US pressure and backroom intrigue with Ukrainian oligarchs keep discredited Prime Minister - thereby prolonging, and deepening Ukraine's crisis
This post first appeared on Russia Insider
The events of the last few days have provided a further stark illustration of the reality that lies behind the democratic facade of Ukrainian politics.
On Tuesday the government of Arseny Yatsenyuk faced a vote of no confidence in the parliament.
In any truly democratic country it would have lost.
Yatsenyuk is an utterly discredited and hugely unpopular figure.
Opinion polls put Yatsenyuk’s support at between 1% and 3%.
All the parties in the parliament save his own say they want him to go. Poroshenko, the country’s President, also says he should go, and on Tuesday called on him to resign.
For their part the Western powers have publicly complained of the failure of Yatsenyuk’s government to root out corruption and introduce reforms, and the IMF is now warning that it may discontinue its programme of support for Ukraine because of the lack of reform.
Meanwhile Yatsenyuk’s own Economics Minister, Lithuanian born Aivaras Abromavicius, has resigned saying Yatsenyuk’s government is largely ineffective, whilst Mikhail Saaskashvili, the former Georgian President who is now Governor of Odessa, never stops criticising the government and has rowed publicly with Yatsenyuk’s Interior Minister Arsen Avakov.
Rumours meanwhile circulate that Yatsenyuk is guilty of corruption himself.
I have heard a story - apparently sourced from a Western embassy - that he has been stealing money at a rate of $200 million a month.
I don't believe this story - is there that much money left in Ukraine to steal? - but the mere fact a story like this is circulating shows how discredited Yatsenyuk has become.
The dismal level of Yatsenyuk’s support in the parliament is shown by the fact that only 2 deputies out of 423 were prepared to vote against the no confidence motion and therefore support the government.
Yatsenyuk and his government nonetheless survived. Though 226 deputies of the parliament were needed to pass the no confidence motion, only 194 actually voted for it.
How did this happen?
The answer is that the US - whose protege Yatsenyuk is - once more rode to his rescue.
Over the last few days it - together with the other Western powers - lobbied furiously for Yatsenyuk to stay on.
The result of all this lobbying is that though Poroshenko himself had called on Yatsenyuk to go only 94 out of 163 deputies of Poroshenko’s own faction voted in favour of the no confidence motion, whilst the so-called Opposition Bloc - essentially Yanukovych’s old Party of the Regions under a new name - obeyed the orders of its oligarch paymaster Rinat Akhmetov and instead of voting to support the motion - which as a nominally opposition party it might have been expected to do - withdrew its deputies from the chamber before the vote, leaving only 8 of its 43 deputies behind to vote for it.
The result is that a detested government and Prime Minister for the moment remain in place despite losing the support of the President, the parliament and the country.
The rationale for keeping Yatsenyuk in office is that Ukraine needs “stability” to implement “reform” and that the fall of Yatsenyuk and his government - which might cause fresh elections - would put that “stability” and therefore the “reform” at risk.
How prolonging the life of a government no-one supports is going to create “stability” is not obvious. How such a government can implement “reforms” when it has lost the support of the parliament, the President and the country is not obvious either.
For those with long memories this all has about it a strong sense of deja vu.
In the 1990s the US tried to micromanage Russian politics in exactly the same way, manoeuvring constantly to keep an unpopular pro-Western liberal government in power - supposedly so that it could implement “reform” - and relied on the help of oligarchs like Berezovsky and Guzinsky to help it do so.
Meanwhile in Ukraine today - exactly as in Russia in the 1990s - the IMF stands willing handmaiden to whatever the US does, doling out money purportedly to support “reform” but in reality to keep the US backed government in power.
In the case of Russia what this eventually achieved was that Russia’s liberal politicians became so loathed and discredited that when in 1998 the regime finally collapsed they became completely marginalised, and have remained so ever since.
Time will show what it will do for Ukraine.
This post first appeared on Russia Insider
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