KIEV, Sept. 4 – Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych’s coalition defied President Viktor Yushchenko on Tuesday by holding Parliament’s emergency session, but it failed to summon up enough lawmakers to reach a quorum and cancel the Sept. 30 election.
Some 261 lawmakers, representing the Regions Party, the Communist Party, the Socialist Party and deputies that had previously defected from opposition groups, showed up at the session.
This number fell short of 300 lawmakers that Justice Minister Oleksandr Lavrynovych said would have been required in the 450-seat Parliament to cancel the election.
The failure to muster the quorum is a setback for Yanukovych and his allies and shows that their political clout has been weakening.
The development will help to ease the immediate confrontation between him and the president. It also suggests the election will probably take place as scheduled.
Meanwhile, the lawmakers voted on Tuesday to approve a bill, which they said would lift immunity from the president, lawmakers and judges. Another bill that has been approved cuts perks for lawmakers.
By doing so, the pro-government lawmakers apparently sought to hijack the main campaign issue from Yushchenko’s Our Ukraine-People’s Self-defense group, which had promised to eliminate the immunity after the election.
Yushchenko condemned the session of Parliament, which he insists is incapable of approving any bills. By holding the session, he said the lawmakers demonstrated “disrespect” for the constitution.
“I condemn the holding of this session,” Yushchenko said. “It’s sad that the prime minister has comprehensively supported this move.”
But Yanukovych, who for most of the day on Tuesday was on a routine trip to the Luhansk region in eastern Ukraine, said the emergency session did not pose a threat of destabilization to the country.
Instead, Yanukovych blamed the president for uaving destabilized the work of the legislature and the government since April 2, when Yushchenko issued his first decree dismissing Parliament.
“From April we see the unprecedented case in history when the president has signed the decree that had destabilized the work of other branches of power,” Yanukovych said.
Yanukovych said on Monday he had a lengthy phone conversation with Yushchenko in which the president had argued against holding the session. But Yanukovych insisted the session was needed to counterbalance the president.
“The president cannot usurp the legislature and the National Security and Defense Council,” Yanukovych said referring to the top security body under the president. “Not a single democratic country has any precedents like this.”
Yanukovych, apparently in defiance of Yushchenko, refused to attend a meeting of the top security body on Tuesday.
Vadym Karasiov, the director of the Institute for Global Strategies, said the emergency session was aimed at flexing the muscles by the coalition ahead of the election.
“This was a show,” Karasiov said. “The main thing was to call the session to produce a PR exercise by playing on the nerves of the opposition and the president.” (tl/ez)