Archive for June 9th, 2017


Political weight gain – and weight loss plans

June 9, 2017

Over the past year within Ukrainian politics there are perhaps two or three individuals that have gained political weight sufficiently to catch the eye.

The first is Prime Minister Groisman who slowly but surely appears to be gaining in stature and giving the perception (real or otherwise) of genuinely attempting to be his own man.

The second, and perhaps most noticeable for being unnoticed is Sergei Berrezenko who has seemingly been taken under Ihor Kononenko’s wing and now acts in tandem with him as parliamentary leg breaker, coercer, and deputy carrot and stick wielder – particularly when it comes to getting votes out of the “Will of the People” and “Revival” political factions along presidential lines.

If political weight be measured by presidential trust and office location (Mr Berrezenko now having an office near that of Mr Kavalchuk, a long time presidential ally) then Mr Berrezenko is rapidly gaining weight.

Most recently if there are now three individuals that have definitely gained political weight over the past year, should Andrei Kobolev’s apparent victories over Gazprom in Stockholm can be turned into sustainable political capital he would be the third.  To be blunt there is no reason why that newly found political weight cannot be sustained.  Long associated with Arseny Yatseniuk and a protégé of Didenko and Vitrenko he is hardly new to the game despite his recently highlighted profile.

The most susceptible to political weight loss specifically via shuffling behind the curtain, is Prime Minister Groisman.

Within the past month Taras Kutovos and Yuri Stets have resigned as Agriculture and Information ministers respectively.  Ulyana Suprun remains acting Health Minister.

There are thus 3 ministries currently with acting Ministers within the Cabinet of Ministers.

Licking a finger and putting it into the wind, the way it is currently blowing would suggest the possibility of Igor Nasalnik (Minister of Energy & Coal) and Alexander Danilyuk (Minister of Finance) are both in somewhat precarious positions.

Among several reasons Mr Nasalik is under pressure regarding coal and the occupied Donbas territories.

Mr Danilyuk has a terrible relationship with the Verkhovna Rada Finance Committee and a particularly prickly and egocentric Committee leader.  Nevertheless that has been manageable thus far.

However, in what appears to be a deliberate attempt to force his resignation, there are now moves (to which Minister Danilyuk is very much opposed) to take the SFS (also without permanent leader whilst Roman Nasirov is suspended and under NABU investigation) from the competency of the Finance Ministry – where it was placed only a few years ago.

Indeed if there is any loyalty between Messrs Groisman and Danilyuk, assuredly the latter would want to permanently rid the SFS of Mr Nasirov before it is forced from Finance Ministry control and then under different ministerial management, mysteriously Mr Nasirov returns to his position from suspension.

(In fact for the benefit of the nation the permanent removal of Mr Nasirov from the SFS is a serious matter regardless of any personal loyalties.)

Nevertheless, intrigues aside, should Ministers Danilyuk and Nasalnik resign/be forced out, there would then be 5 ministries with “Acting Ministers” within the composition of the Cabinet of Ministers.  An increasingly weak political position for Prime Minister Groisman.

How to defend against calls for a vote of “no confidence” in a Cabinet when more and more of it is comprised of “Acting Ministers”?

Of course it will probably not come to a successful “no confidence” vote.  President Poroshenko does not want early Verkhovna Rada elections.  In stead there will be strong suggestions from the Presidential Administration regarding suitable candidates to fill ministerial positions.  (President Poroshenko is perceived a micro-manager.)

Undoubtedly Prime Minister Groisman will not have the political weight to refuse all of the Bankova “suggestions” for ministerial replacements, nor be able to prevent or frustrate the Presidential Administration gathering sufficient Verkhovna Rada votes to insert their suggestions into his Cabinet.

With PM Groisman having once fought off attempts by the President to insert Mr Kavalchuk into his Cabinet, it is really unlikely Mr Groisman can successfully defend 5 vacancies from those he really feels he just cannot work with or does not want to be politically associated with through the lens of national governance.

Ultimately the Prime Minister may be faced with a choice of accepting those he genuinely thinks are cancerous being placed within his Cabinet or resignation.  Either will result in immediate political weight loss – although it may provoke him to run for the office of President at the next elections.

Readers will note in that all opinion polls relating to future presidential nominees his name never appears – despite that throughout Ukrainian independence the sitting Prime Minister has far more often than not decided to run for the office of President.  That said, Mr Groisman has explicitly stated he will not run (under the current circumstances) in the full recognition that whatever political weight he has gained, he is definitely not in the super-heavyweight division (yet).

For President Poroshenko however, with ever declining popularity, and in a nation where no president has ever manage to flat-line, let alone reverse declining popularity, a potential vote split toward Mr Groisman could be particularly bad news – no matter how small – when it will be a matter of remaining just popular enough should he run for a second term.

Of course it is hypothetical as to who would or could replace Mr Groisman as Prime Minister, but the slayer of Gazprom Andrei Kobolev currently has significant political weight – and more importantly for President Poroshenko looking to forthcoming presidential elections in 2 years time, Mr Kobolev not only slayed Gazprom, but he also put Yulia Tymoshenko’s disastrous gas deal/contract to the sword too.

When electioneering, who better to have on your list of possible Groisman replacements than a victorious Mr Kobolev armed with facts, figures, legal argument and successful international judicial rulings when taking on a populist Yulia Tymoshenko and her consistent severe lack of judgement?

A reader might be wise to keep a keen eye upon the shuffling behind the curtain when it comes to filling increasingly vacant ministerial appointments.

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