Every seat in Ukraine’s one-house parliament is at stake in the March 31 elections, and current members of the Rada are enjoying a final fling. What they are flinging are accusations, with President Leonid Kuchma the flingee.
On March 5, the Rada in a non-binding resolution asked the prosecutor general to examine whether Kuchma helped former Prime Minister Pavlo Lazarenko organize the murder of two legislators, Yevhen Shcherban (killed in 1996) and Vadym Hetman (killed in 1998). (Lazarenko is in jail in the United States, awaiting trial on financial fraud and other charges.) On March 6, the Rada asked the prosecutor general to investigate whether Kuchma ordered an assassination attempt against Oleksandr Yelyashkevych, a member of parliament who barely survived a beating by unknown assailants in July, 2000. Then, on March 7, the Rada called for an investigation of abuse of power and money laundering by Volodymyr Lytvyn, Kuchma’s chief of staff, and Mykola Azarov, the head of the tax agency.
There’s nothing easier than flinging the finger of blame. Resolutions of this type have no legal force and can pass with the votes of as few as ninety of the Rada’s 450 members, if enough members are absent. The Prosecutor General ignored a similar resolution that passed February 5, seeking an inquiry into alleged embezzlement involving Kuchma and others in 1992-1993.
But the accumulation of charges is a warning. If the elections fail to give the president’s allies control of the Rada, parliamentary attacks on the president could increase. Right now, the president’s opponents, including the moderate bloc of former Prime Minister Viktor Yushchenko and the Communists under Petro Symonenko, seem likely to take close to half the seats. Come spring, the dormant scandal of the murder of journalist Georgy Gongadze, supposedly ordered by Kuchma in a conversation caught on a disputed audio tape, could well be revived.