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Ukraine: Betting on Yushchenko

On Saturday, tens of thousands of people attended two major rallies in Kyiv: supporters of prime minister Victor Yanukovych and his ruling coalition were brought to European Square to protest president Victor Yushchenko's plans to dissolve the parliament; supporters of Yushchenko and his current allies stood at Maidan Nezalezhnosti, voicing their approval of this tough measure.

On Sunday, all was perfectly quiet and uneventful in Kyiv.

Then on Monday, Yushchenko dissolved the parliament, accusing Yanukovych of usurping power. The ruling coalition reacted to the president's order by defying it; the parliament continued its work throughout Tuesday.

How the situation is going to develop and whether the early election, scheduled for May 27, would take place, is anyone's guess right now. But Ukrainians seem to be used to such unpredictability. After all, it wasn't clear until the very last moment whether the president and the prime minister would reach compromise, and hardly anyone seemed too surprised when they didn't – but even if they had, it wouldn't have been a complete shock to many.

LJ user chernikovsun (Ukrainian journalist Andrey Chernikov) has written this (RUS) about the risky business of betting on Ukraine's president:

A political totalizer

I've got some political forecasting skills. But at a bookmaker's office, I wouldn't bet on the parliament's dissolution or its non-dissolution. Because our president is an unpredictable person. I haven't been able to figure out what determines the decisions he makes. And I would've lost on any stake I'd made.

Funny, but some gambling did take place (RUS) – at the forum of Ukrainska Pravda, one of Ukraine's most popular news sites, founded by Georgiy Gongadze: Yushchenko's firmness allowed three forum dwellers to win 50 hryvnias ($10) and two more twice as much; one of the bettors who didn't believe the president would dissolve the parliament lost 200 hryvnias ($40).

Almost like betting but not quite is a survey question (UKR) posted at Ukrainska Pravda‘s forum; readers are asked whether they'd be prepared to support their president right up to the victory. Of the 154 voters, 132 said they would, 13 responded negatively, and nine said they didn't care:

VERBICKY: So we'll support him, but he'd let us down and recall his order on Easter's eve.

[…]

Kram: Yes, but even yesterday I didn't expect myself to feel this way!

[…]

Matroskin: No. In the two years of his presidency, one firm decision? […]

LJ user unika_ is one of those who is skeptical about the idea to re-elect Ukrainian lawmakers. She notes that Yushchenko's order to dissolve the parliament was made public shortly after full moon appeared in the skies on April 2 – and full moon is known to only make it worse for the mentally ill, according to unika_. Seriously, though, she writes:

[…]

They can do re-elections ten times or more, but the result would still be 50/50. Both optimists and pessimists understand this. So what's the point in spending money, distracting people from the work in the fields, stopping the ministries’ work?

[…]

And here is a view of someone who agrees with the president – LJ user skylump writes (RUS):

Hurrah. I'm glad. Yushchenko has made at least one dignified step. I continue to enjoy the story of the parliament's dissolution. Because the elites have to be taught democracy. The old European method, guillotine – or the old Ukrainian method, throwing hetmans [commanders] onto spike – do not fit the spirit of the time. Nowadays, the elites have to be reshuffled and led to bankruptcy during the multiple elections – to make them understand at least something.

6 comments

  • Veronica, I’ll be watching closely what you post about Ukraine. It’s very hard to be far from Kyiv now, and hear just rumors and rumblings about what is going on.

  • First this is not a West versus Russia stereotype.

    The Constitutional Court needs to rule on the question of legality of the President’s decree and it most certainly is not a clear and chances are they will rule against the President.

    If the Court rule that Yushchenko’s dictatorial decree was unconstitutional the president will have no alternative but to resign.

    If they rule that the President has the authority to dismiss the democratically elected Parliament then Ukraine will face an election.

    Chances are that the overall result of fresh parliamentary elections will be more or less the same with the main loser being the President’s own party. again pressure will be on for the president to resign if that is the outcome.

    Most people in Ukraine do not support the President’s actions.
    They see this for what it is a power grab and struggle between the office of the President and the Parliamentary Government.

    Outside of Kyiv there is no protest. Our Ukraine, the President’s Party had set up tents on Monday only to find that people were giving them a wide berth. Today they were not set-up.

    The cost of the election is estimated to be around 150 Million dollars. Money that would be better spent on other issue.

    The President has painted himself in a corner and the chances he will not survive as President much longer.

    What Ukraine needs most is stability of government and economic growth.

