Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Parent's faithful quest in finding missing sister "Vera"

US adoptive parents Robert and Maryann DeSimone, from Huntington, N.Y, have embarked on a mission to find the missing sister of three Ukrainian children they adopted. The children's mother died whilst giving birth to Vera, the missing child. The DeSimone's want to find out what happened to Vera in the hope of putting the family back in touch.

We can not help but feel for the DeSimone family who want to keep the family and sisters together, a noble cause.

The challenge now is for Ukraine's political elite to help the DeSimone's in their quest for closure.


Yushchenko Embarks on Kamikaze Economic Destruction mission

Yushchenko continues to misuse and abuse his power.

Ukraine's embattled President, Viktor Yushchenko, is once again, planning to undermine Ukraine's economic stability in threatening to block supply by rejecting Ukraine's budget.

Embarking on a political suicide mission to destroy Ukraine's economic stability, Yushchenko hopes to gain some cheap political advantage in the false hope that  Ukraine's suffering will help Yushchenko resurrect his prospects of securing a second term in office.  Yushchenko's support rating is less then  4% and he is expected to lose in the first round ballot scheduled to be held on January 17, 2010.

Many western democracies have removed or seriously limited the Head of State's ability to block supply.


Yushchenko Poisons Chemical Sale Catalyst for Causing Negative Reaction

All care no responsibility

Ukraine's embattled President, Viktor Yushchenko, having just days before the close of the tender undermined the success of for the sale of the Odesa-Port-Side Chemical Plant now turns around and tries to shift the blame for the implosion on to the government. Yushchenko's aim was to stabilise Ukraine's economy in the lead up to the Presidential election. Having failed to reach its reserve of 2 billion dollars, the chemical plant will be relisted for tender following the Presidential election scheduled for January 17, 2010. With Yushchenko neutralized
and out of the way Ukraine's economic recover should be in a more stabilised situation.


Yanukovych, Tymoshenko: Two horse race

National Radio Ukraine reports:
If the presidential elections were held in the end of September, Viktor Yanukovych and Yulia Tymoshenko would have had the highest support of the voters, according to the survey conducted by the Ukrainian Democratic Circle at the request of the Institute of Politics.

A total of 28.9% of voters ready to back Yanukovych and 20.8% support Tymoshenko. Other politicians have a substantially lower backing of the population. In the runoff election, Yanukovych would get 41% and Tymoshenko 35.1%.


Saturday, September 26, 2009

Revolution has come to a stand still - There will be no mass protest in the streets

Ukraine will not see a repeat of events that saw mass protests in the streets in 2004 and the eventual election of Viktor Yushchenko to the presidency in an unprecedented and controversial third round ballot. Yulia Tymoshenko, Ukraine's Prime-minister and main candidate for election in January's poll has stated on TV and reported on national radio that “We will not challenge any election returns to avoid tremors, which may bring about instability in this country”.

“If the people elect their president, and this is not Yulia Tymoshenko, I will take this choice easy, for sure”
Her statement was also backed by Ukraine's former President Leonid Kuchma who has excluded the possibility of a third round ballot.

According to the past President, during the election campaign in 2004 a decision about holding the third round was political and it will not be repeated. "The 2004 decision was an exclusion from a rule".

This is a clear sign that the presidential elections are expected to produce a clear result that will be acceptable to all parties with the possible exception of Ukraine's incumbent President, Viktor Yushchenko, who is expected to lose in the first round of the elections scheduled for January 17, 2010.


Yushchenko's plan to disrupt the elections begins to unravel as support drops away

Ukraine president, Viktor Yushchenko has shown signs that his proposed plan to disrupt Ukraine's Presidential election and further destabilize Ukraine's economy may be beginning to lose support. Days after Yushchenko had lodged an appeal in Ukraine's Constitutional Court against the Law on the Presidential election Yushchenko's Constitutional voice, Maryna Stavniychuk, has issued the first sign of backing down.

The deputy head of the presidential secretariat stated.

"It is obvious that there are no serious political or legal grounds to consider the issue of the possible disruption of the presidential elections in Ukraine"

This is a clear indication that Ms Stavniychuk may have been given intel that the Constitutional Court will reject Yushchenko's appeal as not having any substance. The head of the Constitutional Court has stated that the Court will not be considering Yushchenko's appeal as a matter of urgency. It is also likely that Yushchenko has been advised that any attempt to disrupt the election would not be supported by the international community.

The other issue of concern is the announcement that the President of Ukraine will once again seek to block supply and misuse his authority to reject Ukraine's budget. If this happens Yushchenko will cause a major constitutional and financial crisis and loss of confidence weeks before the Presidential poll.

Many western countries have removed or seriously limited the ability of the head of state to block supply and reject a government's budget, the reason being that it is a power that is widely open to abuse.

Yushchenko is still languishing in the polls and in spite his claims that he will win the next election his support rating remains in single digits and he is not considered a player or a serious contender.


