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Wednesday, April 12, 2006

We’re Almost There: Fishing for a Coalition Nears Completion

As they grapple with the election results that spell a dramatic seesaw of power between them, the “Orange Orchestra” finally seem to be getting their act together. To discuss the shape of things to come, the leaders of all five incoming parliamentary factions met with President Yushchenko in his executive suite on Bankova Street. Afterwards, they moved outdoors and issued statements, the most notable of which was Yuliya Tymoshenko’s. The Lady of Maidan unveiled her vision of a tripartite BYT-NSNU-SPU coalition, whose launch she estimated to be a matter of days. She minced no words when she added that the opposition could expect to chair several Rada committees and the Oversight Board. Trying to maintain an air of self-confidence, yet scrambling for words, Yanukovych expressed his readiness to assume an opposition role.

Three weeks have passed since the Ukrainians took to the polls to decide which parties best represent their interests in legislatures of all levels. When handed four separate ballot sheets — populated by more than thirty parties apiece — voters had their attention span strained as never before. The forces of democratic Darwinism unleashed by these papyruses have spared only five chariots at the national level. Known by their Ukrainian acronyms, they scored as follows:

PRU — 32.14, or 186 seats
BYT — 22.29, or 129 seats
NSNU — 13.95, or 81 seats
CPU — 5.69, or 33 seats
KPU — 3.66, or 21 seats

They will be proud entrants into the pyramid of Ukrainian parliamentarism. As for the also-rans, few of them will experience a political afterlife. With all due respect, or lack of it, as the case may be, outparliament mummification will be their most likely lot.

No matter how vocal the claims of fraud and demands for vote recounts, the litmus test for the Ukrainian democracy came out pretty clean. Even the Kremlin alchemists found themselves undersupplied on the public relations clout with which to attack the results. After all, their coachee has carried the Rust and Sun Belts, chalking up a plurality of votes nationwide.

Ironically, NSNU, the core party behind the Orange Revolution, which had given Ukraine the wings of democracy, made a belly landing in this election. Caught in the turbulence of scandals that shook its reputation, NSNU lost millions of voters, who switched to BYT, making it the most powerful Orange party. No wonder, with a meager 13.95 percent of the vote, compared to BYT’s 22.29 percent, NSNU top brass called in sick for a few days. In this shameful boost-bust scene, Tymoshenko starred as the centerfold of the election, while Yushchenko posed as the emperor with no clothes.

In what appears to be a clear-cut case of “you’re OK, I’m not OK,” NSNU did the most backpedaling, providing a major reason why the “Orange Orchestra” has failed to dovetail, thus far. The BYT-NSNU-SPU coalition went off to a series of false starts. Each side claimed being taken advantage of. Sensing the situation, the Regionalists started giving NU the glad eye, despite the oceans of bad blood between them.

Rumors of marriage by arrangement between PRU and NSNU sent shock waves among grassroots Yushchenko supporters. For Yushchenko, the lofty ambition of “uniting” Ukraine would hardly yield any political dividends in the Rust and Sun Belts. But it would definitely amount to a harakiri in the Grain and Brain Belts, NSNU’s home base. Terrified by the prospect of such bloody bedfellowship, which would condemn her to the outskirts of the parliamentary powerstruggle, the desperate amazon moved into action. She bearded the lion in his den with a revelation-packed bombing campaign, attempting to beat him into coalition.
It worked. By now it appears that NSNU has turned down a back vocals gig in the "Blue Band" and turned its face toward the "Orange Orchestra." The coveted PM post remains the main bone of contention in the coalition talks, though. Tymoshenko, who would take a backseat to no one, has insisted on the “first-come, first-served” mandate. She argues that her claim on the PM post mirrors the voting results, as she came first of all three would-be coalition partners. Unlike the SPU, who raised no objections, NSNU counteroffered with a “first-goals, then-roles” philosophy.

Yushchenko calls for a straight talk on goals. To avoid a repeat of dysfunctional debris, the team should hold a jamming session and make sure they see eye to eye on the economy.

Of course, this approach to coalition fishing will not discharge Tymoshenko from casting her net over the PM post. No coalition will come into being without her being the PM. But once she gets appointed, she must read the signs. She must vaccinate herself with the awareness that they are in the same boat. And in her capacity as conductor, she must always exercise her baton to help the "Orange Orchestra" wrap their talents around team play. She must carry an awareness-tuning fork with which to keep them on the same wavelength.

It’s never OK to have no conflicts. All successful teams run into conflicts. But rather than duck and stockpile them — until they explode — successful teams confront and resolve them.

The "Orange Orchestra" are on a mission to strike the right chords with this country. It means netting a better GDP without letting democracy and the social contract slip away.

Yanukovych rates your coalition as short-lived. If he turns out to be right, he’ll storm you off stage before you know it. Don’t let him be right.

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