2007 Ukrainian political crisis: Wikis

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A political hysteria in Ukraine that lasted from April to June of 2007 was part of political stand off between coalition and opposition factions of Verkhovna Rada. It started on April 2, 2007 as a culmination of long lasting crisis and degradation of the parliamentary coalition when the President of Ukraine (Viktor Yushchenko) attempted to dissolve the parliament. The president signed a presidential decree based on several articles of the Constitution of Ukraine ordering early parliamentary elections in Ukraine to be held on May 27, 2007,[1] though they were later postponed to June 24, 2007.[2] He also ordered the government of Ukraine to finance the appointed elections. The Parliament and the government of Yanukovych called this decree unconstitutional and prevented fund allocation for elections. An appeal against the President's decree was lodged in Ukraine's Constitutional Court, which was considering the appeal.[3] The Constitutional Court was expected to conclude its public hearing on Wednesday, April 25, 2007, following the presentation of the Government and Parliament's submission. The Court would then retire to consider their ruling.[4]

Viktor Yushchenko has suspended the decree and postponed date of the election in order to have approved legislation on elections, the opposition, and the operation of Parliament.[5]

Contents

Dismissal of parliament and new elections

Ukraine

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Leading up to the dissolution of parliament was the eight-month power struggle between the president and the parliament.[6] Ongoing power struggles between the Coalition of National Unity and the opposition supported by the president Viktor Yushchenko frequently resulted in the opposition boycotting the parliament's plenary sessions.

Prior to the President's April 2 decree dismissing Ukraine's Parliament, 11 members of the opposition supported the governing Coalition of National Unity (formerly the Anti-Crisis Coalition). The President of Ukraine, Viktor Yushchenko, claimed that the right of individual members of a parliamentary faction to support the governing coalition was contrary to the provisions of Ukraine's Constitution.

Article 83 clause six, in what is commonly referred to as the Imperative mandate states "According to election results and on the basis of a common ground achieved between various political positions, a coalition of parliamentary factions shall be formed in the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine to include a majority of People’s Deputies of Ukraine within the constitutional composition of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine".[7]

The "Imperative mandate" provision of Ukraine's Constitution came under strong criticism by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe as being undemocratic.[8]. The Parliamentary Assembly in its Explanatory memorandum dated April 17, 2007 had emphasized

Although Ukraine understandably has its own historic reasons to avoid the accumulation of power into the hands of one political force, it should nevertheless consider in the course of future constitutional amendments whether it would not be better for the country to switch to a full parliamentary system with proper checks and balances and guarantees of parliamentary opposition and competition.

The week before the president's initial decree, on April 2, dismissing Ukraine's Parliament, thousands of supporters of the opposition gathered in Kiev, calling on the President dissolve the parliament. A similar number of supporters of Verkhovna Rada Governing majority also gathered in Kiev supporting Ukraine's parliament.[9]

On April 2, the President, Viktor Yushchenko, following a meeting with Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych and Speaker of the Parliament Oleksandr Moroz, signed the first decree dismissing Ukraine's Parliament sparking another political and constitutional crisis in Ukraine.

At 11 PM the President, in a televised speech to the nation, announced his decree dismissing the parliament and ordering early parliamentary elections to be initially held on May 27.[6][10] The Rada, passed a motion declaring the decree unconstitutional, in defiance of the president's decree continued to function,[11] issued orders preventing funds allocation for elections,[12] and canceled the order assigning election commission members.[13] The cabinet, supporting the parliament, refused to allocate funds for the new election.[14]

The legality and authority of the President's determination to dismiss Ukraine's previous parliament has been the subject of a challenge in Ukraine's Constitutional Court.

On April 30, 2007 On the eve of the Court’s ruling on the legality of the President's decrees, Viktor Yushcheko intervened in the operation and independence of Ukraine's Constitutional Court by dismissing three Constitutional Court judges. The President's actions were later determined by Ukrainian courts of have been illegal and one of the judges dismissed has been reinstated; the other two judges resigned. Following the President's intervention the Constitutional Court has not ruled on the legality of the previous parliament's dismissal.

