Branches of Authority Clash in Ukraine

KIEV, Ukraine -- A new scandal is breaking out in Ukraine, in the center of which are Prime Minister Yulia Timoshenko and Speaker of the Supreme Rada Vladimir Litvin. After the disagreement between the two leading Ukrainian politicians reached the point of being newsworthy, President Yushchenko tried to mediate in the situation, calling on them to bury the hatchet for the sake of the future of Ukraine.

Speaker of the Supreme Rada Vladimir Litvin (seated) and Prime Minister Yulia Timoshenko do not get on well

The conflict between the head of the cabinet and the head of the parliament was unexpected. On May 22 of this year, not all that long ago, Yushchenko, Timoshenko and Litvin visited the grave of Taras Shevchenko at Kaneva, were they announced that the political forces they control would enter the 2006 elections together. Observers took that political gesture as a sign that the informal trinity of Orange Revolution leaders were coalescing into a new political bloc that would eliminate their opponents' chances of attaining revenge in next year's parliamentary elections.

However, the longer-range development of events has shown once again that the face of modern Ukrainian politics changes at a whirlwind pace. At a Wednesday Cabinet meeting, Timoshenko made a sharply-worded statement about the Rada and its leadership, accusing it of attempting “to maintain social and economic tension in society” in order to discredit her cabinet. Timoshenko did not mince her words, speaking of “political savagery,” “a planned provocation,” on the principle of “the worse, the better.” She called the abortive discussion in the Rada of bill on the WTO “unprecedented,” when deputies blocked the podium and “the president was unable to address the people from the podium of the parliament.” She strongly indicated that, as the summer recess begins, the deputies should think about their behavior and return in the fall ready to work differently. “A normally functioning parliament after the recess is a guarantee that the country will have the necessary legislation in the fiscal arena and a budget for next year,” she said.

Timoshenko restrained herself from mentioning Litvin by name, but a key member of the Cabinet, Deputy Prime Minister for Humanitarian Issues Nikolay Tomenko, did so that yesterday. On Era radio station yesterday morning, Tomenko devoted a significant part of his appearance to Litvin, whom he accused of having too close ties with the old elite headed by former president Leonid Kuchma. Indulging in sarcasm, the deputy premier noted that the speaker “spent too much time writing speeches for Kuchma as is adviser and head of his administration. Tomenko further opined that that that was the reason why Litvin “out of inertia, continues to make statements with a superior, almost presidential, tone.” Tomenko spoke in favor of forming a new majority in the Rada that could work stably, as the de facto majority of Kuchma, Litvin and [Ukrainian Communist Party leader Petr] Simonenko does today.”

The other side responded rapidly. The conciliation council of the Rada factions and groups issued a statement yesterday saying that the Supreme Rada is “categorically against the intervention of the administration in the activities of the parliament, open public manipulation and insults to the highest representational body of the Ukrainian people… We will decisively withstand attempts to dismantle the highest representational body of the state and will not allow politics in Ukraine to be based on conflict.” The document also accused Timoshenko of attempting to draw the president into an artificially created political conflict, where “his authority will be used to cover the mistakes and miscalculations in the actions of the Cabinet of Ministers.”

It also became known yesterday that Socialist party of Ukraine leader Alexander Moroz is in solidarity with Litvin. Moroz made a harsh statement in regard Timoshenko's cabinet, which, he said “rudely interferes in the economy and will rapidly lose the confidence of the people, investors, and its political partners and allies.” Moroz demanded that “the work of the Cabinet of Ministers be made ore transparent, effective and genuinely democratic.” Secretary of the Council of National Security and Defense Petr Poroshenko thinks that the conflict between the administration and the parliament is not of political character, however. “I think the reason for the crisis is the uncoordinated actions of the team,” he said at a press conference in Kiev yesterday. “It is a purely technical reason, I don't see any political reasons.”

Nonetheless, President Yushchenko has intervened in the situation, understanding that the situation could get out of hand. At a press conference yesterday in Kiev, he said that he had conducted negotiations with both sides for several hours the day before, trying to reconcile them. It is not clear yet to what extent he was successful. The president admitted that, if the reconciliation is unsuccessful, “a serious revision awaits the country at the polls in 2006.” “I would like Vladimir Mikhailovich [Litvin] and Yulia Vladimirovna [Timoshenko], who are both wise people, to understand that their behavior today has not enhanced the status of the branches of authority that they head.”

Source: Kommersant