Now that ten years have elapsed since the party Batkivshchyna was established, it looks quite an uneasy task to get at the roots of its real, non-mythologized, history. And it is still more difficult to dig down to the real, non-ostentatious, system of intra- and inter-party ties and relations in their real evolution. In this sense, Ukraine’s political life is quite typical. In his book Political Parties, which was written more than 60 years ago but which is still of topical interest, French political scientist Maurice Duverger was astute enough to characterize such a situation as typical. According to Duverger, a party’s organization rests primarily on practical directives and unwritten rules. It is regulated by the tradition. Charters or internal regulations are applicable to a tiny part of reality, if they can describe reality at all, since they are rarely strictly followed in real life. Parties seek to shroud their lives in mystery, so it is not that easy to get any true information about them. It is a kind of primordial jural system, where laws and rituals are secret and privies to these secrets fanatically keep them from alien eyes. Only party veterans are in the know of all organizational details and intrigues unfolding inside the party.
In Batkivshchyna, a handful of veterans, its father (mother) founders enjoy the monopoly on the knowledge of the complete history and behind-the-scenes life of the party. Among these people are both those who are known to all and those who remain in the shade. But few of them have the real right to interpret this history in the public, to build party myths and forge a time-serving image of the party.
Now, Batkivshchyna’s founders tend to present the party’s early history as unfolding in the background of a military junta holding a tight grip on the country and never stopping at resorting to the most harsh methods to do away with its opponents.
The piecemeal and timid actions President Kuchma was taking trying not to irritate the West in a bid to somehow sort out the mess in the country’s economy were presented by the Batkivshchyna leader, Yulia Tymoshenko, as a mass repression and terror campaign. In a speech on the occasion of the tenth anniversary of the party she delivered at a party congress in the summer of 2009, Tymoshenko pictured a gloomy situation of mass arrests of her fellow party members, of the authorities driving her party underground. Unsuspecting public might have got the impression that the party had been really outlawed and its policy documents had been written when all of its leaders were behind bars.
Here are some abstracts from Yulia Tymoshenko’s jubilee speech:
“I know that someone is nostalgic. Some might have recalled the time when we gathered not in spacious halls but in safe houses... Our party was created in 1999, in a time of real trouble. Kuchma was in the heyday of his glory and was going to stay in office for the next 20 years more. It seemed that no one was ever able to get the better of that power. And here came Batkivshchyna, a natural opposition force that saw its goal in cleansing Ukraine. So, no wonder its leader was hurled into prison several moths later and criminal cases were fabricated against each and every activist of the party, their relatives and friends. I think the majority of those present here know it only too well. Their businesses were squelched, their telephones were bugged, pressure was exerted on their teams, criminal cases were opened, people were jailed.”
Party veterans, according to Tymoshenko, spent years in opposition trenches to rush to the attack at a right moment “fighting for the great Ukraine hand and foot. Everyone had a chance to fight for the motherland on the frontline.”
Thus, Tymoshenko claimed that during Kuchma’s presidency up to 50 party activists had been kept in custody at a time. Moreover, “all of the party leaders used to be put behind bars.” Opposition governments were formed underground, “programs to do away with the consequences of the authoritarian rule in the country used to be written in prisons.”
So, the party’s jubilee image of today is contradictory, eclectic and multiple. On the one hand, it is automatically associated with the picture of the relatively recent past – Bolsheviks fighting against the czarist regime, the party’s militant vanguard fighting in the enemy’s rear during the Civil or the Great Patriotic War. By the way, this is what observers were supposed to see when Batkivshchyna emerged on the political horizon. It looks only natural that analytical periodicals at that time cartooned Batkivshchyna in the style of war-time posters (pic. 1)
On the other hand, to create a party myth, its leaders tried to imbibe the Medieval, so to say, “pre-party” Joan of Arc myth. Notably, Tymoshenko had already been compared with the Maid of Orleans, but for a long time she dared not to draw such parallels by herself publicly (pic. 2). But finally, she did it. Her jubilee speech of 2009 put it in the following way: “at the age of ten, she saw visions of the figures of St. Michael the Archangel and St. Catherine, who said that Joan was to liberate her France. Similarly, we can resolutely pledge that we shall take our Ukraine out of the crisis, we shall make it prosperous, rich, democratic, strong and very-very beautiful.”
The Batkivshchyna leader was easily flirting not only with the Medieval history but also with the Soviet era. Moreover, she tried to embed her party’s image in the environment of post-industrial information society: “We are giving the green light to the young. They are those who invented YouTube and Google, those who advance fantastic technologies in the world...” Obviously, this virtual playing with time and space was meant to demonstrate that Batkivshchyna had been and would be there for ever (“Ten years in Ukrainian politics is a veteran term hardly ever achievable in Ukraine’s conditions. Each year of the Batkivshchyna membership is to be counted for three, or even five years”).
Describing the history of Batkivshchyna’s relations with the authorities, Tymoshenko made a wide use of jingoist vocabulary and thieves’ slang (table 1).
Vocabulary used to characterize Batkivshchyna’s relations with the authorities*
Vocabulary used to characterize actions of the authorities against Batkivshchyna
Nouns: cases, prosecution, threats, intimidation, prison, jail, repressions, pressure
Verbs: bug, tap, throw, break, destroy, fabricate
Adjectives: prison, criminal
Vocabulary used to characterize Batkivshchyna’s actions
Nouns: firing, ports, fight, fighters, front, line, samurais, legionaries, veterans, conscience, pride, readiness, purification, trenches, reconnaissance
Verbs: fight, struggle, rush, throw oneself, do, bring out of, hold out, stand up to, not to fall silent, overcome
Adjectives: real, Ukrainian, alarming, secret, combat, veteran
*Content analysis of Yulia Tymoshenko’s speech at the jubilee congress of the party (June 2009) that was published by the Ukrainska Pravda e-newspaper (URL: http://www.pravda.com.ua/rus/articles/4blab27fbec6b).
Batkivshchyna’s party mythology rests on the idea of the party’s absolute uniqueness, its exclusiveness, chosenness and its special historic mission. This is what Yulia Tymoshenko told the German publication Deutsche Welle about her party in 2007.
“Our political force has become a factor of the country’s unification.”
“Only when our political force wins the majority in parliament, it will be possible to reform prosecution agencies, the State Property Fund... the way the country needs, and finally put an end to the chaos.”
“I feel that our political force plays a special role in Ukraine... Maybe, we are the only political force that has a clear-cut vision of the country’s development strategy and the political will to materialize this strategy. Ukraine is a very important country for the European Union and for the global geopolitical balance in general. So, it is only natural to speak about the significant role of our team.”
It is generally recognized that the heroic party myth was based on a number of actual facts, such as the arrests of Yulia Tymoshenko and some of her family members. But, judging from the jubilee speech, these facts were generalized to be used as a pivot theme of Batkivshchyna’s early history.
Another reason for Yulia Tymoshenko to be proud of her party was the fact that from 2002 the Yulia Tymoshenko Bloc (BYuT) created on the Batkivshchyna base had been showing impressing results at elections. Thus, whereas in 2002 it won 7.3% of the vote, in 2006 it had already 22.3%, and further augmented this figure by 8% at the early parliamentary elections the following year, having scored 30.7% of votes.
So, what is behind the phenomenon of Batkivshchyna and the BYuT? How could they become one of the few actually influential political forces in the country in such a short span of time? And what kind of future can be ahead of this political entity?
Looking back at Batkivshchyna’s history, it should be noted that it was actually built on legitimate, routine and quite presentable work at parliament, state agencies and inside the party, rather than on heroized episodes of underground activities, jails, symbolic firing ports and virtual trenches. Moreover, the party was born not through altruistic motives or heroic aspirations but rather due to some absolutely prosaic and routine considerations.
In the spring of 1999, the split of the Hromada faction followed by the formation of a new parliamentary group called Batkivshchyna did not came unnoticed by Ukrainian political analysts. Yulia Tymoshenko, who, several months before, had pledged she was not going to part from Hromada, took the lead of the new group. Some observers believed this move was designed to demonstrate that some of Hromada members wanted to dissociate themselves from Palvo Lazarenko. And it looked quite natural: this man, arrested and facing trial in the United States, stripped off parliamentary immunity and accused of grave crimes at home, could have sent sinking his then and former fellow party members. So, Tymoshenko and her closest mates tried to avoid it.
The party Batkivshchyna was founded and officially registered shortly after. Hence, Batkivshchyna, and Hromada by the way, could be definitely classified as parties of the electoral, or parliamentary, origin. According to Maurice Duverger’s classification, development of such parties begins at the top. Correspondingly, their grass-roots organizations are formed at the initiative from the top. Parliamentary groups play considerable role there. Lawmakers who had a decisive say in the foundation of the party preserve their profound influence further on. The entire party life stems from its origin, according to the French political scientist.
This pattern is clearly seen on the example of Batkivshchyna. The party was originated in parliament and its formation started from the top. Its basic goal was to win parliamentary seats at the next elections and later have government posts whatever it might cost.
Along with quite understandable political ambitions and the struggle for power typical of any party, of special importance for the BYuT was the struggle for parliamentary immunity. It should be noted in this context that the issue of lifting parliamentary immunity was initiated by the communists in the Verkhovna Rada of the very first convocations. In 1998, Yulia Tymoshenko was categorically against it and cited international practices to prove that stripping an opposition lawmaker off his or her parliamentary immunity meant to put him or her at the mercy of the authorities.
