While some believe that Yatsenyuk’s single digit rating would eliminate him from the political scene forever, Ukraine has a history of politicians being resurrected. Victor Yanukovych went from Prime Minister to pariah after the Orange Revolution, only to emerge 18 months later as Prime Minister again in 2006. After being ousted as Premier by the 2007 elections, Yanukovych won the presidency in 2010 to return to power. Yuliya Tymoshenko went from a prison cell under Kuchma to the Premiership after the Orange Revolution. Nine months into the job she was fired, only to return two years later as Premier. Volodymyr Lytvyn lost election as the sitting Speaker of Parliament in 2006 but returned to the same post 17 months later. Thus, there are ample political precedents for Yatsenyuk to make a political comeback in the future.
With Yatsenyuk’s imminent departure, Natalie Jaresko has risen to the top of the list to replace him. However the process has not been a linear one. Jaresko, for her part, has been reluctant to accept the post, partly out of loyalty to Yatsenyuk. Others like Mikheil Saakashvili, openly covet the post, but lack the votes (of Yatsenyuk’s People’s Front) to achieve it. Jaresko’s reluctance led the President to initially explore other options. While Poroshenko is not opposed to Jaresko as Premier, his original plan was to save Jaresko’s candidacy for a rainy day. That is, whenever relations with the West became strained to the point of losing their support (over corruption and lack of reform), Poroshenko would play the Jaresko card to reset relations and buy more time. However that rainy day for Poroshenko came earlier than expected. Prior to agreement on Jaresko as Premier though, Poroshenko actively explored other options. During the vote of no-confidence against the government, Poroshenko floated the name of his protégé Volodymyr Groisman as a replacement. Subsequent secret negotiations with Samopomich resulted in a tentative deal that Samopomich would return to the coalition and support Groisman as Premier in exchange for the Speaker’s post. This trial balloon never gained any altitude though, as the deal would still lack 226 votes for approval by Parliament.
Searching for an outside the box solution, the President then dispatched Poroshenko Bloc MP Ihor Hryniv on a covert mission to Warsaw. In late February, Hryniv flew on a private jet to the Polish capital to meet with Lech Balcerowicz. Balcerowicz is the author of the famous “shock therapy” economic reforms in Poland in the early 1990’s, and has held many government posts ranging from Vice Premier to Head of the National Bank. The purpose of the meeting was for Hryniv to offer Balcerowicz the Prime Minister’s post in Ukraine. However Balcerowicz quickly dumped cold water on the idea but stating his support of Jaresko and offering to serve as an adviser to her instead.
Thus, out of other options, Poroshenko was forced to prematurely play the Jaresko card. As things stand now, Yatsenyuk will resign this week, Parliament will hold a special plenary session, and approve Jaresko and new the government. In effect, it will be a slightly belated International Women’s Day gift for Jaresko (although some would argue it’s not a gift, but more of a curse).
A tribute to Lech Balcerowicz from the Cato Institute
Along with Jaresko as Premier, several other new ministers have apparently been agreed upon. Presidential Chief of Staff Borys Lozhkin will fill the vacancy as First Deputy Prime Minister. Lozkhin has a reputation for getting things done and his appointment will ensure that the President has a strong hand in the new government. Another Deputy Chief of Staff, Dmytro Shymkiv was become Deputy Premier Minister and replace Vyacheslav Kyrylenko. A second Deputy Chief of Staff, Vitaliy Kovalchuk, has been angling for cabinet post for more than a year. However Jaresko is said to have vetoed participation in the new government. Kovalchuk, formerly the political mastermind behind Vitaly Klitchko, also has a reputation as someone who can get things done. As a result, with the departures of Lozkhin and Shymkiv, Kovalchuk may have greater influence on Bankova Street. However, despite his potential for greater influence within the Presidential administration, Kovalchuk will apparently be passed over as Chief of Staff. That position looks to be a competition between two persons with the loser taking a Deputy Chief of Staff position instead. Poroshenko family financial adviser Makar Paseniuk and SBU Chief Vitaliy Hritsak are the proposed candidates to replace Lozhkin. Though not as well known and liked as his predecessor Valentin Nalyvaychenko, Hritsak has performed well in his post since his appointment last June, and earned the confidence of the President. To replace Hritsak, career militia/policeman Oleksandr Tereshuk is being touted to head the SBU. Tereshuk was the Head of the Kyiv Militia until June 2014, and before that was the Head of the Volyn Militia under Yanukovych. Tereshuk was saved from lustration by a Presidential decree last July which allows him the possibility to return to a government post. Tereshuk’s candidacy is believed to be supported by former Prosecutor General and longtime Head of Internal Affairs for Kyiv, Vitaly Yarema. Speaking of Yarema, there reports that he has been offered the Interior Ministry post to replace Arsen Avakov. While Yarema is denying this, the chances of Avakov surviving in the new government are poor. Thus, it is not inconceivable that Yarema and Tereshuk would work in tandem in the new government.
Finally, in the sweepstakes to replace the recently resigned Prosecutor General Viktor Shokin, two candidates have emerged: Poroshenko Bloc faction Head and former Interior Minister Yuri Lutsenko and Chief Military Prosecutor and Deputy Prosecutor General, Anatolyi Matios. The resignation of Deputy Prosecutor Vitaliy Kasko last month seems to have served as a self-elimination for consideration for the position. Kasko is well liked by the West, but the President prefers only his close allies in the Prosecutor General’s Office. Meanwhile, in other possible moves, Deputy Economy Minister Yuliya Kovaliv has been mentioned as Energy Minister to replace Volodymyr Demchyshyn. Demchyshyn has survived with the support of Poroshenko, but has been the favorite whipping boy for criticism from Yatsenyuk. Social Policy Minister Pavlo Rozenko is also said to be on the way out, which would further erode Kyiv Mayor Vitaliy Klitchko’s influence in the new cabinet. No doubt more surprises wait between now and next voting session of Parliament.
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Nalyvaychenko Moves Towards Forming a Party? Last weekend, former SBU Chief Valentin Nalyvaychenko made steps towards organizing his anti-corruption effort into a political party. Nalyvaychenko organized a conference in Kyiv which was attended by more than 800 activists and 150 NGO’s from around the country. Former Poroshenko Bloc MP Ehor Firsov was also noticeably present. The move indicates that the potential cooperation between him and Yuliya Tymoshenko will be situational based on issues, rather than a full fledged political union. Following their joint visit to Washington last month, there was wide speculation on Nalyvaychenko joining Tymoshenko’s Motherland team.
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Dates to Watch (for Ukraine unless otherwise noted):
March 15-18: Next Plenary (Voting) Session of Parliament.
March 29-April 1: Plenary (Voting) Session of Parliament.
April 12-15: Plenary (Voting) Session of Parliament.
April 19-22: Plenary (Voting) Session of Parliament.
May 10-13: Plenary (Voting) Session of Parliament.
May 17-20: Plenary (Voting) Session of Parliament.
May 31-June 3: Plenary (Voting) Session of Parliament.
June 14-17: Plenary (Voting) Session of Parliament.
June 23: New EU Expiration Date for Crimea related Sanctions on Russia
July 5-8: Plenary (Voting) Session of Parliament.
July 12-15: Last Regularly Scheduled Plenary (Voting) Session of Parliament.
July 22: Current “Session” of Parliament Ends
July 31: New Date for Expiration of the EU’s Donbass related Sanctions on Russia.
September: Stockholm Arbitration Hearings on Counter Claims between Naftogaz and Gazprom.
January 2017: Stockholm Arbitration Courts Expected to Render a Decision on the Case Between Naftogaz and Gazprom.