Monday, September 21, 2009

Presidential elections to cost more then 3.5 times 2007 elections

Ukraine's Central Electoral Commission (CEC) has reported that it will spend 1.27 billion hryvina to hold the next Presidential election at an approximate cost of 36 hryvina per registered voter. By comparison the costs of the 2007 Parliamentary election was 10 hryvina per voter. 36.582 million voters are registered to vote including 390,000 which are located abroad in foreign countries. The CEC has indicted that the electoral roll is of high quality and has been prepared with the assistance of the OSCE.

Party of Regions has expressed concern that the number of registered voters in the south east of Ukraine is less then in 2007 whilst the percentage of voters registered in Western Ukraine has increased. Overall there is 400,000 less voters registered now then in 2007.

Concern was also expressed about the recent decree of the President that requires regional state administrations to promote Yushchenko's version of admendments to Ukraine's constitution. Party of regions has hinted that they will apply to Ukraine's Constitutional Court to have them review the President's decree as they considered it to be inappropriate use of public resources for what is essentially electioneering propaganda.


Sunday, September 20, 2009

NISS: Yushchenko on the rise - Yatseniuk losing support.

A recent public opinion poll published in Kyivpost has Yushchenko listed at 7.1% (Significantly greater then all other polls). Yushchenko, who is still in single digits, is behind Yanukovych (21.7%), Tymoshenko (14%) and Yatseniuk (10%)

The poll was conducted by the National Institute for Strategic Studies (NISS).

This poll is very much out of sync with all other public opinion polls. If it is to be believed than it shows Yushchenko picking up ground at the expense of Yatseniuk who has dropped to just 10%. Both Yatseniuk and Yushchenko are vying for the same electorate base. Under Ukraine's two-round "first-past-the-post" Presidential voting system Yushchenko would have to out-poll both Yulia Tymoshenko and Yasteniuk to survive the first round of voting.

It needs to be mentioned that since 19 November 2000, the National Institute for Strategic Studies has been subordinated to the Office of the President of Ukraine and the Institute's current director, Yuri Ruban, was appointed in 2005. This says a lot about the credibility of the poll.

Kyivpost also published another NISS poll indicating that a majority of Ukrainians support Yushchenko's proposed Constitutional reforms and a Presidential-Parliamentary system. All are lacking credibility and should be viewed with caution


Saturday, September 19, 2009

Yushchenko is trying to disrupt the elections - Turchynov reports that Viktor Yushchenko is seeking to disrupt the holding of Presidential elections in 2010 in order to cling on to power beyond his five year term of office. Yushchenko whose rating is less then 4% is expected to lose in the first round of voting.

First Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Turchinov, a former ally of yushenko and member of bloc Yulia Tymsochenko has stated that "Yushchenko and his associates hope that the elections would be disrupted. This is not only the hope that they will be able to block or veto the adoption of the budget"

"Yushchenko is trying to disrupt the elections, not only by blocking the budget, but also by appealing to the Constitutional Court to rule unconstitutional the election law - this is his last hope to remain in office."

Amidst concern that the Constitutional Court will make a ruling not based on law but under the instruction of the president, Turchinov has advised that any decision to derail the elections would be strongly opposed with 430-440 deputies determined to see that the presidential elections take place as scheduled.

Turchinov has warned the Constitutional court that it must not be bias in its determination and must act independently without pressure from the President.

Already the Constitutional Court has indicated that it would not be ruling on the President's decree before October. Any attempt to declare the Presidential elections unlawful could result on a complete collapse of public confidence.


Friday, September 18, 2009

Ukraine's Constitutional Court enters the relm of polictics

In a rather extraordinary and highly questionable action the chairman of the Constitutional Court of Ukraine, Andriy Stryzhak, has prejudged the outcome of the President's appeal on the law of Presidential elections.

Andriy Stryzhak, in a statement published by the National Radio of Ukraine, has rebuffed calls by Ukraine's legislators for the Constitutional Court to consider its deliberations before the end of September. Further the chairman of the court expressed his opinion that "the election process will not be broken if presidential election law is declared unconstitutional".

Andriy Stryzhak made it clear that the Constitutional Court would not rule on the new law before the end of the month. Instead of mentioning the fact that the new law remains in force until the Constitutional Court rules otherwise, Stryzhak stated that in the event the law is declared unconstitutional the old presidential election law will be in force. He further stated that the Constitutional Court will not consider the law as a matter of urgency as requested by the President and now the Parliament.

The old law has a 120 day campaign requirement which, if in force, would commence tomorrow (Saturday September 19)

The statement of the court's chairman raises a number of serious issues not the least the extent of bias of the Chairman in prejudging the outcome of the President's appeal, before it is considered by the Court, but also the possibility that the Court has once again entered the realm of politics by not fulling its duty to Ukraine. The Court must consider this as a matter of urgency and any delay would only undermine confidence in the court itself.

The Council of Europe in June this year called on Ukraine to implement changes to the law of the Presidential election so as to ensure that the legislation and conduct of the Presidential election meets recognised international standards.  It is crucial that changes to the law are in place without delay.

The law has been promulgated and remains in place until the Constitutional Court decides otherwise.  The striking out of this law at a crucial time in the election cycle would be detrimental to the election.  The Constitutional Court must consider this an an matter of urgency.  Any delay would be seen as political interference. The Court can not dismiss this issue at the last minute on a technicality as it did on the law of impeachment of the President.


