KIEV, May 13 - Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko’s group Tuesday blocked President Viktor Yushchenko from making his annual address to the nation in Parliament, showing the depth of the mutual hostility between them and calling into question the future of their coalition.
The move also prevented three Yushchenko loyalists from being officially declared as judges of the Constitutional Court, an institution that may soon be asked to decide on power sharing between the president and the premier.
The development is a setback for Yushchenko, who is thought to have been losing ground in the Constitutional Court ahead of the upcoming debate promoted by Tymoshenko for reducing or eliminating presidential powers.
Tymoshenko caught Yushchenko by surprise. Her lawmakers swarmed around the podium in Parliament, a controversial tactic used earlier this year by opposition Regions Party, when Yushchenko had just arrived to the legislature.
“I had a clear understanding that I will have an opportunity to do my constitutional obligation and to deliver the address to the nation,” Yushchenko said at a press conference in Parliament. “But this hasn’t happened.”
The development shows the depth of hostility between Tymoshenko and Yushchenko, indicating that a political crisis may soon emerge that could topple the pro-Western government they had formed in December 2007.
Tymoshenko later on Tuesday accused Yushchenko of hindering her government by making it impossible to sell out state assets to fund her populist promises of redeeming billions of hryvnias in Soviet-era people’s deposits.
“Today for the first time in the past four months I have warned the president that if this continues then I am not a partner and I am not an ally anymore,” Tymoshenko said at a rally in Kiev.
Tymoshenko promised to pay an estimated more than 120 billions of hryvnias in failed bank deposits during the next two years, ahead of the next presidential election.
But the scale of the payments so far this year has been increasing upward pressure on consumer prices, boosting inflation to more than 30% over the past 12 months, one of the worst such indicators in the world.
Yushchenko urged Tymoshenko government and the National Bank of Ukraine to take measures that would stop the price hikes. He also argued that the massive sell-off of state property with proceeds to be used for social payments would only further boost the inflation.
But Tymoshenko argued the attempts to postpone the privatization are made to reduce her public support rating ahead of the presidential election, and pledged to do what it takes to unblock the sell-off. (tl/ez)