Ukraine takes a decisive step closer to parliamentary elections after 155 Verkhovna Rada deputies surrender their mandates.
By Ilya Khineyko
On June 15 the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine of the 5th session ceased to exist. By the morning of that day, 151 deputies from Our Ukraine and the Tymoshenko bloc had submitted their resignation papers to Oleksandr Moroz, bringing the total number of parliamentarians below the necessary quorum of 300. Later that same day, four more resignations were announced.
The de-facto dissolution of the Verkhovna Rada was carried out through the resignations of opposition deputies in accordance with the May 27 agreement of the Big Three, which ended the two-months-long political crisis in Ukraine. It happened in spite of the obstructionist maneuvers on the part of Oleksandr Moroz, who stands to lose most from the dissolution of the current parliament. Also, many rank-and-file opposition deputies were extremely reluctant to relinquish their mandates. As Ukrains’ka Pravda reports, before the resignations list was read out loud at the Verkhovna Rada session, “many MPs [had] asked not to have their names put in the top ten of the list because in the event that dissolution of parliament fails they would never have a chance to return to the Verkhovna Rada.”
Their worries were not completely unfounded, given the fact that not all members of the opposition factions chose to follow their leaders (the current breakdown of the Verkhovna Rada can be seen here ). Mykola Zamkovenko, the erstwhile foe of Leonid Kuchma, and 29 other deputies from the Tymoshenko bloc have refused to abide by their party’s decision and have instead formed a new Tymoshenko bloc faction in the parliament even without the participation of their leader. In light of such events and since resignation papers had to be submitted in person, extraordinary efforts were made to bring opposition members to Kyiv, including sending a private jet to deliver some deputies. The dissolution process was also challenged in court. The former ally of Yushchenko, Anatoly Kinakh, who accepted a cabinet position in the Yanukovych government in March of this year, challenged the legality of the annulment of the Our Ukraine electoral list. His party, the Union of the Industrialists and Entrepreneurs of Ukraine, was not present at the special session of the Our Ukraine bloc that made that decision. However, on June 16 the appellate court of Kyiv confirmed the ruling of the Pechersk district court that deemed the annulment legally valid, effectively killing off one of the last chances to save the current convocation of the Rada.
Despite the fact that the election campaign will not be underway until August, the leaders of Ukraine’s main political parties, Our Ukraine and the Party of Regions, are already preoccupied with the complicated process of forming their electoral lists. It was announced on June 17 that Our Ukraine and its political allies had come up with a new electoral list to be named the Bloc of Democratic Forces. Our Ukraine was to be allocated 54% on the list while Yuri Lutsenko’s People’s Self-Defense and the Ukrainian Right, as junior partners in the coalition, would get 25 and 21 per cent respectively. However, squabbles over key appointments have immediately put the future of the bloc in jeopardy. On June 18, Lutsenko threatened to pull his party out of the bloc and run independently if no consensus would be reached in two weeks regarding the candidacies for Premier and Speaker of the Verkhovna Rada. Also, Lutsenko’s party is interested in government portfolios concerning security: Mr. Lutsenko was Minister of Interior in the first “Orange” government in 2005-2006, as well as having responsibility for the economic reform program. Lutsenko’s ambitions may have been encouraged by the results of the latest polls (see below), which suggest his party’s ratings are currently safely above the 3 percent threshold necessary to be represented in the new Rada.
While the complex relationships among various political forces within the Orange camp are hardly news, it appears that the iron-clad discipline for which the Party of Regions has been known may also be a thing of the past. In an interesting article published by the Ukrainian online portal proUA.com, its author, Oleh Polishchuk, claimed that the party leaders are planning to get rid of at least 50 incumbent deputies and replace them with newcomers. Renat Akhmetov and Viktor Yanukovych espouse two different visions of the upcoming campaign. The former wants to maintain the status quo, meaning that the PofR would run independently with a certain number of seats on the list reserved for Akhmetov’s people. However, Yanukovych contemplates plans to create a bigger coalition under his name, which would include the Social-Democrats United of Viktor Medvedchuk and the Socialists of Oleksandr Moroz, or a number of representatives from those and other parties on an individual basis.
There is simmering discontent at the regional level. Despite being, nominally, part of the same political force, local governors and mayors in eastern Ukraine have been engaged in a bitter turf war with each other, which may have a serious negative effect on the strength of the PofR campaign in those regions. Yet, currently the fortunes of the PofR do not seem to be in any danger. According to the latest poll conducted by the Ukrainian Barometer sociological service, the breakdown of votes in the upcoming elections will look as follows:
Party of Regions – 34%
Tymoshenko bloc – 20.3%
Our Ukraine – 11%
People’s Self-Defense Bloc – 4.8%
Communist Party of Ukraine – 3.9%
Other parties, including the Socialists whose rating is hovering around 2% and the Moscow-financed Natalya Vitrenko bloc with 2.7%, seem unlikely to get into the new Verkhovna Rada.
Thus as individual political figures, both Vitrenko and Moroz may be making their last appearances on the Ukrainian political stage.