Thursday, September 17, 2009

Count down: Four months and counting.. and counting ... and counting

Assuming all goes well Ukraine will go to the polls in four months time to elect a new head of state All opinion polls and political analysts are predicting a contest between Yulia Tymoshenko and Viktor Yanukovych. Whilst the official campaign does not start until October 19 all the main players are vying for attention and support.

The main certainty in the expected results is that incumbent President Viktor Yushchenko will not be re-elected to a second term of office. Yushchenko's chances of being re-elected to office has been written off by America's former ambassador Steven Pifer and Analyst David Kramer. The overall election is expected to cost over one billion dollars with the administrative cost of holding the ballot budgeted to cost one billion hryivnas. Public opinion polls have consistently shown Viktor Yanukovych in poll position and wining against all comers in a head to head second-round contest. Viktor Yushchenko, who is on 2.6% to 3.5% will lose outright in the first-round along with losing his deposit (2.5 Million hryvina). Yushchenko's nomination will take away votes from the major players and limit Arseniy Yatseniuk's chances of being in the top two who progress to the second-round of voting. Yatseniuk is stuck on 12%-14% and not rising.

The level of uncertainty and prolonged campaign period is beginning to take its toll and has already shown signs of over stressing Ukraine's already stressed economy with expectation that the value of the hryvina will continue to be battered until after the final round of the Presidential election when the dust has settled.

The likely hood of the Presidential election stabilising Ukraine is minimal with expectation that a fresh parliamentary election will follow.

Viktor Yushchenko is working on a strategy of destabilization by discrediting the election process which is overseen by OSCE. If he is successfully Ukraine may very well be facing an even more unstable period as Yushchenko tries to cling on to office extending his current term beyond the five-years he was originally elected for. A possible presidential coup is still being talked about. Yushchenko has had a technical win in having the law on the impeachment of the President declared null and void and he is now seeking to have the law on the Presidential elections also thrown out. If this happens then Ukraine will be facing yet again another constitutional crisis and a major loss of confidence in Ukraine's Constitutional Court and possible civil unrest providing grounds for Yushchenko who represents less then 4% of the constituents to remain in office by declaring a state of emergency.

Either way you look at it the next four months (122 days) are going to be a trying period for Ukraine as it travels down a rocky and precarious path.

To think that Ukraine could have opted for a democratic, constitutional Parliamentary election of its head of state (at no direct cost) or the Presidential ballot could have been held next month when the Ukrainian weather is more conducive to voter participation as opposed to holding an election in the midst of Ukraine's bitter cold winter.

To help countdown the time we have installed a countdown clock to election day 8:00AM



Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Yushchenko appeals the law on Presidential elections

Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko appealed to the Constitutional Court with a proposal to declare unconstitutional certain provisions of the new law "On elections of the President. The grounds cited by the President are weak and should not effect the overall application of the new law.

Yushchenko pins much of his hopes in having the law thrown out on the basis of diminished rights of foreign voters. Foreign voters during the 2007 parliamentary election represented less then 0.05%. Bloc Yulia Tymoshenko received 8566 votes, Party of Regions 6939 votes and Our Ukraine-Peoples self defense 6598 votes. The inclusion of these votes is unlikely to effect the overall result of the election which will be decided by Ukraine's 25 million voters. The Constitutional Court can rule against the President or strike out the law in full or in part. Any decision to declare the law invalid would create a constitutional crisis and could jeopardise the holding of Presidential elections itself.

The arguments presented by the President are not sufficient enough to declare the elections unconstitutional, The President has not objected to the requirements for a higher deposit or the proposed 90 day official election campaign period.

The grounds of appeal cited list part 6 of article 2 of the new law, which provides the definition of residence in the consular registration for the realization of the right to vote in presidential elections, Part 6 of Article 23, Part 9 of Article 24, Part 9 of Article 31, Parts 4, 5, 9, Article 32, providing making changes to the electoral commissions, voter lists at polling stations on voting day, the decisions of electoral commissions.

The President has also requested the CCU to assess the provisions of paragraphs 1, 4 and 5 of Part 2 of Article 36 (1) as it relates to the preparation and update the voter lists at polling stations abroad on the principle host of citizens on consular registration. (i.e. in order to vote voters must be registered first with the consulate)

In addition, the rate of the first paragraph of Part 1, Part 2 and 5 of Article 56, which would eliminate the decision to cancel registration of a candidate for President of the supreme judicial body, and considers this decision to the exclusive powers of the Central Election Commission without adequate guarantees of judicial protection, and also the second paragraph of Part 4 of Article 79, paragraph two of Part 5 of Article 83, Part 7 of Article 84 and Parts 5 and 6 of Article 99.


CCU: law on impeachment null and void due to technicality

Ukraine's constitutional Court has declared null and void the law on Impeachment of the President.

The Constitutional Court found that the Chairman of Parliament failed to properly adhere to the procedures in promulgating the law. The Court did not consider other issues of conformity.

Did Lytvyn make a stupid mistake or was it deliberate act of sabotage?