Here is an abstract from Yulia Tymoshenko’s speech.
“Practically all civilized countries practice immunity... Nowadays, parliamentary immunity is nothing else but a bargaining chip because our president and all those who back him cannot but understand that the real opposition is formed here, in parliament... Traditional methods employed by the authorities are arrests, criminal cases... This is what will frustrate the development of the opposition and normal democracy in Ukraine, that is why I believe that parliamentary immunity must be in place.”
In terms of organization, i.e. compliance with all requirements of the law regarding the membership, representation in regions and a statutory package of documents, Batkivshchyna’s formation campaign was facilitated by one very essential thing: its key donor was Hromada. Tymoshenko and her team were spared from taking efforts to set up grass-roots organizations from scratch. She and her team were well known in many regions of the country, having toured it on canvassing missions in 1997-1998. So, it looks quite logical that Batkivshchyna’s core was made up of Hromada members Tymoshenko managed to win over to her side. And by the summer of 1999, as Hromada “lost some flesh,” Batkivshchyna grew into a full-fledged party.
Initially, these two were twin parties tied together by the same navel string. They had similar ideological platforms and program provisions. Moreover, in terms of quantitative characteristics, they were similar, too. Thus, the Tymoshenko-led party had about the same regional representation as Hromada. Each of them had about 600 grass-roots organizations as of January 1, 2001. By the way, it was one of the best standing from among the 109 parties registered with Ukraine’s Ministry of Justice by early 2001. Along with Hromada and Batkivshchyna, only three parties (the Communist Party, the National Democratic Party, and the Socialist Party) could boast about the same number of grass-roots organizations, while two parties – the Social Democratic Party of Ukraine (United), or SDPU(U), and the Democratic Union – had more than 700. All this confirmed Yulia Tymoshenko’s leadership potential. It also revealed her enormous ambitions driving her always be “Faster, Higher, Stronger,” to put it in sports terms.
Yulia Tymoshenko’s political “vault” from the opposition to a temporary siding with the president provided fodder for media speculations about her quitting the camp of the inexorable opposition to the president to side with his moderate supporters. Indeed, whereas some time before she had demanded President Kuchma’s impeachment, as soon as she took over as the new faction leader she initiated an opposite document – the Declaration of Constructive Work. As soon as the Declaration was signed, the then Prime Minister, Valeriy Pustovoitenko, who had been another target of Tymoshenko’s criticism until that moment, noted with satisfaction that the move was meant to support Kuchma at the forthcoming elections. Analysts were quite straight saying that Tymoshenko’s dislike for President Kuchma had been fed by tactical considerations rather than by ideological differences, so Tymoshenko opted to demonstrate her support to the authorities in exchange for further political life and commercial dividends.
In December 1999, Batkivshchyna gathered for its second congress. Yulia Tymoshenko was the sole candidate for the position of the party leader, and she was elected unanimously. Analysts then said that the congress demonstrated that the party’s leaders had definitely sided with Kuchma. Thus, Tymoshenko backed Kuchma’s stance about national referendums on key matters of state importance. She spoke in favor of amendments to the constitution fixing the norms of the presidential republic, a thing so much desired by President Kuchma over his entire presidency. Subsequent developments proved that this political deal was mutually beneficial but short-lived. After Leonid Kuchma took the presidential office for his second term in October 1999, Yulia Tymoshenko was appointed the Deputy Prime Minister for the fuel and energy sector in the cabinet of Viktor Yushchenko. So, Batkivshchyna was dubbed as a centrist faction capable of forming a pro-presidential majority.
But Batkivshchyna’s advance towards siding with the president was soon halted. The faction went into opposition over the “Gongadze case” and voted for a probe into that case. Subsequent developments, including corruption and money laundry facilitating charges against Tymoshenko, her resignation from the post of Deputy Prime Minister and her arrest in February 2001, predetermined Batkivshchyna’s future lot as a party of uncompromising opposition to the president.
Creating her own political organization, Tymoshenko relied both on her own Hromada experience and on the help from old-hand party masterminds tempered at various-levels committees of the Communist Party of the former Ukrainian Soviet Republic. Among her teachers was her father-in-law, Gennady Tymoshenko, who had been second secretary of the Dinpropetrovsk regional Communist party committee in charge of industry just before the perestrioka. But first of all, he was a reliable companion and a good advisor in the dynamically expanding family business. He focused his efforts on the organization and promotion of a profitable business and did not hesitate to mobilize his old, timer-tested connections.
He readily shared his managerial and rich party organization skills with his enterprising and cunning daughter-in-law. A special post was established for him in Hromada – that of chairman of its coordination board. Here is an example illustrating his relations with the high and mighty. At a Hromada conference in 1997, when none of the country’s top official was present, Gennady Tymoshenko, the chairman of that conference, did not spare sharp words to rebuke the then Prime Minister, V. Putovoitenko, for his accusations against the Tymoshenko family’s company, the United Energy Systems of Ukraine. In his words, the prime ministers’ pronouncements were not criticism but rather an unreflecting statement of a person “who is too lazy to consult a canon [referring to a resolution of the cabinet of ministers on the distribution of the gas market – the author]... I have known Valeriy Pavlovich, as I have known the president, since childhood and I feel ashamed of him... We could have bought a bungalow somewhere on the Canaries but all of us have stomach ulcer because of our burden... I love my daughter-in-law – we all are living on her talent and wit...”
Another irreplaceable consultant and party manager from among the old guard was Yaroslav Fedorchuk, who was one of the Batkivshchyna founders. A former Komsomol (Young Communists’ League) and Communist party functionary, he had headed the party faction in the Verkhovna Rada from the very first days. Recalling his Soviet-era career, Fedorchuk once admitted: “When I was young, I set a goal to myself – to win top-ranking positions with power-wielding structures. I came from the Volyn region, so it was clear for me: the power should be used, as they say, in our Ukrainian interests.”
But even if Yulia Tymoshenko had never relied on these people or people like this in her party-building efforts, her Batkivshchyna would have been patterned after the former Communist party simply because of the fact that there were no other party-construction traditions.
Moreover, she obviously used her business skills, to be more precise, skills in running big businesses, in her party-construction activities. The rapidly developing gas trading business of the Tymoshenko clan was a sphere of super-high risk and required prompt, bold and risky solutions. So it is quite logical to assume that Yulia Tymoshenko might have thought it quite an easy task to build a political party. Tymoshenko’s quick and shifty wits, her connections in the business circles, her short but very useful experience as a lawmaker in 1996-1998 made it possible for her to get her bearings in Ukraine’s politics. In any case, the time it took Tymoshenko to build Batkivshchyna’s skeleton, which later proved quite reliable, from the shambles of Hromada evidenced to her efficient use of corporate management skills in politics.
Along with her Soviet-era party experience and early capitalism business practice, Tymoshenko made an extensive use of another very important source of party construction experience – the example of the so-called European-type parties. Few people in Ukraine had any clear idea of what it was. But the mere fact that the leaders proclaimed the course towards such a party gave them weight in their own eyes.
So, what was Batkivshchyna like as a political party and what kind of changes has it gone through over the years of its existence? What were its distinctive features and why has it managed to live such a long life?
First, it should be noted that it was not that difficult to set up a political party, even an opposition one, in Ukraine in the 1990s. Parties of all types and orientations sprouted like mushrooms after a summer rain. Under the limp Ukrainian laws of that period, it was quite easy to register any party, whether it be a big one or a small, so to say, a party of the couch existent only on paper. Traditionally, the number of new parties used to jump steeply in the run-up to elections. Thus, as many as 38 political parties were registered in Ukraine in 1995. In 1998, there were 66 parties, and 90 parties – a year later. In 2000, this number went up to 109, and further up to more than 130 – in the early 2000s. Like many other parties, Batkivshchyna emerged on the tide of vigorous “party genesis,” which as a rule preceded each and every parliamentary elections.
In general terms, Batkivshchyna was born as a hybrid association juxtaposing heterogeneous elements in a quite tangled manner. For instance, the analysis of the party’s charter exposes some characteristics that bring it close to the Communist Party:
- a strong structure that makes the party a highly organized union, with all key elements being on their exact places and strictly controlled;
- prevalence of vertical ties over horizontal ones;
- prevalence of centripetal over centrifugal tendencies;
- strict regulation of the admittance procedures;
- certain, rather concrete, requirements to the party membership.
The party structure was distinguished for its clarity and featured elements of optimization. It had no excess intermediate links, neither had it a too long and intricate chain linking the party leader and grass-roots organizations. The party hierarchy was topped by the leader, the presidium of the political council (a governing body in a period between political council meetings) and the political council (a governing body between congresses). The supreme governing body was the party congress convened at least once every two years. Territorial party organizations constituted an intermediate link. Their activities were regulated by conferences (as a supreme governing body), a bureau and heads of these organizations. Grass-roots party organizations had a similar structure (general assemblies, bureaus, heads of grass-roots organizations).
Notably, the party leader, under the charter, was at the wheel of the political council and the presidium. On the whole, such structure and such allocation of duties made it much easier for the party leader to control the stability of the party pyramid and administer it in a manual mode. Plus Tymoshenko’s personal disposition towards regular personal contacts with members of regional structures, which traditionally became more frequent during election campaigns.
