Ukraine`s politicians settle in for the long haul

Ukraine`s politicians settle in for the long haul

Yushchenko suggested that he is willing to talk about the possibility of pushing the new election back, in order to provide better preparation time. However, in order to move the elections back, Yushchenko would have to either rescind or reissue his decree.

On 2 April, President Viktor Yushchenko’s signature on a decree dissolving the parliament began a period of heated rhetoric, posturing and uncertainty. On 10 April, however, Yushchenko altered his position in favor of negotiation – and perhaps some type of agreement.

In talks with Yanukovych, Yushchenko reportedly offered to “suspend” his decree, in order to allow more time for new elections to be prepared.  They are currently set for 27 May.  (1)

The task for Yushchenko today, however, is to ensure that any agreement does not jeopardize the position he has carefully carved out for himself and his allies.

When he dissolved parliament, Yushchenko accused members of parliament of conducting a “fraudulent policy of intrigues and betrayals,” in order to unconstitutionally increase the majority coalition.  He called this a “threat to our country and nation.”   (2)

The move signified a strong return to political relevance for Yushchenko, who had become isolated and seen his powers drastically reduced.

Parliament immediately refused to uphold the presidential decree.   MPs called protestors out onto the streets, warned of “a split” between the East and West of the country, appealed the decree to the Constitutional Court, announced a boycott of the new elections, and suggested that new presidential elections be held.

But on 9 April, both Yanukovych and Yushchenko sounded a conciliatory note. In an interview published in the Polish newspaper Rzeczpospolita, Yanukovych called for compromise and seemed to accept the idea of a new election, but not on 27 May.

“Elections cannot take place on 27th May, as President Yushchenko is demanding,” he said. If, of course, we are talking of honest and democratic elections - it is necessary to decide on many technical questions, [and] form election commissions.”  (3)

Yushchenko, for his part, announced a 15 point compromise plan, which included everything from committing to pass certain legislation, to “restoring a balance” among various political forces, to supporting the idea of new elections.  It was unclear, though, just what Yushchenko hoped to accomplish with most of these points and what he is prepared to sacrifice, in order to reach an agreement.

In response to a question from reporters, Yushchenko suggested that he is willing to talk about the possibility of pushing the new election back, in order to provide better preparation time.  “This can be discussed in the negotiations,” he said. (4)

However, in order to move the elections back, Yushchenko would have to either rescind or reissue his decree.  Article 77 of the Ukrainian constitution says, “Extraordinary elections [to the] Supreme Soviet of Ukraine are appointed by [the] President of Ukraine and conducted [within] the period of sixty days from the day of publishing of the decision about stopping of plenary powers of the Supreme Soviet of Ukraine.” (5)

The decree was published on April 3.  The current election is set for 27 May, or 55 days after the publication of the decree.  Adding the constitutional five extra days would place the election on a Friday.

This would lead to a host of questions, most notably regarding a string of rash legislation “passed” by parliament, following its dissolution. Parliament has rescinded some of these “laws,” in an attempt to convince Yushchenko to capitulate.  It is unclear, however, how parliament would make use of any extra time provided to it, particularly since Speaker Oleksandr Moroz’s Socialist Party may not reach the next parliament.

Yanukovych also likely is looking for a guarantee that Yushchenko will not stand in the way of his reappointment as prime minister, if his party should secure a parliamentary majority following the election.  Furthermore, he and his allies no doubt would like guarantees that their business interests will not be undercut or targeted for investigation, should the opposition form a

majority.

Agreements for immunity on any questionable activities conducted by government ministers also likely will be requested, as will concessions regarding possible posts in a new opposition-led government, in regional administrations, or in the country’s industrial monopolies.

On 11 April, Yanukovych ratcheted up the rhetoric again when he insisted that he would agree only to parliamentary elections held simultaneously with presidential elections. (6)  It is likely that Yushchenko would lose these elections.

Yushchenko must be careful not to give away too much, however.  His tendency to do so in the past allowed Yanukovych to isolate him and undermine his authority.  It also allowed a return of certain tactics that were thought to have been banished during the Orange Revolution of 2004.  These tactics included pressure (both legal and physical) on media outlets and what appeared to be open intimidation of political opponents.

As noted previously in The Analyst, during March representatives from Ukraine’s Prosecutor-General’s Office (PGO) suddenly searched the apartment of former Interior Minister and former Orange Revolution organizer Yuriy Lutsenko.  The parliament then asked the PGO to investigate former Prime Minister and Orange Revolution leader Yulia Tymoshenko’s dealings as head of a gas intermediary in the mid-1990s.   Both Lutsenko and Tymoshenko had announced that they would lead major protest actions in the spring. (7)

At the same time, the Ukrainian National Television Channel 1 cancelled its only political debate program, Toloka, after Tymoshenko and Vyacheslav Kyrylenko of Yushchenko’s Our Ukraine bloc appeared on the program.  This followed on the heels of a number of incidents of reported pressure against local and regional media outlets. (8)  These tactics do not suggest a government that is moving toward consolidating an open, transparent democracy.

Yushchenko so far is in the “power” position.  He seized the initiative on 2 April and has not released it.  Yanukovych’s allies have been unable to mount effective street protests, never matching the numbers promised.  The decision by five Constitutional Court judges to recuse themselves from the case, and the delay in the Court’s hearing of the arguments does not bode well for a quick decision – or perhaps for any decision at all.  Therefore, the President’s decree remains in effect.

Yushchenko has the chance to protect the gains made by Ukraine in 2004. Yanukovych has the chance to transform his party into an organization truly representing the will of his voters.  The true goals of both will become clear as their negotiations continue.

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                                           SOURCE NOTES:

(1) Associated Press, 1352 EST, 11 Apr 07 via www.ctv.ca.

(2) “President Dissolves Parliament,” Press Office of Viktor Yushchenko, 2

Apr 07 via www.president.gov.ua.

(3) Rzeczpospolita, 10 Apr 07, republished on the Ukrainian Government

Portal via http://www.kmu.gov.ua/.  See also Foreign Notes via

http://foreignnotes.blogspot.com/ for the English translation of parts of

the article.

(4) “President considers delaying date of extraordinary elections,”

Korrespondent.net, 10 Apr 07 via http://www.korrespondent.net/main/185995.

(5) Article 77, Constitution of Ukraine via

http://www.unhcr.org/home/RSDLEGAL/44a280124.pdf

(6) Associated Press, 1352 EST, 11 Apr 07 via www.ctv.ca.

(7) “Kuchmism 2?  Backtracking on reform in Ukraine,” The ISCIP Analyst,

Western Region, Volume XIII Number 10 (29 March 2007) via

www.bu.edu/iscip.

(8) Ibid.

COMMENTARY & ANALYSIS: By Tammy Lynch

THE ISCIP ANALYST, Volume XIII, Number 11

Institute for the Study of Conflict, Ideology & Policy at Boston University

Boston, Massachusetts, Thursday, 12 April 2007

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