Ukraine in 2016: Russian frost, European chill, and new elections

Author : Olena Honcharova

Source : 112 Ukraine

Donbas conflict will have remain in a "pending" regime throughout 2016 and 2017 - experts
10:00, 5 January 2016


Ukrainians should not expect for some political stability in the nearest future. Experts predict new parliamentary elections to take place in 2016-2017, as well as rotations in the Cabinet, strengthened relations with the other countries, Donbas conflict extension.

Rotations in the Cabinet: local elections has brought new leaders

According to the political scientist Ruslan Bortnyk, President Poroshenko will stay on his throne during the next year, and any attempts to provoke early presidential elections would not be successful. There are no enough conditions for Cabinet’s resignation, like total public anticipation or inability to make decisions within the parliamentary coalition. If the president, parliament, and the cabinet failed to communicate, it could lead to the political collapse; but now each of the parties has its interest in keeping the dialogue. But still the rotations in the Cabinet are expected.

“The level of public dissatisfaction has reached 70-80% already. The rotations in the Cabinet might help to soften the situation, to find the balance the political system after the local elections, after which the new political leaders has appeared. And now their interests must be taken into consideration. Lots of people from the Poroshenko’s team, who had not get their workplaces during the previous cadences of Prime Minister Yatsenyuk, must be “employed,” highlights Ruslan Bortnyk.

He noted that, according to the results of the last elections, the new political leaders, besides Block of Petro Poroshenko, has appeared. In particular, “Batkivshchyna” of Yulia Tymoshenko and some forces associated with business-clan “Privat” (headed by Ukrainian oligarch Kolomoysky).

According to political expert Mykola Spyrydonov, the rotations in the Cabinet should be a “measure” to postpone the elections to the Verkhovna Rada: the political alignment has changed, and the representation of the key forces in the Cabinet of Ministers was based on the results of the parliamentary elections of 20114 year.

“Now the ratings of the parties has changed a lot, and the quota should be reconsidered. Block of Petro Poroshenko and National Front are trying to reschedule the inevitable early elections to the Verkhovna Rada and put some part of the responsibility on the other parties,” assumes the expert.

Possible Parliamentary elections

The possibility of early parliamentary elections to take part in 2015 is quite high – 90%. And of course, after the elections, Block of Petro Poroshenko and Oppositional Block (former Party of Regions, ruled by Viktor Yanukovych) will come back to Rada. “Batkivshchyna”, “Vidrodzhennia”, and “Svoboda” has good chances as well. “Ukrop” and “Radical Party of Oleh Lyashko” are in quite high position. “National Front”, probably, would not get any seats in Parliament. The reason is its low ratings, which was observed even in the local elections of 2015, says political scientist Mykola Spyrydonov.

“The ruling coalition is in cul-de-sac now. Poroshenko will be forced to announce the early elections in order to soften the public discontent. Moreover, there are a lot of MPs, who seem to be simply inadequate and unnegotiable. The formal reason for the early elections would be dissociation of the majority,” says the expert.

New European standards and conflicts with Russia

Political scientist Volodymyr Fesenko states that the relations with Russia in 2016 would further cool off. The “hot” hybrid war would transform into “cold” hybrid war. This tendency started in 2015: sanctions, air service stoppage, blockade of Crimea, stabilization of the hostilities.

“The war will continue, probably, it will have even more tough character in 2016. What exactly? Firstly, mutual embargo of goods and services. Secondly, end of the free trade relations between Russia and Ukraine as a reaction to the free trade agreement between EU and Ukraine. But Ukraine will still buy Russian electricity. Russia might insist on excluding Ukraine from the free trade zone within the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). In this case CIS would be out of Ukraine’s interests,” notes Volodymyr Fesenko.

He highlighted that weakening of economic relations with Russia could be compensated by developing trade with Kazakhstan and Belarus. Moreover, the countries will prepare for bilateral visa regime. It depends on different factors, whether it happens in 2016, says the expert.

