Former Speaker Calls For Election Boycott

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukraine’s opposition parties should boycott elections in October 2012 if former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko is barred by the authorities from running, Arseniy Yatseniuk, a former parliamentary speaker, said Thursday.

Arseniy Yatseniuk

Yatseniuk publicly supported the former prime minister amid growing international pressure on President Viktor Yanukovych to release Tymoshenko.

“She must get out of jail and have the right to run for Parliament in 2012,” Yatseniuk said in an interview with TVi television.

“In case the Tymoshenko Bloc is barred from the election, everything must be done for democratic parties to set an ultimatum that we join the campaign only if the bloc is allowed to run,” Yatseniuk said.

Yatseniuk has stepped up his campaign in favor of Tymoshenko over the past few weeks while some said his party would stand to benefit most electorally from the pressure on Tymoshenko.

Yatseniuk and Tymoshenko competed essentially for the same voters in western regions of Ukraine at the January 2010 presidential election.

Yatseniuk, now the No. 3 most popular politician, still lags behind Tymoshenko, who remains No. 2.

However, a recent opinion poll showed that Yatseniuk, unlike Tymoshenko, is actually capable of uniting voters and is already capable of defeating Yanukovych in a potential runoff presidential election.

This suggests Yatseniuk has potential to mount a massive campaign and to win significant number of seats at the next parliamentary elections in October 2012.

Yatseniuk, in a carefully staged and widely covered move last week, attempted to visit Tymoshenko in the Lukyanivska detention facility.

He was given a tour over the facility, but his requested meeting with Tymoshenko had been declined.

Tymoshenko’s allies, however, have been cautious about Yatseniuk’s increasing activity amid fears that he has been trying to win over potential Tymoshenko supporters.

The developments come as the Tymoshenko trial has been suddenly put on hold for two weeks until September 27 amid speculation the authorities have been trying to figure out how to deal with the case, which has turned into a PR disaster for Yanukovych.

“The authorities got confused and don’t know what to do. They have taken a time-out to check reaction of the international community and to think one more time how to come out of this situation,” Henadiy Moskal, a lawmaker from the opposition People’s Self-defense group, said.

EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton said U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton last Friday wrote a private letter to Yanukovych in which they have raised serious concerns about the case.

Other European politicians, such as Alexander Kwasniewski, a former Polish President and a special envoy, traveled to Kiev last week for a three-hour one-on-one meeting with Yanukovych to express similar concerns.

The failure to address the Tymoshenko issue by Yanukovych may jeopardize his attempts to sign a free trade and political association agreements with the European Union later this year.

Source: Ukrainian Journal