So, in a rather short period, Yulia Tymoshenko managed to build a rigid vertical of the hierarchically centralized system and a strictly regulated admittance procedure. But soon it became clear that it was next to impossible to win elections in the then Ukraine with such a party. It would have taken years of ideological guidance to win over fellow party members to make them ready to abide by the strict discipline. Obviously, this was not what the Batkivshchyna founders really wanted. They wanted their made-in-haste party to plunge into the election race immediately, that is why all its branches and organizations were designed to be primarily used as election headquarters of various levels.
Experts warned that Batkivshchyna alone had practically no chances to overcome the four-percent barrier at the 2002 parliamentary polls. Analyzing the results of 1998 elections, experts noted that Hromada (a near of kin to Batkivshchyna) had managed to snatch enough votes to win seats in the parliament (4.75% with a barrier of 4%) only thanks to Pavlo Lazarenko’s popularity in the densely populated Dnipropetrovsk region. So, a victory at the forthcoming parliamentary elections was obviously unattainable without amalgamating with other parties in a bid of creating a wider party, and hence, socio-electoral base.
Evidently, despite the public eulogy and flaunty confidence of success, Tymoshenko was realistic about the situation and Batkivshchyna’s potential. So, in May 2001 she began to form an opposition election association and by December 2001, the National Salvation Forum, now known as Yulia Tymoshenko Bloc, came into being. Initially, the bloc comprised seven political organizations (Tymoshenko however claimed she had enjoyed support of 506 public organizations) but only four remained in the end: Batkivshchyna, Sobor, the Ukrainian Republican Party, and the Ukrainian Social Democratic Party.
To get a more clear picture of what happened to Batkivshchyna, and subsequently to the entire Bloc, it would be worth learning some facts about its member organizations.
Sobor was an opposition center-right party. Its leader, Anatoliy Matviyenko, began his career in Soviet-era party structures. In 1989-1991, he was first secretary of the central committee of the Ukrainian Lenin Communist Youth Union. In 1996-1998, he was head of regional state administration (governor) of the Vinnitsa region. Later he forged into the lead of the (pro-presidential) People’s Democratic Party, which positioned itself as a ruling party. But in 1999, Matviyenko refused to support Leonid Kuchma and quitted the party. In 2000-2001, he joined anti-presidential actions. He was a member of the council of the National Salvation Forum and took part in the Ukraine without Kuchma protests. In 2002, being number two on the Yulia Tymoshenko Bloc (BYuT) election list, he won a seat in the parliament but left the faction and the parliament in 2005. In 2006, he was back in the parliament, but this time as a member of Viktor Yushchenko’s bloc Our Ukraine – People’s Self-defence.
The Ukrainian Republican Party was a party of the nationalist orientation. Its leader was widely-known dissident Levko Lukyanenko, born in 1927, who had spent years behind bars for political reasons. He was among the founders of the Ukrainian public group to promote the implementation of the Helsinki agreements. In 1991, he ran for Ukrainian president.
Among the party’s program goals were the revival of the Ukrainian nation, the creation of the Ukrainian independent synodical state and ethnic and cultural autonomies for Ukrainian nationals in authentic Ukrainian territories and in areas of compact settlement of Ukrainians. The party’s ideology rested on the idea of Ukraine’s national eminence. The party favored Ukraine’s membership in NATO. The party’s ideology demonstrated a distinct anti-Russian rhetoric. Its newspaper, the Samostiina Ukraina (Independent Ukraine), regularly published anti-Russian materials.
Another center-right party, the Ukrainian Conservative Republican Party that was set up on the basis of the radical wing of the Ukrainian Republican Party, joined the Bloc. The party was led by Stepan Khmara, a dissident and former political prisoner. The party pronounced the Ukrainian nation as the groundwork for the state and the Ukrainian people as the sovereign ruler. It stood for appointing Ukrainian nationals to all top positions. It was against cosmopolitanism and internationalism, against the “practice of Russianization.”
It is highly improbable that Yulia Tymoshenko was unaware of these things. But it looks like that the evident gap between Batkivshchyna’s neutral ethno-national program provisions, on the one hand, and nationalist attitudes of the Ukrainian National Party and the Ukrainian Conservative Republican Party, on the other hand, was of no concern for her. At that time, all of them had one important thing in common – they were in opposition to Leonid Kuchma within the framework of the National Salvation Forum. A decade later, after years of Tymoshenko’s premiership and her presidential bid, it would become absolutely clear that the experience of cooperation with center-right forces was not lost on her: she harnessed the ideology of titular-nation nationalism after adapting it for her own uses.
Meanwhile, a feature article titled Yulia the Snow White and Her Dwarfs said that Lukyanenko’s and Khmara’s (both dubbed as “old grandpas with zero electorate”) participation in a single election bloc with Tymoshenko was designed “to demonstrate to the potential voters that the torch of the “liberation movement” is being passed from the older generation of grandpa fighters to the new generation represented by the granddaughter fighter... The National Salvation Forum is a kind of home for “political orphans.” They have neither regional structures, nor material, intellectual, information, nor human resources... Making allies with Yulia Tymoshenko they seek to solve two problems at a time. One is to continue their life of ease... And the other one is to win seats in the Verkhovna Rada.”
Obviously, members of the Ukrainian Republican Party, on the contrary, maintained that it was Batkivshchyna that lacked the authority and political weight they had enjoyed. It was a source of a scandal inside the party. One of its leaders, Bohdan Telenko, who headed its branch in the Khmelnytsky region, used to claim that taking sides with Batkivshchyna was an evidence that his party had reached an ideological dead end. “It is very unpleasant and hurting to compare our charismatic and respected Levko Lukyanenko with Yulia Tymoshenko. It looks like they take the Ukrainian Republican Party as a kind of appendix to Batkivshchyna, and Levko Lukyanenko – as an add-on to Yulia. It is an utter abomination.”
Another member of the Yulia Tymoshenko Bloc was the Ukrainian Social Democratic Party led by Vasyl Onopenko, the ex-minister of justice. Before taking the lead in the party, from 1995 to 1998, he led the Social Democratic Party of Ukraine (United), which then proclaimed itself as a center-left party. Its basic program goals included the protection of human rights, social security and guarantees of decent living standards for people, socially-oriented market economy, equal access to medical services, education, etc. But, ironically, the party soon became a harbor for big property owners and very rich Ukrainians who could be roughly attributed to the class of Ukraine’s first oligarchs. Among them were Viktor Medvedchuk, who would later be the head of the presidential administration; Hryhoriy Surkis, the head of Kiev’s football club Dynamo, ‘confectionery king’ Petro Poroshenko, who at that time owned a stake in his future “sweet” empire, the Vinnitsa Confectionery Factory, and others. In these new conditions, the party deviated from its original ideology and twisted into a liberal democratic right-wing party advocating the interests of big and medium-sized businesses.
Vasyl Onopenko quitted the party in protest against its new ideological twist to take the lead of the Ukrainian Social Democratic Party in 1998 and fill it with his original center-left ideas. These political and party changes were taking place outside the Verkhovna Rada. In parliament, after leaving the SDPU(U) Vasyl Onopenko first jointed the Independent group and later – the Batkivshchyna faction, a move that was generously rewarded by Yulia Tymoshenko. He was appointed number four on the Bloc’s election lists and ascended to a deputy leader of the BYuT faction. Onopenko however gave back as good as he got, doing important favors to the Bloc, including as the minister of justice. Later, some well-informed sources said he had completely fell under Tymoshenko’s influence and did all the errands set by the BYuT leader.
At first glance, it seems incredible that such a motley crew could hive together and that Yulia Tymoshenko, who used to advocate social values only, could have dared to give shelter to undisguised nationalists. But the matter is that this individual, on the face of it, example reflected a rather distinct aspect of the Ukrainian party system that was characteristic of all Western political systems of the second half of the 20th century. This is where and when, according to Otto Kirchheimer, the process of the emergence of “catch-all” parties started. Reference books in political science characterize such parties as political formations seeking to attract people with diverse viewpoints and thus address the largest possible electoral audience. They tend to dilute their previous ideological positions, they do not bother with serious systematic ideological work with potential voters. They opt for short-term tactical slogans to ensure the victory of their candidates at elections. Leaders of such parties, which are also dubbed as big tent parties, make an extensive use of the mass media, first of all, of television. These parties concentrate their efforts on election canvassing, for which ends they engage strong teams of professionals – political technologists, image makers, public relations specialists, etc. Thus, catch-all-type parties are professionals specializing in participation in election processes.
In this sense, Batkivshchyna, and, subsequently, the BYuT, could be categorized as typical “catch-all” parties, so it is absolutely natural that the bloc absorbed ideologically heterogeneous elements. Even the party’s very name reflected its bent for ideological promiscuity. Batkivshchyna can be easily considered as Hromada’s twin party, if not as its daughter. The fact is that the mere word “hromada” can be translated from Ukrainian as “community, society,” while “batkivshchyna” is translated as “homeland, motherland.” Both names have no ideological or political connotation. They express no political or ideological principles of the parties. They do not indicate the parties’ positions against the political landscape. Just “Community” and just “Motherland” are the words to connote eternal values of patriotism, love, unity, and fidelity. But the names of these next-of-kin political associations point to one more thing – to their “elastic” character, to their efforts to spare themselves possible electoral limits of clear political stance.
