Plaited Lady Out On The Offensive

KIEV, Ukraine -- While in Jerusalem last week, Ukraine’s chief oppositionist Yulia Tymoshenko called on her fellow politicians to visit Holy Land religious sites to cleanse themselves from the dirt of Ukrainian politics.

Yulia Tymoshenko shown meeting with vice-prime-minister of Israel Shimon Peres

The call was timely given her surprising political support to Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych’s successful efforts to overturn a presidential veto on the law on the Cabinet of Ministers. The new law expected to go into effect soon strips the president of key executive authorities and vests them in the hands of the coalition government.

Given Tymoshenko’s opposition to the political reforms that weakened the presidency during the height of the 2004 Orange Revolution, her early January votes in the Rada caused many to question her true political motives. In fact, Tymoshenko allies openly distance themselves from any rational form of democracy and state they are interested in gaining total control of state institutions with few checks and balances.

This runs contrary to the president’s agenda of correcting the current political asymmetry and refining a reliable system of checks and balances between the presidency, parliament and coalition government.

Yulia Tymoshenko’s tactical alliance with the Party of Regions will not only bring more chaos to governing institutions in the short term, but will have grave consequences on the strategic development of Ukrainian democracy for years to come.

Luckily there are at least 11 procedural and other violations of the existing Constitution within the recently passed Cabinet of Ministers law that could be used by the courts to turn back the latest attempt to usurp political power in Ukraine without a consultation with voters.

However, until the courts hear the case, the law will have taken effect and will have the following repercussions and consequences.

First, the law on the Cabinet of Ministers overridden by parliament strips the president of almost all executive authorities and places them in the hands of the prime minister. In essence, a voter’s right to directly elect the president has been violated.

Direct elections to the presidency with one set of powers have been replaced with a presidency of limited political powers – that which former President Leonid Kuchma and his top aide Viktor Medevedchuk couldn’t get parliament to pass in the fall of 2004.

Tymoshenko’s support of the Cabinet of Ministers law now fully nullifies the guiding principles and values that formed the rationale for the hard-fought 2004 presidential election that brought about the Orange Revolution.

Second, Ukraine’s existing balance of political powers between two directly elected democratic bodies – the president and parliament – will under the new law on the Cabinet of Ministers shift completely to the governing coalition.

Given the existing make-up of the parliament and the finances concentrated in the Party of Regions, de facto all political powers shift to Prime Minister Yanukovych. The president’s earlier right to disband parliament if a ruling coalition is not formed, a prime minister not nominated, a budget and national government program not passed, is vested absurdly with the parliament itself.

The result is, again, a usurpation of power without consultation with voters.

Third, the draft law on the so-called “imperative mandate,” which Tymoshenko has fought so hard for, limits direct voter representation further by giving political parties, and not the courts, the right to remove elected council representatives. If not vetoed by the president, the new law will allow party leaders to replace those local deputies who abandoned their party lists in city and oblast councils.

Most notably, this could have an impact on the make-up of the Kyiv City Council. In effect, those elected deputies who express independent views and do not follow the central party line face expulsion from party ranks and removal from public office.

While this position may gain the support of strong party discipline advocates, the protection of individual rights as guaranteed by the Constitution will be violated and their adjudication and fair application would rest not with the courts but with the central political committees of political parties – much like the system that existed during the times of the Communist Party Politburo.

So where have the Tymoshenko Bloc’s hasty actions steered Ukraine’s nascent democratic polity?

The Jan. 12 votes were brought about by a turn of events among the radicalized political faction within the Yulia Tymoshenko Bloc. The latter feared their further political marginalization by a stability pact that was to be signed by President Viktor Yushchenko, Prime Minister Yanukovych and Speaker Oleksandr Moroz in mid-February.

The president’s attempts to usher in a political culture of party coexistence and political compromise as a means toward reaching agreement on refining a democratic system of political checks and balances is a direct threat to Tymoshenko.

Given her strong showing during the 2006 parliamentary election, her immediate political goal is to amass as much Orange electorate support as soon as possible. This solidifies her positions in the Orange camp and limits potential competition from rising democratic stars such as Yuriy Lutsenko, Arseniy Yatsenyuk, Mykola Katerynchuk, Vitaliy Klitschko, and others.

To ensure she stays relevant, Tymoshenko played tactically against Yushchenko the tried and true populist trump cards of “the worse off the better.” Her only hope of achieving new parliamentary elections is to further weaken the presidency and build up an encroaching opponent in Yanukovych.

This, she hopes, will push Yushchenko to call early elections, which if held soon are likely to turn Ukraine from a multi-party democracy to a political system dominated by two highly centralized political parties with populist platforms and authoritarian tendencies: the Party of Regions and the Yulia Tymoshenko Bloc.

This turn of events would once again bring to the fore the east-west divide and put Ukraine on the road to a long-term internal struggle that could further push away prospects for Western or any other form of international integration.

Source: Kyiv Post