Sept. 7, 2005, 11:30 p.m. |
A disaster, yes, but one with a silver lining
of Oleksandr Zinchenko, President Viktor Yushchenko’s chief of staff and a core member of the team that led last year’s Orange Revolution. Zinchenko said he quit in protest of what he described as pervasive corruption around Yushchenko, as supposedly epitomized by Security and Defense Council Secretary Petro Poroshenko. The latter has been called “Yushchenko’s oligarch” for being the biggest tycoon to openly support then-opposition leader Yushchenko.
The problem ought to be a big one, if Zinchenko’s behavior is any indication. Rather than doing the usual thing disgruntled government underlings do – quietly tell his boss he’s quitting and then announce to the media that he wants to spend more time with his family – Zinchenko created a media circus, organizing a press conference to present his incendiary charges about the ethical rot at the Yushchenko administration’s core. It was one of the strangest political events we’ve ever seen, especially since Poroshenko was in the room. Startling photographs show Poroshenko staring at his former ally with a blanched expression of utter hatred.
What does all this mean for the country? If Zinchenko’s credible, we now have shocking first-hand evidence that the Orange Revolution was not the radical break with the Ukrainian past we hoped it was, and that core members of the Yushchenko team really are the opportunists and crooks they’ve been accused of being. The incident is an incredible embarrassment for Ukraine and Yushchenko, and one that Yushchenko’s enemies will exploit. Up in the Kremlin, Russian President Vladimir Putin has already busied himself doing so.
Nonetheless, in the long run, the Zinchenko affair represents a step in the right direction. Even if some around Yushchenko are as bad as Zinchenko says, the governing team is still better than the one that ran Ukraine before January of this year.
In addition, Zinchenko’s behavior will further push Ukraine in the direction of responsible governance. Battle lines are now drawn between the various factions in Yushchenko’s coalition government: everything is out in the open. We foresee a long internecine struggle in which the government’s true reformists battle the coalition’s shysters and parasites.
This struggle will represent the next stage in the purification of Ukraine’s political system, and the next step in Ukraine’s development. It will go on with or without President Yushchenko, a decent but weak leader. That’s okay – the Orange Revolution was never completely about him, anyway.
Like the doctor who lances a boil, Zinchenko inflicted immediate pain that brought with it the promise of eventual healing. Now that the infection’s popped, let the disinfection begin.