Monday, April 02, 2007

Shootout at the Ukraine Corral?

Will Viktor Yushchenko remain president of Ukraine? This is what is currently in the balance in the ongoing political crisis in Kiev. In what seems as a final showdown between President Yushchenko and Prime Minister Yanukovych, the president on Monday dissolved parliament and called for new elections on 27 May. By doing so, Yushchenko may well have signed his own political death warrant. There is little chance that his Our Ukraine will survive elections as a leading player in Ukrainian politics, making the president a lame duck for the remainder of his term.

The current shootout revolves around a battle over life and death for the presidency. Since last year, Yanukovych has won over an increasing number of parliament deputies to the point where he threatened to blow Yushchenko's position to smithereens. Yanukovych was quickly approaching the 300 out of 450 votes in parliament - Verkhovna Rada - necessary to change the constitution and override presidential vetoes. This might also have included abolishing the very office of the president.

Yushchenko's move now forces Yanukovych to take the fight to the high-street, instead of the back alleys where he until now has battled for parliamentary votes. The showdown has been underway since Saturday, when nearly 100,000 people demonstrated in central Kiev in support of the two combattants. As usual in Kiev, the orange forces took centre stage, gathering some 70,000 demonstrators calling for dissolving parliament and new parliamentary elections. Nearby, about 20,000 of Yanukovych's followers met in support of the current government. The stage was thus set for the country's biggest political duel since the 2004 Orange revolution.

Proclaiming elections by a televised speech on Monday evening, Yushchenko said: "My actions are dictated by the strict necessity to save the state's sovereignty and territorial integrity. It is not only my right, it is my obligation." Parliamentary elections would thus curve the "Deliberate efforts [that] are being made in parliament to worsen the political crisis, posing a threat to our country and people."

Crisis has become the hallmark of Ukrainian politics since last year's March parliamentary elections. Even though Yanukovych and his Party of Regions stood as the clear election victors, the Orange forces of Our Ukraine and the Timoshenko Bloc did their utmost to form a coalition government barring Yanukovych from power. After months of negotiations and under the threat of new elections, the Orange coalition was proclaimed dead and Yanukovych became Prime Minister. Ever since, President Yushchenko has fought a losing battle to balance an increasingly powerful Yanukovych government.

The question now is who will form the biggest posse for power in the upcoming 27 May fight between orange and blue forces in Ukraine. Yanukovych's power base is solid, with massive financial backing from several mighty oligarchs. In contrast, Yushchenko is badly armed for elections, with a party deemed to become the first victim of this political duel. In essence, Yulia Timoshenko will stand the most to gain from an election campaign, establishing her role as the undisputed leader of the orange forces and the only real alternative to Yanukovych.

For Yushchenko, the choice was between being removed as president or calling for new elections, where he is bound to become the first victim. His choice was to accept the challenge as he was called out into the street by the orange forces on Saturday. Thereby, the only thing left for Yushchenko is to witness his own political death struggle for the remainder of his presidency. Still, calling for new elections was not only his right - it was his obligation. This is perhaps also what will be written on his political tombstone: "He had the right and - finally - rose to his obligations."

Update: In response to Yushchenko's decree for parliamentary elections, Yanukovych's supporters have now called for presidential instead of parliamentary elections. They refer to Yushchenko's decision as an attempted coup d'état and have declared that parliament will not grant the financial means necessary to go through with parliamentary elections. It is not unlikely that Yushchenko's decision to dissolve parliament will serve Yanukovych's interests in winning over the remaining votes necessary to gain the qualified 300 out of 450 qualified majority to make constitutional changes and eventually depose the president. A parliament dissolved by the president would thus decide to remove Yushchenko from his office or abolish the presidency as a whole. The complications this would cause are immense, and it is diffcult to foresee what further ramifications it would involve. Furthermore, the conflict has been referred to the Constitutional Court, consisting of 18 members: 6 presidential representatives, 6 parliamentary, and 6 judicial. What will happen if the Court does not reach a decision within the stipulated five days is hard to determine at this point. It is also said that the Election Commission, which was so hated during the Orange revolution, will be reconvened.


Michelle said...

Thank you for writing about Ukraine!!!! We will see what will happen!

Vilhelm Konnander said...

Dear Michelle,

Thank you for the encouragement!Well, I would have had to be ignorant not to write about Ukraine given recent developments. There are a few more pieces in the pipeline as well, so watch out.



UkraineToday said...

Hi. I have just cam across you blog which I like.

Please make no mistake this current crisis in Ukraine is about a power struggle between the Office of the president and the parliamentary Government. It is not a West versus Russian conflict.

Two Wrongs do not make a right.

What ever you politics are Blue versus Change the fact remains that the Presidential decree is/was wrong and any realistic analysis indicates that his decree was/is unconstitutional. the presidents attempts to influence the outcome of the Constitutional Court deliberations by staking teh court with the President's men is a direct attack on the independence of the judiciary, democracy and rule of law in Ukraine.

Whilst other European nations have rightly called on Ukraine to resolve the current crisis within the bounds of Ukraine's constitution and sound political compromise the EU can not sanction and remain silent about the tactics used by the President for too much longer.

Ukraine is copping quite well under the circumstances with business as usual. if anything it does demonstrate that a few more months delay in the holding of election will not hinder Ukraine's progress.

If the constitutional Court failed to make a ruling the earliest that the president can force an election under the provisions of Article 90 of Ukraine's constitution is November 2007. 60 days after the 30 days failure of Ukraine's parliament to convene the next session (due in September) of Ukraine's Parliament. This comes about due to the announced resignation of more then 150 members of Ukraine's parliament.

In short the current political crisis is of the President's making and it is all about power and not policy or democratic government.

More information

ps Can I recommend that you upgrade your blog to the new version and you scrap the justification font... Happy to provide technical help and assistance if required. All the best

Vilhelm Konnander said...

Dear Ukraine Today,

I am happy to see that you have find your way to my blog. As for myself, I have been following your blog for quite some time now.

As for the current crisis in Ukraine, of course it is not a conflict between East and West. I would be ignorant to think so.

However, in addition to a parliament-presidential conflict, one has to add economic and business aspects to the analysis. This is something I would look forward to reading more about on your blog.

Finally, as for upgrading to new blogger, I have so far not felt it worthwhile. I made an attempt when I resumed blogging back in March, but soon realised there was too much work needed to update the programming for me to make the effort. Already as it is, I have difficulties to find time for blogging, so reformatting is simply not a priority at the moment. Thanks anyway for your kind offer!



UkraineToday said...

Vilhelm. Thanks for your comments. My main focus is on governance constitutional game play but yes economics is a strong motivator and barometer in political affairs.

I note that all the current economic indicators are in the governing coalitions favour right now. Economic growth is up and inflation is listed at around 7% which is lower then in the recent past. But politics is more then constitutions and economics. It has a lot to do with political perceptions. An issue that I find interesting and yet scary was a suggestion that Ukraine elect its judiciary. I am not sure4 how serious this suggestion is but it is one I will be keeping a eye out for as the political campaign begins to take shape. Already I notice that NATO is squarely on the agenda with the Presidential Party giving it a lot of air time buy skirting around the fact that 60% of Ukrainians are currently opposed to joining NATO. I assume that if the president's "democratic" forces win the election they will claim a mandate to join NATO and side step the requirement for a referendum. I am not sure how they will side step the fact that Ukraine's constitution prohibits foreign military bases on Ukrainian soil. But then there is the RBF..

My offer of assistance is free of charge and out of respect to meaningful objective debate on Ukrainian politics. Upgrade is not that difficult. Drop me a line via a comment if interested.