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09KYIV1023, FAILURE OF COALITION TALKS HURTS TYMOSHENKO

June 12, 2009

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09KYIV1023 2009-06-12 15:55 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Kyiv

VZCZCXYZ0001
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHKV #1023/01 1631555
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 121555Z JUN 09
FM AMEMBASSY KYIV
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 7941
INFO RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE
RUEHZG/NATO EU COLLECTIVE

C O N F I D E N T I A L KYIV 001023 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 07/05/2019 
TAGS: PGOV PREL UP
SUBJECT: FAILURE OF COALITION TALKS HURTS TYMOSHENKO 
 
REF: KYIV 00988 
 
Classified By: Political Counselor Colin Cleary for reasons 1.4 (b,d) 
 
SUMMARY 
-------- 
 
1. (C) Opposition leader Yanukovych's June 7 withdrawal from 
talks on forming a "national unity" coalition with Prime 
Minister Tymoshenko's BYuT faction left Tymoshenko vulnerable 
as her supporters learn details of concessions that she made 
in the negotiations.  Tymoshenko's denials that she had been 
willing to agree to constitutional changes that would have 
done away with direct presidential elections and to extended 
the current Rada's term by two years have had little 
resonance.  The damage to Tymoshenko opens a window of 
opportunity for other presidential candidates, most notably 
former Rada Speaker Yatsenyuk.  Though the official date for 
Presidential elections is still unknown (expected in January 
2010), the unofficial presidential campaign has now begun. 
One BYuT member observed to us that "all guns are drawn." 
End Summary. 
 
 
YANUKOVYCH BREAKS OFF TALKS 
--------------------------- 
 
2. (C)  Opposition Party of Regions leader Viktor Yanukovych 
on June 7 announced he was quitting long running coalition 
talks with Prime Minister Yuliya Tymoshenko and that he would 
run for president in upcoming elections.  He said that he 
could not agree to rushed constitutional changes that would 
have foreseen the President elected in the Rada rather than 
by a popular vote.  Yanukovych explained that the new 
president would have to make many unpopular decisions and 
needs the direct support of voters.  Yanukovych's 
announcement caught many in the party by surprise, according 
to Regions deputy faction leader Volodomyr Makeyenko.  He 
told us that Yanukovych had not revealed his decision to key 
party leaders, including the negotiation team, prior to his 
press conference. 
 
3. (C)  Makeyenko told us that many factors contributed to 
the failure of the negotiations, including public opposition, 
competing business interests, and opposition within both 
parties.  He said the main reason, however, was that 
Yanukovych is convinced that he can win the upcoming 
presidential elections.  Makeyenko explained that Yanukovych 
was only willing to be bound by coalition agreements and 
elected president in the Rada if it was clear that he could 
not win the popular vote.  Tymoshenko Bloc (BYuT) MP Yuriy 
Poluneyev told us that neither side trusted the coalition 
agreement guarantees enough to fully commit to the deal. 
 
 
TYMOSHENKO SURPRISED, LEFT BACKPEDALING 
-------------------------------------- 
 
4. (C) Tymoshenko called Yanukovych's decision "unilateral 
and unexpected."  She claimed that the her refusal to back 
Yanukovych's demand to raise the minimum age to run for 
president from thirty five to fifty and guarantee him the 
presidency caused the negotiations to falter.  Tymoshenko, 
who also announced her candidacy for president on June 7, is 
now publicly distancing herself from the most controversial 
parts of the coalition's proposed constitutional changes. 
She categorically denied that that constitutional amendments 
to elect the president in the Rada and extend the current 
Rada's term by two years, thereby avoiding any national 
elections until 2014, were included in the coalition's 
proposed constitutional changes.  Tymoshenko claimed in an 
interview on June 11 that the constitutional draft leaked to 
Zerkala Nedeliya newspaper that included these changes was a 
"forgery", despite telling Ambassadors (Ref) on June 5 that 
it was an accurate version of the coalition's amendments. 
 
 
STRONG PUBLIC OPPOSITION TO THE COALITION 
----------------------------------------- 
 
5. (C) Public opinion was strongly against a BYuT-Regions 
coalition and their proposed changes to the constitution, 
according to local analysts.  Orysia Lutsevych, Executive 
Director of the Open Ukraine foundation, told us that she 
expected widespread public protests against indirect 
presidential elections and extending the term of the Rada, 
had the amendments passed.  She highlighted the positive role 
the press played in publishing detailed information on the 
negotiations and said that many in the NGO community were 
already discussing how to organize protests against changing 
the constitution.  Chairman of the Agency for Legislative 
Initiatives, Ihor Kohut, told us that more than 80 percent of 
Ukrainians opposed the changes to the constitution and that 
protests against them could have gathered significant support 
by the fall.  Inna Pidluska, Executive Director of NGO Yalta 
European Strategy, said that European reaction also helped to 
sway people and that German Chancellor Angela Merkel's 
refusal to meet with Tymoshenko on June 4 in Poland sent a 
message that Europe saw Tymoshenko's moves as un-democratic. 
 