The states would face diplomatic and information war concerning the results of MH17 investigation, as well as establishing of international tribunal. Some judicial proceedings might take place between the countries: gas, Crimea, Donbas, three billion debt, which Russia gave to Yanukovych, and of course, informational struggles regarding these proceedings.

“We might observe the further rapprochement between the EU and Ukraine. But some details might take place though. We will deal with new European rules, and the EU will be forced to cope with numerous Ukrainian issues – from direct financial aid to mediation of the conflicts with Russia,” said Fesenko.

The most significant result of this rapprochement is the chance, given to millions of Ukrainians – visa free regime in the second half of 2016. Well, this opportunity will work in case of having the biometric passport. The trips to Europe would be limited in time, and different documents, corroborating the aim of the visit and the means to pay the living, would be required. The second aspect is launching of the free trade zone between Ukraine and the EU.

“It worked in the previous year in a preferential way for Ukraine: our markets were protected by the taxes, and the EU markets were opened for us. Now we must open our markets for Europeans. It would maintain the competitiveness within the Ukrainian markets… Ukraine would get more European goods and services within its national market, and pay less for them. In practice, this process is not that linear and simple,” assured the expert.

Ukrainians would not be able to buy a lot in terms of crisis. According to the economic experts, the positive results of the free trade zone will be already visible in some 2-3 years. In 2016, we will be still closer to Europe, regarding legal and economic possibilities.

Related: In 2015, EU humanitarian aid to Ukraine totaled EUR 30 mln, – Stylianides

The relations between Russia and the EU will remain the same

According to the political scientist Ruslan Bortnyk, despite politicians concentrate on confrontation with Russia, the relations with the EU has weakened. The results of the last ten month of 2015 year have demonstrated not only that export to Russia has fallen twice, but also export to the EU has fallen to 34%.

“As we might see, we are losing not only Russian market, but European one. Still there is some positive moment in this situation: this is a progress in getting the visa free regime. But this decision has not been made yet,” noted Bortnyk.

Political affairs between Ukraine and Russia are openly hostile, and relations between Ukraine and EU look like relations of a couple, which is preparing for divorce. Formally, these relations are friendly, but there are some mutual claims and pretensions.

Related: In 2015, Ukraine increased gas transit to the EU by 8 percent, - Ukrtransgaz

“The relations with Europe has transformed from the partnership to a mutual dissatisfaction. At the same time, Ukraine is not pleased by the amount of European financial aid. Therefore, we might assume that the relations with the EU and with Russia will not be better,” says the expert. To save the situation Ukraine has to conduct the reforms in a proper way.

Decentralization: the government “washes its hands” from being responsible for people’s lives

According to Bortnyk, the project of decentralization in amendments to the Constitution, is not approved yet, it was adopted in the first reading, and it is problematic to find 300 MPs to vote for the final version. It means that the decentralization would not be successful.

Decentralization of finances seems to be only an imitation. Together with an extra money, transferred to the local governments, the local authorities become responsible for social sphere – education, culture, and healthcare. The central government gets the surplus budget due to the balancing inflation, while the part of the local budgets decline more and more.

Political expert Natalia Bilous states that the adoption of the law on decentralization might have bad consequences for Ukraine’s regions. Only some business-centers like Kyiv, Odesa, Lviv, or Kharkiv will be able to survive in the new conditions. She says that this kind of decentralization is quite cozy for President Poroshenko and his team, because during the process of decentralization he might get the control over regions.

All this will be superimposed on the ongoing war in the Donbas, which, according to experts, would not be accompanied by large-scale fighting, but would continue in its current "damping" version throughout 2016 and 2017. Accordingly, the situation across the country in this period could be characterized as economically and politically unstable.

Related: Russia stopped transit of Ukrainian products through its territory

Related: Bellingcat: list of suspects involved in MH17 tragedy narrowed to 20

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