Publication: Monitor Volume: 6 Issue: 24

The split in Ukraine’s parliament (Verkhovna Rada)–formalized after Leonid Kuchma’s re-election as president in December–has deepened even further with the center-right majority’s election of a new speaker, deputies and standing committee chairmen. The leftists are clearly the losers. On February 1 the 259 center-right lawmakers named Ivan Plyushch of the People’s Democratic Party as Rada speaker (Plyushch already served as the speaker in 1991-1994). Viktor Medvedchuk of the United Social Democratic caucus was “promoted” from deputy speaker to first deputy speaker; and Stepan Havrysh of Regional Revival was elected deputy speaker.

The minority–made up of 157 Communists, Socialists, Progressive Socialists and Peasants–has refused to accept the legitimacy of the majority’s gathering. Oleksandr Tkachenko, the former Rada speaker ousted by the new majority, accused President Leonid Kuchma of instigating the conflict in an attempt to strangle the opposition and dissolve the parliament. The Progressive Socialists announced a hunger strike in the session hall. Meanwhile, several thousand supporters of the rivaling sides rallied in downtown Kyiv and the police had a hard time preventing disorder. At the same time, the Justice Ministry confirmed the legitimacy of the majority’s decisions. Kuchma also unequivocally backed the majority. He affirmed that that if it preserves unity and supports the government, the first question in the referendum scheduled for April 16, namely on no-confidence in the Rada, may be revoked. Speaker Plyushch called on parliamentary members to prevent early parliamentary elections.

Both the majority and the minority realize that peace in the Rada can be restored only through negotiation, but neither are seriously seeking a compromise. The Red forces perceive the Rada as their last legitimate bastion in the struggle for power in Ukraine, which they are losing. Parliamentary work may be paralyzed with the split indefinitely, which will hinder the normal and necessary functioning of Premier Viktor Yushchenko’s government. The state budget for this year has not yet been passed due to the continuing political bickering, which greatly undermines economic stability and spoils Ukraine’s position in negotiations with the IMF (UNIAN, January 29, February 1; STB TV, Inter TV, UNIAN, February 1).