The Court cited as a breach of procedure the fact that the law was published on 15 January - the date of its first decision, not the date of its re-enactment on March 3 and no signature of Verkhovna Rada Chairman Volodymyr Lytvyn.

A dissenting opinion was registered by Judge Tkachuk who argued that the publication dates did not prevent the law from coming into existence.  It takes an interesting and common sense approach to Ukraine's law.

It is unclear if the law needs to be reconsidered by the Parliament or if the speaker of the parliament can correct the omissions made.


Bloc Yulia Tymoshenko to formally nominate for President on October 25

Bloc Yulia Tymoshenko will launch their presidential election campaign on October 25 with the expected formal endorsement of Yulia Tymoshenko as the parties next Presidential candidate.

The official 90 day election period starts on October 19.


Yushchenko advised not to run for second term

Yushchenko advised to abandon the election so as not to disgrace the office of the President

Former President (1991-1994 period), Leonid Kravchuk believes it inappropriate participation of President Viktor Yushchenko's candidate for President in 2010.

"If the incumbent President (Viktor Yushchenko) dares to take part in the elections and receives only 6.5% of the vote, he would have nowhere to run away, closing his eyes with shame," - he said.

Kravchuk explained that he had nothing against the President personally, but he did not want the status of the disgraced President, reported "Ukrainian News".

Kravchuk, recalled that when he went to an early presidential election in 1994, he knew he could win but scored 46% of the votes.

"It's all the other presidential candidates could afford to collect on a half percent - and current head of state today should not participate in the elections," - said Kravchuk. He added that Yushchenko does not understand the strategy in this regard.

Viktor Yushchenko, who has less then 4% support has announced his intention to participate in the presidential elections scheduled for January 17, 2010.


Singing for your supper. Ruslana supports Yulia

Another one of Yushchenko's star-studded supporters has jumped ship and jumped on board the Yulia express.

Lead singer and Euro-vision winner Ruslana Lyzhychko along with a host of Ukrainian tallent has gone on tour in support of Yulia Tymoshenko's push for the Presidency. Ruslana was previously a star candidate and member of the President's Our Ukraine Party


Tymoshenko to be forced from office next week

Mig News is reporting a plot to overthrow and remove Yulia Tymoshenkop as Ukraine's Prime-minister with Party of Regions teaming up with Ukraine's President, Viktor Yushenko to oust Tymoshenko as early as next week.

The leader of the Communist Party of Ukraine Petro Symonenko hinting that a proposal to dismiss the government will be submitted this week at the Verkhovna Rada.

“Politicians are going to make a new constitutional agreement. Yushchenko will sign it together with the so-called majority in the parliament”.

The dismissal of the government will not result in a new coalition being formed and as such will force the Parliament to agree to fresh elections

The political coup and dismissal of the Prime-minister could lead to the failure of presidential elections in Ukraine and as such prolonging Viktor Yushchenko's term of office, Petro Symonenko claims. “It is an obvious way to the instability in our state”

Earlier this month Party of Regions stated that it was not intending to support proposals to dismiss the Government prior to the January 2010 Presidential elections.

As is always the case in Ukraine - It's best to wait and see. Similar plots and Presidential coups have failed to eventuate.


Stavniychuk resigns from secretariat on eve of Presidential election

Ukraine's embattled Viktor Yushchenko's deputy head of the Presidential Secretariat of Ukraine Maryna Stavniychuk intends to submit her resignation.

According to the sources Maryna Stavniychuk had a falling out with Yushchenko's new head of the secretariat, Vera Ulianchenko, relating to the subordination of the main national legal service of the Presidential Secretariat. Raising concerns over Maryna Stavniychuk’s domain of competence and efforts by the head of the President's secretariat to reign in Stavniychuk.

Maryna Stavniychuk was Yushchenko's Constitutional voice and representative to Ukraine's Constitutional Court.

Stavniychuk's resignation is another blow to Yushchenko's campaign as she was the pivot point for Yushchenko's push for Constitutional reform and the restoration of Presidential dominance over Ukraine.

It is unclear if Maryna Stavniychuk's resignation also includes her resignation as Ukraine's representative on the Venice Commission. Looks like her career has come to an abrupt end.


Friday, September 11, 2009

Pifer Prediction: Writing off Yushchenko's second term

Former US Ambassador Steven Pifer has written off Viktor Yushchenko's chances of re-election and has nominated three candidates as potential winners with Yulia Tymoshenko fighting it out with Yushchenko's substitute Arseniy Yatsenyuk in a second round ballot against Viktor Yanukovch.

The Pifer prediction comes as no surprise as the public opinion polls have been indicating the same with little change for the last three months.

This is another blow of confidence for incumbent Viktor Yushchenko who is languishing in the polls at around 2.6 to 3.5%. Pifer who has close associations with the Ukrainian Presidency is sending a clear message that Yushchenko can not win a second term in office. A message that has been echoed by all political analysts yet Yushchenko fails to concede and is set to face defeat in the first round of voting scheduled to take place on January 17, 2010.


