Kiev: Opposition forces arrayed against President Victor Yanukovich may be poised for another attempt to remove his Prime Minister and Government in a No Confidence vote in the Rada, the Ukrainian Parliament. The last time on Dec. 3rd, they received only 189 votes, far short of the 226 needed to succeed. What has changed?
According to Arseny Yatseniuk in a BBC interview at the protestor-occupied Trade Center Dec 13th, they have another block ready to join the overthrow- the Communists, here-to-for solidly in the ruling Party of Regions camp. Arseniuk is a former Rada Speaker, leader in the Fatherland Party, a leader in the anti-Government occupation protests that have seized the capital Kyiv for the last 4 weeks, and likely Presidential candidate. “The Communists are on board,” he stated flatly. Even if they all were, that would still leave the Opposition 4-5 votes short of the magic 226. “We are about 10 votes short,” he admitted.
The Communists oppose the EU pact that was the original source of the explosion against the President, but they plan to propose their own No Confidence motion, based on the Government’s mishandling of the economy, which the Opposition would endorse.
Yatseniuk claimed Yanukovich’s support was fading in his base: “His core electorate is mainly concentrated in Eastern Ukraine, and these people are really not happy with the ..living standards, with taxes, with the economy, which is going downhill.” Indeed one poll put Yanukovich’s support in Donetsk at a paltry 28%. “The Ukrainian people demand to have snap Presidential and Parliamentary elections. There is only one way out.. to change the Constitution, to back to the old Constitution (changed by Yanukovich block to enhance the President’s power) and have these snap… elections.”
There is a problem though- a law that limits no confidence votes to one per session. The Dec 3rd vote was rushed through too early to have a real chance of succeeding, now the balance may have shifted. There may be ways around that, said Deputy Lesya Orobets in the Trade Center, a fierce anti-corruption fighter on the Foreign Affairs Committee. If the Opposition has a majority, the rules might be changed, or the session adjourned and an immediate new one called.
The bar got higher for the Opposition in the 5 special Parliamentary re-elections on Sunday, when Party of Regions candidates appear to have won 4 of them. In the euphoric party atmosphere of the EuroMaidan occupation, they neglected the nuts and bolts reality of GOTV- getting out the vote. UDAR Party head and strongest opposition candidate Vitali Klitschko intimated that they wouldn’t attempt the No Confidence motion unless they had the votes. Klitschko just gave up his WBA heavyweight title to concentrate on politics.
Meanwhile Yanukovich jetted off to Moscow to sign a trade agreement with Putin that many fear is the first step into the Eurasian Customs Union. Klitschko worried that he would sell the gas pipeline system Russians have long lusted for, which transports their gas to Europe, in exchange for fat loans or credits and a break on the extortionate price Ukraine pays for Russian gas. Yanukovich actually obtained $15 billion of loans and a 30% drop of the gas price to $268 for the near broke Ukraine, but what else he paid isn’t clear. Clearly it was a reward for canceling the EU Association, and would preclude future membership in it.
Yanukovich did make some concessions to the protesters, supposedly dismissing officials for the violent police attacks of Nov 30, and Dec 1, including the acting Mayor. The Party of Regions also proposed replacing 90% of the Government slots, though the Opposition wasn’t mollified. They have no real legal options since the entire judiciary has been packed with Yanukovich loyalists
The Rada met for only 10 minutes Tues, pledging to meet Thursday. Dec 17th’s Putin deal may portend the long-term outcome of this standoff between the furious Opposition that has paralyzed parts of the capital for 4 weeks, and the unpopular kleptocratic government. Either opponents’ rage is stoked and more confrontations ensue (and a No Confidence vote succeeds), or the protesters are disheartened at the seeming fait accompli and the entire resistance fades or collapses.
Michael Hammerschlag's articles (HAMMERNEWS.com) have appeared in NYT, IHT, Seattle Times, Providence Journal, Columbia Journalism Review, Hawaii Advertiser, Capital Times, MediaChannel;Moscow News, Tribune, Times, and Guardian, Novaya Gazeta; Kyiv Post & Weekly, Politics in Ukraine, and Business Ukraine. He's spent 8 years over the last 22 in Russia & Ukraine.
For full coverage of the protests see: Revolt In Ukraine: Uprising Challenges Yanukovich Kleptocracy