Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 204

The leader of Ukrainian communists, Petro Symonenko, has called on the Prosecutor General’s Office to investigate “serious legal violations” of the president and government concerning nonpayment of wages and pensions. The leader of the largest parliamentary faction also called on the lawmakers to increase supervision over the executive branch. Symonenko did not conceal that his attack was in response to recent statements by President Kuchma. Symonenko called these “a new stage of the cold war with the parliament” (Ukrainian agencies and television, November 3).

Symonenko clearly referred to Kuchma’s speech at a meeting marking eighty years of the short-lived West Ukrainian Republic in Lviv on Sunday. In his address the president lashed out at the parliament, calling on the deputies to either dissolve the legislative body or hand its legislative powers over to the executive for its “failure to form a majority within itself” (Ukrainian media, November 1-2). Kuchma also again called on the parliament to cancel parliamentary immunity, targeting the Hromada deputies earlier accused of crimes by the prosecutor general Mykhaylo Potebenko (see the Monitor, October 29). This initiative was criticized as purely populist in the media and parliament not only by the Hromada, but also by several prominent parliamentarians from both left and right (Ukrainian media, November 1-3).

Kuchma and Ukraine’s previous parliament were also in constant warfare. The executive and legislative bodies blocked each other’s draft legislation as a matter of course–resulting in near-deadlocks on such vital issues as the adoption of the constitution in 1996 and the state budget in 1997. The former parliament was chaired by Kuchma’s bitter political opponent, socialist leader Oleksandr Moroz. After Oleksandr Tkachenko replaced Moroz as speaker this past summer, Kuchma–in his public speeches during the summer and early autumn–praised the parliament for its cooperative mood. The latest blocking by the legislature of several presidential economic decrees and Kuchma’s attack on parliament in Lviv, however, may signal that regular warfare between the branches of power has resumed.

A serious fight over the state budget is expected through December. Then the parliament is scheduled to debate the cabinet’s 1999 budget draft, already described as “unrealistic” by several prominent politicians (see yesterday’s Monitor). Yesterday in Kyiv IMF representative John Odling-Smee also criticized the draft, which the government apparently molded precisely to meet the IMF conditions, calling its expenditure element “too optimistic” (Ukrainian agencies, television, November 3). The leftists are attacking the draft from the flip side of the coin, calling for an increase in social expenditures. –OV