August 1, 2008
Situation with the future of Ukrainian Presidency is somewhat complicated. Both President and the Parliament are looking to change the position of the President in the Ukrainian system of power. Both parties agreed to launch reviews of Constitution, and had created the Constitution Commission to prepare the draft. This Commission was set under the President's chairmanship. The draft, which it has produced, was defining the President as the Head of the Executive branch, making the Prime Minister into simple clerk, who is responsible for economic part of the government's operation only, and putting even the Head of the President's Administration de-facto above the Prime Minister. The President was getting also additional powers regarding disbanding the Parliament, and holding the extraordinary elections. This draft had equally scared “Party of Regions” and BUT, and BUT and “Regions” proceeded with their alternative draft, in a rare concerted action. The BUT-”Regions” draft was eliminating the position of the President as such, and was transforming Ukraine into the Parliamentary Republic. This in turn had scared the President, who traveled to Donetsk (May 2008) to meet Akhmetov and to stop the process of preparation and approval of the new Constitution by the BUT-”Regions” group. Following these developments the constitutional process came to stand still, and at this time there is no way to impose any significant change on the Constitution. It is safe to make the predictions based on the current status of the President.
Providing that there will be no significant changes to the President's privileges in the Constitution, the only way to hold the early President elections is either if Youschenko will be unable to execute the President duties (for the health reasons, for instance), or if Youschenko will be impeached. These cases are not as exotic as they may look from the first sight. This May the Administration of the President had launched the process of revocation of the Ukrainian citizenship of David Zhvania, who ad switched from supporting Youscenko to supporting Tymoshenko. Zhvania is also among the people, who are very, very well informed about all wrongdoings in financial management of the 2004 Presidential campaign of Victor Youschenko, and of the related events. He may out the Berezovsky payments to the campaign (impeachable event). He may out the fault REVNE attempt, or he may do something else either as retaliation, or as warning. So far Zhvania had officially confirmed that there was an element of fraud behind Youschenko's poisoning, as many sources had speculated. By all means it is just a warning. In the case if Tymoshenko will be able to strike a deal with Akhmetov and to reverse his support of Youschenko, anything “will go”, because BUT and “Regions” will have together 330 votes. It is more than enough for impeachment. The only obstacle may be an absence of the procedure, but if BUT and “Regions” will come together, as they already did with alternative draft changes to the Constitution, Youschenko may be out and early elections may take place. The configuration, that was already discussed between Yanukovych and Tymoshenko, was Tymoshenko – President, Yanukovych – Prime-Minister, and Yatsenuk or Lytvyn or Bogatyreva as Speaker. The impeachment so far is blocked by the unwritten agreement between Akhmetov and Youschenko, and Youschenko's future remains in hands of Akhmetov.
The more realistic expectation is to have the “normal” elections at the end of January of 2010. Current agreement that exists between Tymoshenko and Youschenko is that Tymoshenko will not run and will support Youschenko, and Youschenko will make her the Prime Minister in 2010. The pre-condition is cooperative work of Youschenko and Tymoshenko, and that Youschenko will not fire Tymoshenko until 2010. There is no cooperation. Quite opposite, until August Tymoshenko was receiving written directions from Baloga (the Head of the President Administration) on average every 90 minutes (e.g-18 per day), and many of these directions are either unconstitutional, or humiliating, or unrealistic. The chances of survival of Youschenko-Tymoshenko alliance until 2010 are very slim. The chances of Youschenko's re-election are even slimmer, and it is hard to believe that Tymoshenko will again (for the third time!) use her popularity and her resources to fight for the loosing case of Youschenko's Presidency. Most likely, she will run herself.
In the case if Tymoshenko runs, as it stands now, she has a fair shot. According to the pro-President pollsters, the current approval rating is of Tymoshenko is at 25-30% (5 points down from January), trailed by Yanukovych (25%), Youschenko (13% or less) and Symonenko and Lytvyn both at the level of 3-4%. The disapproval rating of all three front-runners id equal, at the 26% level, e.g. - only Tymoshenko has approval rating higher, than disapproval. Another very important aspect of the Tymoshenko's potential Presidential bid is that she is successfully making inroads in Donetsk region. The region is still dominated by Yanukovych, but Tymoshenko had expanded her support from 4% in September of 2007 to 16% in May of 2008, while Youschenko's support is within the pooling error from zero. The results of the Kiev elections confirm the standing of Tymoshenko, but show less than 3% for Youschenko, which is a steep decline and serious warning for the President. In the Tymoshenko-Yanukovych match-up, as well as in the Tymoshenko-Youschenko one, she comes out as a winner. Based on these numbers if the Presidential elections would have been held in June of 2008, Tymoshenko would be the likely winner.
The problem that Tymoshenko has is that she bears full responsibility for conditions of the national economy, while her hands are tied by intentionally slow reviewing of the necessary economic measures by the Parliament. Another negative factor is the fight for control of the State Property Fund, which fight had stopped the privatization and hurts the income part of the budget badly. Yanukovych government had left the office with inflation as high as 17%. Tymoshenko was able to lower it to 12-14%, but was unable to go any further without the Parliament's support. Population (especially retirees) suffer, and put a blame on Tymoshenko. Similar developments happen in the food sector, etc. The result of this situation is that Tymoshenko looses about 1% of approval rating per month. Tymoshenko needs either to brake the resistance, or to find the way to get out from the current “Catch 22” situation, probably via forcing Youschenko to fire her, if she wants to make successful Presidential bid in January of 2010.