nationalist), despite, she claims, having no idea what he wanted to say, and despite nobody within the Radical Party knowing it was going to happen, and likewise being unaware of what he would say.

Naturally, no reader is retarded enough to believe she would surrender her parliamentary oratory time to a member of another party – let alone to do so without any knowledge of what they were to say.

The upshot is that she was and continues to be branded loudly and repeatedly by Mr Lyashko as a cynic and hypocrite (now constantly listing her past failings and hypocrisies) and also accusing her of being in league with the universally disliked Viktor Medvedchuk, and also that she is an agent of The Kremlin (whether he is aware of just how close to the truth he is or not remains unclear).  He has publicly appealed to President Poroshenko to deprive her of her Ukrainian citizenship based on her agency (in his view) for The Kremlin.

Ms Tymoshenko will not be able to quieten a populist as loud and otherwise empty as herself.  Her actions are a gross miscalculation, the political costs of which are yet to become clear.

Naturally the ruling coalition are quite happy to see populist go after populist – and it appears Mr Akhmetov has quietly decided to throw some funding at The Radicals – a party initially formed with the Russian (agent) fingerprints of Igor Shuvalov (and therefore Sergei Liovochkin) upon it.

Clearly Oleh Lyashko has recognised that with The Democratic Alliance (and young political personalities of its leadership), Misha Saakashvili’s new party, Samopomich, Zhittya, Batkivshchyna and his own party all fighting over the same 18 – 45, SME/entrepreneurial, patriotic, reformist electorate (and political candidates) there is not really enough room for everybody – and Ms Tymoshenko has given him the perfect excuse to go after her and been seen as justified in doing so.

As both Ms Tymoshenko and Oleh Lyashko are deemed too toxic and populist to be in any coalition, it makes sense that Mr Lyashko will try to bring down Yulia Tymoshenko and Batkivshchyna in public opinion – and Mr Akhmetov will be quite happy to fund that attempt given his dislike for Ms Tymoshenko whilst also gaining some political support from The Radicals in return.

Whether the Oppo Block, who having been giving Ms Tymoshenko air time on its Inter political media platform will now reconsider their unofficial temporary alliance with her, or whether after Yuri Boiko assaulted Mr Lyashko just days before Ms Tymoshenko’s stunt with his party member, that alliance will become more firm and less hidden remains to be seen.

In the meantime President Poroshenko is firming up the coalition and insuring the MPs for “rent”/”hire” upon which he has relied in crucial votes remains a functioning political unit.  As such the “opposition” party “Will of the People” is being given “support” to try an insure the current majority coalition can make it past the Spring and calls for early elections.

To be entirely blunt, if early elections cannot be forced in Spring 2017 following a winter of major utility hikes to the constituency, then they are very unlikely to be forced at all – particularly as populist calls to the street and paid protesters will simply not garner a more genuine and long lasting protest around it.  All such politically designed paid protests will be a waste of political energy and money in their organisation.

Thus returning to the question in the opening paragraph, will the launch of Misha’s new party have sufficient impact to force early elections?

No – at least not on its own.

If early elections are to come, then for Mr Saakashvili personally, he would have to hope for about 20% of the popular vote to become the biggest party in any new parliament around which a coalition could be built and that would facilitate his appointment as Prime Minister (for he cannot become an elected MP due to constitutional restrictions until 2020).

The question would then be, who would those willing coalition partners be?

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