The President of Ukraine, Viktor Yushchenko, has issued a statement in which he called the recent attempts to form a constitutional majority ‘illegitimate’ and threatened to dissolve the Parliament.
By Ilya Khineyko
Barely a week ago, Ukraine’s ruling coalition, led by Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych managed to score a few important points against the opposition and the President. On March 24, Arsenii Yatsenyuk became the new Foreign Minister of Ukraine after the Verkhovna Rada had successfully blocked the candidacy of Volodymyr Ohryzko. On the same day, Anatolii Kinakh, leader of the Party of Industrialists and Enterpreuners, crossed the floor to the anti-crisis coalition in the Parliament along with 11 another deputies. Persistent rumors suggested that more defections were coming, and some PofR deputies publicly mused that a constitutional majority might be formed by the end of this spring. Should that happen, the Yanukovych supporters in the Verkhovna Rada would gain enough votes to overcome the presidential veto and possibly start an impeachment procedure.
A logical way out of this situation for Yushchenko would be to dissolve the Parliament and hold new elections. However, since the appointment of the new Foreign Minister, the last vacant position on the Cabinet has been filled, thereby removing the legal grounds to do so. Initially it seemed that Yushchenko might stay silent and perhaps seek accommodation with the anti-crisis coalition. However, on March 29 he offered a firm response. Speaking at a press conference in Luhansk, Yushchenko urged journalists to consider the ongoing attempts to lure the opposition deputies into the anti-crisis coalition as “a process of usurping power.” On the same day, Yushchenko’s press office issued a statement on the anniversary of the latest parliamentary elections wherein he again condemned the actions of the coalition:
“What is happening in the Verkhovna Rada now is not just a rebirth of the coalition but a blatant revision of the will of the Ukrainian voters. It is a direct path to anarchy. All these actions create reasons to say that the parliamentary majority is unconstitutional and the government illegitimate.”
He further argued that
“Under Ukraine’s constitution, deputy factions in the Verkhovna Rada form a parliamentary coalition within one month after their first session or within one month after the dissolution of the previous coalition of deputy factions.”
Therefore, the President has legitimate grounds to dissolve the Parliament if the coalition is formed on an individual basis.
On the coalition side, Viktor Yanukovych expressed doubts that Yushchenko could dissolve Parliament. Calling the president’s recent actions irresponsible, Yanukovych expressed his confidence that even if Yushchenko decides to go ahead and sign the decree on the dissolution of the Parliament the Constitutional Court would rule such a document unconstitutional. Under normal circumstances it would be up to the Constitutional Court to provide a definitive legal opinion on the matter. However, the Court has been sitting idle recently, having made no rulings on the recent legislative changes despite the fact all its vacant seats were filled six months ago.
Meanwhile, the opposition announced a decision to carry out mass street rallies this on March 31. On March 28, Yuri Lutsenko stated that the opposition was planning to hold a joint rally on Independence Square. It is expected that the Party of Regions will try to bring its supporters to hold a counter-rally. There are reports that in Kherson representatives of the Party of Regions were trying to recruit local students to come to Kyiv on Saturday take part in such actions.
Ukrainian experts of different political leanings are unanimous that the recent escalation of tensions between the President and the coalition has been prompted by the brazen declarations of some the coalition deputies regarding the possible formation of a constitutional majority. They also agree that street actions planned on Saturday may have a negative impact on the situation, polarizing it even further. However, it is still unclear whether Yushchenko really wants to engage in direct confrontation with the Regions Party. ProUA.com has speculated that what Yushchenko really seeks is the restoration of some of his powers without having to dissolve the parliament.