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Thursday, March 02, 2006

Orange Coalition Dies in Pre-Election Miscarriage, Parents Share Blame

A Bestseller That Refused Sell
In the face of the past regime's rampant hydra, the idea of Maidan's reunion made a bestseller among its grass-root supporters. Somehow, the idea didn’t sell to the leaders. Somewhat impregnated with it, they didn’t deliver.

Like the rivalry-laden fragmentation bomb that had shredded the orange camp to pieces last fall and poisoned the hearts of Maidaners, this fresh act of non-performance adds to the lengthy chronicle of lost opportunities. Each of them constitutes breach of the “Contract with Maidan.” This could have been avoided had Maidaners been smart enough to maintain a rapid-response camp on standby. The “Embassy of the Ukrainian People,” shall we call it? Any early signs of derailment coming through — a massive mobilization follows. Self-organized protest units storm the streets. Maidan reconvenes and puts the train back on the right track.

We never rose to the occasion, they never stayed the course. Maidan has become a mere shadow of its former self. Maidan’s roadmap has become a relic. We stayed home when we should have been there. And now we’ve come to resent our self-administered “cabin fever.” We opted for the wait-and-see, not-my-job approach. Kitchen table talk and no action. How did we expect to own success without owning the problem?

Will Baby Oranges Make It?
Nasha Ukraina, BYT, Pora-PRP, the Kostenko-Pliushch bloc, the Socialists — what did these parliamentary hopefuls lose? What was at stake? They lost a niche of supporters who had believed in them as a whole — synergy, not sectarianism. Turnout will be no small issue in this election. A vote lost by the Orange crowd is a vote gained by the other crowd. In the oligarch-oiled calculus of the Rada, every vote will count. Well, not exactly. Those who miss the 3-percent magic mark will not count. For baby oranges that shun the umbrella of the big league, striking out on their own comes down to a make-or-break decision. Ditto for voters who support them. Where do “broken votes” go? Down the drain.

B-class orange stars, as they may also be called, are barely making it. Pora-PRP, the YMCA of the Orange Revolution that dressed itself as the midwife to the coalition, is in limbo. Will Vitaliy Klychko, aka “Dr. Ironfist,” fight his way through the hearts and minds of the voters? The Kostenko-Pliushch bloc — welcome to the other cliffhanger B-class orange project. With all due respect, these oldtimers will probably have to throw the towel in, too.

A-class orange stars should have downgraded their king/queensize egos to a politically healthy level. Shipping them off to a b-school to hone their teamwork and negotiations skills would be worth every penny of the taxpayers’ money.

Cross-Orange Fighting
Meanwhile, they excel at heaping scorn on each other, equipped with a bundle of Stone Age PR tools. Witness the explosion of cross-orange smear campaigning. Tymoshenko has been the victim of guerilla attacks involving spoof artillery. Just take a look at those fake McDonald’s flyers apparently aimed to kill electoral appetite, and those fake Cotex testimonials that hit below the waistline. Having collected all this unsolicited memorabilia, she even chose to put a whole gallery on display on her site. A couple of revelations-packed brochures are also on the market. The first one dissects Yuliya’s moneyed associates, goes all the way down to her ethnic roots, and borders on anti-Semitism. Dmytro Chobit, a renegade man who had sat on her party’s ruling council, released this intimate material. He had cut his teeth on the pillars of the past regime. His scathing reports could cost him his life at the moment. He put the punchline in his second brochure. Chobit accuses Tymoshenko of conspiring to commit a coup d’état the night before Yushchenko fired her Cabinet. Rumor had it Tymoshenko and her loyalists had known what was coming and pulled an allnighter at SBU Director Turchynov’s dacha to think things over. It was during this unholy supper that they called US Ambassador Herbst. They asked his opinion on how the West would react to Yushchenko being impeached, the brochure says. Tymoshenko has denied role.

The President’s Public Relations Chernobyl
Editorials portraying Yushchenko as the semi-godfather of RosUkrEnergo have become the sport of his cross-orange opponents. All the more frequently, Yushchenko makes the bed and then has to lie in it. A few months ago he set off a chain reaction that generated a publicity bonanza for the non-orange opposition segment as well. He made the unfortunate suggestion that Chernobyl could become a world-class nuclear waste repository. As Russia jacks up spent fuel storage fees, Ukraine could save a lot of money and perhaps even make a few bucks, so the President’s logic went. Feeding this controversial vision to the media in an election year, and one that will mark the 20th anniversary of the disaster, was the recipe for a political suicide of sorts, a public relations Chernobyl. Unwittingly, the President has reopened the scars left by the world’s worst nuclear accident, adding credibility to his demonizers.

