KIEV, July 30 – Political rivalry between President Viktor Yushchenko and Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko will be tested on Thursday in Parliament when lawmakers meet for an emergency session to debate 2008 budget amendments.
Both Tymoshenko and Yushchenko submitted their own amendments to the budget and lawmakers will have to decide which ones must be supported in the final bill.
“I am confident that tomorrow Parliament will approve what has been submitted by the president,” Oleksandr Shlapak, the first deputy chief of staff at the Yushchenko office, said at a press conference.
The vote will be an indicator of the extent of the political clout controlled by Yushchenko and Tymoshenko, who are expected to be the main rivals at the presidential election at the end of 2009.
Neither Yushchenko nor Tymoshenko control the majority in Parliament, suggesting that both would have to secure support from opposition lawmakers in order to approve their amendments.
Tymoshenko has been quietly working with the Communist Party, a small pro-Russian opposition group, and with the centrist group led by former Parliamentary Speaker Volodymyr Lytvyn, people familiar with the matter said.
Yushchenko is thought to have been holding negotiations with the liberal wing of the Regions Party, the largest opposition group in Parliament, the people said.
Lawmakers scheduled the emergency session on Thursday to approve emergency funding for the regions hit by storms and floods that had killed 30 people in western regions of Ukraine on Sunday and Monday.
Tymoshenko suggests increasing the special reserve fund, the fund it plans to use to disburse the aid to the regions, by 1.5 billion hryvnias to about 1.7 billion hryvnias, according to her amendments. Tymoshenko also seeks to increase infrastructure spending, such as road reconstruction, by 800 million hryvnias.
Yushchenko, in his amendments, suggested increasing by more than 3 billion hryvnias subventions, or special regional subsidies, to the areas affected by the flood. This would ensure that the regions, not the central government, will decide on how to spend the money.
Yushchenko used his power to declare the emergency in six Ukrainian regions worst affected by the floods, while lawmakers have to approve that those emergencies on Thursday.
The Tymoshenko government tried, but failed, to approve amendments to the 2008 budget in July. The amendments seek to incorporate greater rate of inflation expected in 2008.
The government suggested revising the inflation forecast to 15.9% in 2008, up from the original forecast of 9.6%, after the prices have skyrocketed this year, led by food and energy prices.
But many economists said even the latest inflation forecast is too optimistic. Consumer prices rose 15.5% in January through the end of June, while over the past 12 months the prices had increased about 30%, data suggest.
Tymoshenko’s amendments, however, failed to be approved in July, with lawmakers going on summer recess. Now, the flooding in western Ukraine provides another opportunity for the government to submit the amendments, which now also includes emergency funding to repair the damage in flooded areas. (tl/ez)