Two Votes Reveal Yanukovych’s Blasé Attitude Towards National Security

By Taras Kuzio

On April 27, the Ukrainian parliament voted by a margin of 236 to extend the Black Sea Fleet base in Sevastopol. On July 1, the parliament voted again by a margin of 259 for a new law on the “Fundamentals of Domestic and Foreign Policy”.

On both occasions the votes appeared fraudulent. In the former only 211 deputies were registered to vote, while in the latter only 50 were eligible (a minimum of 226 are needed to pass a vote, while a quorum of 300 deputies is required). Rinat Akhmetov, an oligarch from Donetsk, voted on both occasions, but has never attended a parliamentary session since his election and swearing-in ceremony in October of 2007.

Would these parliamentary voting irregularities be a reason to cancel the votes? Deputies in the Stability and Reforms coalition think not. Volodymyr Lytvyn Bloc Deputy Serhiy Hrynevetsky told Channel 5 that proxy voting was not an issue because “this had become a tradition in the Ukrainian parliament. And, unfortunately, at every (parliamentary) session we hear that it is necessary to fulfil constitutional norms on individual voting.” Lytvyn is the parliamentary chairman and therefore responsible for ensuring that the constitution, laws and parliamentary regulations are upheld.

On July 1, the vote was deliberately undertaken in subterfuge, being scheduled at eight o’clock in the evening, when only 50 deputies from the Stability and Reforms coalition were present. To conceal the voter fraud taking place, live transmission of the parliamentary session on State Channel 1 and Rada channel was cancelled.

Both votes that touched on sensitive national security issues were railroaded through a rubber stamp parliament without proper discussion or process. The opinions of three parliamentary committees that deal with national security and foreign policy were ignored. Moreover, 420 proposed changes by the opposition were ignored during the July 1 vote.

The flouting of the constitution and legislative body made a mockery of President Viktor Yanukovych’s claims that the rule of law is one of the top priorities for his administration. The Stability and Reforms coalition is itself unconstitutional, based on the 2008 Constitutional Court ruling that only permits factions to establish coalitions. The coalition includes three factions (Party of Regions, Lytvyn bloc, Communist Party) that together have only 220 deputies.

Votes by the coalition are adopted with the addition of individual defectors from opposition factions. According to a wide variety of sources, these defectors have been bribed with sums of over one million dollars to switch parties. An April ruling deepened disillusionment with the Constitutional Court when it was pressured to reverse its 2008 ruling in order to allow coalitions to be established by factions and individuals.

While the constitution bans foreign bases, the 1997 twenty year treaty with Russia was permitted on the basis that a ‘temporary’ article resolved to gradually withdraw the Black Sea Fleet by 2017. The July law on “Fundamentals” declared that Ukraine would have a “non-bloc status.” However, for a country to be considered “non-bloc” or “neutral,” it would never host foreign bases. Clearly, “non-bloc” is understood as “anti-NATO” – not as an impediment to host the Russian Fleet.

Vyacheslav Kyrylenko, deputy of the Our Ukraine-Peoples Self Defence bloc and the leader of the For Ukraine political party, described the July vote on such an important national security issue as a ‘farce,’ stating, “(Parliament’s) hall is a pure profanation of the democratic process.” The law on “Fundamentals” transforms Ukraine from a “subject of foreign policy to a subject,” former Foreign Minister Borys Tarasiuk wrote in Pravda.

Two important votes on national security on April 27 and July 1 have revealed the depth of legal cynicism, and how the parliament has transformed into a rubber stamp body, as well as the country’s commander-in-chief’s blasé attitude towards national security. Are Washington and Brussels taking note? It would seem from Secretary Hillary Clinton’s July visit to Kiev that this is not the case.