The area surrounding Chernobyl will be uninhabitable for centuries to come. There’s one exception: Some aging evacuees are coming back. These nostalgia-driven folks despise radiation. They are returning to the villages they deserted in the bitter spring 1986 exodus — to spend the “golden fall” of their lives there.
By now, there’s no count of all the children and clean-up personnel who died of thyroid cancer and leukemia. Gorby wouldn’t address the nation until the free world rang the alarm bell in ear-splitting mode. Even then he adopted a tongue-in-cheek
attitude, offering no estimates of the accident’s extent.

Talk about a winnable nuclear war. We lost one with our government. Army rookies, fresh out of high school, were sent to their death. The Red Army relied on a very “generous” lethal exposure scale, unmatched by those found in Western democracies’ militaries. These kids Soviet Union were ordered to shovel the “funky” molten tar off the reactor’s roof. Heroes? Yes. Nuke fodder? Yes. They saved millions of lives in a country where a single life didn’t cost a thing. The Communist Party’s valuation model had exacted a heavy toll on the Soviet people. It was malignant. Chernobyl made an X-ray of it and thus became a catalyst for perestroika.

Two decades Chernobyl awaits a new sarcophagus to replace the ramshackle concrete structure assembled in a hurry immediately after the accident. Reportedly, it already has quite a few cracks in it. What if a major earthquake intervenes? We do have earthquakes here once in a while. Well, in that case, accession to the EU may become a moot question, due to bilateral destruction of subject matter.

The red flags do not end there. According to some sources, Holtec, the US company that won the tender to build a repository, boasts a trail of negative publicity at home. They argue that Holtec containers do not meet local safety standards. If that information happens to be factual, President Yushchenko should make no mistake. He should give the green light only if he succeeds in convincing Holtec to move its headquarters to Chernobyl, spouses and children included. Otherwise, a more reliable contractor should selected. Whatever the projected savings, Chernobyl’s proximity to Kyiv and the rest of the continent make it the wrong place for a commercial repository. Until man masters Mars and the state of technology makes uranium as manageable as a matchbox, the risk of 1986 repeating itself remains very real. President Yushchenko raised the specter of Chernobyl before he knew it. He should have given it more thought.

The Chernobyl scandal climaxed when David Sampson, US Deputy Secretary of Commerce visited Kyiv where, among other things, he discussed nuclear energy issues. Ne Tak, the trigger-happy B-class anti-orange taskforce, seized the moment to test its watchdog skills. Tymoshenko joined the show to parade her green streak. Meeting in a political jam session, this band broke the news. They claimed to have intercepted memos that outlined Uncle Sam’s master plan: dump nuclear waste in Chernobyl. If there’s something strange in your neighborhood, who you gonna call? Ghostbusters! That’s what democracy is all about — a system of checks and balances.

The Winner Takes It All?
A new chapter in Ukraine’s “crony capitalism” saga has been written. Word came out that Youth Affairs Minister Yuriy Pavlenko and NSC chief Anatoliy Kinakh had reinforced the Olympics delegation with their wife and daughter, respectively. When questioned by journalists about their relatives’ assigned roles, these top orange officials cited staff functions — interpreter and coordinator, respectively. Wow! No mission is impossible when hubby and daddy are big bosses at your beck and call. Why bother casting? Why outsource? Let’s keep it simple and stupid. Let’s keep it in the family.

That’s not the whole story. No sooner had the Olympics scandal subsided, than another one broke out., the premier orange blog, published some interesting speculations about the Kinakh family. According to the article, female members of the Kinakh family own the firm that has embarked on a trojan privatization scheme to take control of the Boryspil international airport, a major cash cow. Of course, Mr. Kinakh, a Nasha Ukraina running mate, refuted the charge. So what happened? Another false charge to clip NU’s wings in the election? Or a well-documented throwback to the “good old” times — “The Winner Takes It All” times? Hey, don’t you remember that beautiful song by the Swedish quartet ABBA, so often played at winter Olympics figure skating?

Kiss the Dust or Touch Base
In a brilliant act of one-upwomanship, Tymoshenko crafted an open-letter style coalition agreement, which she signed in full view of the media. For those interested in coming on board, her requirements: (1) back out of the gas accord with Russia, (2) swear not to collaborate with the Regions Party. The latter may be a good point. The former is pure propaganda. That’s the reason why she had trouble recruiting co-pilots.

With all the negative publicity accumulated, RosUkrEnergo has been a ball and chain for the Yekhanurov government. So far, attempts to get rid of RosUkrEnergo and do business with Gazprom directly have failed.

Pora-PRP has laid the blame of the coalition’s miscarriage at Tymoshenko’s door. “GI Julia” keeps the heat on Yushchenko’s inner circle while damning him with faint praise. After all, it was Yushchenko who had lavished accolades on her Cabinet days before giving her the axe.

Things will change in the sobering post-election reality. Once the Regionalist juggernaut rolls into the Rada, cross-orange cat-and-dog fighting will be out of fashion. The orange ones will kiss the dust. Or touch base.

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