On the one hand, Yuriy Lutsenko’s release could be treated in the foreign policy arena as an outset of changes of President Yanukovych’s policy in respect to political prisoners and “the selective justice”. However, in the domestic policy arena such a release could be used to try to edge the personal conflicts within the parliamentary opposition on the grounds of the struggle for personal leadership inside the Yatsenyuk-Klitschko-Tyahnybok triumvirate, and the right to run for president as “a single candidate from the opposition” or just as “the most rated” among the parliamentary opposition leaders.
Here, presidential advisors might expect the emergence of a line of future ideological conflict between Lutsenko and Oleh Tyahnybok, as well as with Arseniy Yatsenyuk (as leaders of the “non-parliamentary” and “parliamentary”, “moral” and “pragmatic” oppositions). The latter would provoke problems inside the Batkivshchyna fraction, and would therefore enhance the regime’s position in parliament, as well as during the presidential elections.
Yuriy Lutsenko will take an active part both in public politics and the shadow negotiations between different political actors. Lutsenko’s appearance in the political arena changes the oppositional “three” into “four”, and thus complicates the preconditions for reaching arrangements, and allows more room for manoeuvring with presidential political techniques among the interests of the opponents of President Yanukovych. The first thing they might throw into the media scene is the analogy to the failure of “Kanivska chetvirka” (“the Kaniv Four”) in the 1999 presidential elections.
On the other hand, Yuriy Lutsenko will inevitably bring the issue of Yulia Tymoshenko immediately into focus: starting from her physical liberation, to recognising her as “the leader of the opposition”, which is more important than the present “trio” put together. This could also impact the ambitions and interests of Yatsenyuk-Klitschko-Tyahnybok and would clearly complicate their tasks.
Eventually, the appearance of such a political figure as Yuriy Lutsenko would inevitably lead to an attempt at setting up a new political project headed by him, as he would unlikely join any of the current three oppositional actors.
In a word, the government might see in the “Lutsenko factor” some additional opportunities for manoeuvring and manipulation. The regime, however, faces the risk of losing control over the situation, as is the case of any force majeure, the leader of the future mass resistance will be free and in the thick of action.
Translated by Olena Shynkarenko
Volodymyr Horbach is a political analyst at the Institute for Euro-Atlantic Cooperation in Kyiv and Editor-in-Chief of the EuroAtlantica Web site.
Read more commentary on the Lutsenko pardon at: https://www.neweasterneurope.eu/node/739