Constitutional Court under pressure

Ukraine's Constitutional Court has felt compelled to reissue a statement of concern about "Pressure on the Courts".  
The last time they issued such a warning was in 2007 when the Court was under pressure by the President of Ukraine who illegally interfered with the independence and operation of the Constitutional Court in order to prevent the court from ruling against  Yushchenko's  decree dismissing Ukraine's previous Parliament.  - The Court took no action against the President.
The Constitutional Court never ruled on the question of constitutionality of the President's April 2, 2007 decree.
On September 9, 2009 the Constitutional Court issued the following statement (translation by Google)


In socio-political situation, some politicians, officials perceived ambiguously separate decision by the Constitutional Court of Ukraine: they give different assessments, including critical. Article 34 of the Constitution of Ukraine provides for the right of everyone to freedom of thought and speech, to freely express their views and beliefs. At the same time that article provides for the legislative restriction of that right given to the highest public interest, which is classified as maintaining the authority and impartiality of justice. Influencing judges in any manner prohibited by Article 126 of the Constitution of Ukraine.

Since the resumption of plenary meetings in 2006, some state officials and politicians regularly in various forms, trying to intervene, sometimes with threats to the Constitutional Court of Ukraine. In these circumstances the Constitutional Court of Ukraine drew attention to its statement of May 10, 2007.

Of particular interest to the Constitutional Court of Ukraine, some politicians and people's deputies of Ukraine became manifest after the recent Court decisions, particularly on July 7, 2009 in the case of compliance with the Constitution Law of Ukraine "On amending some laws of Ukraine on the Constitutional Court of Ukraine, features the proceedings in the constitutional treatment and prevention of abuse of the constitutional right to representation. "They deliberately resorted to a misrepresentation of fact these decisions of the Constitutional Court and relevant legislation, the misinformed public. In it could not pay attention. However, such statements sound nezavualovani disrespect and threats to the Court as a whole and of individual judges. Apply for recognition of the Court thought "illegitimate", "politicized", "semi", "illegal", with signs of degradation, professional, operating outside the legal field, so that it becomes "dangerous to the state" regarding the need to "rotation the Court before the presidential election, the withdrawal "of individual judges and the violation of disciplinary cases against them, alleging the alleged illegal appointment of individual judges, proposed to evaluate the Constitutional Court for sending him the constitutional court.

However, these policies recognize that such actions can lead to paralysis of a single state in the body of constitutional justice. Of particular concern is that such statements make the deputies of Ukraine and high-ranking official and publicly in Parliament of Ukraine, told the media .

It should be noted that the matter is not limited to public statements. Yes, August 20, 2009 the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine introduced the draft resolution on the parliamentary hearings on "Status and prospects of development of constitutional justice in Ukraine, which, inter alia, requested to instruct the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine to prepare and submit to the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine the necessary analytical information on the status of constitutional justice. Does not this mean that the commission of the Government of Ukraine should check the work of the Constitutional Court of Ukraine for consideration of specific cases and make decisions? Is this an attempt of direct interference in the Constitutional Court? Although the project was later withdrawn, the fact of making it to the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine shows deputies of Ukraine attempts to interfere in the activities of the Constitutional Court of Ukraine.

The Constitutional Court calls to refrain from statements and estimates that are inherently constitute interference in its activities, and reiterates the necessity to respect the Constitution and laws of Ukraine, pursuant to paragraph 14 of resolution of the Parliamentary Assembly on April 19, 2007, stating that "Government only body of constitutional justice - the Constitutional Court of Ukraine - should be guaranteed and respected. Тиск у будь-якій формі на суддів є недопустимим…“. Pressure in any form for the judges is intolerable ....

Constitutional Court of Ukraine assures society that his work is based on the principles of legality, independence, collegiality, equality of the judges, transparency and full and comprehensive review of cases and the reasonableness of its decisions, as provided in Article 4 of the Law of Ukraine "On the Constitutional Court of Ukraine.

9 вересня 2009 року September 9, 2009


Parliamentary reform: What Ukraine should not do

Back in June the Venice Commission reviewed a draft legislation on Parliamentary Elections proposed and submitted by the Ukrainian Parliament Committee on State Building and Local Self-Governance.

The system proposed in the draft law provides for 450 parliamentarians to be elected under a form of proportional representation that uses territorial election districts, including a foreign territorial election district where ballots are cast by out of country voters. Under the proposed system, most members of parliament will be elected from national lists, with the mathematical possibility for individual political party candidates to be elected within an in-country territorial election district from a territorial list.

The proposed model, as commented in the Venice Commission's report, is very convoluted, complex and over engineered. It seeks to reinstate a "hybrid representative model" which is extraordinary and unnecessarily complex in its implementation.

Under the proposals put forward Ukraine's parliament would be made up of a representatives elected from a single party list but with the allocation of a proportion of the list being determined by local regional elections (the exact boundaries and composition not yet decided) . The system is so complex I do not think it is worth trying to unravel and explain in detail. It is a good example as how Ukrainian politicians try to manipulate the system to deliver a solution that is not a solution.

