The majority of Ukraine’s parliament has defied the accords between President Viktor Yushchenko and Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych to disband parliament and hold an early parliamentary election. Yushchenko has not recognized parliament’s powers since June 5, when he issued a decree scheduling the election for September 30, as agreed with Yanukovych and parliamentary speaker Oleksandr Moroz on May 27. On June 19, however, the parliamentary majority, which consists of Yanukovych’s Party of Regions (PRU), Moroz’s Socialists, and the Communists, ruled that parliament will go on vacation as of June 27, but will gather again in September 4 and work until January 11, 2008. That same day, Yushchenko’s secretariat said that he will not sign a single law passed by this parliament.
Yushchenko and the opposition forces that back him hold Moroz and his allies responsible for violating the May 27 agreements. Yushchenko told a press conference in Kyiv on June 13 that Moroz was personally torpedoing the agreements. “This is probably due to the fact that he made it into parliament for the last time” as a result of the March 2006 election, Yushchenko suggested. Public opinion polls show that it may be quite difficult for the Socialists to clear the 3% election barrier in the next vote. The Communists may not be sure of their chances either. Moroz, however, argues that he only sticks to the law, which, he says, makes the dissolution of parliament impossible under current conditions.
The cornerstone of the May 27 agreement is that members of the pro-Yushchenko caucuses of Our Ukraine (NU) and the Yulia Tymoshenko Bloc (BYuT) would leave parliament, thereby making it illegitimate, as more than one-third of the seats in the 450-seat body would be vacant, providing Yushchenko with formal grounds to disband the legislature. At their conventions on June 2 NU and BYuT ruled to nullify their lists for the 2006 elections and oblige their parliamentarians to vacate parliament. Yushchenko and his allies believed this should be enough for parliament dissolution.
Moroz, however, argues that the legislation does not provide for nullifying the electoral lists, so the vacated seats may be filled by those people from the lists of NU and BYuT whose low positions in their parties’ hierarchies shut them out from parliament in 2006. Moroz also insists that it is up to the Central Electoral Commission (CEC) to confirm or deny that this replacement is possible. The CEC, however, is paralyzed, as its minority faction, representing Yushchenko and the opposition, does not attend CEC sittings, apparently fearing that they will be outvoted on the vacant seats issue. Without the minority, there is no quorum at the CEC.
The lack of party discipline has made it difficult for NU and BYuT to make parliament illegitimate. The party leaders do not have enough control over the rank-and-file members to oblige them to renounce their right to sit in parliament. Many of those who were left out in 2006 are reportedly ready to defy their parties and fill the vacant seats. What’s more, not all those NU and BYuT representatives who are already in parliament have agreed to quit.
On June 18, Mykola Zamkovenko was elected leader of the BYuT caucus in parliament, which consists of the 29 BYuT parliamentarians who refused to obey the party’s June 2 decision to leave parliament. Even BYuT’s decision to expel them from the bloc left the dissenters unabashed, and it is not clear how they may be legally compelled to quit. NU also has disobedient defectors. Those 10 or so members of the Party of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs who joined the pro-Yanukovych majority this past March have flatly refused to leave parliament. They have also disputed their expulsion from NU in courts.
Another circumstance that gives the majority formal grounds to disobey Yushchenko’s dissolution decree is that, according to Yushchenko’s rivals, the decree contradicts existing legislation. They argue that the law provides for holding a snap election 60 days after the president issues an election decree. If this provision were adhered to, Yushchenko should have signed the decree on August 1, not June 5. On June 16, 55 members of the parliamentary majority filed a suit with the Constitutional Court asking it to rule on whether Yushchenko’s June 5 decree was in line with the constitution.
In this situation much — if not everything — depends on the PRU’s willingness to adhere to the agreement with Yushchenko. The PRU dominates the majority, and it can ignore the opinion of the Socialists and Communists if it chooses so. The PRU believes that Yushchenko’s June 5 decree was illegal, but it “agreed to the snap election for the sake of stability in the country,” as one of PRU’s leaders, Borys Kolesnikov, explained in an interview with Zerkalo nedeli. Kolesnikov predicted that Yushchenko will on August 1 sign another decree scheduling the election for September 30, and that decree should be flawless.
(UNIAN, June 5; Komsomolskaya pravda v Ukraine, Zerkalo nedeli, June 9; Channel 5, June 13, 19; Interfax-Ukraine, June 18)