No cabinet is emerging in Ukraine to replace the outgoing one of Prime Minister Yuriy Yekhanurov. Meanwhile, President Viktor Yushchenko may disband parliament at any time and call new elections. This uncertainty is apparently Yushchenko’s conscious choice, as he delays the appointment of a new cabinet, waiting for concessions from a parliamentary majority that is hostile to his party.
The majority coalition of Viktor Yanukovych’s Party of Regions (PRU), the Socialists, and the Communists submitted for Yushchenko’s approval their choice for prime minister — Yushchenko’s bitter rival in the Orange Revolution of 2004 Viktor Yanukovych — on July 18. Yushchenko has 15 days to endorse Yanukovych — the constitution leaves him no choice — and he has made it clear that he may use this term to the full, waiting until August 2.
At the same time, as of July 25 Yushchenko can at any moment dissolve a hostile parliament. The constitution entitles, but does not obligate, him to do so if no cabinet is in place after 60 days since the previous cabinet’s resignation. Yekhanurov resigned on May 25, so parliament is now in limbo, as Yushchenko may dissolve it at any minute.
New elections would not benefit Yushchenko’s party, Our Ukraine, however, as its popularity is now under 10% — even less than it scored in the March 26 election. Opinion polls, however, show that early elections would not harm Yushchenko’s Orange Revolution ally, Yulia Tymoshenko, who is probably more popular than she was in March. It is not surprising that Tymoshenko, having lost her chance to become prime minister as the Orange coalition fell apart, is pushing for new elections. The Yulia Tymoshenko Bloc has stopped attending parliament sittings, and Tymoshenko said that Yushchenko’s refusal to disband a parliament dominated by Yanukovych would mean the betrayal of the Orange Revolution.
Our Ukraine however, has not followed the example of Tymoshenko’s bloc, continuing work in the session hall and horse-trading with the PRU on its possible participation in a new cabinet. Leaks to the press suggest different figures — according to Zerkalo nedeli, which is close to Our Ukraine, Yushchenko would like to secure some 10 posts in the cabinet for Our Ukraine people, but PRU-linked Segodnya said he wants just the posts of first deputy prime minister for his ally Petro Poroshenko and interior minister for Yuriy Lutsenko, in addition to foreign minister and defense minister — the two ministers that the constitution gives the president the right to nominate.
Speaking in an interview with Stolichnye novosti, Our Ukraine chairman Roman Bezsmertny indirectly confirmed the rumors about horse-trading, saying that Our Ukraine is considering different options, including having its members take part in the cabinet. Yushchenko’s camp, however, is not unanimous. His chief of staff, Oleh Rybachuk, who apparently speaks for the radical camp, believes that Yushchenko should dissolve parliament if the majority does not offer somebody more neutral than Yanukovych. Interviewed by Delo, Rybachuk also rejected the PRU’s calls to join the majority in parliament, but he suggested a different coalition format, apparently without the Communists. The PRU, however, insists that the Communists will not be dropped from its coalition.
Both Yushchenko and his rivals agree that the constitutional amendments in force since January 1 are imperfect, which makes the current situation open to different interpretations. Not everybody agrees that Yushchenko can dissolve parliament. Addressing the nation on TV on July 24, parliament speaker Oleksandr Moroz insisted that Yushchenko has no grounds for this. What’s more, he said that parliament would not obey if Yushchenko decrees to dissolve it.
On the same day Moroz’s ally, parliament deputy speaker Adam Martynyuk of the Communist Party, went as far as to say that parliament may solve the issue of the prime minister’s appointment even without Yushchenko if he does not appoint Yanukovych within 15 days. He also said it is up to parliament to interpret the constitution in the absence of a legitimate Constitutional Court. Various parties for various reasons blocked the appointment of new Constitutional Court judges early this year in place of those whose term in office had expired, so now there is no Constitutional Court in place to resolve the current crisis in favor of either Yushchenko or the PRU and its allies.
Meanwhile, the PRU is at pains to get rid of its image as a pro-Russian and undemocratic party in order to make its possible union with Our Ukraine look more natural both at home and internationally. Yanukovych has switched from using Russian to Ukrainian in his public statements. The PRU pledged adherence to Ukraine’s European choice in the majority coalition agreement, and one of PRU leaders, Borys Kolesnikov, said in a July 18 interview with Invest gazeta that European integration and NATO membership — to which the PRU remains hostile — are “absolutely different things,” as there are “EU members that are not NATO members.” Yanukovych also said he would expel from the PRU MP Oleh Kalashnykov for using force to retrieve a compromising video from a TV crew earlier in July.
(Delo, Invest gazeta, July 18; Ukrayinska pravda, July 14, 21; Zerkalo nedeli, Radio Era, July 22; Ukraina TV, July 24; Interfax-Ukraine, July 19, 24; Segodnya, Stolichnye novosti, July 25)