Lawmakers Prevent Ukrainian President From Delivering Speech

KIEV, Ukraine -- President Viktor Yushchenko canceled his state-of-the-nation speech to Parliament today after lawmakers loyal to the prime minister — his nominal ally — blocked the speaker's chair.

Parliamentarians from Ukraine's Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko's bloc, block President Viktor Yushchenko from giving his state of the nation address to the assembly in Kiev May 13, 2008.

The incident, the second time this year that Yushchenko has been blocked from making a speech, highlighted the tensions between him and Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko. It also threatened new turmoil in a country that has lurched from one political crisis to another over the past half-decade.

Yushchenko also was blocked from making the annual address in February by opposition lawmakers protesting his drive to bring Ukraine into NATO. Today's dispute showed how perilously fragile the governing coalition formed last year has become.

"For the first time in our history, we have an unprecedented case when the parliamentary majority, which bears responsibility for the work of the Ukrainian Parliament, is blocking it," a somber Yushchenko told reporters outside the hall.

Pro-Tymoshenko lawmakers were protesting what they see as Yushchenko's lack of action to counter soaring inflation and his resistance to other concessions. Tymoshenko alleged today that Yushchenko is trying to undermine her before the 2010 presidential elections.

Yushchenko and Tymoshenko were the main figures of the 2004 Orange Revolution, the massive, peaceful protest movement that formed after a fraud-plagued presidential election.

Yushchenko won the court-ordered rerun of the election, but Tymoshenko has consistently been a more popular figure with her fiery statements and high-fashion style in contrast to Yushchenko's stolid demeanor.

That relationship is showing deep cracks after public sparring over issues including the economy and government appointments, leading some to speculate the two may run against each other in 2010.

Tymoshenko was Yushchenko's first prime minister, but he fired her in 2005 after only seven months in office. She returned to her post late last year after Yushchenko's party and hers put together a coalition government and the two leaders promised to set aside their differences.

Tymoshenko claims Yushchenko is deliberately undermining her government's work in order to weaken her, while the president charges Tymoshenko is not doing enough to stop inflation, which has soared to over 20%.

The leaders have traded increasingly angry accusations in recent months, resulting in today's climactic action. Tymoshenko's deputies swarmed the presidium and created chaos in the 450-seat Verkhovna Rada.

Tymoshenko's efforts to clean up the natural gas trade with Russia has brought her widespread popularity and Yushchenko is seen as seeking to curb her influence.

The two are also at odds over changes to the country's constitution. Yushchenko wants to strengthen the presidency, while Tymoshenko wants most of the powers to lie with the premier.

Source: AP


Samuel said…
would love to see a video about this... did you find any youtube links?