Court Ruling Unseats Two Independent MPs

KIEV, Ukraine -- Two independent lawmakers on Friday were stripped of their status by a court ruling amid speculation the move was orchestrated by President Viktor Yanukovych, who has been seeking to reassert control over a majority in Parliament.

Pavlo Baloha

Pavlo Baloha, who won a parliamentary seat in the TransCarpathian region, and Oleksandr Dombrovskiy, who won the seat in the Vinnytsia region, were stripped of lawmaker status by the High Administrative Court.

Baloha, a brother of former emergency minister Viktor Baloha, first joined the ruling Regions Party group after the election, but had later quit the group to emphasize his independence.

“For the first time in history of Ukraine a legally elected lawmaker through an unconstitutional way was stripped of the status by court, not by the people who had elected him,” Vikto Baloha, also an independent lawmaker, wrote on his Facebook page.

“Elections in this country have turned into pure formality because lawmakers can now be appointed by courts.”

The ruling is controversial as legislation allows contesting elections in courts only within five days after the elections.

Also, a sworn in lawmaker can be stripped of the status only if he officially asks Parliament to do so, is convicted of a crime, is legally missing or incapable, has acquired another citizenship and left for permanent residency in another country, or in the event of death.

Yanukovych, who faces re-election in March 2015, suffered a major setback after October 28, 2012 elections after his Regions Party had failed to secure majority of seats.

Yanukovych now has to rely on between 40 and 50 independent lawmakers in the 450-seat Parliament for any legislation to be approved, which makes voting unpredictable.

Many lawmakers, such as Pavlo Baloha and Viktor Baloha, have refused to back the Regions Party on many issues, often triggering a stalemate and angering the authoritative.

“There are all reasons to believe that the lawsuit against Pavlo Baloha was launched by the authorities,” the United Center party, led by Viktor Baloha, said in a statement.

“This happened after the lawmaker has refused to join the Regions Party and had publically announced this.”

Oles Doniy, another independent lawmaker, said the controversial ruling was a test by the authorities to try to change and tilt balance in Parliament in the favor of the Regions Party.

“The authorities are showing us that they be stripping lawmakers of their status without any legal grounds and by doing so they will try to reduce the number of opposition lawmakers,” Doniy said.

“Whatever is the attitude towards Baloha and Dombrovskiy, everyone has to understand that it is time to stand up not only for their defense, but for the defense of parliamentarism that is being destroyed by the Regions Party,” Doniy said.

Source: Ukrainian Journal