Meeting of Verkhovna Rada on April 11, 2007: the empty seats to the left are allocated for the Opposition.

In a separate issue, some politicians have claimed that identification cards for voting changed hands,[15] as many deputies do not attend parliament in violation of Article 84 of the Constitution.[16]

The Central Election Commission has estimated direct costs of the elections to be at about 340 million UAH ($67 million, £34 million).[17][18] Yulia Tymoshenko, leader of the parliamentary opposition, commented on the issue of costs:[19]

If the mafia is allowed to continue ruling the country, Ukraine will lose tens of billions of dollars, because Ukraine is being robbed today.

Political crisis

The Constitutional Court of Ukraine is examining an inquiry submitted by a group of 53 members of parliament who question the constitutional legitimacy of the parliament's dissolution. This inquiry is based on interpretation that the President had no authority under Ukraine's constitution to dissolve parliament under the conditions listed in Article 90[20] of the Constitution of Ukraine.[11] which is the only article in Ukraine's Constitution that empowers the President to dismiss Ukraine's Parliament.[21] Instead, the decree mentions Articles 5, 69, 77, 83, 102, and 106.[1]

On April 4, Ivan Dombrovskyy, the Chairman of the Constitutional Court, filed for resignation, stating that he is under pressure. However, the judges rejected it.

On April 5, Yanukovych has announced that during telephone conversation asked the Austrian Chancellor Alfred Gusenbauer to mediate in the dispute.[22] There was no immediate response from Gusenbauer's office, and Austrian diplomats were surprised by the news about his help request.[23]

On April 6, the Alliance of National Unity tried to compromise by dismissing the individuals from opposition fractions who had joined them and ratifying a parliamentary law banning individual membership in coalitions.[24]

Four members of Central Election Commission - Yuriy Donchenko, Ihor Kachur, Bronislav Raykovskyy, and Oleksandr Chupakhin (reportedly affiliated with the Anti-Crisis Coalition) took sickness leave - thus effectively blocked work of commission as there is no quorum.[25]

As of April 6 in Constitutional Court, there are constitutional legitimacy questions from the President on an order of the Cabinet Ministers supporting the Verkhovna Rada and from 102 deputies on changes done to constitution in 2004.[26]

On April 7, Feodosiya city court has canceled own order from April 5 that originally disallowed to start elections.[27] Vladimir Kolesnichenko, a spokesperson for the Party of Regions has said that this court ruling is a fake and that the elections are still banned.[28]

On April 9, the Rada has passed a declaration, stating:[29]

Via his entourage and the political circles he relies on, the President of Ukraine interferes with the activities of legislators, brings pressure on judges of Constitutional Court and other courts, since in the legal dimension he does not have any chance to defend his unconstitutional decree.

Furthermore, the Rada called upon the heads of European states, governments, and parliaments to send its representatives to mediate the political crisis.

Ukraine's parliament on April 9, raising the stakes in the country's ongoing political confrontation, stated [30] that it would only support early parliamentary elections a presidential vote is held at the same time.

On April 10, a Luhansk municipal courts' ruling, dated April 6, banning all preparations for the election was publicly announced. The ruling was a response to an inquiry, submitted by Vladimir Ivanov, a Party of Regions member of parliament. Reportedly, this ruling was canceled.[31] Ivanov has attempted to use labor laws in order to keep his deputy mandate:[32]

I have concluded the employment contract for fixed term, and the President’s decree leaves me and my colleagues without work. This is roughest violation of the labor laws.
File:Kiev Maidan Nezalezhnosti April 17 2007.jpg

Five Constitutional Court judges (Dmytro Lelak, Volodymyr Kampo, Viktor Shyshkin, Petro Stetsyuk, Yaroslava Machuzhak), three of whom were appointed under the presidential quota, refused to participate in review of president order unless they will be given protection by law enforcement. They noted that "certain political forces, acting through their representatives, publicly apply rude pressure on the individual judges and on the Constitutional Court as a whole." [33]

On April 12 – 13, both Yanukovych and Yushchenko agreed to abide by the Court's ruling, regardless of its verdict.[34][35] Furthermore, Yanukovych stated he might agree to parliamentary elections, if the other parties would also agree to participate, even if the Court rules in favor of the Rada.[36]

On April 17, Ukraine's Constitutional Court, with all 18 judges in attendance, decided to study the appeal against the President's decree non-stop until a final ruling is passed. 11 out of 18 Judges passed this decision.

