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19.04.2007

Whose compromise? Open Letter to PACE Members

   

Given the PACE urgent debate scheduled for Thursday 19 April on the functioning of democratic institutions in Ukraine and the calls on 16 April (reported by the BBC) for Ukrainian politicians to reach a compromise through negotiations, we would respectfully ask the Parliamentary Assembly to consider the following.

While we appreciate PACE concern for a peaceful and constructive settlement of the present impasse in Ukraine, we would suggest that a democratic solution lies only through the ballot box.

We believe that the President of Ukraine had no option but to dissolve parliament due to the unconstitutional and fundamentally undemocratic manner in which a majority was being gained in the Verkhovna Rada. The plan was repeatedly stated by the ruling coalition to achieve a constitutional majority, which in no way reflected the will of the people as expressed in the elections of 2006. With this majority, the Coalition would have been able to overturn any veto by the Guarantor of the Ukrainian Constitution and conceivably make significant changes to the Constitution itself.

To understand why this alarmed not only the President, we would mention two recent events. One was the quite illegal candidacy of the former Human Rights Ombudsperson and then National Deputy from the ruling coalition for office as Ombudsperson once again.  This was flagrantly against the opinion of civic society in Ukraine and many international bodies, and also violated both the Constitution and the Law on the Human Rights Ombudsperson.  This did not stop the entire Coalition voting for this entirely discredited and politically engaged candidate. 

Some three weeks ago, Viktor Yanukovych stated during an interview that the next President of Ukraine might be “voted in” by the Verkhovna Rada.  Given the parody of parliamentarianism over the election of Human Rights Ombudsperson, it should be clear why Ukrainians feel deep concern over such Coalition “innovations”.

Since the President’s Decree of 2 April, there have been numerous public statements from prominent members of the Coalition suggesting that the conflict could result in schism or bloodshed, that the President is undermining stability in the country, etc. 

Amid the rhetoric and sabre-rattling, it should be remembered that the President has only put the question of support to the Ukrainian people by calling snap elections. This is his right and his duty which can only be judged incorrect by the Constitutional Court.  The calls to break the law have come from members of the Coalition who have every reason to fear the verdict of the Ukrainian voters.

Under such circumstances we are convinced that the only solution at present is for all parties to obey a legally binding Presidential Decree and begin preparing for the elections.

Given the wide divergence of opinions among specialists in Constitutional Law, the question of whether this Decree was constitutional must undoubtedly be considered by the Constitutional Court.

We believe, however, that we should draw your attention to certain problems in relying on a Constitutional Court judgment.  The said Court has now, in theory, been functional for ten months, after having been blocked by the Verkhovna Rada for 9 months. In fact, during this last period, the Court has not issued one judgment, despite a number of issues which urgently require their assessment.

This inactivity had already undermined many people’s faith in the Court however the events of the last two weeks render illusory any hope that a judgment, should it be issued by the Court, will be regarded as fair and independent.  Five judges of the Constitutional Court publicly stated a week ago that they were being subjected to pressure by various political forces  On Monday 16 April, the SBU [Security Service] stated that some of the specific allegations made had been found to be justified. The SBU also asserted that the elderly mother of one of the Court’s judges had recently “earned” 12 million dollars in property and other assets. While it would clearly be improper to pre-empt any judicial investigation into such allegations, they cannot fail to place in question the Court’s ability at the present time to resolve the conflict.

We would therefore respectfully ask the honourable members of the PACE to understand why we are convinced that the most democratic and constructive solution to Ukraine’s present difficulties lies through open, honest and democratic elections.

Yours sincerely,

Halya Coynash

(on behalf of the “Maidan” Alliance)

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