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UKRAINIAN TRADE UNIONS PROTEST UTILITIES PRICE HIKES. Some 15,000 people gathered on Independence Square in Kyiv on June 27 to protest increases in payments for electricity and gas supplies as well as for housing and public transport, UNIAN reported. The rally was organized by Ukraine's Federation of Trade Unions. At the end of May, the government decided to nearly double consumer gas prices as of July 1 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," June 1, 2006). It was the second gas price hike this year in Ukraine, following a Ukrainian-Russian deal in January that increased the gas price for Ukraine from $50 to $95 per 1,000 cubic meters. Gazprom officials have indicated that this price may be revised upward as of July. JM
OUR UKRAINE PROPOSES POROSHENKO FOR SPEAKER. The Our Ukraine parliamentary caucus on June 27 decided to propose Petro Poroshenko, former secretary of the National Security and Defense Council, for the post of parliament speaker, Ukrainian media reported. According to last week's coalition deal reached by the three Orange Revolution allies -- the Yuliya Tymoshenko Bloc (BYuT), Our Ukraine, and the Socialist Party -- the BYuT will propose its leader for the post of prime minister, while Our Ukraine will put forward a candidate for parliament speaker (see "RFE/RL Newsline," June 26, 2006). A conflict between Tymoshenko and Poroshenko was one of the main reasons behind the split of the former Orange Revolution coalition in September 2005. It is not clear when the Verkhovna Rada will vote on the candidacies of Tymoshenko and Poroshenko. The opposition Party of Regions on June 27 blocked the rostrum in and entrance to the Verkhovna Rada hall, thus preventing lawmakers of the coalition from opening a session. The Party of Regions reportedly objects to the Orange coalition's plan to approve Tymoshenko and Poroshenko in a single vote and what it sees as an unjust distribution of posts in parliamentary committees by the coalition parties. JM
UKRAINE, MOLDOVA TO KEEP NEW CUSTOMS RULES IN PLACE ON TRANSDNIESTER BORDER. During a visit to Chisinau on June 26, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Borys Tarasyuk said Kyiv will not reverse new customs rules on the Transdniestrian section of its border with Moldova, ITAR-TASS reported the same day. "Helping Moldova restore its territorial integrity is a duty of Ukraine. I doubt that the new government of Yuliya Tymoshenko will change the approach regarding the customs regime in the Dniester region, as it was in principle approved when she was prime minister," Tarasyuk said at a meeting with Moldovan parliament speaker Marian Lupu. Moldova and Ukraine implemented the new regulations in early March (see "RFE/RL Newsline," March 6, 7, and 8, 2006). The rules, designed to combat smuggling, are supported by the European Union and require that all goods bound for Ukraine that move through the Transdniestrian section of the border clear Moldovan customs and have a Moldovan stamp. Russia and the pro-Moscow regime in Transdniester have called the move an "economic blockade." BW
RADIO FREE EUROPE/RADIO LIBERTY, PRAGUE, CZECH REPUBLIC
A Survey of Developments in Belarus, Ukraine, and Moldova by the Regional Specialists of RFE/RL's Newsline Team
HOW WILL RENEWED 'ORANGE' GOVERNMENT BE RUN? The three allies of the 2004 Orange Revolution in Ukraine -- the Yuliya Tymoshenko Bloc, Our Ukraine, and the Socialist Party -- decided on June 22 to recreate their ruling coalition, which existed for eight months in 2005. The renewed Orange coalition, however, comes into being under new rules of the political game determined by a constitutional reform that took effect at the beginning of 2006. Under this reform, Ukraine's parliament and prime minister acquired more political clout at the expense of the president.
How has the ruling class in Ukraine prepared to deal with this new situation?
Yuliya Tymoshenko, leader of the eponymous political bloc, was fond of asserting during the parliamentary election campaign earlier this year that voting for the Verkhovna Rada on March 26 would decide who would actually govern Ukraine over the next five years. In this way she was highlighting the new, enhanced powers of the parliament and the cabinet of ministers vis-a-vis the presidency, which are a result of the constitutional changes made during the peak of the Orange Revolution in December 2004.
Would Tymoshenko repeat that assertion now, after her party has rejoined the ruling coalition and she personally is poised to become prime minister once again?
Perhaps yes, but arguably with less confidence -- this because her coalition partners from Our Ukraine have put forth a great deal of effort during the nearly three months of coalition talks in order to install an elaborate system of checks and balances to prevent her from gaining too much power.
A coalition deal signed on June 22 provides for the distribution of election spoils between the Orange allies on a broadly proportional basis. This means that the Yuliya Tymoshenko Bloc (129 seats) should get 53 percent of government posts, Our Ukraine (81 seats) 33 percent, and the Socialist Party (33 seats) 14 percent.