Batkivshchyna’s eagerness to “please all” was exposed not only in its name but also in its program documents. Whereas in terms of structure and organization Batkivshchyna was shaped more or less clearly, its ideology was vague and fuzzy to please anyone. Initially, the only thing wanted from a party member or a party supporter was to abhor “Kuchma’s crony oligarch regime.” Then, he or she was supposed to be against “any friends” of Yuschenko, and ultimately – against Batkivshchyna’s chief rivals, the Party of Regions. As concerns issues of principal importance (such as the form of ownership, state structure, relations between labor and capital, interethnic relations, and other fundamentals of the political theory and practice), the party’s leaders opted for the policy of manoeuvring to skip off definite and clear-cut answers.
Here is an illustration of how the Verkhovna Rada questioned Yulia Tymoshenko in a bid to learn about her attitudes to certain problems, when she vied for the speaker’s position in 1998.
“- What is your stance on the issue of awarding the official status to the Russian language?
- I am categorically against force that used to be employed while making Ukraine speak Russian. It was not normal! Every country should have its own language... I am categorically against the use of force now to compel people, despite their wish, formulate their thoughts in Ukrainian. It is a matter of evolution. Nonetheless, I think that some kind of pressure in this sense should be exerted. This process must be encouraged, but not by tough measures!.. Of course, the Russian language does have the right to be used, but the fact that a person speaks Russian must not be used to accuse him or her of not being a patriot. Believe me, I am a nationalist and a patriot even to a greater extent than anybody else present here.
- Your faction unites different people: those who support market relations and others who call to nationalize banks... By the way, in your speech, you proposed such radical things as state administration of the economy and even a referendum on issues of the privatization of land. Please tell us who you really are – the one who supports market relations, or you belong to the other camp.
- Well, I can be hardly called an opponent to market-oriented attitudes... I am quite pragmatic and logical in my understanding of what should be done... State administration is needed for the period of recession. But it is not about command methods of management, it is about managing balances, when we want not only to build capitalism but also to compel it to share. We must be able not only to make money but to share it. And if we observe this principle, there will be no problems either with those who are in favor of market relations or with those who are against.
- What is the uniting factor in Hromada: hatred to the president or money? On the one hand, your minister of culture is Larisa Skorik, on the other hand, you have people who are not nationalists at all. A wild anti-Semite, like Smirnov, on the one hand, and the target of his hatred, on the other. Please explain!
- This is what we call a state experiment to reach a consensus. You can take it from me, it is possible.”
Back then, in 1998, Yulia Tymoshenko’s smart and bold answers that seemed so witty elicited a storm of applause from the audience. But those words could not be taken as an ideology. Her further campaigning methods would never evolve into a comprehensive political platform, either. The party’s theoretical fundament would remain a fragmented structure featuring vague, hardly recognizable approaches. Judging from Batkivshchyna’s party documents and program statements, it can hardly be attributed to a certain category of political parties. And the way it called or described itself was of little help. On the contrary, it was rather a disguise. There are all the grounds to say that it was not an accidental but rather a deliberate position, which was geared to win as much of political and voter support as possible, regardless of ideological preferences of potential voters. In this sense, Yulia Tymoshenko, in the height of her opposition activities when she was busy building her opposition political bloc, spoke in an utterly definite way.
Here is an extract from her interview.
“The world system gives us a great number of examples of the highest appropriateness of unifying ideologically different forces that share one right course and one goal in their striving for victory... The relations with Oleksand Moroz is rather a matter of ethics and politics than of ideology. Figuratively speaking, there are only two forces on the political arena, and in the entire universe – Good and Evil. Ideological dogmas do not work by themselves. We should drop all our differences over such issues as, say, land property forms, the pace of reforms, etc., for the time being. Today, we must be saving Ukraine rather than taking inventory of subtle nuances discriminating between practically identical ideologies.
So, the heap of party programs, platforms and promises to emerge in abundance very soon should be thrown away as trash. They are all about scholasticism pursuing one single aim – to manipulate public opinion.”
On an Internet forum, Yulia Tymoshenko once wrote that she was “categorically against predominance of any ‘isms’ in Ukraine.” Along with other things, such disdain for ideological aspects of party activities could be explained by the specifics of the early development of Ukraine’s political system, such as its nominal multi-party system. In those conditions, immature electoral parties of various sorts that were growing by leaps and bounds were practically indistinguishable, as were their program goals. Moreover, Tymoshenko’s own experience in party engineering taught her that only certain actions and skillful manipulation of public opinion, rather than neatly written programs or publicly announced political aspirations, could bring about a desired result.
In such conditions, a criterion of a party's real ideological basis is its actual policy, which can be either an opposition policy or a ruling-force policy. We shall dwell on it in more detail hereinafter. But, before we do that, I would like to note that it is next to impossible to classify the ideological component of Yulia Tymoshenko's actual policy. This is why representatives from various political forces describe the BYuT and its values and ideas in mutually exclusive terms.
Right-wing critics, for instance, maintain that this party bloc is an advocate of ideas of national communism, and the main concern of its leader is "to capture and share." Thus, according to Dmitry Vydrin, the Communist Party and the BYuT have very similar goals and share the same electorate, since both advocate the same social ideology - "the poor are always right." Here is what he said, "Only the BYuT now is advocating national communism, while communists are professing social-communism. But they have a common basis - communism, when everything is taken away from the rich and given out to the poor, who are always honest and decent. In contrast to the ugly, greedy and treacherous money bags."
Left-wing critics, on the contrary, maintain that neither the BYuT program nor Tymoshenko's rhetoric have anything in common with the communist ideology and the idea of fair re-distribution of national wealth. According to Leonid Grach of the Communist Party, the post-Kuchma ruling "orange" elite, which advocates national liberal ideas, is in an ideological crisis and has to content itself only with ideological surrogates, which are driving it further away from the rest of society. In these circumstance, he aptly noted, Batkivshchyna has become a shelter for heterogeneous political groups, such as nationalists, liberals, petty bourgeoisie. And they all get along together with advocates of populist ideas, just to use them in their own interests.
A representative from the Socialist Party, Yaroslav Mendus, shares the opinion that the BYuT is far from advocating social-democratic and socialist values. In his words, the BYuT, Our Ukraine and the Party of Regions belong to the same liberal political spectrum, with their program approaches and goals coinciding by 95%.
So, in general terms, to reach their goals, the leaders of this instrumentalist-type party association bred in the inetrspecific hybridization seem to be ready to make any alliances (even utterly unnatural ones). They tend to substitute the ideology with political considerations and marketing, where policy-making is nothing else but a sort of business. Students of political science departments know it from textbooks that the winner on the political market is the one who can properly anticipate the demands of its players, the one who is able to get reliable information about mass and group expectations, and, last but not least, the one who can convert these expectations into votes. Analysis of political practices proves that the party bloc led by the more than successful ex-business woman, like any other Ukrainian party, advocates and realizes the ideology of political entrepreneurship, where top managers are the sellers of political goods and services and voters and rank and file party members are involuntary buyers: in the period of elections they hope to be given some services in exchange for their votes.
One of the chief commodity offered for sale by Batkivshchyna-BYuT is the idea of people's wealth. Notably, the bloc is seeking to present itself in the mass consciousness as the "sole distributor" of standards and values of social wellbeing. The word "wellbeing" (pronounced in Ukrainian as "dobrobut") became one of the pivot, meaning-making notions of the party programs (especially their first editions). Bearing the key sense load it soon turned into a program fetish. Early theoretical constructions were a kind of cocktail made up of elements of socialist, social-democratic and bourgeois vocabulary, such as "society of equal possibilities," "a new democratic social system," "society of justice and prosperity," or "society of social solidarity." Back in 1999, a young beginner leader, Yulia Tymoshenko set forth a party task to build a new society of equal possibilities capable of ensuring European living standards for the Ukrainians.
It was manifested in the ideology of paternalism (or rather maternalism, as far as we are speaking about Yulia Tymoshenko) and populism. It goes without saying that there were no such notions either in the party documents or in its leader's rhetoric. In its programs, Batkivshchyna declared itself as a patriotic centrist party of the socio-reformist orientation. Officially, the party's policy was categorized as solidarism. Under the party documents, nationwide solidarity in the socio-political sphere was to be realized in "fair authorities" and "fair social policy," and in "fair formation of people's incomes (instead of wages), as far as the economic sphere was concerned. The BYuT's election program, the Manifesto of Solidarity (December 2005), proclaimed that incomes of hired workers should be made up of three parts - a decent salary, a part of the company's revenues and a portion of earnings per penny stock. This, according to the BYuT, was meant to do away, once and for all, with class division of society into the upper class and the class of hired workers, and to help any working person or a holder of shares ultimately become a businessman.
Analyzing Batkivshchyna's programs in the historical context, one can see an evident tendency: with each next elections, their style was tending to shift from pragmatic concreteness and instrumentalism towards mythologization and literary fiction. From dull documents requiring some intellectual effort to comprehend and understand, they evolve into a product of literary work composed as an enthralling reading matter conceived to produce a strong psychological and emotional impact. Batkivshchyna's program documents of 1999-2007 demonstrated how ideology was transformed into mythology, and party platform theses - into a mass entertainment. So, it looks quite logical that all the recent party events, including the representation of the party program Ukrainian Breakthrough, were organized as colorful, crowded, carnival-like shows.
