KIEV, March 17 – Ukraine’s pro-Western government coalition groups tentatively agreed on Monday to an agenda for Parliament’s Tuesday session that includes voting on a bill strengthening presidential powers and may also trigger an early Kiev mayoral election.
The voting on the bills will be a test for the coalition between the groups loyal to President Viktor Yushchenko and to Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, which had been showing signs of trouble over the past 10 weeks.
Tymoshenko, who Sunday declared crusade against “corruption” in the Kiev government, warned her group may resort to blocking Parliament unless Yushchenko’s party backs the bill dismissing Leonid Chernovetskiy, the controversial mayor of Kiev.
But Our Ukraine-People’s Self-defense, Yushchenko’s group, responded the bill is only part of broader commitments within the coalition that also includes a bill on the Cabinet of Minister, which strengthens the presidential powers.
“The first to be reviewed will be the bill on the Cabinet of Ministers, while the second one will be report of the ad-hoc commission [on Chernovetskiy],” Parliamentary Speaker Arseniy Yatseniuk said after the agreement had been reached.
The bickering over the bills underscores uneasy relations between the groups of the coalition that stems from potential rivalry between Yushchenko and Tymoshenko for the presidency due late next year.
The coalition controls a slim majority of 227 seats in the 450-seat Parliament suggesting the failure by even two coalition lawmakers to vote may undermine the bills.
Yushchenko seeks to approve the bill on the Cabinet of Ministers to undo changes that had been adopted in January 2007 when Tymoshenko and then-Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych had joined forces to override Yushchenko’s veto.
The changes, originally tailored for Yanukovych’s pro-Russian government, have been allowing the coalition to appoint foreign and defense ministers if the president fails to do so within two weeks among other issues that directly challenge the constitution.
Meanwhile, Tymoshenko has been increasing pressing for the removal of Chernovetskiy and calling the early election in Kiev in a bid to capitalize on dominance of her party in the city.
Tymoshenko accuses Chernovetskiy of corruption while privatizing land plots in Kiev over the past six months. Her group questions and seeks to reverse privatization of about 1,700 hectares of Kiev land that may be worth more than $3 billion, but had been given away essentially free.
Yushchenko on Friday suspended Chernovetskiy from the top post in the Kiev State Administration for 15 days to give a special commission the president had created more time to investigate the allegations. (tl/ez)