Publication: Monitor Volume: 6 Issue: 24

On January 21, the Ukrainian parliament (Verkhovna Rada) closed its fourth session with the ousting of its leftist speaker Oleksandr Tkachenko and his communist first deputy Adam Martynyuk. These dismissals are a victory for newly re-elected President Leonid Kuchma and his just-as-new center-right pro-presidential parliamentary majority, but are being called into legal question by Rada leftists.

The eleven pro-presidential factions (see the Monitor, January 21) began immediately after the Orthodox Christmas vacation to collect lawmakers’ signatures to put on the agenda a motion to dismiss Tkachenko and Martynyuk. By January 15, the required number of signatures, 150 in the 450-seat legislature, had been collected. This promptness is ascribed to Kuchma’s decree on constitutional referendum (see the Monitor, January 21), which, inciting the nation to allow the president to dissolve the Rada, threatens the very existence of the current parliament. Kuchma made it clear that if the newly formed majority works as a team to assist the government of Premier Viktor Yushchenko in the planned radical market transformations, the Rada could be spared. He on several occasions had hinted that he would regard the ouster of the Rada’s leftist leadership as the majority’s first step in the right direction.

On January 18 the Rada voted for dismissal of its leftist heads, but Tkachenko annulled the vote on the basis of several members of the majority not being present in the session hall during the vote. The parliament, however, effectively split on January 21, when the new sitting majority voted 239 to 3 to oust Tkachenko and Martynyuk.

The leftists duly blamed Kuchma and “the oligarchs” of splitting the parliament and appealed to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe against what they defined as “an attempt to change the course of transformations” to an “authoritarian” rule by Kuchma. Kuchma, however, unequivocally supported the ouster, saying that “all parliaments work according to the majority principle.” Speaking on January 21, he refused to define the events in the Rada as a parliament crisis. In replacing Tkachenko with a center-right speaker, Kuchma hopes to cure the Rada of its opposition mood and strengthen the majority, which is rather amorphous (Ukrainian agencies, January 13-22; Zerkalo nedeli, January 15; UT-1, January 15, 19; STB, January 22).