We shall not further dwell into the details of these programs (see Chapter Mythology of Power), but it is worth mentioning some very important aspects of the problem. First, regular upgrading of the program basis could be seen as an attempt of a kind of communication interventions the party's leaders made in a bid to hit several goals: to refresh their own image, to win the hearts of voters, and to expand the social base of their electorate. These programs were worded and tuned to fit any reader (and a potential voter, at the same time) so that anyone, regardless of the age, gender, education and even political likes, could find something interesting and useful for him- or herself.
Thus, the programs of 1999 and 2004 said that Batkivshchyna's social base was the middle class (white collars, blue collars, businessmen, teachers, medics, the youth and the military) and proclaimed Batkivshchyna as a party of active, enthusiastic and self-motivated people, conscientious citizens who openly defend people's interests in political struggle, do their concrete jobs, who are successful professionals earning their living by themselves, or, in a word, those who are typical representatives of their social stratum and their environment.
However, the latest edition of the program (Ukrainian Breakthrough) issued in the run-up to the early elections of 2007 targeted not the middle class but an "ordinary man," who is the ultimate aspiration for the party. It is this “ordinary man,” who the party bears in mind setting its high romantic goals and offering simple ways to attain to these goals.
Moreover, the party's overall image manifested in its programs has changed with time. Before the "orange revolution" of 2004, it was a party of bellicose opposition, a fighter party, which was at irreconcilable war against the clannish and oligarch regime, it was an advocate of the interests of people who make their living themselves. It was manifested right in the epigraph: "Fight and You will Win. Let God Help You!" The 2007 program, The Ukrainian Breakthrough, departs from the theme of war and confrontation and proclaims the idea of Ukraine's civilizational breakthrough and supremacy in the world. "Our program is a fundamental law of prosperity for our country, it is a program of Life, a program of Action, it is a guide sign for the country in the 21st century."
By the way, it is worth mentioning that initially, Batkivshchyna's ideologists provided exact dates when the party program was to be realized. The first stage (2000-2005), in their view, was seen as a period of rapid development of popular entrepreneurship, when wages were to be raised to the level of the developed countries of Central and Eastern Europe.
At the second stage (2005-2015), Ukraine's economy was to reach a high level of development to become an economy of post-industrial information and innovation type capable of ensuring further growth of people's wealth.
Stage three (2015-2025) was devised to bring Ukraine very close to the living standards in the world's leading nations.
There is no need to compare these obsolete plans with the real state of things. It is obvious that these utopian dreams were never realized and were utterly forgotten even by their authors. But it is worth to compare them with the latest one, the Ukrainian Breakthrough. The experience the party managers already had had by that time clearly taught them that any references to exact dates and figures that could be used to measure what had been actually realized were harmful to such documents. Offering alternative ways of development in its Breakthrough, the BYuT made no time provisions but offered, as a matter of fact, a mythological calendar ("they - Europe - want hundred years, we give three years," "we have a stage-by-stage, day-by-day (?!) calendar of Ukrainian progress," etc.), a mythological space, and even mythological expertise ("we will call a Big Expert Council to scrutinize the Ukrainian Breakthrough project).
On the whole, party documents and the entire activities of Batkivshchyna and the BYuT were filled with post-modernist syncretism, which could bring together things that seem incompatible on the face of it. Ideologists, image-makers and political technologists took bright, vivid, impressive elements out of the general cultural, religious and social context and intellectual store to lend the party and its leader both the topicality of the moment and eternal value. Such techniques made it possible to sense mass moods and voguish ideological tendencies to embed pictures of their own - recognizable, vivid, understandable - in the public consciousness. Hence, one of the BYuT's fundamental principles has been to find a response and mass support everywhere where it is possible - in the north, in the south, and in the east of the country; in church, in enterprises, in universities; among intellectuals, workers and students; among the youth, the elder and people of the middle-age. In other words, the BYuT, like a universal search engine, is tuned to enroll supporters anywhere, even just in a crowd.
For instance, Yulia Tymoshenko has never hesitated to play up her Orthodox side for which reason she is reputed as a zealous and generous parishioner. As far back as in 1998, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church decorated her with the Order of St. Martyr Varvara. It would be too naive to believe that Tymoshenko took part in religious services merely as an individual. She has long been using the Church and religion as a major political resource (as many other Ukrainian politician actually do). Her frequent media-highlighted presence at Orthodox services and her charity activities, as a rule, coincided with the beginnings of canvassing campaigns. And her “great political deeds” used to be timed to fit the Orthodox calendar and were filled with sacral symbolism. Thus, the Ukrainian Breakthrough program envisaged the implementation of twelve strategic lines (connoting to the twelve Biblical apostles ). BYuT’s members even tried to challenge Tymoshenko’s “unlucky”, thirteenth, number in the 2010 list of presidential candidates but she was adamant saying she had never feared this number.
However, despite her ardent commitment to Orthodoxy, she did not strain at sending out Valentine’s Day cards with her photos (pic. 3). Or, on the eve of the Year of Tiger, according to the Chinese Zodiac, to be depicted with a tiger cub in her hands on outdoor advertising posters or on writing-book jackets. These photos were followed by a play on words and meanings: “Yulya (the diminutive form of Yulia) with Tigryulya (the diminutive of the word ‘tiger’)”, “Yulya is Tigryulya,” “Tiger Yulya,” “Yulia is a tiger” – all the way from the symbol of the year 2010 to the king of beasts, and further on – to the president of Ukraine.
Among other ingredients of the post-modern cocktail are the use of loan words and a medley of various artistic and literary styles. Thus, on the one hand, BYuT’s masterminds are demonstratively playing up the Ukrainian roots of the “popular” premier. Along with citing Ukrainian classical literature in their party documents, abundant references to Taras Shevchenko, in the recent years they have been substantiating their conceptions with an extensive use of pieces of folk arts. Traditional embroidery styles used by BYuT members, along with luxurious national-style costumes of the party leader were geared to fix in the public consciousness the Bloc’s ethnic roots and its commitment to national values and traditions.
On the other hand, the traditional, basic ethnic folklore layers easily co-exist with references to the present-day pop-culture (literary novelties, such as the Harry Potter series or the Lord of the Rings epics, popular cartoons, etc.). To put it in a nutshell, the party has been using whatever is familiar to or recognizable by the general public.
Generally speaking, there is no doubt that the party programs have little in common with the actual policy pursued by the party and its leaders. In the real world they have to deal with much more prosaic things: to struggle for power while being in opposition and to try to keep it when having won. So, it should be noted that all these programs were written when the BYuT was in opposition, or in a situation when, as a matter of fact, it bore no responsibility for what was being said. So, such programs are poles apart from those of ruling forces, which have to apply much stricter criteria, to use much more careful statements and to outline much more discreet prospective plans.
However, having a closer look at Yulia Tymoshenko’s speeches, we can see that the difference between her political assessments and statements as an opposition leader and as the head of government is very vague and conventional. As far as Tymoshenko and her party are concerned, the following paradoxical saying can be true: being in opposition she is inclined to behave as though she has all the power in her hand, and vise versa, being at the helm of power she is still in opposition, inwardly. It can be, to a larger extent, explained by the fact that in conditions of political instability she had to change her roles too often.
From the very beginning, Batkivshchyna, and later the BYuT, spoke about themselves as nation-wide political forces. In accordance with generally recognized classifications, the types of parties are determined by their position in the system of relations between the authorities and civil society. Being halfway between the public and government structures, parties are categorized as mass, catch-all, or cartel ones. Whereas the latter two types are typical of the current historic stage, mass parties are believed to be characteristic of earlier stages. Their emergence is generally ascribed to the late 19th – early 20th centuries. According to Richard Katz and Peter Mair, mass, catch-all and cartel parties differ by a range of criteria (table 2).
Types of parties by their position between civil society and the state*
|Popular involvement||Universal suffrage||Universal suffrage||Universal suffrage|
|Distribution of political resources||Relatively concentrated||Less concentrated||Relatively dispersed|
|Key policy goals||Social reforms||Social improvement||Politics as profession|
|Party competitiveness sources||Representation capabilities||Policy efficiency||Managerial skills, efficiency|
|Electoral competitiveness structure||Mobilization-based||Competition-based||Limited|
|Nature of party activity||Activity-intensive||Activity- and capital-intensive||Capital-intensive|
|Basic source of party resources||Membership fees, voluntary contributions||Contributions from many sources||Government subsidies|
|Membership||Mass and homogenous; active involvement on basis of individual identity; focus on rights and liabilities||Membership open for all (heterogeneous and stimulated); focus on rights rather than liabilities; membership is marginal to individual identity||Neither rights, nor liabilities matter (vague difference between members and non-members; focus on members as personalities rather than manpower; assessment by contribution to legitimization myth|
|Relations between rank and file members and elite||“Bottom-up”; elite is answerable to members||“Top-down”; party members are organized to approve elites||Stratarchy; mutual autonomy|
|Communications channels||Party establishes its own communications channels||Party competes for access to nonpartisan communications channels||Party is granted privileged access to state-controlled communications channels|
|Representation style||Delegate||Businessman||State official|
|Position between government and civil society||Party belongs to civil society, members are representatives from relevant segments of civil society||Parties as rival brokers between civil society of government||Party becomes part and parcel of state system|
*Reproduced from Исаев Б.А. Теория партий и партийных систем: учеб. пособие для студентов вузов. М.: Аспект-Пресс, 2008. С. 104-106.
