December 4, 2007

Yulia Ascendant, For Now

Yulia Tymoshenko will likely return to the position from which Ukrainian president Viktor Yushchenko dismissed her in a split amongst the reformers last year. Tymoshenko, seen by some as the poster woman for the Orange Revolution, reconciled with Yushchenko enough to see their parties garner a two-vote majority in parliament. Her return as Prime Minister effectively benches the pro-Russian Viktor Yanukovich:

A coalition of two parties linked to Ukraine's pro-Western "Orange Revolution" proposed Yulia Tymoshenko on Tuesday as their candidate to be restored in her old job as prime minister.

Members of parliament representing Our Ukraine, the party of President Viktor Yushchenko, and Tymoshenko's bloc unanimously approved the proposal in a room inside the parliament building.

The coalition will now submit Tymoshenko's nomination to the president, who has 15 days to consider it and send it to the 450-seat parliament for approval.

With Vladimir Putin extending his stay at the helm of Russian power, the Orange parties have their work cut out for them in protecting Ukrainian sovereignty. The pro-Russian political forces still have plenty of sway, however, and eastern Ukraine feels more comfortable looking east than towards Europe. The new coalition could provoke enough reaction to lose seats in the next election, making this an interlude fraught with political peril for the Orange effort. They cannot push too fast for realignment without finding themselves out of power again.

Is Tymoshenko the right person for that kind of brinksmanship? She has proven herself as a powerful motivator and a dynamic leader. Yulia has also found it difficult to compromise and move slowly, which is why she and Yushchenko split so publicly after the Orange Revolution. If the Orange effort is to succeed, it will have to do so patiently and without alienating voters any more than necessary. Yulia does alienation well, but compromise and patience have not brought her to power.

Ukraine will continue to agonize over its direction for some time to come. The nearly-equal split in their parliament reflects their dissonance, and until one side decisively wins an election, its leaders will have to proceed cautiously in any direction. It's hard to see how Yulia can succeed n this situation -- but it will be fascinating to watch.


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