Publication: Monitor Volume: 8 Issue: 93

The left and right wings of Ukraine’s newest parliament (Verkhovna Rada) have joined forces against the pro-government United Ukraine and United Social Democratic Party (USDP) factions. Their goal, however, is not simply to condemn the foul play of pro-government forces in the election. Instead, these four parties–the Communist Party of Ukraine (CPU), the Socialists (SPU), Yulia Tymoshenko’s Bloc and former Premier Viktor Yushchenko’s Our Ukraine–are now close to forming a unified position on three points. First, the election of the Rada speaker and chairmen of standing committees. Second, the need to replace the Central Electoral Commission’s leadership. Third, the dismissal of Prime Minister Anatoly Kinakh’s cabinet.

They argue that chairmanship of the Rada and its committees should be distributed between the six forces elected to the Rada in proportion to the number of deputies who were elected either from party lists or running in single-seat constituencies under respective party banners. If this principle is adopted, United Ukraine–the largest faction–will be underrepresented compared to the CPU and Our Ukraine. It became the largest only after the election through coaxing “independent” deputies elected in single-seat constituencies into joining it (see the Monitor, April 10).

The pro-government forces disagree with this line of reasoning. They argue that the leading positions in the Rada should be apportioned in accordance with the current membership of factions. Otherwise, they maintain, the constitutional principle of equal rights would be violated because the deputies elected on the “independent” ticket would have no say. But the opposition argues that United Ukraine has inflated its membership by dubious methods. Meeting European observers of the Rada election in Kyiv on May 11, Tymoshenko claimed that US$100,000-200,000 had been offered to certain members of her and Yushchenko’s blocs for joining pro-government factions.

The CPU, the SPU, Tymoshenko’s bloc and Our Ukraine have also made it clear that they would push to replace Central Electoral Commission (CEC) chairman Mykhaylo Ryabets and his deputies. They claim that the government used the electoral body against the opposition both during the election and after. Proof of this, they say, is that the CEC invalidated none of the elections in single districts where a pro-government candidate won, but did in several single-seat constituencies where opposition candidates took the upper hand. In three of them repeat elections will be held in July. In several others courts overruled the CEC invalidations. The replacement of Ryabets would not be simply an act of revenge. The opposition parties obviously want a more neutral figure to manage the 2004 presidential race.

They also want Kinakh out. “A team that lost the election should not be represented in the executive,” Tymoshenko told journalists on May 11. The SPU shares this view. Our Ukraine leader Yushchenko has noted that there is a formal reason to depose Kinakh: For over a year since his appointment, Kinakh has failed to submit his cabinet’s action plan to the Rada, as required by the constitution. Hennady Udovenko, the leader of the People’s Movement of Ukraine, the largest party in Our Ukraine, said on May 11 that Our Ukraine would definitely push for the cabinet dismissal. It is unclear whether the CPU would support the other three opposition forces on this point. It may well do so in return for their backing the CPU candidacy for Rada speaker. CPU leader Petro Symonenko has hinted that the speaker’s post would be the Communists’ main goal at this stage.

The impressive level of cooperation between four opposition factions at the stage of preparation of the newly elected Rada’s first session (scheduled to begin tomorrow, May 14) should not deceive anyone: Formalization of a union of forces as ideologically different as the Communists and Our Ukraine’s nationalists and liberals is out of the question. The four factions, especially the CPU, keep stressing that the current coalition is temporary. It has been formed to counteract the government and, as soon as Rada factions are formed and Rada speaker and committee chairmen are elected, it will cease to exist. But for the time being this coalition has the majority of seats in the 450-seat Rada. If there are no defections, the CPU, the SPU, Yushchenko’s and Tymoshenko’s blocs taken together should control 226 seats (Forum, May 10; Interfax-Ukraine, UNIAN, Ukrainska Pravda, May 10-11; Studio 1+1 TV, May 12; see also the Monitor, April 29).