The table gives a clear idea of the BYuT’s position in the typology. It is obvious that by the majority of criteria the BYuT is a universal catch-all party with vestiges of a historically earlier, mass-type party. Moreover, the BYuT demonstrates germs of a cartel-type party. The longer Yulia Tymoshenko stays the party’s leader, the more evident cartel-type characteristics grow.
It is seen in the enthusiastic efforts, including legislative initiatives, the party has been exerting to obtain state financing.
Here is an extract from Yulia Tymoshenko’s interview.
“... Parties are to be financed from the state budget, in line with the law. Otherwise, parties will be sponsored by clans and, hence, will defend their interests.
And I know why the law on budget financing is not being executed. The government is seeking to put the parties that are working in the interests of big corporation at a brink of starvation.”
As soon as Tymoshenko took the office of prime minister, the style of the party’s leader, a state official from no on, gained in representative tints, and her party bloc tried to partially take up some government functions. In the height of the presidential campaign in late 2009, the prime minister, with the help of her political technologists, was quite straight in putting an equal sign between herself and the state of Ukraine. Notorious slogans “Vona Pratsyue” (“She Works”) and “Vona – Tse Ukraiyna” (“She is Ukraine”) established an indissoluble tie between a state official bearing the name Yulia Tymoshenko and a state (a country) called Ukraine.
One typology of party and party system classification stands apart from other such typologies. It is based on criteria distinguishing between such types of political organizations as sects, parties, movements, and coalitions (table 3).
Types of political organizations and their characteristics*
|Relations with authorities||Organizational principles||Social composition|
|Sects||Simulated power struggle||Prevailing centralization||Either absolutely random, or artificially homogeneous|
|Parties||Power struggle targets specific category of society||Alternating tendencies of democratization and centralization||Visible presence of representatives of “target categories of society”|
|Movements||Power struggle targets major part of society, including several social groups||Prevailing decentralization||Balance tending towards new target groups|
|Coalitions||Power struggle targets major part of society, including several social groups||Two-level party life: that of governing bodies and that of member organizations||Motley and dynamic social composition|
*Радкевич С. Как взять и/или удержать власть: секреты строительства непобедимой партии. Ростов-на-Дону: Феникс, 2007. С. 11-14.
Judging by the qualitative, quantitative and organizational parameters cited in table 3, Batkivshchyna – BYuT, nominally a bloc party, demonstrates characteristics typical of a political movement, and even a coalition. Continuous efforts to expand the social base of support result in changes of the Bloc’s social composition in favor of more new target groups. It characterizes the BYuT as a movement and distinguishes it from other parties which struggle for their “own” voters in each and every election campaign. The BYuT’s internal party life however is more typical of a coalition. From democratization and decentralization tendencies characteristic of party structures, the BYuT is tending towards a two-level system when the governing bodies and member organization live their own lives.
However Dmitry Tabachnik, a Ukrainian politician in opposition to the Tymoshenko-led camp, sees traces of sectarianism and totalitarianism in Tymoshenko’s political force. Tabachnik maintains that the BYuT is built on the classical principles of a totalitarian neo-charismatic sect. Key positions in the Tymoshenko cabinet were occupied by the leaders of totalitarian evangelical and neo-charismatic sects, which “spare no effort to promote sectarian totalitarianism in Ukraine and to impose an American model of religious policy.”
Speaking about the BYuT, we should not ignore another very important consideration. Along with the above features and characteristics, there is at least one more characteristic, which can explain many things. It is the corporate business nature of the Bloc, and the entire Ukrainian political system in general. Corporate businesses began their expansion to Ukrainian politics in the later 1990s, when the original accumulation and concentration of capital paved the way for big and medium-sized businesses (corporations). But the country lacked even rudiments of the system of formalized, institutionally fixed representation of interests of businesses, or an institution of lobbying and a legal, civilized practice of advocating their interests. As a matter of fact, despite certain efforts, no institution of lobbying has emerged in Ukraine up till now. Using the parliamentary elections of 1998, Ukrainian capital owners virtually rushed into the legislative branch. In 1998, businessmen had some 20% of seats in the Verkhovna Rada, yielding only to state servants. Back then, Yulia Tymoshenko was quite optimistic about the mass advent of representatives of private capital to the legislature, hoping for mutual understanding and looking at their parliamentary prospects in categories of social peace and cooperation. She hoped that people of business would take actual steps to revive the country’s economy and improve the social situation and that they would show constructive approaches. A beginner in politics, she was sure that people of business would pool their efforts “to assess the qualities of the authorities.”
There is no need to say that, along with national interests, the new generation of businessmen lawmakers saw it as their top priority tasks to lobby their own interests and to build-up their assets and capital by means of the “right” laws. Pinning her hopes on joint contribution “to the economic and political revival of the country,” Yulia Tymoshenko seemed not to see that business-type political corporate parties were on the brink of real warfare for influence on the authorities. And, the BYuT was no exception when it plunged into rivalry with some other parties featuring excessive presence of private capital, such as the Social Democratic Party of Ukraine (United), Labor Ukraine, etc.
But for years, Yulia Tymoshenko’s most serious opponent has been the Party of Regions. It has become an utter truism among Ukrainian political experts that this party is a political knob of the corporate capital of the so-called Donetsk clan. The Party of Regions, which has a range of very rich people coming from Ukraine’s eastern regions, including a billionaire of the Donetsk origin, Renat Akhmetov, among its members, is in the focus of special attention of experts and an easy game for criticism from political opponents. Yulia Tymoshenko, so to speak, strained her voice restlessly criticizing her opponents, calling them “bandits from the Donetsk clan of oligarchs.”
Here is an abstract from Yulia Tymoshenko’s interview.
“The Party of Regions' steering core is one of the most powerful clans, it seeks to use power to increase its capital. This party is nothing else but a petty merger of business and politics, and as soon as it wins, the state will operate on the principles of one enormous corporation, where the executive branch, courts and the mass media are parts of one big mechanism and ordinary people would receive nothing from this mechanism.”
Ironically, the BYuT can also boast to have rather many people of big business. Many of them can easily be called “oligarchs,” the word Tymoshenko is in the habit of throwing in the face of her opponents as a stigma or a four-letter curse. An approximate list of tycoons from Yulia Tymoshenko’s official family (table 4) speaks for itself – the term “party of oligarchs” is well applicable to her bloc as well.
Representatives of big and medium-sized businesses in Yulia Tymoshenko’s Bloc*
|Oleksandr and Serhiy Buryaks
Business: holders of shares in more than ten commercial companies, including Brokbusinessbank, Stirol Concern, UkrAvtoZAZ-Service, Energy Group, Ukrgazgroup, and others
Financial position: according to the Focus magazine rating of Ukraine’s richest people, the Buryak brothers’ capital was estimated at $550 mln in 2006, and at $700 mln in 2007 (according to the Correspondent magazine)
Business: has stake in more than 50 commercial companies, including UkraAVTO Corporation, plus dozens of regional AVTO joint-stock companies
Financial position: according to the Focus magazine rating of Ukraine’s richest people, his capital was estimated at $720 mln in 2006, and at $1 bln in 2007 (according to the Correspondent magazine), or at $1.7 bln (according to Poland’s Wprost)
Business: has stake in commercial companies Ukrainian Industrial and Financial Concern Slavutich, B.I.M. International Legal Firm, Etaloninvest LTD, has interests in the farming sector and in Cherkassygaz, holds a controlling stake in a number of commercial companies. Was involved in litigation over hostile takeover of big land plots in the Kiev region
Financial position: no data
Business: has stake in about 80 commercial structures, including SP stock company and Finance and Credit Bank, Mega Motors, Luganskoblenergo, Berdichev Machine-building Plant, Poltava Unit Plant, and others
Financial position: according to the Forbes rating, ranked among the world billionaires. In 2007, was ranked 891st with a capital of $1 bln. In 2007, the Correspondent magazine estimated his capital at $2.7 bln, and Poland’s Wprost – at $3.2 bln
Business: has stake in some 20 commercial structures, including AVEK & Co Concern, Bogodukhiv Tannery, Orilsky Sugar Mill, Kharkov’s Barabashevsky, Central and Konny markets
Financial position: according to the Focus magazine, his capital is estimated at $224 mln, but Feldman himself says his capital is underrated and assesses his assets at $1bln
*From: Руденко С. Вся Юлина рать. Окружение Юлии Тимошенко от «А» до «Я». Киев: Саммит-Книга, 2007.
Having such business sharks in her party, it would be only natural to refrain from stigmatizing “other parties’ oligarchs” for anyone but Yulia Tymoshenko. Her party’s myth composed, as a matter of fact, by herself tells the world the story of “her own,” good, benevolent, fair businessmen who are members of the BYuT bloc and about “alien,” evil and vicious business sharks.
Here is an abstract from Yulia Tymoshenko’s interview.
“... Many now are saying that the BYuT has the so-called financial bloc made up of oligarchs who tend to violate the faction discipline; we do have businessmen but not oligarchs in our faction. To my mind, oligarchs are people who possess capital with the criminal origin, who seize control of the mass media and contract puppet government officials. We do have businessmen. But they abide by the general political regulations and cannot push through illogical decisions. They may vote in a different way but this is all they can do... These people have a chance either to build a country or make off with it along with the Party of Regions.”
