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Last Updated: Thursday, 8 September 2005, 14:47 GMT 15:47 UK
Orange Revolution in turmoil
By Steven Eke
BBC News

Ukrainians watch TV in a shop as Mr Yushchenko announces the sacking of the cabinet
Mr Yushchenko said he had no choice but to intervene
For days now, there has been intense speculation that Ukraine's President, Viktor Yushchenko, would reshuffle his government.

Very few observers expected him to dismiss it in its entirety, despite increasingly bitter in-fighting and a power-struggle that's stymied the normal business of governing.

Mr Yushchenko is faced with a task considerably tougher than just putting together a new government. He needs to reinvigorate the whole Orange Revolution project, and the people charged with making it a reality.

It is hard to imagine that, in eight months, the agenda has gone from joining the EU to the whole government falling because of internal rivalries.

Mr Yushchenko says his radical decision was forced upon him by the absence of unity in his former government team.

Boiling point

He says he often had to intervene in petty feuds between ministers and departments, while the major tasks - boosting living standards and attracting investors - were neglected.

Petro Poroshenko and Yulia Tymoshenko
Rivals: Petro Poroshenko and Yulia Tymoshenko

His decision has brought a simmering political crisis to boiling point.

For several months now, the Ukrainian government has seemed adrift, unable to enforce what many expected to be an ambitious programme of economic and institutional reform.

Some have asked whether this was really due to behind-the-scenes in-fighting among the power-brokers of the Orange Revolution.

Others have asked whether Mr Yushchenko himself was up to the job, pointing out the large number of foreign trips he made during his first months in office while the economic outlook for Ukraine worsened.

Yet until today, Mr Yushchenko has seemed reluctant to intervene. He appeared weak, unwilling or unable to summon up the ruthlessness needed to stamp his authority on his squabbling government.

'Inherent weakness'

Accusations of corruption by the former presidential chief-of-staff, Oleksandr Zinchenko, precipitated the crisis.

Yushchenko greets crowds in November 2004
The 2004 Orange Revolution raised hopes for reform
But several former ministers have levelled increasingly angry and far-fetched accusations against their former colleagues.

They include lack of progress in acceding to the World Trade Organisation, and "ruining" Ukraine's investment climate.

It would be wrong to talk about the "failure" of the Orange Revolution. But it is said that all revolutions "eat their own children".

And there was a weakness inherent in the Orange Revolution right from the start. Namely, it brought together a wide range of individuals who shared little in common other than wanting to see an end to the former administration.

Many of those who carried out - and profited from - the Orange Revolution, represent opposing ideological platforms, competing business and financial interests. Some were motivated strongly by personal, as much as political ambitions.

Sooner or later, differences and rivalries were bound to surface.

Preserving 'the team'

Mr Yushchenko has tried, until now, to smooth over the differences and to reconcile the irreconcilable.

He has severed his links with some very powerful people. In doing so, he may have undermined his own position, as well as that of his party, which faces tough parliamentary elections early next year.

However, he has said he wants Yulia Tymoshenko, the highly popular former prime minister, and Petro Poroshenko, one of Ukraine's richest businessmen and perhaps the main financier of the Orange Revolution, to stay on in his new team.

But he has made "unquestioning loyalty" a condition of that.

And in the case of Mrs Tymoshenko, it seems unlikely that she would accept the humiliation of a lesser post, even if she were offered it.


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