 
 
TYMOSHENKO'S SUPPORT DECLINING 
------------------------------ 
 
6. (C) Tymoshenko's willingness to negotiate with Yanukovych 
and the leaked details of their agreement have cost the PM 
some public support, analysts told us.  Pidluska explained 
that many Tymoshenko supporters were shocked by the 
concessions she made to Y
anukovych and see her moves as 
mostly driven by her desire to retain the Premiership.  She 
described Tymoshenko's claim that leaked copies of proposed 
constitutional amendments were forgeries as a "blatant lie" 
and said that the public knows she is lying.  Former 
Yushchenko Chief of Staff and head of the Suspilnist 
Foundation, Oleh Rybachuk, told us that Tymoshenko would take 
a hit in the polls for attempting a coalition with 
Yanukovych, but that the state of the economy this fall is 
the most important factor in her ability to win the 
presidency.  Pidluska said that in a few months many voters 
will have forgotten this episode and that Tymoshenko had a 
core constituency of about 15 percent who would support her 
no matter what. 
 
 
AN OPENING FOR YATSENYUK OR OTHERS 
---------------------------------- 
 
7. (C) The damage done to Tymoshenko's standing creates an 
opening for another "democratic" candidate to rise up and 
challenge Yanukovych, according to Kohut.  He said that 
former Rada speaker Arseniy Yatsenyuk is the best poised for 
taking advantage of Tymoshenko's troubles, but other 
candidates such as Sergiy Tigipko could also benefit. 
Rybachuk emphasized -- and all other analysts with whom we 
spoke agreed -- that the collapse of the BYuT-Regions 
coalition talks did not create an opening for President 
Yushchenko to make a comeback.  Yushchenko will not be a 
player in the election, Rybachuk affirmed, except that he 
will devote himself to his "obsession: destroying 
Tymoshenko."  Pidluska said that Tigipko is in a better 
position than Yatsenyuk to capitalize on the situation 
because he has quietly built a extensive national 
organization with strong local leaders.  Lutsevych, whose 
Open Ukraine foundation was founded by Yatsenyuk, agreed that 
Yatsenyuk's campaign lacked a strong organization, but 
asserted that Yatsenyuk was the logical candidate for 
disaffected Tymoshenko supporters.  She said that this 
episode also helps differentiate Yatsenyuk from Tymoshenko 
and burnishes his credentials as the main "democratic 
candidate." 
 
 
"ALL GUNS ARE DRAWN" FOR PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN 
--------------------------------------------- - 
 
8. (C) Although the official presidential campaign has not 
yet started, the real campaign began with Yanukovych's 
withdrawal from coalition talks, according to BYuT MP 
Poluneyev.  He explained that everyone had held back to see 
if the coalition deal would succeed, but that now "all guns 
are drawn" and attacks between candidates would start to 
dominate the press almost immediately.  Poluneyev predicted 
the candidates would quickly resort to "black PR" and 
mudslinging.  Lutsevych said that attacks on Yatsenyuk have 
already begun with opponents pushing rumors of extramarital 
affairs and ties to shady oligarchs (specifically 
RosUkrEnergo's Firtash).  Rybachuk said that Tymoshenko can 
expect almost continuous criticism from the president during 
the campaign because of Yushchenko's "delusional and 
irrational hatred" for her.  Pidluska said she expects a 
unscrupulous presidential campaign with all sides employing 
whatever "dirty tricks" they can get away with. 
 
COMMENT 
------- 
 
9. (C) One thing now appears clear: there will be direct 
presidential elections in Ukraine, although the date (likely 
January 2010) remains to be finalized.  Tymoshenko has been 
hurt by her dalliance with Yanukovych, but must not be 
counted out.  She remains a fierce campaigner and shrewd 
political operator, although some of her decisions in regard 
to the failed coalition cast doubts.  Yanukovych, by bailing 
out of a coalition deal that was seen as undemocratic, helped 
himself.  It is, however, unclear by how much since he 
already was the front runner.  Yanukovych should win the 
first round of elections but continues to have a glass 
ceiling of support that will make it more difficult for him 
to win in the second round.  Yatsenyuk has an opening to 
establish himself as the alternative to Tymoshenko as the 
"democratic" opponent to Yanukovych.  However, Yatsenyuk, at 
present, lacks an effective campaign organization. 
Yushchenko, recently booed at a major football match, has 
little or no basis from which to launch a comeback.   The 
presidential campaign promises to be fiercely fought, and 
will serve to accentuate differences at a time of economic 
crisis. 
 
PETTIT

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