Hybrid systems do not work. They create a distortion and inequality of the representative model which in turn distorts the balance of representation by creating super-sets and sub-sets of mandates. Those elected on a National List will hold a separate and significantly different mandate then those elected by the regional local list. This system did not work in the old parliament prior to the reforms of 2004. The proposed system, as complicated as it is, will also fail.

The temptation to try and manipulate and over engineer Ukraine's parliamentary model must be resisted - its a fools paradise and in the long run will not work

Yes there is merit in adopting and establishing local multi-member proportional representational electorates - but the hybrid mix of different mandates in a single house Parliament has no merit or justification. If Ukraine believes they need National representatives to complement local representatives then they are best to adopt a bicameral system with one house elected on the basis of local representation (preferable the lower house) and the second house (Senate) elected on a national basis.

The main criteria in assessing any representative model is that each elected position MUST be equal in representation and must be based on sound democratic principles. Each local electorate MUST return the same number of representatives elected on the same quota percentage and where possible have the same number of constituents (+/- 5%).

Ideally each local electorate would return either 5, 7 or 9 members of parliament and be elected by a system of "Single Transferable vote" preferential proportional representation using the Meeks method of counting the vote. What ever number they settle on each electorate MUST be the equal and on the based on the same quota percentage for the system to work at its best. (See previous post - Principles of a good, workable and democratic representative Parliamentary model)

The proposal of creating a "Foreign representational" electorate is another foolish reaction to a problem that does not exist. The number of Ukrainian foreign voters is marginally small. If need be foreign voters should be able to cast a vote for the local regional electorate in which they were previously registered or lived, there is no need to create a special electorate to accommodate their needs.

Need to fix the date for elections

The other change that must be made and has been overlooked is the need to fix a set date for elections. This provision of having elections set for the last Sunday of the last month of the term of office of the Parliament, as we have seen with the current presidential elections, is not effective or desirable. A fixed date say last week in October would be a better option. Any preterm election could have their term cut short to ensure that the October date is the cut off point. Presidential elections if they are to continue should also be brought into line with the adoption of a similar fixed date.

Hopefully the legislation as proposed will not see the light of day and Ukraine will stop trying to over-engineer the outcome of elections and concentrate more on winning public support based on a fair and equal electoral model.


Thursday, September 10, 2009

Tilt: Game over? Yushchenko suffers another loss of confidence

Not a day goes by when Ukraine's embattled incumbent President Viktor Yushchenko's chances of being re-elected to a second term of office diminishes.

The latest blow to Yushchenko's hopes and desires on the eve of the Presidential campaign comes with the announcement that the leader of the People's Self-Defense Civil Movement, Interior Minister Yuriy Lutsenko, has backed Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko's candidature to become Ukraine's next President.

Less then two years ago Lutsenko's Peoples' Self-Defence Party joined forces with Our Ukraine to support Yushchenko during the 2007 Parliamentary ballot.

Clearly Lutsenko has come to the realisation that Yushchenko is no longer a viable candidate worthy of support.

It's game over. The odds are against Yushchenko. With no support beyond his own immediate family and a divided party Yushchenko has no hope of surviving the first round of voting and will undoubtedly also lose his deposit.

He should face facts and resign now and leave office with what little dignity he can muster.


Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Gambling with the outcome: New law to reduce number of Presidential hopefulls

The new law on the Presidential elections is expected to reduce the number of candidates nominating for the Presidential elections scheduled for January 17, 2010.

The most notable change is the requirement for candidates to lodge a deposit of 2.5 Million UAH which is only refunded to the two highest polling candidates that progress to the second round of voting. All other candidates will forfeit their deposit.

The higher deposit is expected to make a few "would be candidates" think twice before nominating. According to public opinion polls there are only three candidates that have the possibility of progressing to second round. Viktor Yanukovych, Yulia Tymoshenko and an outside chance Arseniy Yatsenyuk. All other candidates including incumbent President, Viktor Yushchenko, are expected to lose their deposit.

There is growing concern that Victor Yushchenko's intended nomination will take votes away from Arseniy Yatsenyuk leaving Viktor Yanukoych and Yulia Tymoshenko as the two highest polling candidates.

Under Ukraine's "first-past-the-post" two-round voting system supporters of minor candidates are effectively disenfranchised as their vote will not count in deciding who will progress into the second round run-off ballot. Some commentators have suggested that Yasteniuk may bow out of the race under pressure in support of Viktor Yushchenko. However all polls show that a repeat race between Yushchenko and Yanukoych would see Yanukovch win.

In order for Yushchenko to be a serious contender he would have to out poll Yulia Tymoshenko, which is unlikely, giving credence to speculation that Yushchenko may be forced to stand down to support Yatseniuk before nominations close. Much of Yushchenko's decision will be determined following the President's expected challenge to the new law in Ukraine's Constitutional Court. If the President loses the challenge he may have to stand aside as his backers will not want to place a bet on a lame horse.

The election deposit requirement is common in most western democracies. The higher deposit aims to limit the number of minor candidates who do not stand a chance of winning the election.


Parliament signed into law Presidential election act

The Law of Ukraine "On Amendments to certain Legislative Acts of Ukraine regarding Elections of the President of Ukraine" has been offically published and signed into existence following President Viktor Yushenko's refusal to sign the law in fulfillment of his oath and duties as head of state.

