Successful provisional governments are quickly forgotten. Failed provisional governments, like the one during the 1917 Russian revolution, can be remembered forever.
Ukraine’s current provisional government already has, in many ways, outstayed its welcome. If the May 25 presidential election produces a definitive result, however, it still has a chance of quietly leaving the stage.
Provisional governments have one essential task: restore legitimate rule. In virtually all cases, it is a race against time. Indeed, the designation “provisional” carries a lame-duck status, since it conveys a sense of temporariness that undermines the stability of a regime.
The Ukrainian provisional government is no exception. It clearly lacks the authority to rewrite the constitution and forge the political consensus necessary to keep the country together. The presidential election, by itself, will not find this elusive middle ground. But it can at least resolve the question of power — the first step in the process of finding a political solution.
As with other countries in transition, the Ukrainian provisional government emerged out of political and economic collapse. President Viktor Yanukovych had bankrupted the country, trampled the constitution and ultimately chose to fire on demonstrators before fleeing the country with a substantial part of the treasury in his suitcase. But while an overwhelming majority of Ukraine’s legislature, the Supreme Rada, voted for Yanukovych’s removal, the constitutionally designated impeachment process was not formally observed.