Ukrainian opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko described a Constitutional Court decision to review the President's decree dissolving parliament as "a farce," and urged the president to recall the judges appointed on his quota.[37]

The Court has yet to make its decision on the appeal, and is scheduled to announce it on April 27.

Tent camp of Alliance of National Unity supporters near the building of the government.

Ukrainian Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych address Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly stating that the coalition of the majority in Ukraine biggest concern is not that of elections, but the choice between whether Ukraine will be a state ruled by law and all of the emerging problems will be resolved in courts, or on the streets.[38]

Although April 17 was the deadline under established law to submit documents to the Central Election Commission for the registration of party lists, no political force has done so.

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Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe

On April 19, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe held an emergency session to consider issues related to Ukraine's current political crisis. The Assembly passed a resolution calling on all parties to disputation to respect the decision of Ukraine's Constitutional Court whilst criticizing Ukraine's Constitution Imperative mandate provisions.[39][40]

Parliamentary Assembly rapporteurs on Ukraine - Hanne Severinsen and Renate Wohlwend commented:[41]

The ruling of Ukraine’s Constitutional Court in the current crisis, if delivered, should be accepted as binding by all sides, the Parliamentary Assembly said in a resolution adopted on 19 April at the end of an urgent debate attended by Ukraine’s Parliamentary Speaker Oleksandr Moroz. However, the Assembly also warned that pressure in any form on the judges of the Court was intolerable, and should be investigated and criminally prosecuted.

The "imperative mandate" provision of Ukraine's Constitution came under strong criticism by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe as being undemocratic.[8] The Parliamentary Assembly in its Explanatory memorandum had emphasized

Although Ukraine understandably has its own historic reasons to avoid the accumulation of power into the hands of one political force, it should nevertheless consider in the course of future constitutional amendments whether it would not be better for the country to switch to a full parliamentary system with proper checks and balances and guarantees of parliamentary opposition and competition.

Opposition Members First Resignations

On April 20, leaders of Bloc Yulia Tymoshenko and Our Ukraine have declared that about 150 deputy members of Our Ukraine and Bloc Yulia Tymoshenko have resigned from Ukraine's parliament, as result it claimed that the parliament will be no longer able to operate constitutionally per Article 82.[42] Their resignations have been submitted to Vikor Yushchenko, Ukraine's President, who has accepted their resignation.[43]

Dmitry Vydrin from the Bloc of Yulia Tymoshenko (BYuT), has declared that he had not written an application on abdication, as nobody has not made this request. According to him, “there are three reasons” why he did not give his mandate, reports Delo. “At first, nobody addressed to me with my proposal. Nobody phoned me and told me to write down this application. So how could I write it?” declared the deputy.[44][45]

Aleksander Kwaśniewski, Poland's former President, believes that Ukraine must find a political compromise and solution to the current political crisis facing Ukraine. When asked who is to blame he responded:[46]

Unfortunately, the time after the Orange Revolution was wasted away. President Yushchenko, [the former] Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, advisers like Petro Poroshenko are all to blame. They should have helped building a strong orange bloc, for the sake of modernization and Westernization of Ukraine.

On April 25, Viktor Yushchenko announced that he has rescheduled the early parliamentary elections to June 24.[47] On 30 April, the Rada passed a motion calling for presidential and parliamentary elections to be held on 9 December 2007.[48] After negotiations on May 4, Yanukovych and Yushchenko finally agreed to hold elections in autumn (without specifying a date).[49]

Dismissal of Constitutional Court judges and Prosecutor General

Constitutional Court

The authority of the President to dismiss Ukraine's parliament has been challenged in Ukraine's Constitutional Court amidst concern that the President's actions are unconstitutional in that he has exceeded his authority to dismiss Ukraine's parliament.[50]

An appeal against each of the president's decrees has been lodged in the Constitutional Court.

