On April 25, four opposition factions in the newly elected Ukrainian parliament, hitherto divided on principal issues, signed a joint declaration on the results of the Verkhovna Rada (parliament) election of March 31. Yulia Tymoshenko’s Bloc, Viktor Yushchenko’s Our Ukraine center-right bloc, the Socialist Party of Ukraine (SPU) and the Communist Party of Ukraine (CPU) declared that the governing elite had “lost the election and compromised itself” by the attempts to “bribe and blackmail” independent deputies to “revise the election results”. The four factions warned against “turning parliament into a decorative body to rubberstamp the governing elite’s orders.”
This strongly worded statement came in reaction to the governing elite’s creeping revision of the election results. The For United Ukraine (FUU) pro-government bloc has been coaxing the deputies elected on independent tickets in single-seat constituencies into joining the United Ukraine (UU) faction, which is to represent the FUU in the Rada. Using both carrots and sticks, the ruling elite has inflated the UU ranks from the 100-110 deputies originally elected under FUU banners to 180, as the FUU leader, Volodymyr Lytvyn, boasted earlier this month (see the Monitor, April 10). The government bloc, which came only third in the election from party lists, has thus gotten surprisingly close to forming a majority in the Rada (226 seats) … if it joins forces with the United Social Democratic Party (USDP), another faction of the governing elite. The USDP, using the same tactics as its senior partner, has boosted its faction from about twenty-five to forty.
The April 25 declaration was not simply a collective complaint or warning. What the opposition forces achieved was a joint plan of action consisting of three points:
–Replacement of the current mixed election system with a proportional one, in which there would be no place for “independent” deputies elected in single-seat constituencies. Under this system, Our Ukraine and the CPU would have been entitled to having first- and second-largest factions respectively.
–Dismissal of the regional governors who “organized vote-rigging” in favor of the FUU, which, as the opposition claims, would have scored less if the election had been fair.
–Changes in the composition of the Central Electoral Commission, held responsible for favoring the governing elite.
A stable Rada majority consisting of forces as different as the antimarket Communists and the liberals from Our Ukraine or radical nationalists from Our Ukraine and Yulia Tymoshenko’s bloc is, of course, out of the question. They admit this. But their declaration carried a strong symbolic message: The right-wing opposition and the Communists can cooperate against the government on selected political issues. The Rada election format is set to be one of them. The outgoing Rada failed to override President Leonid Kuchma’s veto of a proportional election bill. A united opposition has a good chance of pushing such a bill through the new Rada, if the four factions stick to their guns.
The declaration, which united Our Ukraine and the CPU–the new Rada’s second- and third-largest factions respectively–on a principal issue, has alarmed the government. If the CPU and Our Ukraine continue to demonstrate ability to cooperate, it would not be as easy for pro-government forces to enter into temporary alliances with either the CPU (on certain political issues, such as relations with Russia) or Our Ukraine (to push economic legislation through) as they may have planned. “Far left and far right political flanks are uniting,” a worried Ukrainian Premier Anatoly Kinakh warned on April 27. “I would not like those who signed this declaration to form a temporary, let alone stable majority” (New Channel TV, 1+1 TV, Ukrainska Pravda, Forum, April 25-27).
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