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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

The Defender of the People

Ukraine finally has a government. As expected, it's a coalition government. In fact, Viktor Yanukovych, head of the Party of the Regions, got votes during his confirmation as prime minister from his recent opponents in Viktor Yushchenko's Our Ukraine party. The day before the vote, Ukrainian politicians ceremoniously signed their names to the Declaration of National Unity. In honor of the occasion, Yanukovych even spoke Ukrainian, and Yushchenko's voice cracked with emotion when he told journalists that the signed document "would unite the two sides of the Dnepr River." Henceforth, the Russian-speaking East will be a friend of the Ukrainian-speaking west.

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In actual fact, the two sides were never at war. The cultural animosity was artificially fanned by politicians and business clans with power bases in different regions. Yushchenko's victory was not based in the nationalistic Ukrainian West but, rather, Russian-speaking Kiev.

The Declaration of National Unity contains grandiose language and phrases that gloss over the details. The Russian language will be respected, but it won't have the status of a state language. Ukraine will cooperate with NATO, but not join the organization. In other words: Nothing will change.

The average citizen is far more interested in the economic situation than in the status of the Russian language or even NATO. Naturally, the Declaration of National Unity doesn't mention the expected utility price hikes and partial privatization of public transport, which will result in higher fares and the discontinuation of unprofitable routes. But the new coalition government will not be concerned with ideology. It will be dealing with the economy. As Yulia Tymoshenko noted, the declaration "is only a screen to hide the backroom deals to divide up ministerial positions and spheres of business."

Tymoshenko refused to sign the declaration. She appeared at the ceremony and announced that her bloc was going into opposition, which would be outside the parliament. At Tymoshenko's bidding, her faction left the chamber. At one time, Tymoshenko threatened to return 3,000 companies to state control, so it's no surprise that the local elite were united in their desire to keep her out of the government.

Tymoshenko stood out at the signing ceremony, dressed all in white against the background of dour men in black suits. The message her image was meant to convey was clear and certainly understood by millions of television viewers.

Over the next few months, the government will have to start taking action. The Ukrainian drama will continue, since a compromise among the political elite does not guarantee social stability. In fact, it's as if the politicians took each other warmly by the hand and headed off in search of the nearest cliff.

The division of rival camps allowed for the manipulation of public opinion, which kept the situation under control. Now the situation is changing. Who will lead people into the streets when there is another price hike? Who will protest against the flagrant -- even by Eastern European standards -- social injustice? Who will expose corruption? Communists and Socialists are settling down comfortably into cabinet ministers' chairs. It seems the leaders of the main parties have accepted their imminent disappearance from the political arena and dream of grabbing something as they leave. Our Ukraine and the Party of the Regions will join forces to carry out price increases and privatization. Only Tymoshenko's bloc will fight against official policies. I'll bet anything that if this continues, Tymoshenko will be the only person raising the issues of pensioners and the poor and defending Russian schools and ethnic minorities. After the Ukrainian statesmen united under the flag of the declaration, no one is going to rock the ship of state.

The political bankruptcy of the Communists and Socialists has left a vacuum on the left that will be filled by Tymoshenko. She is not very left-leaning and her ideology is more than a little shaky. But there isn't any other opposition in Ukraine. The new organizations that have appeared on the left in the last two or three years will grow and increase in influence but in the coming months it will be hard for anyone to match up to Tymoshenko. So the left will be confronted by a tough choice: either join forces with an ideologically doubtful populist opposition, or stay in the background of political life.

In the meantime, for millions of television viewers, Tymoshenko will be the only defender of the people, fighting for social justice and the nationalization of industry.

Boris Kagarlitsky is director of the Institute for Globalization Studies.