Last week Ukrainian opposition presidential candidate Viktor Yushchenko won a major victory. The opposition achieved one of its main goals — the invalidation of the November 21 runoff — and almost achieved its other major goal — the dismissal of the cabinet formed by Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych, Yushchenko’s rival.
On December 3 the Supreme Court invalidated the disputed election and scheduled a repeat runoff between Yushchenko and Yanukovych for December 26. The judges ruled, “The actions of the Central Electoral Commission on establishing the results of the election runoff and the vote-count report on the runoff results were illegal.” The court effectively upheld the opinion of numerous domestic and Western observers that the voting was falsified by the government and did not correspond to any known democratic standards. Yanukovych, whose “victory” in the disputed election was cancelled by the court, would accept the court’s ruling, according to his representative at the court, Stepan Havrysh.
Yanukovych was dealt another defeat two days earlier, on December 1, when parliament passed a no-confidence motion against his cabinet, by 229 votes in the 450-seat body. Simultaneously with voting Yanukovych out of the office, parliament ruled that a “government of the people’s trust” should replace his cabinet. Yanukovych, however, refused to obey. “This decision was political, illegal, and unconstitutional,” he said. Justice Minister Oleksandr Lavrynovych agreed with his boss. Speaking to the press on December 1, Lavrynovych recalled that Article 87 of Ukraine’s constitution rules out a no-confidence motion within one year following parliamentary approval of the cabinet’s action plan. Along with passing the no-confidence motion, parliament voted to withdraw its March 2004 endorsement of Yanukovych’s action plan, but the legality of this move is doubtful. Outgoing President Leonid Kuchma refused to sign the motion, arguing that it was unconstitutional. And on December 2, 60 pro-Yanukovych parliamentarians asked the Constitutional Court to determine whether the no-confidence vote was legal.
On December 2, Kuchma said Yanukovych’s cabinet would resign voluntarily, but only on the condition that parliament passes Bill No. 4180, providing for constitutional reform that diminishes the powers of the presidency in favor of parliament (Yushchenko opposes the bill. Confident of his victory in the elections, he wants to keep for himself the vast presidential power that Kuchma has been wielding.)
Kuchma is trying to make the best out of a bad bargain, as it would be very difficult for Yanukovych to continue working with a parliament that no longer supports him and, more importantly, to command ministers who are defecting from his camp.
The spirit of rebellion has spread to the cabinet over the past two weeks. On November 25, Deputy Economics and European Integration Minister Oleg Hayduk resigned in protest of the election rigging. On the same day, a large group of Ukrainian diplomats abroad issued a statement pledging support for the opposition. Foreign Ministry spokesman Markian Lubkivsky also backed the statement. On November 26, the Transport and Communications Ministry voiced its support for Yushchenko. The Education Ministry has been quite openly supporting protesting students for weeks. And Defense Minister Oleksandr Kuzmuk quit the pro-Yanukovych Labor Ukraine faction in parliament and declared his political independence on December 3.
In addition, the cabinet physically cannot work, as Yushchenko’s supporters have blockaded the building since November 25, not allowing ministers inside. The only cabinet member who has refused to leave the building, Minister without Portfolio Anatoly Tolstoukhov, stays in self-isolation in the former quarters of the disgraced former Prime Minister Pavlo Lazarenko, who now resides in a California jail.
Not waiting for Yanukovych’s resignation, which seems only a matter of time, the victorious opposition has started consultations on forming a new government. The Socialist Party, a junior partner in the Yushchenko coalition, has offered its leader, Oleksandr Moroz, for the post of prime minister. The Socialists argue that Moroz, who is not linked to any “clan” and is neither a pro-Russian politician nor a nationalist, would be accepted by both Ukraine’s pro-Yanukovych east and the pro-Yushchenko west. Speaking in an interview with the Kievsky Telegraf newspaper, the co-head of Yushchenko’s center-right People’s Strength coalition, Yulia Tymoshenko, suggested that Volodymyr Lytvyn should combine his current position as parliamentary speaker with that of the prime minister in an interim government, which would work until after the new election. But Lytvyn has said he would prefer to steer parliament only. Eventually, speaking at a press conference on December 5, Tymoshenko said she would like to be prime minister in a Yushchenko government. Tymoshenko’s chances, however, look pretty slim. Being probably the most radical element in the Yushchenko camp, she will hardly secure the endorsement of more than half of Ukraine’s parliament, without which the president cannot appoint the prime minister.
(UNIAN, November 26; UT-1, Interfax-Ukraine, December 1, 3; Inter, December 2; Itar-Tass, December 2; Channel 5, November 25, December 1, 3, 5; Kievsky Telegraf, Ekonomicheskie Izvestiya, December 3.)