    More information http://ukrainetoday.blogspot.com

  • In early March, head of the Central Election Committee Yaroslav Davydovych said (RUS) an early election would cost approximately 400 million hryvnias – which is something around $80 million.

    Perhaps there are no opposition protests right now because there’s nothing for the opposition to protest? Unlike for the coalition?

  • when calculating the cost of elections you need to take into account the direct costs and indicate costs. The true cost of the election is expected to be well over the estimated 150 Million dollars when you take into account impacts on Ukraine’s economic development and cost of running a nation wide campaign.

  • Monday, April 09, 2007
    PACE: Ukrainian president had not enough legal grounds to dissolve the parliament

    Renate Wohlwend Parliamentary Assembly Council of Europe (PACE) monitoring committee co-reporter Renate Wohlwend believes that the Ukrainian president had not enough legal grounds to dissolve the parliament

    Source: RegNum Also Ukrayinska Pravda
    http://www.regnum.ru/english/809351.html
    http://www.pravda.com.ua/en/news/2007/4/8/7424.htm

    The announcement by PACE is a serious blow to Yulia Tymoshenko and the President’s campaign for fresh Parliamentary Elections. PACE had no alternative but to express its concerns over the constitutionality of the President’s decree dismissing Ukraine’s democratically elected Parliament. The dismissal of a Parliament by a head of state sets a very dangerous precedence that effects not just Ukraine but also Western democracy. Most Western parliamentary democracies have very strict limitations on the right of a head of state to dismiss a parliament.

    Yulia Tymoshenko had hoped that Europe would back the oppositions call for fresh elections. It has not.

    PACE has made the correct call. The actions of the President is a last gasp of a failed Presidency. The consequences of his actions seriously undermines Ukraine’s democratic development and rule of law.

    Media reports over the weekend have indicated that the President had met (in secrete) with members of the Constitutional Court on Friday in an attempt to influence the determination of the Court. Yushchenko wants the Court to defer its consideration and determination no the governments appeal. The President is of the false belief that if the Court delays its decision long enough the elections process will be secured and the President if need be will declare a state of emergency if protests continue.

    There are also reports that the President is ordering the Military to take control of the Parliament should the conflict continue and elections are not held.

    The Constitutional Court must not bow to pressure from the Office of the President. It must rule on the validity of the President’s actions according to rule of law. Any different or delay in it’s decision would results in ongoing conflict and division.

    — Extract Copy of News aralce published on regnum —

    “The main cause of the presidential decision [to dissolve the parliament] was his attempt to cease MPs changing their factions. I am afraid, legally, it is not enough to dissolve the parliament,” Renate Wohlwend said. The PACE co-reporter expressed hope that Ukraine’s Constitutional Court would speed up its consideration of the question whether Yushchenko’s decree was constitutional. “I am afraid, if it takes months for the Constitutional Court to rule whether the president was right or wrong, clashes in the streets can start between those, who support the opposition, and those, who support Yanukovich,” Renate Wohlwend believes.

    According to her, early elections will not help in settling the problem. “If the Constitutional Court decides to support the elections, they must be conducted. After the elections, Ukraine will be brought back to 2-3 years backwards in development of its democratic institutions and establishment of the rule of law,” Ms. Wohlwend said. “If the decree is pronounced unconstitutional, President Yushchenko will have to resign,” the PACE co-reporter believes.

    On April 2, the power crisis in Ukraine developed into a new stage. President Viktor Yushchenko signed a decree to dissolve the Supreme Rada and appointed a date for the early elections, May 27. The parliament and the government agreed to obey the decree, only if the Constitutional Court decides the decree does not breach the constitution. On April 5, Ukraine’s Constitutional Court confirmed that it opened the case on determining whether President Viktor Yushchenko’s decree to dissolve the Supreme Rada was constitutional and pronounced the case urgent.

  • […] On April 2, Ukrainian president Victor Yushchenko dissolved parliament and called early elections, but prime minister Victor Yanukovych and his allies disputed the president’s authority to do so (see here and here for earlier Global Voices translations). This week, Yushchenko dismissed the newly reappointed prosecutor general, Svyatoslav Piskun, who is the prime minister’s ally. Interior minister Vasyl Tsushko accused the president of usurping power, and riot police stormed the prosecutor general’s office. Yushchenko responded by placing interior ministry troops under his direct command. Yanukovych condemned the president’s order, and the interior ministry said it would defy it. After a day of confusion over who controlled the interior ministry’s troops, Yushchenko ordered extra units to Kyiv, but most were stopped on the way to the capital by traffic police acting on behalf of the government. […]

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