KIEV, Aug. 30 – Ukraine appeared headed Thursday for a major confrontation between political groups when its pro-Russian government unveiled a scenario for canceling the Sept. 30 election.
Justice Minister Oleksandr Lavrynovych said should at least 300 lawmakers show up on Sept. 4 for an emergency session in the 450-seat Parliament “then this election will not be there.”
This is the first time that a senior government official has publicly spoken about the extremely controversial issue of canceling the election. The election was agreed between main political groups earlier this year as the only way out of a sharp political crisis.
President Viktor Yushchenko reacted strongly to the government’s plans to hold the emergency Parliament session. He warned the coalition and Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych personally that the move would lead to major confrontation.
“The step that is being pushed to be made on Sept. 4 is a step in the wrong direction,” Yushchenko said on Thursday. “I regret that the Prime Minister has agreed to support this decision. This is a way towards confrontation.”
The development shows that the Regions Party, led by Yanukovych, has been increasingly looking at controversial options that would postpone or even cancel the vote.
It comes amid opinion polls showing that support for two pro-Western opposition groups has been growing over the past three weeks to a point that they could actually defeat the pro-Russian coalition and unseat Yanukovych.
Analysts said it would be extremely hard for the coalition to collect 300 lawmakers at the session on Sept. 4. A massive exodus of lawmakers from opposition groups towards the coalition would be needed for the scenario to materialize, analysts said.
The pro-Russian coalition, which originally numbered 234 lawmakers, has since expanded to control more than 265 seats, at the expense of lawmakers that had defected from opposition groups.
Yanukovych planned to control 300 lawmakers by May 1, but those plans were disrupted by Yushchenko when the president suddenly dismissed Parliament and called the snap election. Yushchenko said that the coalition has been expanding through corruption and pressure that had distorted results of the March 2006 election.
“I believe the government, every lawmaker, the prime minister should demonstrate one thing: that laws and the constitution are recognized by all political groups,” Yushchenko said. “The breaking [of the laws and the constitution] has triggered the snap election in the first place.”
Meanwhile, there were signs that confrontation has been escalating. A newspaper reported Thursday that Yushchenko had allegedly planned to sign a decree that would cancel provision of special communication services to Parliament next week. The presidential office did not comment on the report.
Yanukovych argued on Thursday that the emergency session of Parliament was needed as lawmakers had “to debate” a draft budget for 2008 and to approve it “in some form.”
“Parliament is blocked and if it reopens, it will work only for several days,” Yanukovych said. “Nothing like that has ever happened in the country, but we are forced to do this.” (tl/ez)