  • On April 19 the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe passed a resolution in consideration of a report titled Functioning of democratic institutions in Ukraine. (Items 13 and 14) [51] stated:
The Assembly deplores the fact that the judicial system of Ukraine has been systematically misused by other branches of power and that top officials do not execute the courts’ decisions, which is a sign of erosion of this crucial democratic institution. An independent and impartial judiciary is a precondition for the existence of a democratic society governed by the rule of law. Hence the urgent necessity to carry out comprehensive judicial reform, including through amendments to the constitution.

The Assembly reiterates that the authority of the sole body responsible for constitutional justice – the Constitutional Court of Ukraine – should be guaranteed and respected. Any form of pressure on the judges is intolerable and should be investigated and criminally prosecuted. On the other hand, it is regrettable that in the eight months of its new full composition, the Constitutional Court has failed to produce judgments, thus failing to fulfill its constitutional role and to contribute to resolving the crisis in its earlier stages, which undermines the credibility of the court. There is an urgent need for all pending judgments, and in particular the judgment concerning the constitutionality of the Presidential Decree of 2 April 2007, to be delivered. If delivered, the latter should be accepted as binding by all sides.

The associated explanatory report under the sub-heading of Pressure on the courts expressed concern that

"Several local courts have made decisions to suspend the Presidential Decree only to then withdraw them, allegedly under pressure from the presidential secretariat." (item 67)

In emphasis the report (item 68) stated

This is a worrying tendency of legal nihilism that should not be tolerated. It is as clear as day that in a state governed by the rule of law judicial mistakes should be corrected through appeal procedures and not through threats or disciplinary sanctions
  • On April 30, on the eve of the Constitutional Court's ruling on the legality of the president's decree dismissing Ukraine's parliament, President Yushchenko, in defiance of the PACE resolution of April 19 intervened in the operation of Ukraine's Constitutional Court by summarily dismissing two Constitutional Court Judges, Syuzanna Stanik and Valeriy Pshenychnyy, for allegations of "oath treason."[52] His move was later overturned by the Constitutional Court and the judges were returned by a temporary restraining order issued by the court.[53]
Syuzanna Stanik - Constitutional Court public released photograph
  • On May 16,Viktor Yushchenko, for a second time, issued another decree dismissing the two Constitutional Court Judges Syuzanna Stanik and Valeriy Pshenychnyy.[54]
  • On May 23, The Constitutional Court of Ukraine acted to prevent the president's undue influence on the court system.[55] The court's ruling was made after Viktor Yushchenko unduly sought to influence the court by illegally dismissing two Constitutional Court judges Valeriy Pshenychnyy and Syuzanna Stanik for allegations of "oath treason."[52]

Pursuant to Article 149 of Ukraine's Constitution Judges of the Constitutional Court of Ukraine are subject to the guarantees of independence and immunity and to the grounds for dismissal from office envisaged by Article 126, and the requirements concerning incompatibility as determined in Article 127, paragraph two of Ukraine's Constitution

  • On July 20 Susanna Stanik won an appeal against the President in the Shevchenko district court of Kiev. The Court ruled the President's actions illegal and reinstated Ms Stanik's entitlement as a member of Ukraine's Constitutional Court. According to the ruling, the President is obliged to cancel his decree on discharge of Mrs. Stanik."[56] The other two judges who were also illegally dismissed had previously tendered their resignations and as such were not subject to the courts order.

Following the president's intervention the Constitutional Court still has not ruled on the question of legality of the president's actions.

