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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Playing Tough But Ready to Compromise

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Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko's proclivity toward compromise has led politicians and analysts alike to dismiss him as weak. Perhaps this helped prompt him to take a firm stand in ordering the dissolution of the Verkhovna Rada, Ukraine's parliament.

The constant squabbling between Yushchenko, Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych and the parliament has created a situation of permanent political crisis. The current division of authority between the president and the government was supposed to make the system more democratic and effective. Instead, it has degenerated into a power vacuum. Everyone is interested in getting power rather than responsibly exercising it.

But we shouldn't be quick to compare the situation in Ukraine to that in Russia in 1993. There is little likelihood of the use of force here. The events of the Orange Revolution and the government's firing last year both passed without resorting to arms, and Yushchenko is willing to negotiate over just about anything. He is able to talk with Yanukovych reasonably and with his former comrade in arms, Yulia Tymoshenko, without accusing her of being a traitor. His chief goal is to maintain authority in order to carry out his own foreign policies.

The big word in Ukrainian politics of late has been "usurpation." But usurpation is not really the question -- it's more like the resumption of important negotiations in new conditions. Yushchenko is trying to convince the governing coalition and Yanukovych that their power is not unlimited.

Yushchenko's abrupt move may be based on a compromise with Tymoshenko. The popularity of Yushchenko's Our Ukraine party is falling, and Bloc Yulia Tymoshenko might grab many more votes this time around, so the dissolution of the parliament works in her favor. This is important because the notorious bill the government introduced to strengthen its powers only overcame a presidential veto thanks to support from Tymoshenko's bloc. Helping the coalition usurp presidential powers only triggered Yushchenko's order to dissolve the parliament. Tymoshenko is in place to pick up more power as it falls from the hands of her competitors.

The Constitutional Court still has to decide whether the presidential order is constitutional. There are serious doubts whether the reason for the order -- the formation of a parliamentary majority on the basis of individual deputies rather than parties -- is sufficient. But without elections, the numbers will remain the same. Yanukovych cannot expect any more help from Tymoshenko, so there will be no way to override a presidential veto. This means returning to the negotiating table.

And that is where Yushchenko's willingness to seek compromises works in his favor.

This comment appeared as an editorial in Vedomosti.