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HAS UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT BECOME ILLEGITIMATE? Verkhovna Rada deputy speaker Adam Martynyuk on June 15 announced the resignations of 46 parliamentarians from the opposition Our Ukraine party and Yulia Tymoshenko Bloc, bringing the number of formally confirmed resignations to 151, the "Ukrayinska pravda" website (http://www.pravda.com.ua) reported. The resignation of more than 150 deputies was a key provision in the May 27 deal between President Viktor Yushchenko, Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych, and parliament speaker Oleksandr Moroz to stage early elections on September 30 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," May 29, 2007). According to the Ukrainian Constitution, the 450-seat Verkhovna Rada becomes illegitimate if it has fewer than 300 legislators. However, Moroz maintains that parliament remains legitimate until the Central Election Commission confirms that there are no candidates on the 2006 election lists of Our Ukraine and the Yulia Tymoshenko Bloc to replace those lawmakers who gave up their seats. Meanwhile, the 15-member Central Election Commission, whose revised composition was approved by parliament on June 1, has so far failed to gather for a legitimate sitting, reportedly because of the lack of a quorum. JM
UKRAINIAN PREMIER WARNS AGAINST GRAIN CROP LOSS DUE TO DROUGHT. Prime Minister Yanukovych told journalists in Poltava on June 14 that Ukraine may lose some 10 million tons of grain this year because of severe drought in 10 regions, Interfax-Ukraine reported. Yanukovych said, however, that "there will be no tragedy," taking into account state reserves and harvests in the regions that didn't suffer from the drought. Meanwhile, Deputy Prime Minister for Agricultural Issues Viktor Slauta said the same day that Ukraine may introduce restrictions on grain exports as of July 1. JM
UKRAINE'S POLITICAL CLASS MISSES ITS STATION
Ukrainian politics are becoming more and more impenetrable to logical analysis. Nearly three weeks after the president, the prime minister, and the parliament speaker solemnly agreed to end the political crisis and hold early elections in September, the confrontation between power branches in Ukraine continues to bubble.
Parliament, which is deemed inoperative by the president, keeps on adopting new legislation by votes of the ruling coalition. Some opposition lawmakers, who were expected to resign in order to pave the way for early polls, have apparently changed their minds and want to keep their seats.
President Viktor Yushchenko recently compared parliament to a group of demobilized soldiers who got drunk on a homebound train and missed their station.
On June 5, Yushchenko issued his third decree in just two months calling for early parliamentary elections in the country, this time on September 30. The decree followed the adoption on June 1 of a package of legislation necessary to hold fresh polls, including amendments to the election law and the 2007 budget to provide funds for the election campaign.
Yushchenko's decree is formally based on Article 82 of the Ukrainian Constitution, which stipulates that the 450-seat Verkhovna Rada becomes illegitimate if it shrinks to fewer than 300 deputies. To meet this precondition -- which was a key provision in the early-election deal struck by Yushchenko, parliament speaker Oleksandr Moroz, and Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych on May 27 -- 169 opposition lawmakers reportedly submitted their resignations on June 1. The following day, these resignations were formally confirmed by conventions of Our Ukraine and the Yulia Tymoshenko Bloc.
Both opposition parties simultaneously adopted resolutions to invalidate their complete lists of candidates for the 2006 parliamentary elections, in order to prevent the replacement of those deputies who gave up their mandates with fresh people from lower positions on the lists.
Even as most observers of the Ukrainian political scene were beginning to assess how the major political parties would fare in the polls, Verkhovna Rada head Moroz put in doubt the lawfulness of Yushchenko's third decree on snap elections.
Moroz told RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service on June 12 that the Verkhovna Rada obtained just 79 reliable resignation statements from opposition lawmakers, meaning that Our Ukraine and the Yulia Tymoshenko Bloc will still need to persuade at least 72 of their deputies to give up their seats in parliament.
Moroz declared that as long as he does not see 151 acceptable resignations, the current legislature remains legitimate and early elections are ruled out. He also stressed the role of the Central Election Commission (TsVK) in terminating the Verkhovna Rada. "I am interested [only] in the situation when the TsVK is unable to send us a single deputy to replace those who resigned, and when there are fewer than 300 deputies in the session hall," Moroz said. "Then we can say that there are preconditions for a presidential decree [on early polls]. So far there have been no such preconditions, and the presidential decree [of June 5] is unconstitutional."
According to the Ukrainian speaker, the conventions held by Our Ukraine and the Yulia Tymoshenko Bloc to annul their 2006 election lists were not sufficient -- the invalidations need to be formally approved by the Central Election Commission. Additionally, Moroz argued that, according to the election law amended on June 1, the president has the right to decree early elections no sooner than 60 days before the election date, that is, on August 1.
Moroz also told RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service that he does not believe that early elections will improve the political climate in Ukraine. "Ukraine remains in an artificially created political conflict, which discredits all government institutions and poses a colossal threat to its statehood," he said. "If we look at the situation from this point of view, we will have to take adequate measures. Regrettably, the early elections will not neutralize this conflict; quite the opposite, they will deepen it."
Speaking at a news conference in Kyiv on June 13, Yushchenko reiterated his stance that the Verkhovna Rada ceased to be legitimate after the resignation of opposition deputies and the confirmation of this step by Our Ukraine and the Yulia Tymoshenko Bloc. "The Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine has legitimate authority if it has no less than two-thirds of the number of deputies determined by the constitution," Yushchenko said. "Today, it does not have the two-thirds required by the constitution because Paragraph 6 of Article 82 has come into effect, which says that in the event of a people's deputy leaving a [parliamentary] faction, his or her mandate expires before the end of his or her term in parliament, following a decision by the top governing body of his or her political party, effective upon the date that decision was made."
Yushchenko accused Moroz of "manipulation" in order to delay a resolution of the political crisis. Yushchenko also suggested that Moroz's reluctance to terminate the work of the Verkhovna Rada is dictated by the latter's fear that he may not be elected to the next legislature. All sociological surveys held in Ukraine in the past several months indicate that electoral support for Moroz's Socialist Party is well below the 3 percent voting threshold required for parliamentary representation.
Yushchenko assured journalists that early elections will take place on September 30, but he did not elaborate on measures he may take if the ruling coalition refuses to participate in them. He only stressed that resolving the current standoff is a question of honor for the Ukrainian political elite.
"Elections on September 30 are inevitable," he said. "The question is not about that today. The question is whether or not we already have a tradition among top politicians of resolving political crises with dignity, honor, and honesty."
The Ukrainian president is likely to succeed in enforcing his early-election decree. But it is quite apparent that the longer the current crisis lasts, the less political dignity and honor will be in its resolution.