The topic of the BYuT’s oligarchs however has a hidden agenda. The thing is that the bulk of them made their moneis under Leonid Kuchma and stuck to the pro-presidential course for quite a long time. Thus, in the period from 2002 to 2005, or before Yulia Tymoshenko took over the helm of the Bloc, Tariel Vasadze and the Buryak brothers used to be members of four parliamentary factions and two lawmaker groups that, in this or that way, made up a pro-presidential majority (United Ukraine, Labor Ukraine, the Ukrainian Party of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs).
With this in mind, a journalist once asked Yulia Tymoshenko in a rather scoffing way:
“Zhivago, Gubsky, the Buryaks, Abdulin, Vasadze – are they long-time fighters against the regime???!!! What were the reasons to include them in your list other than their money?
The answer was as follows:
“All those who pass through the purgatory of the BYuT, whether they want it or not, become fighters against the regime. And the results of their recent voting prove this.”
Yulia Tymoshenko seems not to spare encouraging words in respect of her obedient oligarchs. Sometime, her eloquent rhetoric runs too high:
“People’s deputies who represent big business in our faction are fighting to the bitter end! Not for their wealth but for Ukraine, they are fighting for Ukraine with a capital “U” for their children! And I hope I am not wrong about them.”
Yulia Tymoshenko badly needs a myth of the great reformatory and educating role of her party. Otherwise, it seems to be hard to explain why, from time to time, the BYuT takes on people from the “enemy” camp, people, with whom, Tymoshenko claims, she does not have and cannot have anything in common. The logic is quite plain: those who quit the BYuT are betrayers, arch-traitors selling their lofty ideals for thirty pieces of silver; those who join the bloc are vagabond souls who have recovered their sight to take a proper path.
An abstract from Tymoshenko’s interview.
“They say you have too many former pro-Kuchma people. How come they are now in your camp?
There were a great number of lawmakers who lived under the Kuchma regime, who depended on Kuchma and were unable to go to prison, like I did... I was pleased to see people who used to conform to the Kuchma regime getting a lungful of fresh air and join our team...
But aren’t they simply time-servers, like those who took sides with Yushchenko?
Our team has a cemented, strong core, people who are committed to their ideas and values and no one can shake their convictions. So, new people who join us will have to either accept these ideas and go on with our team or to quit, if they cannot live with such principles. No one will be able to change our vision of Ukraine’s future. And those who have been forming and are forming the core of Our Ukraine, they are forming the policy, influencing decision-making. This is the difference.”
From the very beginning, when she was only developing her own managerial style, the Batkivshchyna leader had to balance between democratism, corporativism and authoritarianism. At first, when the faction, and later the party, badly needed more fresh forces, Yulia Tymoshenko practiced democratic methods, such as talking shops, pluralism, team-spirit building, and free voting.
But as time passed by and the struggle between the parliamentary parties for the majority grew fiercer, democratic traditions were winding down. As the party was struggling to win votes in the elections, or to win over as many lawmakers as possible, strict discipline and unconditional obedience to the leaders were coming to the fore.
This approach became still more important when a more heterogeneous and loose structure – the Yulia Tymoshenko Bloc – was formed. It was then that rigorous methods were employed to bring discipline in a bid to boost political efficiency, to put down the ambitions of newcomer politicians and force everyone to march to the leader’s tune. Tymoshenko widely practiced striking written deals on the faction membership, along with the agreements envisaged by the official regulations. To the request of the Bloc leader, candidates for parliamentary seats and lawmakers had to sign written commitments to abide by certain rules or requirements.
Thus, in 2006, BYuT lawmakers gave Tymoshenko written consent of their readiness to join the opposition. It is also known that when she enticed lawmakers from other groups, also in 2006, she had them sign voluntary faction membership termination notices and piled these papers in her lock box.
When asked to comment, she told a journalist:
“Yes, it is true. I would not try to conceal these things. It was done not only in respect of those who came from the alien camp but in respect of all, without any exceptions. I think it is a justified guarantee... But I am not going to use any of these notices, I want to encounter problems face-to-face.”
Each BYuT contender for a seat in the parliament also signed a statement of commitment and gave his or her consent to mandatory voting for stripping lawmakers of local legislatures of immunity and also for amending the constitution to restrict the immunity of Ukrainian parliament members. The BYuT undertook in a written form not to ally with Yanukovych. And finally, personal voluntary parliament seat vacating notices written by the BYuT faction members in 2007 were another evidence proving the strictest party discipline and unconditional obedience to the leader. Back then, Tymoshenko resorted to this step to ensure legal grounds to appoint early parliamentary elections. Several persons who refused to do that were ruthlessly expelled from the party and branded as traitors.
All this demonstrates that behind the guise of a “party of democratic orientation,” in fact, was a rather rigid and undemocratic, authoritarian-type political structure of the mobilization nature. And there were a number of reasons for that. A key reason was the party’s opposition status (notably, the situation never changed even when Tymoshenko was Prime Minister, or when the BYuT was a majority faction in the parliament). Apart from that, the confrontation with a more or less equal political opponent – the Party of Regions – served as a consolidating factor.
According to the Bloc’s insider, its former member Myhailo Brodsky, practically all in-party appointments were made by Yilia Tymoshenko or under her control. There was no competition inside the party. “All eyes are focused on the party’s owner, so the party is nothing else but another big United Energy System of Ukraine, where the party’s secretariat is a HR department. A person with alternative views is an outcast,” he said.
When asked why he had parted with the BYuT, another party’s “outlaw,” Dmitry Vydrin, said half-jokingly: “I have never parted with the BYuT, since it is a rather phantom organization and I am a man of flesh and blood and belong to this world. So, I parted with another person of flesh and blood, Yulia Volodymyrivna Tymoshenko. We parted because of the factor of age, since, to my mind, men tend to be more liberal with age, while women – more authoritarian (bitches, as people say). That’s all.”
In the heat of a dispute, Yulia Tymoshenko once even boasted her authoritarian ways, although, as a rule, she is in the habit of underlining the team spirit, democratism and collectivism so typical of her bloc.
An abstract from Tymoshenko’s interview.
“Of course, I am authoritarian. And, frankly speaking, I don’t think it is a disadvantage for a leader. I think there is room for discussion only before a decision is taken. But as soon as it is taken, authoritarianism, if not dictatorship of the leader, is needed to have it realized. To advance reforms, especially radical reforms, we do not need an open palm or tender fingers, we need a firm fist. We need a very resolute and concrete work rather than hours-long discussions.”
One can be absolutely positive that a situation like the one that took place in the Party of Regions was absolutely ruled out in the BYuT. In December 2007, when the Party of Regions was in opposition, Viktor Yushchenko appointed Raisa Bogatyreva, a deputy leader of the Party of Regions’ parliamentary faction, Secretary of the National Security and Defence Council, a position directly subordinate to the president. Many then labeled her as a traitor. In deed, from the very first days in office, the new secretary of the National Security and Defence Council voiced a number of statements and took a number of decisions that ran counter to the Party of Regions’ program course. Thus, Bogatyreva had to publicly support Yushchenko’s NATO-Ukraine action plan. It was not until September 2008, when she echoed Yushchenko’s pro-Georgian comments of the Georgian-South Ossetian armed conflict, that she was expelled first from the Party of Regions’ political council and then from the party itself.
As for the BYuT, any deviation from the party course or a demonstration of a personal position different from that of the party’s leaders is suppressed promptly and harshly.
These examples show the differences between the Party of Regions and the BYuT. There is a gap between the Party of Regions’ evident proneness to compromises with the authorities and its leaders’ loyalty to dissident fellow party members and Tymoshenko’s uncompromising attitudes, inexorability in respect of any deviations from her orders, and her rigorous requirements to the in-party discipline.
An abstract from Tymoshenko’s interview.
“Eight your lawmakers voted for the budget [in defiance of the faction’s decision – the author]. What the faction is going to do about them?
These people are betrayers of our faction.
Are you going to expel them?
I think we shall go to court to expel them from the parliament rather than from the faction only...”
Lavishing praises on her fellow party members in her plentiful interviews, Yulia Tymoshenko nonetheless shows, quite obviously, iron-hand leader qualities. Well, maybe it is thanks to this, she managed to achieve what other Ukrainian party leaders could not. Relying on the party structures she and her staunch supporters from the parliament group created and steered ten years ago, she managed to climb the top of the power ladder.
But as far as we speak about the efficiency of Tymoshenko’s party structures, we should not ignore the main thing: the chief “commodity” on the political market is not a party or a bloc, but Yulia Tymoshenko and her personality. The Batkivshchyna, or even the BYuT, minus their leader are much less marketable. In any case, they could have hardly achieved whatever good results at any elections without their number one.
The BYuT can be attributed to the category of leader-dependent, personified political associations. Such associations have a pyramid-like organization (grass-roots organizations at the base, and the leader at the top), with vertical relations prevailing over horizontal ones and the leaders dominating over the rest of the party. So, it would not be an exaggeration to say that the BYuT is a collective assistant to Yulia Tymoshenko. In-bloc relations are based on unconditional recognition of her authority and her sole right to take final decisions.