But this arithmetic does not apply to some major state posts that the constitution defines as a presidential quota. In particular, the president has the right to appoint the foreign minister, the defense minister, the prosecutor-general, the head of the Security Service, the head of the National Bank, and all regional governors. It should be expected that these appointments will be made by President Viktor Yushchenko mostly from the ranks of the pro-presidential Our Ukraine.
Moreover, presidential prerogatives include appointing half the members of the National Radio and Television Council, the National Bank Council, and the Constitutional Court. The president also has veto powers on legislation, which can be overturned by no fewer than 300 votes in the 450-seat Verkhovna Rada. Thus, even after the 2004 shift from the presidential to parliamentary form of governance in Ukraine, President Yushchenko appears to have more political clout than most of his counterparts in Central Europe.
According to unconfirmed media reports, the June 22 coalition deal allocates the post of prime minister and nine ministerial portfolios to the Yuliya Tymoshenko Bloc. Our Ukraine is to take the posts of parliamentary speaker and deputy prime minister as well as five ministerial portfolios. The Socialist Party will have to satisfy itself with the post of first deputy premier and three ministerial portfolios.
The posts of heads of parliamentary committees are distributed among the coalition partners under a similar proportional scheme, but an adopted system of checks and balances assures that Our Ukraine and the Socialist Party control those committees that deal with the spheres of cabinet activities being under the control of ministers from the Yuliya Tymoshenko Bloc.
The Orange coalition deal also includes a chapter called "The Regulations of the Coalition's Activities," which sets internal rules and procedures for arriving at coordinated decisions.
According to these rules, every coalition partner has the power of veto over proposed legislation, and consensus is needed for submitting a draft bill or resolution to the Verkhovna Rada.
The main programmatic issues -- mapping out principal foreign and domestic policies and drafting the cabinet's program of action -- are to be tackled by the General Assembly of the Coalition, which consists of all 243 lawmakers from the three Orange parties. The General Assembly of the Coalition adopts resolutions by voting -- a decision is deemed passed if it is supported by more than 50 percent of lawmakers in each coalition party.
On a daily basis, the work of the coalition is coordinated by the nine-member Coalition Council, which is made up of three lawmakers from each coalition party.
There are also rules obliging the coalition to consult on issues of special importance with the three top state officials: the president, the prime minister, and the parliamentary speaker.
In particular, the coalition, through its council, has to hold mandatory consultations with the president regarding the determination of foreign and domestic policies and a program of socioeconomic development. The same applies to submitting the candidacy of a prime minister for parliamentary approval.
The prime minister is restricted in his/her actions by a requirement to hold mandatory consultations with the Coalition Council regarding the nomination of cabinet and other officials whom the constitution assigns to his/her sphere of authority. A similar requirement applies to cabinet dismissals.
In other words, for the first time in Ukraine's 15 years of independence the Ukrainian political elite have agreed on a set of rules that can make running the government in the country a fairly transparent and civilized business. This circumstance, coupled with the constitutional reform that distributes political clout among the power branches more evenly, may be seen as an indisputable gain of the Orange Revolution.
However, the upsetting part of all this is that people intending to run a new government in Ukraine are essentially the same people who split in September 2005 among mutual accusations of corruption practices and/or encroaching upon each other's prerogatives.
Our Ukraine's proposal that Petro Poroshenko, Tymoshenko's fiercest enemy in the 2005 feud within the then-Orange coalition, take the post of parliamentary speaker seems to be an ill-advised "parliamentary check" on Tymoshenko as the head of the cabinet. There is a great likelihood that the former rivalry between these two might start anew, plunging the new coalition once again into recriminations and quarreling.
Incidentally, representatives of the opposition Party of Regions predict that precisely because of the incompatibility of such individuals as Tymoshenko and Poroshenko, the new Orange coalition is doomed to the same collapse as its Orange predecessor. Bracing itself for such an eventuality, the Party of Regions is keeping its options open and has avoided saying "no" to a future coalition with Our Ukraine.
Our Ukraine unambiguously suggested that its own coalition with the Party of Regions is a possibility when it invited its main enemy in the Orange Revolution to participate in coalition talks earlier this month. Therefore, what looked like an attempt to blackmail Tymoshenko into becoming more pliant in the coalition talks two weeks ago may well prove to be a practical move. (Jan Maksymiuk)
"RFE/RL Belarus, Ukraine, and Moldova Report" is prepared by Jan Maksymiuk on the basis of a variety of sources including reporting by "RFE/RL Newsline" and RFE/RL's broadcast services. It is distributed every Tuesday.