The new version of the law, reduces the campaign from 120 to 90 days, increases the deposit for registration of candidates from 500 thousand to 2.5 million UAH,Deposits will be refunded to those candidates that progress into a second round ballot.

Incumbent president Viktor Yushchenko is currently rated 2.6% in the opinion polls and is expected to lose the election in the first round along with his nomination deposit.


Yushchenko veto's referendum law

Ukraine's President. Viktor Yushchenko, has vetoed the law on the conduct of referendums claiming that the revised law is unconstitutional. Presidential Secretariat representative Maryna Stavniychuk said that " the law violated the Constitution as it empowers the Verkhovna Rada to schedule all-Ukrainian referendums on the new wording of the Constitution, when the parliament can only schedule referendums on the issues of the Ukrainian territory".

The statements by Ms Stavniychuk are not backed up by Ukraine's Constitution.

The Constitutional Court of Ukraine has already ruled on the question related to the changes of Ukraine's Constitution, which has been backed up by the Venice Commission's interpretation, that the Constitution of Ukraine requires the consent of two-thirds majority of the parliament.

Article 72 "An All-Ukrainian referendum is designated by the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine or by the President of Ukraine, in accordance with their authority established by the Constitution."

Article 73 limits issues altering the territory of Ukraine to be resolved exclusively by an All-Ukrainian referendum (It does not limit the issues that can be decided by referendum)

Article 74 is the only limitation on the holding of a referendum. "A referendum shall not be permitted in regard to draft laws on issues of taxes, the budget and amnesty"

Article 85 states clearly that the The authority of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine comprises ... (2)"instituting an All-Ukrainian referendum on issues referred to in Article 73 of this Constitution" and most important clause (20) "the organisation and procedure for conducting elections and referendums"

The President of Ukraine also has limited authority over the conduct of referendums in Ukraine. Article 106 The President ... (6) "designates an All-Ukrainian referendum regarding amendments to the Constitution of Ukraine in accordance with Article 156 of this Constitution, proclaims an All-Ukrainian referendum on popular initiative".

Article 156 relates to amendments to Ukraine's Constitution Chapter I — "General Principles," Chapter III — "Elections. Referendum," and Chapter XIII — "Introducing Amendments to the Constitution of Ukraine" which is required to be approved by a referendum.

All other chapters require parliamentary consent.

Viktor Yushchenko has refused to fulfill his constitutional duty in holding a referendum on the question of Ukraine's membership of NATO. Both the Ukrainian Constitutional and Administrative Courts have ruled that the President is obliged to conduct such a referendum which has been petitioned according to Article 72, by over four million Ukrainian citizens.

Clearly the President is in breach of his oath and Constitutional duties which he selectively interprets to suit himself.


Saturday, September 05, 2009

Yushchenko refuses to sign law on Presidential elections

In an ongoing attempt to derail the Presidential elections, Ukraine's incumbent President, Viktor Yushchenko, has refused to sign the law on the conduct of the Presidential election. Yushchenko in a published statement has said he will challenge the legislation in Ukraine's Constitutional Court.

The President had earlier vetoed the legislation but his veto was overturned by a constitutional 2/3rds majority of the parliament. The new law has limited the term of the official election campaign from 120 days to 90 days and now requires candidates seeking election pay a 500,000 UAH deposit which will only be refunded to those candidates that progress to the second round run-off ballot. The law will now be signed into existence by Ukraine's Parliamentary Speaker.

Viktor Yushchenko, who has less then 4% support in the opinion polls, is set to lose the first round of voting and his deposit.

Yushchenko's statement published on the official Presidential web site fails to outline any grounds for his appeal to the Constitutional Court.

In June 2009 The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) called on Ukraine to adopt without delay changes to the law on the elections of the President.

Presidential elections are scheduled for January 17, 2010 with the official campaign set to start on October 19.


Thursday, September 03, 2009

Yushchenko's proposed Constitutional reforms the greatest threat to democracy since Ukraine's independence

Viktor Yushchenko, devoid of any real issue of substance in the lead up to the campaign, has embarked on a crusade to make the next Presidential election a referendum on Constitutional reform in support of his proposal to reinstate absolute presidential authority over Ukraine.

Whilst Yushchenko spouses the words of democracy his actions and policies are far from being democratic or constitutional.

In a desperate attempt to regain relevance Yushchenko wants his version of the constitution to be put to referendum at the next Presidential election in which he hopes to control the agenda.
The devil is in the detail and there is no way the Constitution, without wide support, can be properly debated and understood. The time to debate reform has passed and most certainly should not be the main focus of the Presidential campaign.

The issues are complicated and require proper consideration as to the alternatives and impacts of the proposed changes. They can not and should not be considered as part of the Presidential election campaign as much as Yushchenko would like to have his proposed reforms the focus of the campaign.

Which ever candidate advocates one way or the other support or disagreement on Yushchenko's model they will be judged not on the real issues confronting Ukraine but on the notion of President versus Parliament. What would happen if Yushchenko complied with the ruling of the courts and held a referendum during the Presidential election on the question of Ukraine's membership of NATO?

Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

Under Yushchenko's proposed Constitutional reforms the President would have absolute authority and control over Ukraine's courts, the appointment of the government and even the parliament without proper checks and balances.

The President would have the right to dismiss Ukraine's Parliament at any time if its not to his liking. Whilst parliamentary immunity is removed, immunity for Judges and the President remains in tack with the President's immunity made absolute by making it impossible to impeach the President except only on conviction resulting from a deliberate intention of committing a crime - Breaches of oath and Ukraine's Constitution no longer are taken into consideration as grounds for the President's impeachment. Further more the only body that can impeach the President is Yushchenko's proposed Senate of regions.

The structure of the Senate, based around Ukraine's existing oblasts, would seriously divide Ukraine stretching it to breaking point by giving an unfair representational bias towards Western Ukrainian regions at the expense of Ukraine's more populous Eastern and Southern regions. This disproportional representation would be a recipe for disaster fueling disunity and distrust exacerbating the tensions that already exist.

Yushchenko's Senate will require national elections with one third of the Senate facing reelection every two years, along with the associated costs in holding an election. Senators will be elected by a undemocratic outdated first-past-the-post voting system with the same group of electors, who have the highest vote, electing all three regional representatives. The majority (50% or more) will go unrepresented. (Eg in 2007 in Zakapattia oblast Yushchenko's Our Ukraine secured less then 34% of the regions votes but was still the highest polling party and as such would win all three Senate positions with only 152,000 votes. Whilst in Donetsk Party of Regions with over 1.7 Million votes would also only elect three senators)
What's more Yushchenko seeks to grant himself a senatorial position for life, even if he is voted out of office he still will have a seat and salary in Ukraine's Senate - For life.
When making an assessment of any proposed constitutional reform you need to ask yourself what would the effect of these changes be if the person you do not support is elected to office and holds absolute power without checks and balances to limit abuse of Presidential authority.


What cost is a President worth?

The cost of gambling with democracy

proUA has another insightful article on the cost of the presidential campaign which places the true cost of Ukraine's presidential office way above the 1.5 billion hryvinas budgeted for by Ukraine's Central Electorate Commission.

Moldova's Constitutional Parliamentary appointment system is looking good.

"According to assessments by political analysts, each presidential candidate will have to spend at least US $150-200mn to promote himself; this includes buying story lines in the media, visual advertising, canvassing, printing political material and, of course, work with electoral commissions"


The shaping of battle plans as the campaign begins to take some form

proUA has published a balanced assessment of the various Presidential campaign organisational structure. It is a little light on Yushchenko's campaign which lacks momentum and support. He is still in the low single digits and will not survive the first round of voting let alone a second round ballot.

The proUA article provides a good insight into the problems facing Yatseniuk's failure to gain traction with Yushchenko giving the winning edge to Yanukovych.
Yushchenko's campaign does play a role be it negative in the the outcome. Both Yatseniuk and Yushchenko are battling for the same small segment of voters, each taking away from each other. We suspect that as the campaign progresses one of the other will have to fold in order to not sink each other chances of survival.

Its still early days and as they say two weeks is a long time in politics and Ukraine has over 4 months to Election day and seven weeks outstanding to the official campaign period.


Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Yatsenyik's Identity crisis: NGO is a No-GO

Presidential hopeful Arseniy Yatseniuk, leader to the "Front for change", appears to be suffering from an identity crisis, his inability to rise out of the shadow of Viktor Yushchenko.

Taras Chornivil, an independent Ukrainian MP from Lviv, in a recent interview with ZIK (well worth reading) said

"The West has been trying to measure up Yatseniuk, but its interest in this presidential candidate has rapidly dwindled. It seems to me, he is no longer viewed as a potential election winner. Second, they’ve seen that Yatseniuk is an empty shell, he has no ideas and is a puppet."
Yasteniuk who is stuck on around 12-14% in the polls, mainly from disaffected Yushchenko supporters, refers to his newly created political party as a "NGO". It would appear to Yatseniuk's campaign that by referring to themselves as a NGO they can somehow escape being seen for what they are - a political party.

I have never heard of a political party seeking to elect a candidate to public office claiming to be a NGO before. I hope the tautology does not catch on.

An "NGO" is supposed to be a Non-Government Organisation that provides services outside the political process. Does this mean that Yatseniuk does not want to form or be a part of Ukraine's Government? Is this not what running for public office is about, being a part of or winning government? Maybe it has something to do with the fact that he is still a member of Yushchenko's "Our Ukraine's factional bloc, running for office against its leader - the two forces working against and in competition to each other.

Yanseniuk's Y-Front for change is not a grass roots organisation, it was created to be the campaign vehicle for his nomination for the Presidency. Referring to it as a NGO does not help. If anything it raises serious doubts as to his sincerity and intentions.

If Yatseniuk is serious in his quest then he needs to resign from Our Ukraine, start projecting a more positive and constructive image and not just play on the idea of a fresh face pushing Yushchenko's failed policies of division. He needs policies of his own and must stop referring to himself as an NGO. It's false - if he wants to be a NGO then do not stand for office.