Yushchenko dissolves Ukrainian parliament, exacerbating instability

Yushchenko dissolves Ukrainian parliament, exacerbating instability

On 8 October 2008, Ukraine President Viktor Yushchenko dissolved the country`s parliament, triggering the fourth major political crisis in the country in as many years.  In his short, seven-minute address...

On 8 October 2008, Ukraine President Viktor Yushchenko dissolved the country`s parliament, triggering the fourth major political crisis in the country in as many years.  In his short, seven-minute address carried live on all Ukrainian television stations, he called the parliament "undemocratic" and "populist" and criticized it, as well as the government named by parliament as being ineffective and unable to implement necessary reforms.

Those close to the situation, however, suggest that the move is designed to kick-off Yushchenko`s campaign for the 2010 presidential elections by undermining his more popular rival, Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko. 

Negative impact on gas negotiations?

Energy specialists worry that the action will unravel the complicated outline agreement just signed by Tymoshenko and Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin in Moscow that allows Ukraine to purchase gas from Russia at below market prices over the next three years and removes all shady gas intermediaries from the process.  Negotiations were ongoing to determine pricing details even as Yushchenko dissolved the parliament.

 Financial markets rocked

The decision is likely to rock the country`s jittery financial markets, which have just begun to feel the effects of the global financial crisis.  Trading was shut down yesterday on Ukraine`s stock market as word came that dissolution of the parliament was likely.  The hryvnia currency plunged to an "all time low" against the dollar, according to the central bank (5.9/$1).

EU and US concerns over gas and Russia

Any instability in energy and financial markets will cause serious concern in the EU, which depends on Ukrainian pipelines for the majority of its gas, and which looks to Ukraine as a potential stabilizing force in the new post-Georgia atmosphere.  With Yushchenko’s action, the country plunges into uncertainty.

 Europeans and Americans also will be concerned that political battles in Kyiv could allow Russia to increase its foothold in Crimea, where the majority of residents speak Russian as their first language, and where a number of politicians have campaigned for independence.  Those calls have been ignored by the majority of Crimeans in the past, however, chaos at the center cannot but have a negative impact on the situation.

The near future

Legally, the decision must lead to the resignation of the government of Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, although the cabinet will continue to work in an acting capacity through the election.  A new election must be held within 60 days.  Following this election, the parliament must form a majority coalition, then nominate and confirm a new prime minister and cabinet.  

The pretext for Yushchenko`s action is an article within the constitution that provides him the right, although not the duty, to disband parliament if a majority coalition does not exist for 30 days.  On 3 September, Yushchenko`s bloc, Our Ukraine-People`s Self Defense, pulled out of the majority coalition with the Bloc of Yulia Tymoshenko.  The timing of Yushchenko`s declaration is questionable, however, since the parliament only declared the coalition disbanded on 16 September.  This would suggest that Yushchenko acted before the 30 day window had expired.

Yushchenko suggested that Tymoshenko`s failure to strongly condemn Russian actions in Georgia and her support for a bill that removed the President`s unilateral right to dismiss the prosecutor general constituted a breach of the coalition agreement, and he therefore encouraged his bloc`s members to withdraw.

Yushchenko rejects a reformatted coalition with Tymoshenko; President’s ratings a concern

Since then, Tymoshenko has scrambled to put together a new coalition.  In the last several days, she formed an alliance with the small bloc of former speaker Volodymyr Lytvyn. Six of the parties in Yushchenko`s bloc also signed on to the reformatted coalition.  However, Yushchenko`s closest allies balked, and on 7 October, according to former Defense Minister Anatoliy Hrytsenko and one of Yushchenko`s bloc members, the president refused to discuss the issue of a reconstituted coalition with Tymoshenko.

 According to recent polls, Tymoshenko and Yushchenko`s former presidential opponent, Viktor Yanukovych, should come out of these new elections well.  Yushchenko`s bloc is trailing in the polls and conceivably could fail to pass the threshold to enter the new parliament.  For this reason, most Ukrainian experts remain perplexed as to Yushchenko`s reasoning. 

 It appears that Ukrainians blame Yushchenko for a failure to deliver on promises made during the Orange Revolution.  Despite Yushchenko`s campaign promises to "put the bandits in jail" during the Orange Revolution, for example, no major political crimes have been solved.  Additionally, over four years and four separate governments, few of the promised economic reforms have been enacted. The most likely date for the new election is December 7th.

By Tammy Lynch, Ph.D.

Senior Fellow, ISCIP

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