Yushchenko and Yanukovych agree to go to the polls this summer.
by Ilya Khineyko
On May 4, the political crisis in Ukraine evidently came to an end. As the BBC reported “Ukraine’s president and prime minister have agreed to hold early parliamentary elections in a bid to end weeks of political deadlock.” Later that day, speaking to his supporters on the Maidan premier Yanukovych urged all citizens of Ukraine to vote in the upcoming elections.
“Those who want to hold elections, those who initiated them will receive an answer from you. You will decide who should be in power in this country. You will be able to give the mandate to politicians in the near future.”
Although no formal date for the new elections has been set up yet, the president was qouted as saying that the elections could take place 60 days from the moment the decision was made “in principle,” which could mean either from the date of this statement or the day the Verkhovna Rada of the current session convenes for the last time to pass legislative acts necessary to carry out new elections. Yuri Lutsenko, former Interior Minister and leader of the opposition block People’s Self-Defense, stated that July 8 is being discussed as the potential election day. It should be noted that the April 26 presidential decree on the dissolution of the parliament set the date for pre-term elections at June 24, which itself was a postponement of an earlier election date of May 27 as stipulated in the original Yushchenko decree issued on April 2. The ruling coalition in the Verkhovna Rada refused to abide by Yushchenko’s decision and declared its intention to wait for the Constitutional Court to decide the legality of the president’s move. After the second decree was issued, it threatened Yushchenko with impeachment, passing a legally non-binding motion to initiate the procedure on April 30. At the same time, as a way of compromise, the coalition suggested holding both presidential and parliamentary elections simultaneously by the end of this year – something the presidential side was clearly not prepared to accept.
Conceivably, after a month of inflammatory rhetoric and continuous street protests, Yanukovych and his party simply caved in. This is certainly the impression expressed by some other coalition partners. A Socialist party deputy, Vasyl Volha, one of the most ardent opponents of the president, was apparently shocked by, what he called, “a betrayal on the part of the Party of Regions, a betrayal of the Constitution.” The Communists expressed a similar sentiment, calling it “a surrender of the coalition.” The disgruntled reaction of the Communists and especially of the Socialists comes as no surprise. We noted earlier that the Socialists, and Speaker Oleksandr Moroz personally, run the very real risk of losing their comfortable position of power brokers in the new parliament simply because, according to various sociological surveys, they will not be able to win sufficient seats in a new election. On the other hand, Yanukovych’s party maintains a comfortable lead in the polls and is well poised to form a government again in the new Rada. In fact, the month-long standoff with Yushchenko could have been nothing more than an attempt to buy time while appearing steadfast to the electorate. The Toronto Globe and Mail’s reporter Mark MacKinnon quoted on his personal blog some anonymous sources “close to the Party of Regions who told him that
Yanukovich hadn’t expected Yushchenko’s move, and that the party was in no position to run an election.
Pushing back the election date back five or six weeks gives Yanukovich – whose party still maintains a strong lead in the polls over both Yushchenko’s Our Ukraine movement and the Yulia Tymoshenko bloc – a chance to win the victory at the ballot box that he could not achieve on the streets.
Indeed, the coalition’s attempts to organize a mirror image of the 2004 Orange Maidan have backfired. The very young or the long unemployed Yanukovych supporters, often unkempt and poorly organized, could not convey the necessary impression of public support for the coalition. As they were mostly brought from other regions of Ukraine, their presence only irritated native inhabitants of Kyiv, which did not help to raise the already modest profile of the party in the capital. Even the coalition’s supporters seem to have acknowledged that. In an interesting article, published by the pro-Yanukovych web portal Zadonbass, its author, hiding under the pseudonym Angelina Donetskaya, laments the hypocrisy of the Kyivans now sneering at the Donetsk “scum” whereas two years ago “they welcomed with open arms hicks from Western Ukrainian village who are frightened of the subway and ogle naked mannequins in store windows.” Yet, she concludes the article with a passionate plea to all politicians to “end the hostilities so that people can go home without feeling slighted.”
However, it might have been Yushchenko’s decisions to dismiss two Constitutional Court judges as well as the appointments of Svyatoslav Piskun as Prosecutor General and Stepan Havrysh as a new court judge that outweighed all other considerations and persuaded the Party of Regions to yield to the president’s demands. The PR parliamentary faction leader Raisa Bohatyryova conceded that the decision to go to the polls was made after “we had realized that due to the two new appointments and the continuing political struggle, it would be impossible to expect the Constitutional Court to issue a ruling.” Some analysts have suggested that by appointing people not from the Orange camp Yushchenko was sending a certain signal to the coalition.
Mr. Piskun had a falling out with Yushchenko in autumn of 2005 when the latter dismissed him from the position of prosecutor general. Piskun later tried to appeal this decision in court while simultaneously getting elected to the Verkhovna Rada on the Party of Regions ticket due to his good relations with Renat Akhmetov. Another Yushchenko appointee, Stepan Havrysh, who became a new Constitutional Court judge on May 3, has even more checkered relationship with Yuschenko. One of former president Kuchma’s trusted lieutenants, Stepan Havrysh, was parliamentary majority coordinator in 2004 and later represented Viktor Yanukovych in the Central Electoral Commission during the days of the Orange Revolution. During the latest parliamentary elections, he was leader of the anti-Yushchenko block “Ne Tak” that failed to get in the parliament. Perhaps, by appointing such controversial figures, Yuschenko was sending a signal to the Party of Regions that an unflinching personal and ideological loyalty is not mandatory and that in the future cooperation between the president and the coalition would be possible in spite of the presence of any past grievances.