With one op­po­si­tion leader in prison, Yat­se­niuk’s lead­er­ship will be tested

Kyiv Post - - News - Kyiv Post ed­i­tor Katya Gorchinska­ya can be reached at gorchinska­[email protected]

sible or not. This is huge progress.”

The op­po­si­tion led in pop­u­lar­ity polls ear­lier in the year but fell 3 per­cent be­hind the in­cum­bent Party of Re­gions in Au­gust, with 23 per­cent sup­port, ac­cord­ing to a Rat­ing Group poll.

Hlib Vysh­lin­sky, deputy di­rec­tor of GfK Ukraine mar­ket re­search com­pany, says weak mes­sages and weak can­di­dates are the rea­son. “They don’t have an agenda, ex­cept to sweep off the cur­rent regime,” he says.

In the mean­time, the Party of Re­gions is throw­ing money at their con­stituents and win­ning votes.

Yat­se­niuk spent the day in Yalta try­ing to prove he does have some­thing to of­fer. He gave pub­lic speeches and held mul­ti­ple face-to-face meet­ings with star for­eign guests of the con­fer­ence. He made progress in be­com­ing more re­al­is­tic about his vi­sion and plans.

Yat­se­niuk rose through the po­lit­i­cal ranks with un­prece­dented speed. By the time he de­cided to try his luck in a pres­i­den­tial race at the age of 35 (the youngest age al­lowed by Con­sti­tu­tion), he had al­ready been a for­eign min­is­ter, a Na­tional Bank gover­nor and a speaker.

His stun­ning ca­reer may have trig­gered the traits of de­tach­ment and over-con­fi­dence, even ar­ro­gance, in him. This was one of the rea­sons be­hind a poor per­for­mance in the pre­vi­ous pres­i­den­tial cam­paign, an­a­lysts say, when an awk­ward mil­i­tary theme failed to con­nect with the peo­ple re­sult­ing in less than seven per­cent of votes.

He now comes across as a slightly mel­lower per­son­al­ity, but still has a long way to go. In Yalta, many top busi­ness­peo­ple noted that he does not min­gle with the crowd and still has a hard time mak­ing di­rect pitches to sup­port his can­di­dacy.

Asked why he thought peo­ple con­sid­ered him too con­fi­dent and even con­temp­tu­ous, Yat­se­niuk tried to make a joke out of it by say­ing: “Be­cause I am bald and wear glasses.”

In fact, his lean, Ph.D. stu­dent looks could be a plus in the na­tion where more thug­gish types are com­mon in gov­ern­ment.

Yat­se­niuk’s mes­sages in Yalta were pol­ished on the cam­paign trail and con­sis­tent, al­beit some­what pop­ulist. For ex­am­ple, he keeps say­ing im­peach­ment of Pres­i­dent Vik­tor Yanukovych is needed, but fails to tell his vot­ers that this goal can­not be achieved by the op­po­si­tion be­cause it re­quires the ap­proval of a ma­jor­ity in par­lia­ment, which is now con­trolled by the pro­pres­i­den­tial Party of Re­gions.

He said Ukraine needs a new bal­ance of power and that cor­rup­tion needs to be fought ur­gently.

“We have bor­rowed from our Amer­i­can friends the ex­pe­ri­ence of Pres­i­dent [Franklin] Roo­sevelt and com­rade [Her­bert] Hoover to cre­ate an an­ti­cor­rup­tion bureau, in a Euro­peanized ver­sion,” he says. In the mean­time, the num­ber of po­lice of­fi­cers has to be re­duced and ex­ces­sive pow­ers taken away from the State Se­cu­rity Ser­vice.

But here is his most im­por­tant mes­sage: “This elec­tion is not about change of per­son­al­i­ties. We need sta­ble demo­cratic in­sti­tu­tions. Un­til we have sta­ble demo­cratic in­sti­tu­tions and rules, a sim­ple change of peo­ple in the gov­ern­ment and op­po­si­tion will lead to noth­ing.”

He says the United Op­po­si­tion al­ready has draft laws ready to im­ple­ment their agenda.

The United Op­po­si­tion was cre­ated in April when Yat­se­niuk brought to­gether a num­ber of par­ties united un­der the um­brella of Ty­moshenko’s Batkivshch­yna. But the re­la­tion­ship be­tween Yat­se­niuk and Ty­moshenko is a mar­riage of con­ve­nience, with mu­tual in­ter­est over­com­ing the strife. Yet trou­ble in this al­liance is brew­ing be­yond the hori­zon.

Yat­se­niuk says he has not seen Ty­moshenko for a year. His most re­cent at­tempt to meet with her, to­gether with Swedish For­eign Min­is­ter Carl Bildt, was blocked by the au­thor­i­ties.

When talk­ing about Ty­moshenko, Yat­se­niuk mea­sures his words care­fully. “We signed a dec­la­ra­tion of unity. To­day, Ty­moshenko and I are to­gether,” he pro­claims. “The time has come to trust each other.”

He says it was hard to speak of trust dur­ing the 2010 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion cam­paign, when they com­peted against each other. But when he was par­lia­ment speaker and she was a prime min­is­ter, they man­aged to co­op­er­ate on many is­sues. “When we made a deal, we made a deal,” he says.

Yet they could end up com­pet­ing again in the 2015 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion.

Yat­se­niuk said there is “no se­cret pact” be­tween them that would di­vide up the roles the way that Ty­moshenko did with Yushchenko be­fore the 2004 pres­i­den­tial cam­paign. Yat­se­niuk says that he wants her to be set free and then the two of them will dis­cuss po­lit­i­cal strat­egy.

“There is no game in this. If we both run, the third per­son will win,” he says. “If the tem­per­a­ture in the coun­try is such that will al­low her to win, there will be no ques­tions. In any cir­cum­stances, I would say that she has the first right to win.”

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