A BYuT insider, its former member Dmitry Vydrin, once drew a parallel between the bloc and a bee colony, where Yulia Tymoshenko was a queen bee with the rest of bees working restlessly to provide for her. “A queen bee never tells her worker bees why they must do these or those things. She makes them obey by means of biochemical ferments. The situation in Tymoshenko’s bloc is absolutely the same, with the only one minor reservation: the ferments she uses are emotional or visual ones.” He said he had witnessed more than once a situation like this: after an exchange of remarks during a faction meeting BYuT lawmakers were about to arrive at a final decision. But there came Tymoshenko saying something absolutely opposite and everybody was clapping hands in utter joy. “I am sure, suppose Yulia Volodymyrivna addressed an audience of men only saying ‘The president has finally agreed to have all of you emasculated, congratulations to all,’ everyone of them would be shouting hurrah in an utter joy,” he said.
Despite all their sarcasm, such words evidence that the atmosphere of veneration, respect, or maybe adoration, reined inside the Tymoshenko bloc until recently. The party leader could count on whatever support, obedience and can-do attitudes ever imaginable. No doubt, she made use of such state of things (not without carrot-and-stick approaches, or course). Her official family was willingly nursing the halo of Tymoshenko’s exclusiveness, with the gentle sex copying her styles and the stronger sex trying to please her or to fulfil her orders, whatever strange they might seem. In general terms, BYuT’s members showed little criticism towards their leader, at least until the presidential polls of 2010, and were united by if not deep-seated but rather explicit faith in her, in her success, to be more precise. No wonder, Yulia Tymosheno is a charismatic personality, after all.
Her charisma is iconically vivid and luminous. She perfectly fits the majority of textbook characteristics. For instance, according to political science manuals, charismatic leadership is based on people’s belief in a leader’s God-chosen nature or his or her exceptional personal qualities. In this respect, Yulia Tymoshenko prefers not to wait until people recognize her “natural right” to be a leader. She takes vigorous efforts to make them believe she has been really “chosen by God” and, hence, has the right to fulfil her special mission.
An abstract from Tymoshenko’s speech.
“It happened so, and one must admit and understand it, that now, in the time of the gravest global troubles, our team has found itself at the key leadership positions. For quite a time, I have asked myself one very simple question: why it was our team and why it was me as a prime minister to happen to be at the helm of power in the most difficult conditions of a political crisis, in the stiffest conditions of the global financial and economic crisis. It is we who must undertake the entire responsibility, to take unpopular decisions and govern the country. I don’t think it was a mere accident. God helps only those teams come to power in the hardest time that take a punch and go forward, that can ignore obstacles, that can take unexpected decisions and yield results in the most difficult conditions.”
She is trying to picture herself and her team as a handful of early Christians defending their religion in a pagan environment.
“They used to throw early Christians to wild beasts to entertain the Romans. I think the authorities would be glad see such a show at the Dynamo stadium and would hurry to sell tickets to it at the office of the Social Democratic Party of Ukraine (United). But we know that the lions spared the saints. I am absolutely confident that a strong faith is the best protection,” Tymoshenko pronounced in the run-up to the presidential elections of 2004.
Social psychologists note that charismatic leaders prefer to appeal to the emotional component of the mass consciousness seeking to make large groups of people, at a right moment as seen by these leaders, feel insecure of future, be worried for themselves and their near and dear and seek protection from the leader. And when a society is in turmoil of goes through dramatic social changes (radical reforms, modernization, revolutions, etc.), it becomes much easier to manipulate the unstable psycho-emotional state of people.
Yulia Tymoshenko also makes a wide use of the tactic of intimidation. Her every-day rhetoric is conceived to fan fear of and hatred to enemies (and, of course, to demonstrate her own boldness), especially as far as her political opponents are concerned. As the situation becomes critical, intimidation techniques become ever more sophisticated. Thus, in November 2004, when election battles between Viktor Yushchenko and Viktor Yanukovych were in full swing, the "orange revolution" leaders were spreading rumors alleging that Russia was about to send its riot police forces to break up protesters on Maidan. Moreover, they even alleged these policemen had been ordered to shoot to kill. It was Yulia Tymoshenko who was too zealous to spread such allegations. Later, she recognized she had been wrong and excused herself saying that the uniform these people were wearing had no identification signs and she had taken them for Russian riot police. But back then, when she "exposed" the criminal design of "revolution opponents" and courageously led protesters to the presidential administration building, she won virtually unlimited trust of a major part of those who had come to support Yushchenko.
Another example demonstrating Tymoshenko's skillful use of psycho-emotional techniques is the way she behaved as prime minister when a flu epidemic broke out in the run-up to the presidential polls in the winter of 2009. Some experts say she deliberately spread panic trying to use anti-flu campaign in as a canvassing tool. According to the Polish Centre of Eastern Studies, at first, the Tymoshenko government caused panic among the population, and then staged a show of active anti-flu campaign, virtually seizing the competencies of local healthcare agencies and self-governments.
It is generally recognized that another manifestation of charisma is personal charm a person uses to impart his of her ideas to people, to fill them with gratefulness and love, and make them obey. So, the rapid growth of the BYuT and Tymoshenko supporter base in general can be explained by her personal charms. However it should be noted that despite having inborn qualities of a "charming leader" she deliberately cultivated these qualities and demonstrated them to the public.
Psychologists agree that a key attribute of charisma is persistence. Persistent people are distinguished by their energy, enthusiasm, determination, and steadfastness. "Always expressing the same ideas, repeating the same gestures over and over again, they drive away any uncertainty and sluggishness. They are seen as people who are completely committed to a task of ensuring the victory – of an army, a religion, a party, or a state - whatever it might take," Viktor Sheinov writes about charisma. It seems like it was said about Tymoshenko - just look how much effort she took to clear her way off political opponents and how inexorably she was moving towards her long-cherished goal - the presidential office.
In this context, I would like to cite a rather long abstract from Dmitry Vydrin's notes about Yulia Tymoshenko.
"She is practically invincible. She is stronger than her opponents because she has some very useful psychological qualities. Yulia excels all in terms of the speed of thinking and flexibility. She has no ideological, no historic, nor moral memory. It is impossible to drive into a corner an immoral person without scruples... She meets her each next partner with the freshness of feelings because she can erase from her memory all the offences and insults she might have committed to this person... It is so typical of Tymoshenko to call someone a bandit, a thief, a murderer, a scoundrel and any sort of other insulting names and then, in just no time, to smile at this person vowing fidelity and partnership. She is absolutely superficial and knows little about the problems and issues she is tackling. She is like a skimmer boat sliding on the surface at an enormous speed while other working tugboats are dragging for meanings and essences, going into ideological details.
... Tymoshenko is imitating economic reforms, army reforms. On the face of it, they look quite smart, like her program, the Ukrainian Breakthrough, but they do not work because Yulia Volodymyrivna has no idea of how it all should be arranged."
This is what he writes to explain people’s adoration of her:
"Yulia Volodymyrivna intuitively finds like-minded people. If not all but many want to be so incredibly light, to be able hopping in life so triumphantly as Tymoshenko is hopping on the political arena. It is fascinating. It is much more catching to watch a skimmer boat race than to watch a regatta of barges heavily loaded with coal. It is a natural reaction to lustre and tinsel. We are living in the age of glamour. People are aware that it is fake gold but vermeil is better than dirt and corns."
Such words deheroize Tymoshenko, expose her as a personality and a politician. Despite the fact that back in early 2009, he forecasted her victory at the presidential elections, as a matter of fact, he characterized her as a pseudo-charismatic leader, or a caliph for an hour, to put it figuratively. He gives to understand that Tymoshenko's strength and grandeur are rooted in her ability to exploit human weaknesses and narrow-mindedness rather than in her inherent strength and grandeur.
To my mind, these characteristics are generally right but too harsh and obviously insulting for a political leader who aspires after the supreme state position and, more to it, after the role of a "people's deputy," and a "leader." Nonetheless, a number of direct and indirect signs testify that Tymoshenko's charisma is beginning to fade away. Opinion polls (whether Tymoshenko likes it or not) show that the pendulum of popular sympathy has swung towards her opponents. It was an unpleasant surprise for Tymoshenko in the run-up to the presidential elections of 2010 to learn that Viktor Yanukovych, with his more than 10%, was more popular than herself. It vividly demonstrated that she was far from having national support. Let alone her defeat, although a narrow one, at the presidential polls.
In the run-up to the presidential elections in 2010, it became absolutely clear that the peak of Tymoshenko's popularity was over. Yulia Mostovaya, an expert in the Ukrainian political elite, editor-in-chief of the Zerkalo Nedeli newspaper, characterized the chief contenders for the presidential office - Yulia Tymoshenko, Viktor Yanukovych, and Viktor Yushchenko – as people "running home from the marketplace," i.e. people who are ending their lives in politics because the presidential office will be a stopover "on the way back" even for the winner. According to Mostovaya, whoever wins the elections, the country will benefit nothing, since both teams (a fact, which is especially insulting to Tymoshenko) have demonstrated intellectual and moral insolvency.
Tymoshenko hates to hear people say and write that her bloc is over-personified. She wants to picture herself a leader of a European-type party rather than a leader of a leader-type party typical of the post-Soviet states. Nonetheless, both Batkivshchyna and the BYuT are "colossi on Yulia's feet." But for her name, but for her energy, and but for her presence as the leader, these political forces can hardly have had (or would have) any future. (It looks quite logical that after the resignation of her government her faction was demanding that a permanent pass to the Verkhovna Rada be granted to Tymoshenko.) In any case, this party organization is very much likely to share the fate of its leader.
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