Radicalism is apparently giving way to compromise in the Ukrainian political crisis. President Viktor Yushchenko, aware of the impossibility of holding a snap election as early as May 27, as prescribed by his April 2 parliament dissolution decree, has signaled his readiness to suspend the decree. The bloc of his ally Yulia Tymoshenko, who has been the most radical supporter of dissolving parliament, is apparently ready to return to parliament to take part in passing laws needed to reach a compromise. The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) should probably be credited for prompting this new development.
Emotions were running especially high early in the crisis, when Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych’s ministers were making calls for criminal prosecution of Yushchenko, and Tymoshenko was ready for an immediate election in which only opposition parties would participate. Early last week, more radical statements came from both sides. Tymoshenko announced on April 16 that her bloc would not recognize a decision of the Constitutional Court if it declared Yushchenko’s decree unconstitutional. Yanukovych, meeting PACE President Rene van der Linden in Strasbourg on April 17, said that if the Court’s decision was not in favor of Yushchenko, he could face impeachment.
As Ukraine waits for a Constitutional Court verdict, PACE, an international moral authority respected by both sides of the conflict, delivered its own, non-binding verdict on the crisis. On April 19, the PACE passed Resolution 1549 summing up the results of its hearings on the Ukrainian crisis. The PACE was cautious enough not to take sides, but its message was clear: both parties should make an effort to respect the constitution and seek a compromise.
Resolution 1549 laid blame for the crisis both on the imperfect constitutional reform of 2004-2006 and “the personal rivalries and short-sighted fights for personal gain.” It appealed to Yushchenko and the pro-Yanukovych parliament and Cabinet to choose one of two ways to settle the crisis: “either by calling legitimate early elections, emanating from the ruling of the Constitutional Court, or by way of a negotiated compromise.”
The PACE resolution was generally welcomed by both the Yushchenko and Yanukovych teams, although some of its provisions have been rejected. Notably, Yushchenko and Tymoshenko did not accept the PACE recommendation to scrap the ban on parliamentary deputies swapping caucuses, as it had been a migration of deputies from the opposition factions that triggered the crisis. Yanukovych’s team did not accept the advice that Yushchenko’s decree should be obeyed until — and if — the Court outlaws it.
The main message of the resolution — the need for a compromise based on the rule of law — was nevertheless accepted by both sides. After a series of meetings with Yanukovych, Yushchenko told a press conference in Kyiv on April 20 that he was ready to suspend the decree on dissolving parliament “if a package of compromises” is agreed upon. Yushchenko said that he and Yanukovych would form an expert group to improve the constitution. In order to reach a compromise, he said, a legal mechanism should, first of all, be developed to prevent deputies from changing parliamentary factions.
Yushchenko also insists on a nationwide referendum to accept amendments to the constitution or a new version of it. Yushchenko and Tymoshenko do not conceal that they want to use the referendum as a tool to reverse the constitutional reform, which has strengthened parliament and weakened the president, and reinstate a strong presidency in Ukraine.
Another proposal made by Yushchenko on April 20 showed that he is ready to recognize the legitimacy of the current parliament — a body that he had been ostentatiously ignoring since ruling to disband it on April 2. He suggested that all the factions should return to parliament, albeit temporarily, in order to pass “10-12 amendments to the laws regarding the opposition, parliamentary rules of procedure, and guarantees that the political results of elections cannot be revised” in order to prepare legal grounds for a snap election. Although Yushchenko has been constrained to recognize parliament — as it would be impossible to amend laws without a law-making body — this is a step forward, as the opposition has refused to return to parliament since March.
The most radical proponents of a snap election — the Yulia Tymoshenko Bloc — have also signaled readiness for compromise. Addressing a rally in Kyiv on April 20, Tymoshenko admitted that an early election might be postponed. On April 21, the deputy head of the Bloc, Oleksandr Turchynov, told Channel 5 that his team was ready to come back to parliament to work on the bills necessary for a snap election.
Meanwhile, it has become perfectly clear that no snap election will be held on May 27, as Yushchenko had planned. The secretary of the Central Electoral Commission, Maryna Stavniychuk, announced on April 23 that the deadlines for the compilation of party lists and the formation of the local electoral commissions have been missed.
(UNIAN, April 16, 20, 22; Interfax-Ukraine, April 17; Channel 5, www.coe.int, April 19; Channel 5, Ukrainski novyny, April 21; Ukrayinska pravda, April 23)