Stepan Havrysh, the President's appointee to the Constitutional Court, in prejudgment of the court's decision and without authorization from the Court itself, commented in an interview published on July 24

I cannot imagine myself as the Constitutional Court in condition in which three political leaders signed a political/legal agreement on holding early elections, which also stipulates the constitutional basis for holding the elections... How the court can agree to consider such a petition under such conditions.[57]

Oleksandr Lavrynovych, Ukrainian Minister for Justice, in an interview published on August 3 is quoted as saying

According to the standards of the Constitution and the laws of Ukraine, these elections should have been recognized invalid already today. But we understand that we speak about the State and about what will happen further in this country. As we've understood, political agreements substitute for the law, ... The situation has been led to the limit, where there are no possibilities to follow all legal norms.[58]
  • On March 25, 2008 Ukraine's Supreme Administrative Court ruled the President's dismissal of Suzanna Stanik as a Constitutional Court judge illegal. Ms Stanik's position has been reinstated. The decision is final and not subject to further appeal [57]

Prosecutor General

Recently dismissed Prosecutor General of Ukraine Svyatoslav Piskun breaking into his office, surrounded by Members of the State Protection Department on May 24, 2007.

On May 24, Yushchenko fired the Prosecutor General of Ukraine, Svyatoslav Piskun, who was appointed by Yushchenko himself on April 26, after Piskun refused to resign his place in the Verkhovna Rada as was required by the Ukrainian law, so as to not hold two positions at the same time. Yushchenko cited Constitution Article 78 which states "Where there emerge circumstances infringing requirements concerning the incompatibility of the deputy’s mandate with other types of activity, the People’s Deputy of Ukraine shall within twenty days from the date of the emergence of such circumstances discontinue such activity or lodge a personal application for divesting of People’s Deputy authority" and Item 1 of Article 3 of Law № 2783-IV[59] when issuing his decree on the dismissal of the Prosecutor General.[60] The President appointed Viktor Shemchuk, the Prosecutor General of Crimea, as a replacement to Svyatoslav Piskun.[61] After Piskun's dismissal, thousands of protesters marched to his office in Kiev protesting his dismissal. Piskun, accompanied by several deputies from the Party of Regions, tried to enter his office in Kiev, however, were prevented from doing so by the Members of the State Protection Department, with Valeriy Heletiy at their lead.[61] Valeriy Heletiy and the deputies were later joined by the Communist Party leader Petro Symonenko and supporters of the Party of Regions.[61] The Minister of Internal Affairs of Ukraine, Vasyl Tsushko, ordered Ukraine's Berkut riot police to surround the building, defying Yushchenko's order for the Ukrainian security services not to get involved in the political conflict.[62] Tsushko responded to Yushchenko's dismissal of Piskun as a "coup d'état."[61]


On May 25, Viktor Yushchenko ordered a decree,[63] taking control over 40,000 interior ministry troops.[64] Meanwhile, the troops were acting on orders of the Interior Minister of Ukraine Vasyl Tsushko, who was charged with abuse of office on May 25.[65]

On May 26, thousands of Interior Ministry troops moved towards Ukraine's capital Kiev on the President's orders.[66] The troops were only lightly armed with riot gear and no lethal weapons. On their way to Kiev, the troops were stopped by Ukrainian Traffic Police.[67] Deputy Interior Minister Mykhailo Kornienko stated that about 2,050 troops from 13 out of 25 of Ukrainian oblasts were deployed.[66] According to the Vice Commander of the Interior Ministry troops Mykola Mishakin, about 3,480 troops are deployed near Kiev.[68] Since their entrance into the capital was blocked by Berkut and the Government Automobile Inspection, the Interior Ministry troops will walk to Kiev.[68] Mykola Mishakin stated:[68]

We will be here as long as it takes so that bloodshed will not occur... and where ever it takes so that there will be no use of force, and to give the politicians a chance to resolve their problems in a peaceful and human way.

After over seven hours of discussions, Yushchenko, Yanukovych, and the Verkhovna Rada Speaker have come to an agreement by setting the date for new parliamentary elections on September 30, 2007.[69]

After coming to a compromise on an election date, the Verkhovna Rada was given two days to accept the new elections and legally prepare for them.[70] The Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine adopted a bill that would allow funding for the early parliamentary elections,[71] and the Rada approved the necessary laws on 1 June 2007.[72] Yushchenko formally called the election on 5 June 2007, thus ending the political crisis.[73]

References

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  2. ^ BBC NEWS | Europe | Ukrainian president delays poll
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