Publication: Eurasia Daily Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 87

Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko has re-scheduled the snap parliamentary election from May 27 to June 24. His opponents initially reacted as they had to his April 2 decree, which called for the election. The parliamentary coalition that backs Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych said that Yushchenko had violated the constitution and again refused to obey. Yanukovych, however, within several days signaled his readiness to compromise. He told a briefing on April 28 that his party would agree to a snap election if Yushchenko is ready for political talks. An early presidential election may be one of Yanukovych’s conditions.

In an unscheduled TV address to the nation on April 25, Yushchenko announced that he was signing a decree re-scheduling the parliamentary ballot. Yushchenko made it clear that this decision had been prompted by pragmatic considerations, and that it was in no way a concession to his opponents. Explaining the need to re-schedule the election from May 27 to June 24 in the text of his April 26 decree, Yushchenko said that the refusal by Yanukovych’s Cabinet to fund the election scheduled for May 27 and the inaction of the Central Electoral Commission (several of its members simultaneously called in sick) made it impossible to hold the election in May.

Commenting on the decree on April 26, Yanukovych accused Yushchenko of breaching all agreements reached earlier and of disrupting the talks between the two camps that had started on April 25. Yanukovych complained that he was “surprised,” as Yushchenko had not consulted with him before taking this new decision. Yanukovych said that Yushchenko had re-scheduled the election because he was afraid that the Constitutional Court’s decree on the early election, disputed by Yanukovych’s coalition, would not be in Yushchenko’s favor. The court, according to Yanukovych, was going to deliver its verdict on April 26, so Yushchenko acted just in time to forestall his own political fiasco.

The parliament disbanded by Yushchenko on April 26 passed a resolution condemning Yushchenko’s new decree as unconstitutional, as was the case with his April 2 decree, and accusing Yushchenko of deepening the political crisis. Speaker of Parliament Oleksandr Moroz said that the new decree was “legal nonsense.” The majority coalition urged Yushchenko to withdraw his decree, and several parliamentarians drafted a bill calling for Yushchenko’s impeachment. On April 27, Moroz instructed the parliamentary committee to discuss the possibility of launching impeachment procedures.

The discussion of impeachment was probably meant only to scare Yushchenko, as the procedure is legally very complicated and is hardly a realistic option. Parliament eventually chose the standard procedure of appealing the presidential decree to the Constitutional Court, and on April 27 Moroz announced that the court had begun to discuss this new appeal, although it has not yet delivered a verdict on the April 2 decree.

Yanukovych, addressing a rally of his supporters on Kyiv on April 27, repeated his old thesis that his coalition was not afraid of an early election, but that Yushchenko was not authorized by the constitution to call early elections at will. Yanukovych suggested that Yushchenko should agree to simultaneous elections for both president and parliament. “As he keeps saying that politicians should pass through the purgatory of the Ukrainian people, let him show an example himself,” Yanukovych said.

Speaking at a briefing the following day, Yanukovych made the sensational announcement that his coalition may agree to a snap parliamentary election after all. Yanukovych insisted that there were no constitutional grounds for calling an early election, but he said that such an election could be the result of a political agreement reached at a negotiating table. “If we come to a conclusion that an election is needed, there will be an election,” he said. Asked by journalists whether he would still like to hold a presidential election simultaneously with a parliamentary one, Yanukovych said that a political agreement on this might also be reached.

On April 30, parliament passed a resolution urging simultaneous early presidential and parliamentary elections. According to the resolution, a legal basis for this should be prepared by the fall, and the elections should be held no later than December 9, 2007. Moroz specified that respective amendments to the constitution should be passed in September, and the simultaneous early elections in that case should be held in late November or early December. Moroz explained that laws, rather than political agreements, should serve as the basis for early elections. Otherwise, he warned, “We are opening dangerous prospects, and whenever the president does not like parliament he will force an early election.”

The April 30 resolution is probably a sign that the pro-Yanukovych coalition is finally psychologically ready for a snap election. The call for a simultaneous presidential election may be used as an element of pressure, a bargaining chip in negotiations with Yushchenko.

(Channel 5, April 25, 27; Ukrayinska pravda, April 26, 30; Interfax-Ukraine, April 26, 27; Inter TV, April 26, 29; UT1, April 28)