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Showdown Between Ukraine’s Two Viktors

Translated Tuesday 17 April 2007, by David Lundy

Kiev. President Viktor Yushchenko continues to oppose his Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych. Parliament is threatened with dissolution.

They’re at it again. After eight months of cohabitation between President Viktor Yushchenko and his Prime Minister, Viktor Yanukovych, we have a crisis. The Ukrainian head of state is threatening to dissolve the Parliament and to call the awaited general election. On Saturday and Sunday, those in favour and against dissolution organised protests in Kiev that brought tens of thousands onto the streets.

Following an appeal from former Ukrainian prime minister, Yulia Tymoshenko, the so-called pro-Western opposition mobilised demonstrators on Maïdan square, calling on the head of state to dissolve Parliament. According to news agencies, slightly more than 10,000 people opposed to the dissolution of Parliament gathered in another part of the capital.

Yesterday, the Ukrainian head of state started negotiations with the various parliamentary groups to try to resolve the crisis, or failing this, carry out the dissolution of Parliament. Among the president’s demands was a ban on deputies changing protocol, meaning that his opponents would be obliged to cease dismissing deputies belonging to the presidential camp.

Indeed, the Ukrainian president accuses his prime minister of having dismissed several deputies of the presidential party, Our Ukraine, in order to gain an absolute parliamentary majority (300 deputies) allowing him free reign. In fact, this crisis is no big surprise. If the question of EU accession brings consensus between opposition and majority since Yanukovych’s visit to Brussels in September 2006, accession to NATO, on the other hand, is a serious bone of contention: the prime minister is opposed to it and proposes putting the question to referendum. Less than one month ago, Yulia Tymoshenko was received by the US State department and by Vice-President Dick Cheney. On the menu for negotiations, Ukraine’s accession to NATO but also the anti-missile shield. On the latter point, a Pentagon delegation made a visit to Kiev recently to convince Ukraine to accept the deployment of this shield on its territory.

Dissolution remains a risky bet. In the last elections of 26 March 2006, out of the 450 elected delegates, the Party of the Regions of Prime Minister Yanukovych (181 delegates) beat its two direct competitors from the Orange Coalition, Our Ukraine (86 delegates), the Tymoshenko Block (129 deputies) and the Socialist Party (33 delegates, actually an agrarian party). In July, campaigning from the Socialist Party, the Party of the Regions and the Communist Party (20 deputies) prevented President Yushchenko from obtaining a parliamentary majority to rule. He was thus forced to name his principal adversary, Viktor Yanukovych, as prime minister, supported by a majority that includes Socialists and Communists.

David Lundy

French: http://www.humanite.fr/journal/2007-04-03/2007-04-03-848918

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